For most of its runtime, “What We Can Do Now” is an episode of fallouts, recoveries, and the consequences of a season’s worth of buildup. It’s mainly a story of characters reacting and coming to terms with recent chaotic events, having candid conversations, and figuring out where to go from here. Just when we’re given a moment to breathe, though, the episode says, “not so fast,” as Prospera finally activates Quiet Zero and unleashes the greatest threat we’ve seen so far. With Prospera’s quest for revenge entering its dangerous final phases, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is now officially in the home stretch, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to get uglier from here to the finish line.
A good portion of “What We Can Do Now” focuses on the students at Asticassia, many of whom are living in makeshift shelters and eating rations, far removed from their usual comforts. It’s interesting that Suletta and the Earth House members stand out as the most practical and hopeful figures here, as they give people blankets, supplies, and tomatoes from Miorine’s garden. Their resourcefulness in this case makes a lot of sense, considering they’re from Mercury and Earth and have experienced far less privileged upbringings than most other Asticassia students. At one point, Chuchu gives tomatoes to a pair of clearly traumatized students, and sharp-eyed viewers will recognize these girls as the bullies Chuchu brawled with all the way back in Episode 4. It’s a poignant display of Chuchu’s maturity, as well as everyone’s mutual respect for basic humanity during a crisis.
As the Earth House characters deal with these practical struggles, they also address some of their own unresolved internal conflicts. Martin and Nika come to terms with the choices they’ve made, with Martin apologizing to Nika for turning her in to protect Earth House, and Nika accepting the consequences for assisting Shaddiq and resolving to start afresh. The meeting among Earth House members later on also offers a touching moment as Suletta smooths things over with everyone, thanking them for giving her opportunities for friendship and a real school experience. These scenes are effective because they allow the Earthians to finally settle things and clear up their misunderstandings while leaving possibilities open for a better future.
One character who really stands out here is Belmeria, whose brokenness is on full display as Nika forces her to face her unsavory past head on. Belmeria has always grudgingly acknowledged that her experiments with artificially enhanced Gundam pilots were cruel and immoral, but she always found a way to rationalize them, or explain them away with a simple “I was desperate and didn’t have a choice.” This time around, she seems to fully understand the gravity of her misdeeds and feels a level of shame and regret she’s never openly felt. A key difference between Belmeria and the others, though, is that it’s uncertain she will ever be able to move on. The weight of her past work, even if it was the only option for her at the time, may have broken her so thoroughly that she might be incapable of atoning for it. As easy as it is to condemn her, this episode reminds us that she’s also pitiable, and in a strange way, a victim of the era’s awful trends. Had it not been for the Vanadis Incident, her life and career might have turned out very differently.
Along with the personal fallout of the Earth House members, “What We Can Do Now” also addresses the political and corporate fallout of the devastation on Earth and at Asticassia. Miorine is most significant here, as she’s been chosen to be the Benerit Group’s next president, but all she can think about is her failed negotiations at Quinharbor and the violence that resulted, even if Prospera’s meddling was largely to blame. Notably, this stands in stark contrast to other parties in the business world. The Space Assembly League uses the conflicts to justify military intervention against the Benerit Group, while Peil Technologies sees which way the wind is blowing and leaves the Benerit Group to join the League.
“Adults are the enemy,” the old adage of Gundam’s creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, has been a prominent motif of The Witch from Mercury from the start, and this episode is another fantastic example of how different Miorine and the younger generation are from the adults. While Miorine ruminates over past mistakes and the ethical implications of her actions, groups like Peil and the Space Assembly League simply look towards the future, ruthlessly putting new plans into motion and cynically using recent events to justify their actions. This distinction is most clearly highlighted in Miorine’s ensuing conversation with Sarius Zenelli, who recommends Miorine do what her father would have done: put all the blame for recent events on Sarius’s Grassley Corporation, which would allow the Benerit Group to save face. Miorine’s refusal to sacrifice Grassley, though, despite their corruption and the fact that Shaddiq was largely responsible for the crisis, shows how much Miorine has grown as an individual, and how far she has moved away from the value system she was brought up in. It’s Miorine’s concern for others against the adult world’s concern for themselves, but the series has come down firmly on Miorine’s side as the better approach.
The last act of “What We Can Do Now” is a complete change of pace from what came beforehand, as Prospera activates Quiet Zero and puts the final phase of her plan to save Eri into motion. It’s always a risk when a series builds up a superweapon only for the big reveal to be a letdown, but The Witch from Mercury thankfully avoids that trap. Simply put, Quiet Zero is easily one of the most terrifying Gundam superweapons in the franchise’s history. Unlike the Solar System or GENESIS from older Gundam series, which were basically superlasers, Quiet Zero expands the Aerial Gundam’s data storm, allowing it to take over virtually any other technology. On top of this, it’s also equipped with an army of drone Gundams that Aerial can control. Even the design is unique and almost alien: a massive geometric prism, floating in silence, the technological equivalent of a sleeping leviathan. And you know it’s the real deal when its first appearance is accompanied by ominous pipe organ music…
Once the monster wakes up, though, it’s a harrowing finale, and its impact is even more powerful considering how dialogue-heavy the rest of the episode is. The swarm of drone Gundams quickly overwhelm the Space Assembly League’s mobile suit squadrons, and once Quiet Zero activates its data storm, the entire fleet is disabled and annihilated in a matter of seconds. As unsettling as this violence is, Prospera’s cold smile shortly after, and her wistful “Thank you, Eri. It’s finally begun. The world I’m creating for you!” hits on a visceral level. If it wasn’t clear before, this moment definitively confirms Prospera will go to any lengths, no matter how destructive, to save her daughter, and her obsession is literally a threat to the entire world.
The epilogue of “What We Can Do Now” sets up the final conflict, with Suletta agreeing to pilot a very old, dangerous prototype Gundam called “Calibarn” and lead a counterattack against Quiet Zero. Since Calibarn is impervious to data storms, Quiet Zero won’t be able to disable or control it, but the tradeoff is that the mental strain on the pilot will be enormous. The Earth House members, of course, agree to support her, as does Elan, though for his own cryptic reasons. Lauda, however, has an agenda of his own, so he may prove to be a wildcard down the stretch. In short, the final episodes of The Witch from Mercury are shaping up to be a lot like many other Gundam series, and for anyone new to the franchise, my only advice is this: brace yourselves, because it’s going to hurt.