# Stars and Bars (Gundam Seed 07)
I remembered this episode rather less well than the previous one, but I enjoyed it a lot more. It's another in-between episode (something I fear we're in for a lot of), at least in the sense of not having (much of) a robot fight. But rather than attempt a standalone plot, it's an exploration that adds colour to our main characters.
Athrun's encouter with his father was a real highlight, feeling astonishingly true-to-life - perhaps something I appreciate more now than I did as a student. His superiors treat him with genuine respect - Rau's comment about his testimony has some real warmth behind it (and he too starts to feel like more of a complete character) - but they don't entirely trust him yet. More importantly, he's only beginning to learn the unwritten "how we do things here". Athrun responds maturely to the conflict between official and unofficial practice (better than I did in my first job) - going along with his father's plans for now, but also making his unhappiness clear.
Again I'm impressed at the political pieces being put into place early - both Orb's reaction to the destruction of their colony and Athrun's engagement to Lacus are threads we will be picking up later. I've always felt their relationship was underdeveloped, but I suppose that's largely the point - theirs is a political union, not the fire of true love. It underscores how important Athrun is - raising the question of what he's doing on the front lines, but maybe there are principles at stake here. Regardless, I'm really liking what I see of his character this time around; he's reasonable and competent, without ever seeming overpowered.
I enjoyed the other morsel of romantic subplot too: Flay gradually working up the nerve (more-or-less forced by her friends) to apologize to Kira. She was... overwrought, but plausibly so, at least for someone her age. Kira's response is objectively normal, but by that stage Flay's afraid enough that it seems like an enormous kindness - giving her every reason to start developing an attraction to him. It's a nice piece of storytelling, and the whole episode develops a lot about Flay - her concern for her appearance, her haughtiness and vulnerability that sometimes contradict each other but all stem from the same root. IIRC the fandom hates her, but she's shaping up to be one of my favourite characters; I can't help rooting for her relationship with Kira, even knowing how it's ultimately going to end.
The *Archangel*'s main plot, I sadly can't say as much for. This is the third ruined colony we've seen in quick succession - and while I can maybe see the need to be evenhanded (Heliopolis was an Orb colony, Artemis was Earth Alliance, Junius Seven is ZAFT), repetition makes the tragedy lose its meaning. Likewise the space "battle" - at this point Kira should really be moving past his objections to killing, and it's especially frustrating when his hesitation endangers the lives of his friends. Again, what was an interesting moral dilemma the first time around is rapidly losing its impact as it is repeated.
And then Lacus, another element I'd forgotten. Meeting her in space is an impossible coincidence, but one I'm willing to suspend disbelief on. A more important question is what she's doing for the plot; I don't think we ever get a true love triangle, and nor can I see her fitting into the robot fights; while she has a role to play at the end, that's a long way off. Is this just a brief cameo, like Cagari?
We'll see. For now, I'm happier than I was; this was a slower episode, but a deeper one for it. And, having checked AniDB, the series isn't quite as long as I'd feared. 41 non-recap episodes to go!
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