Zechs like Char is one of my favorite characters. There is something to be said for the Undercover Exiled Prince trope, especially when they end up abandoning their ideals for the sake of the country and become fallen in the process. Zechs represents this in so many ways and this episodes truly realizes what is at stake for him and the cost it will take.
“Portrait of a Ruined Country” was directed by Tetsuya Watanabe and Nobuyoshi Nishimura and written by Akemi Omode.
The main plot of the episode is OZ’s liberation of the Sanc Kingdom. When OZ arrives they find Alliance forces entrenched, forcing Zechs to use Tallgeese, over the course of the battle he soon realizes that the Gundam is destroying him and he’s holding himself back. He retreats and the story unfolds from there. Elsewhere the Colony Pilots recover from how they were used.
The Pros: The Pilots Healing – Trowa and Wufei talk and Trowa helps Wufei realize he isn’t a failure. Duo and Heero slowly build the friendship and Relena finds Heero again…and Quatre apologizes to the soldiers who came with him and promises not to leave them behind again. All of them are given the chance to grow in different ways.
Noin – Noin is almost more Alliance than OZ still at times as she questions Zechs’s liberation of the Sanc Kingdom, even though she cares about him and knows it is his home. She is one person I could see changing sides later in the conflict.
Auto – Auto liberates Sanc as he realizes the Gundams exist to kill the pilots and were made for suicide missions. This leads to him risking his life to liberate the country and to honor Zechs, his mentor and friend. It’s a great minor scene and that really defines the character.
Zechs – Zechs is full of regret for abandoning the Peacecraft ideals and knows he is unfit to rule the Kingdom, so his plan is to find Relena and make the world a safe enough place for her to rule. He also is living with the regret that Auto died for him and that his body can’t take the Tallgeese. He takes off his mask when he is looking at pictures of family, but puts the mask back on when he knows he cannot rule.
The Cons: The Alliance Commander of Sanc – The leader of Sanc is just a loud military guy. There isn’t any character, which makes him a bit of a waste. He is there to be beaten and that’s it.
Final Score: 9.2 / 10. Really great and a favorite.