As we hit the gong on this drama-filled half-hour, the identity of Night Rogue is finally revealed, an angry Ryuuga goes ape, and a sad panda fights a losing battle in a strange land. It’s just another day at the mad scientist’s office for Kamen Rider Build, in Episode 7!

For those of us still keeping score, this makes seven straight episodes now that Kamen Rider Build has directly affected the main plot of the series and moved us forward at a strong pace. At some point, I may get sick of pointing this out, but today is not that day. I’m still tickled pink at the prospect of a Kamen Rider show with at least 40-something episodes of pure development and very little fat to trim. It’s been fivever since I was this engaged, and I don’t want the ride to stop.

We begin with Ryuuga impatiently demanding instant answers to every question that just popped into his noggin since last week. So unlike him, right? Sento seems just as in the dark as his new pal on this one, though he maybe pulls it off with a little more grace. No one can account for why Sento (aka rocker kid Taro) showed up to Katsuragi Takumi’s place an hour before Ryuuga did, and the dude’s dead body was all the authorities needed to lock Ryuuga up and toss away the proverbial key. If Sento’s the murderer here and not Ryuuga, then is he to blame for all this madness? Not likely, but it makes for some interesting dialogue until we get this stuff straightened out.

When asked about Takumi’s work history, Sento’s boss Gentoku is as helpful as ever, laying out the backstory in flawless detail. It seems Takumi had been a bad little psycho, refusing to let pesky things like morals and ethical obligations get in the way of his important research. He wanted to perform human experiments and (at least according to Gentoku’s flashback) Touto’s government expressly forbade it. He was fired after trying to get the experiments done in secret. That was supposedly a whole two years before his death. But if his test subjects weren’t infected, and still set free, that would seem to suggest there could be a whole slew of people who wanted to get a piece of the Devil’s Scientist.

Pouring through Katsuragi’s old data logs, Sento finds what he believes to be a hidden message for anyone smart enough to figure it out, pointing us toward the fallen physicist’s mother, who lives in the neighboring territory of Hokuto. And finally, after lamenting the lack of exploration of the Seito territory a few episodes back, I kinda-sorta get my wish with Hokuto. After Sawa brings us the word on the street about a few secret passages through the ominous Sky Wall and Misora uses her crazy internet persona to raise funds to smuggle Sento and Ryuuga through, we’re off on another trans-territorial adventure!

But not before Gentoku is surprisingly advised of Sento’s plan, giving even more credence to the theory that Soichi or Sawa are Blood Stalk. We don’t have to wait long to see who’s behind the glowing Night Rogue mask though, as Gentoku doesn’t take kindly to Stalk’s attitude, and badassedly transforms on the spot. With a henshin way sicker than Build’s, a cloud of billowing smoke engulfs him, lightning crackling as the Night Rogue suit appears, and he launches right at Stalk.

I didn’t quite notice it until this episode, but Rogue can stick to any surface without losing balance. At any moment, the ceiling or a wall can become his floor and he can just keep fighting without missing a beat. Why am I surprised at how easily he seemed to put Blood Stalk in his place? Maybe because Stalk walks around like he owns the place, I just assumed he was stronger. Though, these villains are so mysterious, he may very well be stronger but just prefers not to show his hand until he feels like it.

So, I didn’t quite get what I wanted after episode 2– Ryuuga just continuously getting different clothes that feature random English phrases of steadily escalating insanity. But I do see a trend forming. In which, Ryuuga shows up with an improbably lame disguise when crossing into illegal sectors of the country. After raiding the bargain bin at Party City, the great Banjou Pennywise emerges, ready to infiltrate the mysterious Hokuto region. Nobody blends in like a blazingly inappropriate, red-nosed clown. But, in true Kamen Rider Build fashion, we leap straight to the serious from the wacky with startling effect.

After handing a shady smuggler a bunch of Monopoly money to sneak them over, we encounter a family from Hokuto. Poor refugees looking to cross the border, desperate to find a new way of life. The smuggler reacts harshly, insisting that the fat wad of cash the father hands him somehow isn’t enough to let him pass, and before we know it, Night Rogue and the Guardians are here to take out the lot of them.

Friggin border patrol, man.

This is another one of those scenes I just don’t imagine seeing in most other modern tokusatsu series. As much as many would like to see this as simply another fantasy element of this expansive, escapist universe, I can’t help but see a little more in there, and I am totally okay with that. Clearly, the big wall that’s been erected still wasn’t enough to keep the disadvantaged masses from hoping to find a better life in a more prosperous land that once was part of their own culture. Also, rubber monsters and funny-looking sword-blaster things are here, yaaay!

Actually, something slightly odd happens here that I think may have been deflected a bit with editing after the fact. There’s a loud bang and a strange shot where we’re looking up at the trees, and the next wide shots have the refugee father on the ground, gripping his leg. Was he just shot? Did we just cut around the patriarch of this family getting shot in the leg? Either way, Faust isn’t kidding around.

Clearly, Gentoku isn’t above threatening children to get what he wants, as the Guardians take aim right for the family to draw out Sento, and the transformed Build rushes into action. Everyone manages to escape, which Gentoku isn’t thrilled about. Especially since he expected good backup from Stalk, who instead deliberately sabotages the mission and blasts Rogue with his handy Rocket Bottle before disappearing himself. If you can’t trust your sadistic, self-interested, nutjob colleague, who can you trust, eh?

After crossing the border, Sento quickly lays out the situation for Ryuuga. He explains that Hokuto suffered massive economic problems after agricultural failure, due to the Sky Wall incident screwing with the surrounding ecosystem. It’s apparently the poorest of the three separated areas, making it that much more important for Katsuragi’s mother to teach young school children despite the fact she’s not getting paid for it. Hokutonians aren’t having a great time these days, all things considered.

Mama Katsuragi doesn’t respond well to seeing her dead kid’s assumed killer show up in a clown suit, and it kind of puts a damper on our heroes’ moods. After her students inform them how much they look up to her and want to grow up to be just like her and the late Katsuragi Takumi, she finally musters the courage to face them. Their conversation is cut short as Blood Stalk appears, and more children are threatened. This time, we take it a step further and turn one into a Smash. I guess it’s just that easy now!

Sento transforms and Ryuuga is injured by the monster’s flying spikes as he defends the teacher. Once she witnesses the way Ryuuga reassures the terrorized kids that they’ll be okay, it looks like Mama Katsuragi’s icy heart has begun to thaw.

Somewhere in here, Sento activates his PandaGatling form, and I think the show wants me to think that it’s not quite as cool as the new Best Match that comes up a minute later, but… yeah, that’s not happening.

PandaGatling is where it’s at. The all-black-and-white suit is a nice blend of the two Bottle aspects which compliment each other really nicely. At least visually. Of the forms introduced this episode, this one wins my vote for the best. It’s only after Ryuuga steps in and steals the Rocket Bottle from Blood Stalk, tossing it like a boss toward Sento, that we get the winning formula in RocketPanda. Another Best Match that Ryuuga seems to discover without really even trying.

After a swift defeat (or something) Blood Stalk decides to volunteer even more information he didn’t seem to really have to, and a devastated Mama Katsuragi overhears the bad news. According to Stalk, it’s Takumi who created Faust to begin with. He’s the whole reason the organization uses the Nebula Gas to turn people into monsters against their will.

And I suddenly come to another crackpot theory as I think about this- that the Devil’s Scientist is actually Blood Stalk somehow. It’s as good a theory as any other, right? He’s “dead”, but seemed to plan his departure in advance. Sento supposedly used to be Taro but probably wasn’t super-smart until after Faust messed with him, possibly in an experiment to boost intelligence thereby expunging his “irrelevant” memories. Stalk did say Gentoku wants to mass produce Kamen Riders for military use, and transferring advanced minds into super-soldiers could have its advantages.

I don’t necessarily believe all of that to be what’s really happening. I’m just happy to be watching a show that gives us so much to talk about. They’re not taking shortcuts through the messy bits, nor are they slowing to a snail’s pace with a plot that may eventually seem merely half-explored. I can only hope that I still feel the same way once we inch closer toward the halfway point of this amazing series.

I liked that episode. Bring me another!

Next: Episode 8