Overview (Spoilers Below)
Okabe’s has tipped the scales in his favor by making the arduous journey of time leaping several years into the past. In addition, he’s revived his infamous personality, Hououin Kyouma, to lead him and his friends into saving the future. Despite all of this, however, Okabe can’t seem to overcome the final obstacle: stopping the time machine from being destroyed. No matter what he does, that particular convergence point seems impossible to stop.
This threatens to bring Okabe’s newfound optimism to a halt, but with the help of Maho, he stands tall to face the problem as a scientist; to figure out the answer no matter how challenging it will be. To that end, Okabe, Maho and Daru have a planning session to figure out how to fix this. After being filled in on the information knows, Daru suggests that they send a D-mail to the past to try and prevent Leskinen and others from hacking Amadeus. Okabe is fearful of using the D-mail, since it might alert SERN, but Daru has invented a way of doing so safely, using an app he made called D-RINE. Using a D-RINE, they can send instructions to Daru in the past to prevent the organizations of the world from getting Makise’s time travel research. This is a grim prospect, however, since it means preventing Amadeus from ever existing.
Okabe is heartbroken at this idea, but Amadeus is happy to sacrifice herself for the sake of the world. To find some peace, Okabe spends the day speaking with Amadeus, sharing the story of how he had to sacrifice Makise Kurisu to save Mayuri, and how that’s haunted him ever since.
The moment of truth comes, and the three of them send the D-RINE into the past to change the world line. With tears in her eyes, Maho speaks the code phrase that will shut down Amadeus, while Okabe sends Amadeus off with a proper goodbye. The two of them will meet again, he says, as time lurches and sends Okabe into a new present.
Steins;Gate 0 sure is an emotional roller coaster. Just when you think you’ve got Okabe figured out, just when it seems like he’s finally about to cross the threshold and save the day, there’s something that derails his whole development and turns him once again into a sobbing mess. It’s been a noticeable pattern of Steins;Gate 0 so far, this emotional rubber-banding. Okabe never seems to get too far along without needing a good cry.
This isn’t a huge issue since these moments are executed with enough artistry and quality writing to preserve the empathy of the audience, but the show can only do this so many times before one starts to get a little bored at seeing Okabe crying on a roof. Not to mention, right after Okabe takes another ride on the sadness train, he returns right back to being Kyouma without batting an eye, in a repeat of the big moment that made the last episode so special, only less so this time around. It’s a bit of a waste, if you ask me, a turn in character can’t just be negated all quick-like a quarter of the way through the episode; that’s just filler.
This criticism is only pointed at the first half of the episode, though. Steins;Gate 0 recovers itself about midway through, when Okabe is faced with the impossible task of sacrificing another friend to the tyranny of time travel. His time with Amadeus really hits home in a sequence of sorrowful music and impassioned voice acting. Though I’ve always felt that Okabe’s relationship with Amadeus was a bit underdeveloped, seeing Amadeus disappear with a smile on her face will have any warm-blooded creature getting all sorts of weepy.
This episode is small in its scope but strong in its execution. As I’ve said, the acting, the writing, the music, it’s all top notch, but the purpose it all serves is somewhat unnecessary. Steins;Gate 0 opts to create an entire episode for losing Amadeus when it probably could have combined it with another to preserve the pacing of the show. No need for an entire episode when a seven-minute sequence will do, but I’m guessing the show needed to pad things out for a little bit so it can add more episodes to the season. Just one of the consequences of the genre, I suppose, but it certainly makes things feel “Watered down.”