Happy memories turn to darkness in the 5th episode of Re: Zero- Starting Life in Another World. As more of Emilia’s past is revealed, a darker story is slowly revealed that threatens their fantasy world. And hints at what Emilia’s role in all of this is.
The episode begins with a tale from the Ryuzu’s and an old friendship. Subaru, Otto, Ram, and Garfiel are told of an old story between two friends, Ryuzu and Beatrice, and learn of another time where the Sanctuary was not a prison and wasn’t an experiment. There was a time when Ryuzu was just one shy kid, and Beatrice was just a smart little girl wanting a friend. But even in this temporary bliss, there are tendrils of evil. The influence of the Witches doesn’t end and spares no one from their wrath. And as the episode switches to Emilia’s trial and her past, we see more of the horrifying and tragic role many previous characters played. And that nothing is at it seems on the surface of Re: Zero’s story.
It’s hard to talk about the episode without the temptation of spoiling (the number of surprises in this episode alone, the emotion and tension, the pure DRAMA), so everyone is encouraged to catch up and watch this episode NOW. It can be called, without a bit of hesitation, the best episode of the series so far.
“It happened before this place became the Sanctuary.”
While the episode does begin with Ryuzu and those on the outside, it still has Emilia as the star. Only so little of the past of Ryuzu is revealed in the first few minutes, but it shows us how far the characters the audience knows are from who they were before. It sets a theme of revelation and deconstruction of what we know. If the previous episode didn’t already surprise you on just who these people are, you need to catch up. The previous seasons will not be the same after a rewatch. The mysterious and dangerous characters we think pose the greatest threat are NOTHING compared to what the show is prepping the audience for. The world is far more dangerous than we could ever imagine. And Emilia is caught dead center in all of it.
In terms of sheer entertainment, it cannot be stressed enough how good the episode is. There’s action from the chases and the fights in Emilia’s past. There’s the mystery of the role of the Sanctuary, the power of the Witches, the past of the other characters, just what is threatening the world. So much is teased in this one episode as it finally builds its world up and beyond. It’s hard not to compare this to the previous episodes focused on the attempts of other characters into the trial. There’s the factor that Emilia is actually more important than the series let on, but it’s also because of how the writing drastically improves thanks to actually developing its story. It picks up the pace that the show desperately needed, and mixes the character development with plot development. It doesn’t choose to sacrifice the plot for the sake of delivering the character growth needed by Emilia, because it chooses to deliver both at the same time. Garfiel’s and Otto’s past was mildly entertaining since the audience wasn’t really introduced to anything about them beyond their role as either friend or foe to Subaru. And Subaru’s trial was just…absolutely boring compared to this one.
"I will always be with you."
In all honesty, the show should have just put all of its focus on Emilia. She was in the perfect situation to be the main character as having no memory of her past and had all the room to grow more into a capable character we could root for. Sidelining her entire character arc was the worst decision the story could have taken. It makes the entire world of Re: Zero and the diverse cast of characters feel so underdeveloped. And the story just keeps introducing characters into the mix and expects us to be afraid or surprised or to care for who they are. It just doesn’t develop anything properly, and only succeeds to the sheer shock of the twists. And sure, this episode is the best, but it honestly feels like a fluke since the 2nd season has just struggled to even maintain one story without hyper-focusing on Subaru’s thematic existence.
Hopefully, the show follows the current episode’s path and focuses on developing the story alongside developing the characters and themes, and doesn’t trade one for the other.