In this episode, Leomon dies. This time it's for keeps.
In every season of Digimon, somebody's partner dies. In every other season, the partner comes back. Before we get bogged down trying to define “partner,” “dies” and “comes back” in the context of Frontier, think about the impact on the unlucky kid. It marks a transformation for characters like Ken and Marcus, and causes nightmares for TK even years after the fact. There is no understating how much a Digimon's death can change people, even when rebirth is inevitable. And yet, only in Tamers is a death so powerful that it permanently shifts the tone of the entire series, spiraling everything and everyone into incomparable darkness.
There's almost no point in bringing up anything that happens prior to the battle with Beelzemon, but Leomon's final conversation with Jeri defines one of the primary themes of the series- the difference between strength and power. Power, whether it be physical like Beelzemon or even political or technological like Yamaki at Hypnos, doesn't add up to much without the resolve and courage to use it the right way. There is a callback to Rika and Renamon's partnership from the latter's perspective, which reminds us of Rika's initial request- one strong Digimon. While not the most powerful, Renamon was the strongest of the lot, which bore itself out once Rika finally figured out the difference.
Leomon consistently calls Jeri strong, which is still a tough sell at this point. The audience doesn't piece together just how tough a girl this is until the very end of the series, and even then it's hardly unanimous. We've seen little bits of it- her unflinching willingness to enter the Digital World, satisfying Orochimon until her rescue and just being able to keep up with the likes of Takato and Rika. But we don't know about her rough family life and emotional issues, so it's hard to see what Leomon sees in her.
Whatever we perceive about Jeri's inner strength, it's all gone after Leomon is murdered. Then again, it stuns the entire group, either snapping them into reality or making them just plain snap. Kazu and Kenta, who came along thinking it would be an awesome adventure (and haven't swayed too far from that mindset), are the ones trying to rally everybody to turn around and run the hell back home. In one instant, Kazu is both done with this adventure and also, surprisingly, the one most concerned about Jeri's well-being.
Jeri, of course, is not well. Her initial reaction is raw and loud, as it should be. Her partner, that she had been growing quite attached to, was just viciously murdered in front of her. Any other reaction would be too soft. When it becomes a full-on nervous breakdown, that's when it becomes interesting. She refuses anyone's assistance, angrily shaking Kazu away, demanding to be left alone to freak out in peace. The only thing that she cares about is Takato going berserk, and it makes her even worse.
You can't say Jeri completely loses it. Not because it's inaccurate, but because how would you then describe Takato's reaction? Combine his respect for Leomon with the fact that this is hitting Jeri hardest with the fact that Beelzemon has dismissed the only friends he's ever had to fulfill his end of a selfish contract with the fact that Beelzemon even has the audacity to load Leomon's data. Oh, it's on!
All season long, Takato has been concerned that Guilmon will become less recognizable and less controllable as he evolves. Well, now the script is flipped and Takato loses every shred of humanity in a moment of pure rage. He rips the leash off and orders Guilmon to evolve into whatever goddamn hideous beast he wants in order to destroy Beelzemon. This would be the exact opposite of taming. Oh, the goddamn hideous beast shows up alright, but in doing so Takato discards any right to being called a tamer. While Jeri's digivice merely went dark, Takato's totally shatters.
My Grade: A
- Kenta's riding Growlmon at the start of the episode. Any explanation on how Guilmon evolved without either Takato or Calumon? Or is Kenta really making waves in his effort to become Guilmon's new tamer?
- At the beginning of the episode, Kazu says they can't go home without finding Takato and Calumon. After Leomon's death, he's the first one out the door, Calumon be damned.
- Was Takato serious in thinking he could go in, bust up some Sovereign heads and free Calumon... using only Terriermon?
- Between the digi-gnomes and random blue card summoning, I can't figure out if Henry sending Terriermon straight to Rapidmon without Calumon's help breaks the rules or not.
- There's something really off about Leomon's voice when he's talking to Beelzemon. I get that it's an intense moment, but he's so gruff that you wonder if Devimon had gotten another black gear in him.
- You know it's bad when the influx of energy from Takato's rage makes the Hypnos system go nuts. Oh and hey, Tally's back!