This week’s Free! takes a small break from Haru’s crisis to focus on Rin and Sousuke. With two episodes left, Free! is starting to wrap up a few subplots and prepare for a dramatic and tense conclusion to the season.
“The Six-Beat Kick of Tears” more or less resolves Sousuke’s shoulder issue. Rin, having had enough of Sousuke’s shifty behavior, finally confronts his friend. Sousuke reveals his grievous shoulder injury and admits that everything he said about being scouted is a lie. I expected this kind of confrontation, but I’m shocked at the extent of Sousuke’s attempts to hide his injury. I never suspected that he lied about going to university.
Upon hearing about Sousuke’s injury and his attempts to power through it in order to fulfill his dream and swim with Rin, Rin bursts into precious crybaby tears. Sousuke insists that he swim with Rin one last time before his shoulder is completely shredded. I can’t help but think that if he had just followed standard medical procedure back when he first got injured, maybe he wouldn’t be in this mess.
Sousuke’s story seems to have some kind of impact on an eavesdropping Haru. Perhaps it’s because Sousuke’s dreams have been ripped from him, but Haru seems to find a little bit of clarity concerning his. It’s not really addressed, something I find a bit vexing after the drama of last week, but Haruka shows up to swim the relay race with his friends with a stronger resolve. Haru claims it’s for Sousuke, who is racing what is almost certainly his last race, but the spirit of competition seems to have come back to Haru. As the last leg of the relay, he secures a trip to Nationals for Iwatobi with a fraction of a second to spare.
“The Six-Beat Kick of Tears” is a bittersweet episode. On the one hand, Iwatobi wins, against all odds. Their competition with Samezuka is genuinely friendly, and Haruka seems to have put aside his misunderstanding with Rin at least for now. On the other hand, Rin is the only one who seems to have a clear path in life, and Sousuke’s dreams are more or less impossible now. With two episodes left, Haruka and Makoto are going to have to choose a path for themselves, and I expect Nationals will be a revelatory experience for everyone.
The last two episodes have really redeemed Sousuke in my eyes. I was never really fond of him before, and he still smacks of the shoehorned-in friend who retroactively appears at every important event in our hero’s lives. But his injury makes for a pretty sad storyline, and his role as Haruka’s foil has become a lot more clear. Haruka seems to have a new respect for Sousuke, something that I imagine will influence his decision to go pro or not.
Makoto, Rei, and Nagisa don’t really feature much, though their friendly rivalries with their Samezuka counterparts are charming. I haven’t really mentioned it much before, but I particularly enjoy Nagisa and Nitori’s rivalry. Nitori is nothing if not serious about swimming, and Nagisa’s needling of him makes for some cute interactions.
Free! may have taken a break from heavy drama this week, but it looks like there are some serious conversations coming up. I’m hoping to see some resolution between Haruka and Rin. The one major disappoinment of this season is that Samezuka and Iwatobi spend most of their time apart, meaning Rin hasn’t really interacted with Haru or the other Iwatobi club members this season. After last season’s touching reunion, I had hoped to see more evidence of their friendship. Hopefully the next two episodes will bring everyone together. It’s not really clear if Samezuka also qualifies for Nationals, but I suspect that Rin will be going for his freestyle event. The National stage is where everything is going to go down.
See you next water time!
Images are copyright of Kyoto Animation.