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Will someone please tell these people that their finale isn’t for another several months? How is it possible that they keep coming out with one spectacular episode after another? This isn’t how things normally go. I’m not used to this! Kamen Rider Build continues to take the rule book for not just Kamen Rider but weekly tokusatsu TV in general and toss it to the wind one page at a time, showing no signs of stopping this train as it speeds along the tracks toward Awesome Town.

Last time, young fugitive Banjou Ryuuga took back a piece of what was taken from him when he was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of Katsuragi Takumi, at last transforming into Kamen Rider Cross-Z, the show’s second hero next to his new pal, genius outlaw Kiryuu Sento. In the wake of Ryuuga’s first official Rider battle, Sawa’s status as a spy for the villainous Faust organization was revealed, and so, the dubious reporter has got a whole lot of explaining to do.

As Ryuuga completely murders a bowl of ramen like he hasn’t eaten in weeks, Sawa lays it out for the rest of Team Build, all chilling in their personal corners of Cafe Najcita (still with no customers in sight). She didn’t first bump into this eccentric group by chance, as originally implied. She was sent directly, and faked her way through an introduction. Which I kind of love, since this was a complaint some viewers made at the time. That Sawa’s appearance in their supposedly secret base was amazingly convenient. Of course, I preferred to just chalk it up to Sawa being really good at her job, but this works just as well.

I love the childlike celebration Sento has when he realizes he hadn’t dropped a matchbox for Sawa to find when Build saved her from a monster (an attack which, in and of itself, may have been a deception to lure the hero out). Soichi too has cause for jubilation, as he notes that he actually didn’t leave the super-secret-refrigerator-door-entrance open to their underground hideout for her to casually walk into.

Sawa’s mission was to provide intel to the wealthy Nanba Heavy Industries, who, in its day job, serves as a respected company known across the country, but whose extralegal activities include weapons manufacturing and a reputation to be feared by all three of Japan’s fractured territories. As they bankroll Faust, they’re fundamentally responsible for a lot of the havoc that’s been going on in Touto recently. The others seem to doubt when Sawa states that a part of why she became a spy was so she might later expose their dirty dealings with the Touto government. As proof, she presents that she’s been keeping incriminating records on her the whole time.

And this would normally be the part where the opening credits play, but I guess we’re far enough in for the show to start skipping it. Considering how completely packed these episodes are, I can’t say I blame them for just jumping past it and telling more story with that extra minute and a half. Especially for stories like this one, which ends in such a completely different place than where it begins. They need all the time they can get.

Dutiful right-hand man Utsumi finds Sento looking into the possible whereabouts of the Pandora Box (though it’s unclear if Utsumi actually knows his exact goal) and a subtle exchange takes place. By now, we know that Utsumi must be aware of Sento’s dual identity as Build, but he provides information about a secret third basement in an old lab that once kept the Pandora Box. A fitting metaphor for the hidden layers resting behind the pushed-up glasses of this enigmatic assistant whose facade is beginning to crack under a mountain of pressure. He’s just gotten back from what must have been a disturbing conversation with Nanba (what other kind of conversations does he have?). Poor little villain. We haven’t even gotten to the real kicker yet and he’s already shaken. Utsumi leaves Sento with parting words that suggest the both of them are but pawns in a larger game neither has been lifted high enough to see in full view. Both victims in their own way, though each is fighting on opposite sides of the conflict.

Meanwhile, Mistress Misora’s finally got another playmate down in her bondage dungeon, speaking to a chained Sawa from the other side of the room about her experiences. Turns out the sorrowful Sawa has a painful history of her own. One in which her father was lost in tragic circumstances, spurring her on to seek justice. Though she clearly took the scenic route to get there, it at least got her closer to the bad guys than anyone on the team. After her government killed anyone who could talk about their dirty dealings, I’m seeing some righteous payback in her future.

Sento and Ryuuga take their newfound knowledge into the old lab, where Night Rogue and a pack of Guardians are ready to pounce. Looks like, despite getting his ass handed to him in a couple previous battles, there’s still plenty of fight left in the old bat, as he proves he can still take out the trash if he really needs to. At least until Blood Stalk shows up to annoy the piss out of him, intervening yet again, allowing Sento the time to grab his stolen Full Bottles and transform into Build, joining Cross-Z in a two-on-two battle. A rematch of sorts from the heist episode, except Ryuuga has armor this time instead of being the fleshy punching bag for all these metal-fisted beasts.

In the end, Stalk makes off with the box once again and Rogue retreats, leaving all their stolen collectibles (plus the new Pirate and Train Full Bottles) back in the responsible hands of Team Build. The box, however, is in the entirely unpredictable hands of the mysterious Blood Stalk, whose intentions for the Martian device remain unknown. Either way, this is a bittersweet victory for the Riders, and they have no idea what the outcome of this fight may have just prompted. And boy, is it refreshing to say that I don’t either!

In the quietly haunting presence of Nanba, it’s understood without actually saying it that something terrible is about to happen to the pair of Gentoku and his assistant Utsumi. While we know them both to be manipulators and villains, I always got the sense that there was a companionship between them. Maybe it’s a reach, since the show hasn’t spent much time on it up to this point, but I suspect Gentoku doesn’t have many friends he can actually be genuine with. Not that it’s certain Gentoku would go so far as to call him such a nice thing as “friend” but this buttoned-up lackey may be the closest thing he’s got.

Sawa’s attempts to expose Touto’s collusion with Faust fail miserably as it seems Gentoku’s father, Taizan is too innocent for this world. Still bound to a hospital bed, he can’t be compelled by her evidence, and Sawa quickly finds herself under attack by his guards. Not one to take it lying down, Sawa impresses me yet again by not only defending herself and jumping out of the damn window to escape, but then getting all the way to the ground without a narrow rescue from the big hero, which would not at all have been surprising.

There you go, Sawa. Now you’re a fugitive too. You fit right in with this team of wanted felons, prison escapees, and accused terrorists!

And now we come to the truly brilliant part of the episode. The sequence in which an operation is launched where a Touto military unit raids a Faust hideout in full view of the press, and a show is put on for the masses. It’s not Gentoku behind the Night Rogue mask, with a thousand guns pointed at him. Gentoku’s outside, safe behind a barricade of more men, giving them orders to attack. The false Night Rogue loudly announces his evil plans to the people like a stage villain. All he needs is a spotlight and some confetti and the scene will be complete. But Sento arrives just in time to hopefully make a difference.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen such a thing, but I do so appreciate the rare moments where someone transforms and their enemy doesn’t politely wait for them to finish the fancy song and dance. Rogue starts firing, and it would likely have killed Sento if not for all the weird shit that pops up whenever he transforms, blocking the gunfire. He switches to KaizokuRessha form for a beautifully-shot duel as the camera soars around them in the picturesque dam setting. With his new powers, Build cancels Rogue’s transformation, revealing Utsumi as its current user.

Utsumi stumbles over to continue the performance, deliberately exposing himself to the people, throwing out any potential suspicion that Gentoku was Night Rogue. It also effectively destroys Utsumi’s life. Which you have to imagine was part of the plan all along. He knew some version of these events would happen and went willingly into them. Though, from the looks on their faces, neither Utsumi nor Gentoku seem to be all that psyched about this ending. Utsumi is seemingly about to off himself, using the same disintegration method as one of the other fanatical Faust members of recent weeks, until Sento intervenes.

When chased further from the crowd, standing near the center of a bridge, the water rushing beneath them, Utsumi admits that he knows who Build really is. He expresses regret that he found himself so turned around. That what he really wanted was an ordinary life. In his last moments, he warns Sento not to let the same thing happen to him. But before he can say any more, gunfire rings out, and Utsumi is tumbling over the bridge’s edge. Murdered by the man he had become so hopelessly devoted to, who personally fired the shot that sent him to his apparent doom.

This show does not take prisoners. It is high drama, intrigue, and intense character study. I keep waiting for the cracks to start showing and they keep putting it off for another week, with absolutely thrilling events that keep me completely locked in. It’s like they reached into my brain and scooped out almost everything I might have ever wanted in a Kamen Rider show and threw in 700 toys. This shouldn’t work. It’s not supposed to. But it does, and I couldn’t be more into this right now.

What follows is a stomach-churning television broadcast where Gentoku dismisses his assistant and makes himself into the hero of Touto. Utsumi’s last legacy serving merely as a stepping stone to solidifying political power for those who never deserved such undying devotion. Sawa watches and knows that her attempts to unseat Faust aren’t succeeding any time soon. It seems her mission with Team Build is now over. That is, until Sento, Misora, and Ryuuga write up a laundry list of stuff still left for her to do. Including clearing Ryuuga’s name, improving Build’s image in the eyes of the totally manipulated citizenry, and finding a definitive, untarnished link between Nanba Heavy Industries and Faust.

Damn right Sawa’s not leaving. She’s too badass to quit. She has to join Ryuuga and Misora in inhaling more food since there are still absolutely no customers to eat all the noms in this joint.

We end with a startling phone call from Ryuuga’s old prison guard Nabeshima, who has regained some memories after his encounter with Faust had previously robbed him of them. He knows who it was that set up Ryuuga to take the fall for Katsuragi’s death, but the revelation will have to wait for a future episode.

This episode, meanwhile, was the perfect time to introduce the form change that prominently features a skull on its helmet. Sayonara, Utsumi-san. Though I will not yet believe that this is the last of you I’ve seen.

 

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