I am shocked! SHOCKED! Well, not that shocked.
Rustal recalls a recent talk with Vidar three days after finishing off Jasley, where Vidar notes McGillis calling a meeting of the Seven Stars. Rustal imagines this is just a matter of dealing with Iok’s antics with the Turbines, and figures he needn’t be there since he’s already handled it himself. Vidar suggests this is McGillis’ chance to strike for his cause, whatever that might be, and plans monitor this while armed and ready. In the present day, the coup McGillis set into motion is underway, and Rustal smugly accepts he backed the right masked horse on this one, gathering his forces to retaliate.
At Gjallerhorn HQ, the base is entirely overrun with soldiers, with Isurugi reporting that everything is under control. Their public face, Liza, is getting the word out through a revolutionary speech and constructing a defense network in space against Rustal, while Mikazuki has single-handedly annihilated the surrounding Mobile Suits and put everyone else at a standstill. McGillis finally makes an appearance in front of the detained Seven Star members, including the Bauduin patriarch, but only to tell them that he is about to obtain an item that will cement his authority.
And now, FLASHBACK TIME! McGillis grew up as a victim of human trafficking, abused by adults and similarly aged peers alike, though never once faltering to it. He trained and hardened himself as best he could, eventually ending up in the Fareed household. Though even with such prestige in his future, the abuse and misery remained until he found a book about Gjallerhorn founder Agnika Kaieru, a figure he could finally be inspired by and mold himself after. He strides through a chamber to his prize.
Rustal gathers his troops to begin his attack when he is approached by Iok’s men, who beg Rustal to let him get involved in the plan. Seems they’re the latest of dozens to request this, and it amuses Rustal that Iok still has such loyal followers after everything he’s pulled. But right now, Iok’s on time out, so it’s up to his men to maintain his honor in his absence. Though that still leaves the matter of Vidar…
Liza Enza arrives on Tekkadan’s ship to lend a chipper hand and happily alert them that Rustal has more than twice their forces ready to kill them all. Luckily, all they need to do is wait for McGillis to pull off whatever he has planned and they’ll be golden.
That plan comes to fruition as McGillis enters a hanger to find Gundam Bael, the very first Gundam Frame rumored to hold the soul of Agnika Kaieru himself. McGillis’ growing chub is interrupted, however, when Vidar crashes through the roof to confront him. He knew all along this was McGillis’ plan, and feels this is a fitting time to unmask himself. Vidar is actually…Gaelio Bauduin. DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN
Back with the Arianrhod Fleet, Julieta is getting antsy waiting to head out, so Chief Yamazin decides to fill her in how Vidar’s Gundam is actually merged with a pseudo-Alaya-Vijnana system using a recreation of the brain of Ein Dalton (the guy from last season who got his body merged with a Mobile Suit), meaning he can do all the awesome moves with none of the limb loss. Not an expert on small talk, I guess.
Though Gaelio now plans to use this system to finally vanquish his old friend once and for all. Or he would if Mika didn’t come crashing down too and ruin the bromance. With McGillis’ permission, the two Gundams fight, with Gaelio activating Ein’s system to gain the edge and use the remains of people McGillis threw away to enact sweet poetic justice upon him. However, Mika’s interference gives McGillis the time he needs to activate Bael, allowing him to show his newfound power to the world and claim absolute power over Gjallerhorn. While the other Seven Stars lament the return of this symbol, Rustal sees it as nothing more than an embodiment of McGillis’ immaturity. Gaelio returns to him, pledging loyalty and wishing to “go back to being himself”. This manifests as a response to McGillis’ message of victory, as the two former friends set themselves on a collision course to a final battle for the fate of Gjallerhorn.
In case it wasn’t clear, this was very much decidedly a McGillis episode. It’s a bit odd seeing Tekkadan being reduced to spectators (aside from Mika) after all the time we’ve spent recently focusing on their choices and developments, but this was most definitely our resident blond’s time to shine. His plans finally come to fruition, his prized Gundam is in his clutches, his old enemies come out of the woodwork, and he even gets to have a flashback about his backstory without being immediately killed! The backstory in question has a couple notable Dio Brando parallels (namely in coming from nothing, only thirsting for power, and having an abusive father figure), but that aside, now that he’s found exactly what he’s been searching for, it should be pretty cathartic seeing it all start crumbling around his shit-eating grin.
The twist of Vidar’s true identity was probably picked up by anyone with a functioning brain, so it’s nice that the episode didn’t put too much stock in that twist on its own. With everything else going on, the reveal was pretty appropriately placed, throwing all of McGillis’ mistakes right back in his face to offset all the sympathy he might’ve gotten from his traumatic backstory. We also see how both he and Gaelio react to their former prejudices to the Alaya-Vijnana and how taking on that power has changed them. That, on top of the payoff of what exactly happened to Ein at the end of last season, really shows just how much this quest of vengeance will disrupt McGillis’ plans, especially now that Gaelio is on the public stage and ready to spill everything.
Lastly, there’s that old topic of moral ambiguity in this show that I promise I won’t become a broken record about. Right now, Tekkadan, the ostensible heroes of this story, are aligned with someone who, in any other story let alone a Gundam one, would be unambiguously considered a villain. What this says about them, McGillis, Rustal, Gaelio, and everyone else will have to wait as we move forward, but it’s not going to be easy to draw the line as I thought. Till next time.