In response to Dawn of Fold’s violent assault on Asticassia in the last episode, the Benerit Group launches a counterattack in an attempt to wipe them out. At Dawn of Fold’s Earth base, Olcott and a squadron of mobile suits attempt to hold off the Benerit Group’s assault and buy time for the transports to escape. In other words, Episode 15 of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is a lot like the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, except neither side is especially heroic, and civilian children get caught in the crossfire. And on top of that, Guel Jeturk, who was taken prisoner by Dawn of Fold after the Quetta assault last season, has to endure another chapter of his series-long hell. If there’s a contender for the heaviest show of the season, this second cour of G-Witch has to be on the short list, because it isn’t holding back.
One of the best things about “Father and Child” is that it opens up the show’s setting and finally gives us a closer look at Earth, which so far has rarely been seen. It was hinted previously that Earth was in rough shape, and this week’s outing confirms it. Resources are in short supply, the planet is mired in proxy wars, and people are desperate. Importantly, we also get a solid (albeit quickly delivered) exposition for some new Dawn of Fold rebels, which establishes realistic motivations for why they fight. For Olcott, it’s a matter of justice and escaping a painful past, but for many others, it’s about protecting family or refugees.
Several parts of the episode also do a great job establishing Dawn of Fold as a kind of a makeshift family, particularly for the younger members who have been displaced by war. The children’s symbolic grave for Sophie is especially moving—as violent as Sophie was on the battlefield, she was still a person, and important to many people. These scenes also provide a believable context for Norea’s attitude. When she viciously beats Nika after she attempted to warn everyone about Dawn of Fold’s attack on Asticassia, it’s clear Norea’s rage is driven by a fierce need to protect the only community she has left. All of this makes Dawn of Fold far more believable as a fragmented group of people trying to survive and find happiness in a brutal era, and not just a random faction whose sole purpose is to provide The Witch from Mercury with more mobile suit battles.
Regarding that last subject, though, the Benerit squadron’s assault on Dawn of Fold’s base, and the Dawn of Fold squadron’s desperate defense, is a harrowing sequence that recalls some of the gritty, ugly mobile suit battles of 08th MS Team and War in the Pocket. It’s a messy, uncoordinated skirmish in a ruined city, with characters dying and mechs exploding suddenly and unpredictably. Even though several of the characters involved in the battle were only just introduced, it’s amazing how invested I was in whether or not they would survive. The frenetic pace of the fight, and the fact that Dawn of Fold is clearly overmatched, only ratchets the tension up even more. It’s an excellent scene, and a great example of how to do a war sequence that’s genuinely unsettling.
Otherwise, “Father and Child” marks the return of Guel, who is still devastated after accidentally killing his father during the Quetta incident. Now a prisoner of war, his situation is as grim as ever, but this time is a bit different, as he has to witness other people’s trauma in addition to his own. The episode draws a direct parallel between Guel and Seethia, a young girl whose father also died at Quetta: just as Seethia is furious that Guel survived while her father was killed, Guel is heartbroken his own father died instead of him. It casts the episode’s title, “Father and Child,” in a tragic light, but it also highlights the amount of personal loss Guel and countless others have had to endure, partly due to the sins of his father and the Benerit Group.
Guel encounters even more of this harsh reality shortly later when Seethia is injured by an explosion during the mobile suit battle. Bewildered and desperate, he attempts to save her, carrying her through the battlefield and then commandeering a mobile suit to fly her to safety, but despite his efforts, she succumbs to her injuries and dies in his arms. It’s a crushing, senseless moment for Guel, but the episode lets us experience it right alongside him, which only bolsters its impact. For the character, though, it’s also signifies an obvious turning point. Despite all he’s been through, Guel emerges from his awful series-long gauntlet with a newfound selflessness and desire to protect the people he cares about. The arrogant child of the early episodes is clearly gone, and this week’s installment does a good job inviting us to continue following him as he grows.
While “Father and Child” relegates most of the main characters to the background—Shaddiq and Miorine’s scenes are mainly setups for future developments, and Suletta doesn’t even appear this time—it still remains as gripping as any other episode so far this season. We’re finally delving deeper into the brutal worlds far removed from the comfort and luxuries of Asticassia and the Benerit Group, and the younger protagonists are gradually recognizing the awfulness of the wider reality they were born into. Where things go from here is anybody’s guess, but considering how strong this second cour of The Witch from Mercury has been so far, next week’s outing can’t come fast enough.
© Sotsu / Sunrise / MBS