Fate/Zero is, quite honestly, one of the most intriguing and suspenseful shows of the year. It blends fantastic, fluid fight scenes with just the right amount of development to make us feel invested in these characters. I mean it says something when I find myself warming up to Lancer, a character archetype who in Fate/Stay Night had the amazing personality of wallpaper paste porridge, despite my initial doubts about how interesting he’ll be. It goes without saying that it’s been moving at a brisk enough pace to keep even the most impatient anime viewer, who’s only in it for Saber, engaged. So rather than continue to position the pieces in this giant chess game, we see a little girl venture into the seamy underbelly of a city at night, alone. There isn’t a moment of tension between Waver and Iskandur to be seen, sadly.
Putting aside the questionable wisdom in having a Rin-centric episode when things are just heating up, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Rin is the stupidest character in the entirety of the Fate series thus far. And that’s saying something when she out-dumbs Shiro “I’m going to run at this hulking monstrosity and see what happens” Emiya.
However, in the show’s defense, it was nice to see that she had a somewhat close bond with her father despite his absence. In Fate/Stay Night, it was implied that she had a rather distant relationship with him as a child and was more confused than crestfallen when he disappeared due to the circumstances of the Holy Grail War. And to be fair, her heading off to the city after him is pretty reasonable behavior for a kid, especially since she was taught some basic magic. It isn’t smart in the grand scheme of things, but Rin could easily get it into her head that she can handle herself after learning a few magic spells.
Anyway, it doesn’t excuse the icing on the stupidity cake that led her into a whole heap of shit: Her following a suspicious looking man who keeps passing by with dazed children. This is when I decide that she’s no longer just being a kid, and is actively working to make Ronnie James Dio’s “Don’t Talk to Strangers” a hell of a lot more literal.
Now, obviously she made it out alive or else we wouldn’t have Fate/Stay Night. And I’ll admit, the inevitability kind of ruins the suspense a bit. But for those few minutes between her arrival and when she first sees Ryuunosuke walking suspiciously with those children, the air is palpable. I’ve rattled on about atmosphere a lot this season, mostly in relation to Mirai Nikki, but Fate/Zero manages to imbue the otherwise cookie-cutter yet lively Fuyuki City with just the right amount of malevolence to make us fear for Rin’s safety. This uses darkness to its advantage, not letting the gravity of Rin’s choice slip us by, even when we know she’ll come out of it alright.
I think that’s all there is to say, really. It may not have contributed to the overall plot of Fate/Zero and it may not have been the best episode choice for where the series is at, but learning more about Rin’s relationship with her father and seeing that it wasn’t so impersonal was interesting. She may have made a stupid choice, but at least it beats out airship depth charges.