It’s been two weeks since our last visit with the motley crew of heroes, rivals, and frenemies of Kamen Rider Build, and they’ve chosen quite the cliffhanger to leave us dangling from. With the Touto science lab about to be invaded by the terrorist organization known as Faust, loyalties on every possible side are being tested at each corner, tensions are high, and the show has geared up for its most thrilling episode yet. How do they keep outdoing themselves like this?
We begin with a rare recap that doesn’t include a pseudo-fourth-wall-breaker of the main characters sarcastically commenting on their own show as usual, instead preferring to just roll the clips in as dramatic a fashion as they can muster, slowly building us toward the coming siege. After the opening credits (with a slight update where lead character Sento is seen posing behind his title hero alter-ego), we’re right back into it, as the Prime Ministers of fractured territories Touto, Seito, and Hokuto have all gathered at the site of the mysterious Pandora Box.
The visiting leaders don’t get much time to marvel at the Martian device before the alarm sounds, and all hell breaks loose. Soldiers are being shot up like the Fourth of July, as Blood Stalk leads a troupe of Guardians into the building. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen people get shot, even in recent years, but it’s been a while since villains will commit such blatant murder without cutting away. It may help that these are faceless robots firing on uniformed mooks, but it isn’t much less grim when you consider that many of these people are just doing their job, and we can presume that some really know nothing about any underhanded activities going on with their government. Himuro Taizan is at a loss for words, as a forcefield suddenly appears, locking him and his fellow ministers inside. Behind their backs, Utsumi’s cartoonishly sinister grin lets us know how far this little deception has gone.
This shocking assault is intercut with the seeming traitor Sawa continuing to consort with Nanba, who states that the Guardians were built with the pre-programmed directive to obey Faust whenever necessary. So, despite their assumed function to protect and serve the people of Touto, their hidden subroutines can be activated and they can be turned into murderbots at the literal snap of a finger. This whole sequence is creepy. From the Guardians mowing down anyone in their path to the casual ease with which Nanba and Sawa discuss this man’s plans to undermine his pacifistic government and force them into a war they weren’t intending to engage in. This is scary in a way that all the fanged monsters leaping out of every shadowy crevice from every rain-soaked alley couldn’t match. And their conversation takes place in such a serene setting, while the old man who basically wrote Faust’s checks sits nibbling on a snack like it’s just another lazy Sunday. Wow.
But just in case you forgot you were watching a kids show for a second, here comes Ryuuga with another disguise, and shock of shocks, this one is halfway decent. No giant clown shoes this week. He’s dressed as an employee of the lab, hoping to get past the guards, who might as well be Storm Troopers with how effective they aren’t. Then again, Himuro Gentoku’s set this whole attack up in the first place, so it’s not like he has much incentive in keeping his soldiers attentive of their surroundings. As long as there are bodies in uniforms on the premises, they could be watching pr0n on their phones for all he cares.
Speaking of whacking it, Ryuuga finishes laying the smackdown on one of the more worthless guards, quickly taking the poor idiot’s outfit for his second cosplay ensemble of the episode. Posing as one of them, he manages to stop Blood Stalk in the halls, along with a gaggle of Guardians. What ensues is a highly improbable and extremely awesome fight scene, in which Ryuuga completely obliterates these goons, and is about to go after the big snake himself, until Faust plant Eita gets in the way. Like the devout cult fanatic he is, he’s drinking Faust’s kool-aid hardcore. In this case, the kool-aid is in vapor form, as he deliberately allows himself to be dosed with gas, transforming him into a Smash monster. Ah, crap.
As Ryuuga deals with the Smash, Blood Stalk heads to the roof to make his escape with the Pandora Box he’s just snagged. Unlucky for him, Gentoku is there to halt him, asking him just what the hell he thinks he’s doing with that thing alone. And he has good reason to ask. Stalk’s been a nuisance to him for several weeks now, and even on this mission, he’s been systematically shooting out the security cameras so prying eyes can’t track his movements too precisely. What are you planning, Bloody?
We’re not going to find out, because when Stalk doesn’t respond to Gentoku’s demand for answers in due time, he transforms into Night Rogue and they have the fight that’s been threatening to pop off for what feels like ages (again, I ask, how are we still within the first ten episodes?). Surprisingly, Ryuuga steps through the door, face jacked up from a fight but still standing after his brawl with the Smash. Rogue can’t believe he could have taken him down without armor, but Stalk seems amused by the development. Ryuuga’s ability to harness the Dragon Full Bottle’s power continues to increase with each fight, making him strong enough to at least compete with low-level monsters. Considering where Ryuuga had started, he’s come a long way. Having jumped into action after Sento called him about the situation, hardly wavering in his determination to stop the enemy and prevent the box’s theft.
And when Sento arrives, fully armored in the guise of the winged Kamen Rider Build, one can’t help but be awed by how well Ryuuga fits in standing beside him with raised fists. There are actual Kamen Riders, at the end of their series journey, who look less badass and have less depth than this impulsive, costume-happy fugitive with fists of fire. It can’t be a mistake that the term “Best Match” is an oft-repeated line for the show, because despite its obvious connection to the Full Bottle toy gimmick, it applies far too well to the thematic link between these two Rider Bros. While the scatterbrained genius Sento tirelessly searches for the Best Match between two Full Bottles to maximize his superpowers, he and Ryuuga make a Best Match of a different sort. Partners in crime and crimefighting alike.
When Ryuuga first comes at Blood Stalk, the villain laughs at him, not even bothering to block or dodge his attacks, until his power suddenly grows, and the former pro fighter delivers a force-filled punch that would make Ryu of Street Fighter nod in approval. As Stalk congratulates Ryuuga on leveling up to Hazard Level 3, Build is having a tough time dealing with Night Rogue. And with the intensity of this battle, I kept wondering if this would be the scene where one or both of these villains would be forced out of their armor, revealing closely-held identities to our heroes (and, in Stalk’s case, to us). Alas, it’s only Sento whose transformation fails, and the two freedom fighters are on the ropes as Stalk makes off with the Pandora Box.
Rogue’s mistake is that, while collecting all the fallen Full Bottles (don’t you just hate it when all your collectibles just randomly fall out of nothingspace so the villains can pick them up like that?), he decides to taunt them with the memory of Ryuuga’s girlfriend Kasumi, and Sento’s unfortunate part in her death. Remembering his flying Cross-Z Dragon, Ryuuga sics the little CG monster on Rogue, distracting him enough for Sento to use the Lock and Dragon Full Bottles as a (take a drink) Best Match. With his new, beautifully-colored KeyDragon form, his every strike is surging with power, transmitted from Kasumi to Ryuuga to Sento. Locking Rogue in chains and blasting him with a blue fireball, that really should be enough to knock him out of that damn suit. Instead, the concealed Gentoku simply curses him and vanishes in a puff of smoke, his identity safe for another week.
Sento quickly cancels his henshin, overpowered by KeyDragon’s immense strength. It’s just as well, as there’s a heart-to-heart coming and those usually work better when we can see people’s faces. Ryuuga claims that, after recent events, and so many arguments between them, he may not be ready to believe that science is the way, the truth, and the light, but he can at least believe in Sento the man. It’s not quite a Full House moment, but let’s call it progress. As Ryuuga lays there on the floor, still pooped after giving his all, fighting without the help of a fancy suit like the other three combatants, he can sit the rest of this madcap installment out.
Stalk runs into Eita on the street, who asks if this mystery man could actually be Katsuragi Takumi. If the so-called Devil’s Scientist wasn’t really killed, as everyone assumed, but had instead used his prolific mind to throw everyone off, framing Ryuuga for someone else’s death and launching us into this harrowing story. The approaching Sento hears Stalk insist that Takumi is dead, and so too is Eita, apparently. In a bizarre move, Stalk seems to have changed Eita’s appearance to mimic that of his lab colleague Shingo, who had just killed himself. Shingo having completely disintegrated before his eyes, Sento has just been shown exactly how it would be possible – even easy – for Takumi to fake his own murder. Imma need these mofos to stop thickening the plot every five minutes before I have a stroke!
As if that wasn’t enough to wow us for the next episode-and-a-half, what follows is a chase sequence, Build once again making use of that bike to catch up to Stalk, who rides on a big mech-thing made up of combined Guardians. It’s a similar robot to what we witnessed in episode three, but just unique enough (with Stalk’s burgundy color scheme) to have its own visual flare. Build sweeps through the streets, chopping away one of the bot’s legs and swinging around, in a sick slow-mo gun-blast shot.
After Stalk is thrown from the explosion, Sento wants to know why he (Takumi) caused all this mayhem. Stalk seems to disagree with Sento’s assertion that science doesn’t always have to lead to destruction, and I can’t say he has no point. Obviously, many discoveries have contributed to the betterment of mankind, but so many have a dark history to them, and those breakthroughs continue to be exploited in terrible ways. Their dueling philosophies are beautifully enhanced by the cinematography, as the camera flows back and forth between them in large, grand swings. In the end, like in life, there’s no clean resolution to the debate, as one side of the equation gets knocked out by tentative allies of the other, and the two quarrel amongst themselves about what to do with the immense power at their fingertips. Stuck between a rock and about a dozen gun barrels, Stalk hands the box over to Rogue.
Back at the lab, the other ministers are furious, and poor Taizan’s heart can’t take it. Damn, I was just kidding about having a stroke! I take it back!
Gentoku rushes to his father’s side as the ambulance begins to wheel him out of the building. Shaken, Taizan bestows control of the Touto government to his son. And as the old man rolls away, Gentoku completely outclasses his buddy Utsumi in the cartoonishly sinister grin category. He’s done it. He’s the Acting Prime Minister of his territory, effectively starting a war that may never have been necessary. The beginning of the end (which, as it turns out, is a lot closer to the beginning than it is to the end) is here.
Let’s do this.