At the (roughly) halfway mark is where Gundam SEED starts to get interesting and drops most of the original Gundam series blueprint and even some… SOME of the teen melodrama as well. By reintroducing the neutral nation of Orb and giving it a key focus they steer away from the basic good vs. evil set up and go in interesting new directions. Want to know more? Let’s take a look!
Still being mercilessly pursued by the remnants of the Le Creuset Team the crew of the Archangel seek refuge in the neutral nation of Orb, the same neural nation that secretly helped develop the ship and suits at the center of the battle…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
So as mentioned the main set up of this whole bunch of episodes is that the Archangel end up at Orb, the neutral nation that had secretly helped them, and get repairs while their ZAFT pursuers wait outside, not buying the idea that they’ve left the country. Athrun, Dearka, Nicol and Yzak sneak onto the island and eventually run into Kira and his robotic bird Birdie, which flies off to its old creator in Athrun. The two former friends act like two strangers happening to meet but manage to say a few kind words before going their separate ways. As the Archangel leaves Orb things take a dramatic turn for the worse as ZAFT ambush them as soon as they can and Kira ends up killing Nicol in the heat of battle, enraging Athrun, Dearka and Yzak. A short while later and the two sides do battle again, this time Kira’s close school friend Tolle is killed by Athrun and in a mutual fit of anger the two old friends battle to a deadly draw, both their machines being destroyed and Kira seemingly killed. It’s a great moment and shows how the horrors of war can easily turn a friendship sour.
During this time Dearka is shot down by Mu and ends up a prisoner on the Archangel as well, so it was quite the chaotic battle. The next few episodes are a bit of a cool down because of it, with Cagalli, who is now acting like the daughter of the head of Orb she is revealed to be, finding a wounded Athrun and shouting at him for killing his own best friend, which Athrun has no real defence for, and the rest of the Archangel crew arriving in Alaska at long last. Obviously it’s soon revealed Kira is actually alive and in the care of Lacus and a blind priest, and due to the events with Athrun he’s having serious doubts about the whole killing people thing.
Friend kills friend of friend.
Meanwhile in Alaska a large war breaks out between ZAFT and the Earth Forces, Le Creuset kidnaps Flay (hooray!) and the Earth Alliance shows their ruthlessness by activating a special kind of bomb under their own Alaskan base, sacrificing the soldiers fighting there in order to take a good chunk of ZAFT out. The Archangel is saved when Kira arrives in the Freedom Gundam, a new ZAFT-built suit Lacus helped Kira steal after he agreed that the best way to stop the war is to stop both sides, a sentiment Lacus agreed with. A short while later Lacus is found in hiding by Athrun, who should arrest her as a traitor but instead listens to her words about why he is fighting and how neither side is better than the other and hesitates before helping her escape. He is then given the new Justice Gundam and the mission to reclaim the Freedom at any cost by his father…
This all leads to another big battle as the Archangel crew and Kira decide to join Orb and fight as a third, separate force dedicated to peace but their plan is put in jeopardy by the arrival of an Earth fleet led to head of racist supremacist group Blue Cosmos Muruta Azrael (a blatant racist having a high position of power?! Unrealistic!) and on board are three new teen pilots each controlling three new Gundams (yes, three-quarters through the series and we’re introduced to five new suits!) but all three have serious mental issues harking back to the Cyber-Newtypes of Zeta Gundam. The peaceful island of Orb is destroyed and Kira looks like he’s going to fall to the new Forbidden, Raider, and Calamity Gundams until he’s saved by Athrun, the two joining forces despite all they went through the last time they met on the battlefield. The Orb battleship and the Archangel head into space, with Kira and Athrun helping each other onto the ships at the last moment…
So although you could argue it was all done a bit too quickly, it did show how neither side in a war is right through the eyes of two teen protagonists, doing the original Gundam message proud at least.
Friend whose friend was killed by his friend kills friend of friend.
The main thing is, of course, Flay. She acts all distraught when Kira is seemingly killed but soon tries to get back with Sai, who at least calls her out on her unpleasant ways. Then after Tolle’s death her close friend / love interest Miriallia tries to kill Dearka while he being held captive but is stopped by Sai, the grief-stricken woman soon seeing the error of her ways… but then Flay comes in, grabs a gun, tries to shoot Dearka in a clear attempt to show she’s upset too but clearly isn’t, leading to Mirallia having to actually save Dearka from the daft woman. MAN she’s unpleasant. At least being kidnapped gets her away from the other Archangel characters so they can move on… For the record as well, Dearka begins to fall for Mirallia and soften a bit, which is a good bit of character development for someone who has been pretty one-dimensional up to this point!
The other thing is Lacus’ dad is killed during a musical montage in one episode, then a few episodes later Cagalli’s Dad sacrifices himself at Orb! Talk about overused trope anyway, but twice in as many episodes was pushing it too far. Not to mention that before Cagalli leaves her father behind he gives her a photo that seemingly reveals Kira and her are twins without them knowing it, Luke and Leia style. It was hard to believe and an arse-pull in Star Wars and it was the same here…
Friends reunited again.
This third batch of Gundam SEED episodes show the series pull away from the original blueprint of MSG and decide to show the horrors of war and how neither side of a conflict are in the right by gathering up our central characters and putting them together as a third army. It’s great stuff, the Kira-Athrun dynamic is among the more interesting things SEED does and it all pays off across these episodes, leading to a final chunk in space to tie up the rest of the plot…