This is a fantastic episode, especially if you’ve watched the wretched misery that was the 2010 movie by Studio Deen. The usual obvious pluses like higher budget, just better-looking all around aside, Urobuchi made many directing decisions that gave Rin a lot more front-and-center role, a lot more agency, and not least: a lot more of her beating the snotting out of Caster.
The 2010 film made a terrible wreck of this sequence: in it, Rin gets barely a hit in before Kuzuki steps in, swats her off, and knocks her unconscious. In episode 17 of the 2014/15 remake of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Budget Works however, we get entire minutes of Rin beating Caster up. Like, many minutes. Many visually spectacular, pretty minutes.
Beating Caster up hard enough she vomits blood (several times).
And then contemptuously informing Caster that modern-day mages learn martial art too, thank you very much, old lady. (Caster keeps calling Rin ‘ojou-san’ in a mocking, condescending way, mind you; there’s a lot of that whole ‘smug older white woman facing down a much younger, far more talented Japanese woman’ and it concludes very satisfyingly. Granted, Caster/Medea happens to have blue hair and elf ears, but whatever. Rider/Medusa and Berserker/Hercules don’t have elf ears despite also being Greek, so I’m not sure what’s going on here. Maybe it’s a ‘Greek witches have elf ears’ thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
While Kuzuki does step in at this point and sends Rin flying, in this remake Rin doesn’t get knocked unconscious. Meaning: she gets the rest of the episode where she’s, well, conscious and talking! It’s a low bar compared to the 2010 film, but I’ll take what I can get. In general, this remake just does a much better job at making Rin the co-protagonist rather than ‘and this is the route that focuses more on Shirou/Rin romance’ (unfortunately there’s that too), and during the fight against Caster and Kuzuki, Rin and Shirou participate as equals – with her firmly the brain of the operation and a smart strategist; Shirou’s role is pretty much just to keep Kuzuki busy while Rin deals with the real threat.
And then Medea dies.
I still think the whole ‘white dress Saber’ deal is just unfortunate but Urobuchi has to work with what he’s got, and if we don’t throw in the atrocious white dress fanservice I imagine fanboys would literally show up at his doorstep with torches and pitchforks. To Urobuchi’s credit, there’s minimal lingering on the bloody dress and at the end of this episode, Saber is already up and with a sword in hand again ready to face Archer in a close-combat duel (I know how it concludes from the 2010 film, which is to say: very satisfying). We also establish here that, without Caster’s protections, Kuzuki would get beaten in close combat by even Archer – who’s so bad at close combat even Lancer can shred him – so I guess without Caster’s protections, Saber would have curbstomped Kuzuki too.
The episode also makes a lot more sense than the 2010 film because, in this version, Caster has already had the daylight beaten out of her by the time Archer does his sword spam: she doesn’t have enough strength left to do magic defense that would have prevented her from getting like eleventy swords in her, whereas in the 2010 film it’s pretty unfathomable why she doesn’t do better than that.
Of secondary importance, but still a whole lot of fun to watch, is the Lancer/Archer fight. I use the slash sign deliberately since it contains a few amusingly homoerotic lines – ‘But spears can also be used like this!’ and, well, Lancer’s literally trying to penetrate Archer’s flower shield. We also get a lingering shot of Lancer’s arse again. Actually –
Okay then –
Well, of course. (If you are at work, I don’t recommend doing this google image search…)
In the 2010 film, the fight is truncated and visually boring. Here it manages to both be compressed enough to fit into the episode (rather than drag out for two or three) and still be satisfying to see.
According to Nasuverse, Greek shields are pink flowers. I can get behind this, it’s fabulous.
We also get to see that it’s a real struggle for Archer to defend himself against a melee-focused servant, whereas in the 2010 version it seemed like just another fight. Here Archer is battered, one arm broken, and so on. If Lancer had stayed around for a second Gae Bolg, Archer would have been dead meat, Guardian or not. It was always pretty silly that in the original anime and the 2010 film, it looked like Archer could deal with close combat with the best of them like Lancer or Saber.
Last but not least, it just tells the story more coherently; we finally get Shirou realizing who Archer actually is, which has been hinted throughout and which Shirou is the only one too slow to get.
Altogether: really great episode, much improvement on characterization of women all around, would recommend. Look forward to episode 18 like whoa.