With the end of last episode showing us the utter destruction of Squad 13’s home paired the victory Hero and Zero Two shared, episode sixteen picks up featuring a happy Zero Two who is filing her horns back down to a manageable size. She has no cares in the world as she ignores the sonic pang that hit her mind before the giant underground struck the surface world.
Most of the episode is concerned with the children learning how to live on their own, but before we get that far, we see something called a Hringhorni nearing the completion of its build in a large warehouse. The thing looks like a giant black dragon Zoid of some sort, so, it’s possibly a super FRANXX or at least a new APE weapon meant to combat whatever is in the Gran Crevasse. I know that I would love to see a FRANXX piloted by four or more people, so I am going to put my dogs in that basket, hoping against all hope that I get my wish.
Besides seeing some major final act foreshadowing, APE discusses the ends justifying the means in regards to their forced detonation of one plantation and the unintended loss of another. It’s all worth it to get access to the Gran Crevasse.
Papa APE aka Gorilla (I just now realized all their masks are different types of apes, by the way), informs the rest of the group that he has sent out two messengers to deliver a final warning, though to whom we are not informed. He continues to state that there isn’t nay need for two keys and wonders how Zero Two will choose to act.
I’m honestly not sure what to do with this information because I think we are missing another side of the story, here, someone or something that hasn’t been introduced, yet. It’s seems unlikely that Hiro is the additional key since he was virtually a trash bag to APE before he was able to pilot with Zero Two. This opens up the idea that there is another key running around somewhere, someone else that has Klaxosaur blood, too. As for what Zero Two will choose to do… he is like talking about if she will choose action over inaction in an effort to save humanity in whatever way that comes to fruition.
Now, it’s back to the kids for most of the remainder of the episode.
There is a brief scene with Zorome using his binoculars to look around the sky and he sees what he thinks to be Papa landing safely miles and miles away. Zorome is briefly happy to see the Papa survived the encounter with the super-Klax; however, his arms then drop sharply to his sides, depressed. It seems likely that he is remembering his time in dead city and thinking about how expendable the plantations are to Papa who is now safe somewhere else in the desert.
The kids have not been told anything about the current situation in the war, and have been basically abandoned in the Birdcage that is slowly dying without a power source. Rations are being delivered to the camp, but they all have to learn to become self-sufficient by taking turns making meals and cleaning. Zero Two has had quite the change where she is much friendlier and offers more to the team now than ever in her ability to fish and help with chores, and the rest of the team also maintains this oddly happy atmosphere as they try to ignore their own abandonment.
We have a brief cut between Nana and Dr. Franxx who refuses any further contact with the chilled before mentioning that Nana has been through this before. She holds her head in pain before we cut away again, and I have to wonder if this didn’t already happen with the previous Squad 13 where Dr. Franxx was allowing the children to be ignored for some time as a way to experiment and test on them.
There’s quite a few growth tropes in this episode, one of which makes Mitsuru look less like an annoying idiot: Kokoro cuts his hair. As the hair of his youth sheds away, Mitsuru finally comes into himself as a more adult and well-rounded individual very much deserving of Kokoro’s kiss before she runs away in embarrassment.
Most importantly, some of the children are growing ill. Both Goro and Ikuno have fevers, and as Hiro mentions, it’s most likely something called the Child Fever. There isn’t any more information after this point, but most likely this is why kids can’t grow up here. They die of the Child Fever. There is a scene while the girls are bathing that we see white strands in Miku’s hair, too. It’s like the children are slowly dying in different ways.
After days and weeks of terrible rations, the kids decide to make their own food. They seem to have a lot of fun working together and preparing these meals. This carefree lifestyle really fills your heart with bitter joy – I just want these kids to be happy for longer than a few days at this point, but I know it will all end.
During the final scenes of the episode, the kids all gather around a large table to eat. Zorome actually forsakes the prayer to Papa since they were the ones who made the food, not him. It’s pretty jarring to see Zorome turn his back on Papa, but it’s also a long time coming considering his experiences. His anger is accented when he calls out XXX for being bulimic, though I wonder how much of XX’s condition is a mentality and how much of it is the Child Fever.
At the end of the evening’s events, Hiro postulates to the class that maybe life isn’t all about piloting a FRANXX, and this idea is finally permeating everyone’s thoughts as they sit alone in the birdcage.
In heat of all this revolution, Zero Two recedes back into her mind and begins to draw the picture book she used to read from memory. At the end of this scene, we see a flash of a new bad guy with a very similar build to Zero Two who may just be that second key Papa was talking about earlier.
I’m not terribly sure how I feel about this episode, but I know that I am worried that what the creators are trying to accomplish by taking a wholesome break will be outweighed by the distinct possibility that they will take just a little too long drawing out this section story instead of focusing of what we need to understand and moving onto the last act. It’s at times like this when I wish we didn’t have episode and season deadlines and we could just tell the story until the story was done.