Look at that “Q” up there. I don’t use a capital Q very often. It looks good, doesn’t it? I like it.
This episode picks up right where “A Cosmic Glow” ended: with the obliteration of Revil’s fleet and the Zeon flagship Great Degwin by Gihren’s Solar Ray. However, this time we’re treated to an extended look at the Solar Ray’s effects, and it’s… not pretty. The ships and people within its firing radius are completely vaporized in horrifying fashion. On the subject of the Solar Ray, Kycilia learns that the Great Degwin was among its victims, which she (quite rightly) finds suspicious.
On the Federation side of things, the surviving ships are thrown into disarray by the sudden destruction of roughly one third of their forces. White Base is chosen as the rallying point for the surviving vessels, and the crew prepares for combat. Gihren broadcasts a speech claiming that a Federation victory is impossible at this point, but Amuro tells the bridge crew that his Newtype intuition says that they’ll emerge victorious. As he, Sayla, and Kai head down to the hangar (Hayato stays behind to hit on Fraw Bow in some last-minute foreshadowing for Zeta Gundam), Kai asks if what Amuro said was true; our protagonist admits that no, he made it up to encourage the crew–Newtype powers don’t work that way. To Kai and Sayla’s credit, neither are surprised by this; both seem resolved to fight regardless of their chances.
What a long way Kai has come, huh? At the start of the show he’d throw a fit any time he had to get into a mobile suit. Now, he’s not even flinching at the thought of imminent death. I think he might have one of the more satisfying arcs of the series, up there with Amuro and Bright.
Jumping back to Zeon (have I mentioned how much I appreciate the fact that Char is essentially treated as a deuteragonist? He gets a lot of screen time devoted to what’s going on with him), Char notes that all of A Baoa Qu’s mobile suits have already been deployed, leaving him nothing to pilot. Kycilia suggests he deploy in a new prototype suit, the Zeong. She says that although it’s only eighty percent complete, it’s outfitted with a psycommu system, so Char’s Newtype abilities should give him the edge even in an incomplete mecha. Luckily for Char, the only parts that haven’t been finished on the suit are the legs, which aren’t necessary for space combat anyway–as one engineer notes, “Legs are just for show!”
At this point, the episode basically turns into a big space battle. Both Amuro and Char are wrecking house for their respective sides; they clash briefly at one point, but Amuro ultimately blows past Char, preferring to focus on A Baoa Qu itself rather than his personal vendetta against the Red Comet.
Meanwhile, Kycilia joins Gihren on the bridge of the latter’s command ship. She asks if he was aware of the Great Degwin‘s destruction and confirms that their father was on board. She easily puts two and two together and realizes that Gihren intentionally murdered their father. Furious, Kycilia pulls her pistol on her brother, who dismissively tells her to stop joking around. Unfortunately for him, she’s not kidding: she shoots him in the back of the head. Thus ends the brief reign of Gihren Zabi.
I love this ignoble end for Gihren. He doesn’t go down in glorious battle; despite being ostensibly the main villain, he isn’t defeated by our protagonist; he’s simply shot and tossed aside. Even the bridge crew seem fine with it–after a moment of hesitation, it’s agreed that Gihren “died honorably in combat” and Kycilia is declared the new leader. She stepped into the role at a bad time, though, considering that her forces are beginning to succumb to the Federation assault. It turns out that, while Zeon has the numbers to win this fight on paper, most of the pilots here are rookies and student recruits. The nation has spread itself too thin over the course of the war and lost too many of its skilled pilots in costly operations.
This reveal isn’t lingered on too long, but we do get a brief scene afterwards of Amuro tearing through Zeon forces. While it’s not explicitly commented on, I think it’s safe to assume that Tomino intended for us to think about the fact that the people Amuro is killing are young and poorly-trained. The fact that Zeon are the “bad guys” doesn’t make this battle any less gut-wrenching on both sides.
Before long, Char catches up with Amuro and the two begin another exchange of blows. What quickly becomes clear is that, despite the advanced Zeong, Amuro has the upper hand–whether he’s a better pilot or simply a more powerful Newtype isn’t entirely clear, but either way, Char is furious at his own inadequacy… and that’s how we leave the episode. Next week, we enter the finale, where we’ll see how this final duel plays out!