Content Note: Violence, NSFW Nudity, Death
Claymore Recap: Clare has been rescued from Ophelia by Ilena, who has agreed to train Clare. This is the last episode of the Ophelia arc.
Claymore, Episode 14: Qualified to Fight
When we join Clare in Episode 14, she's training furiously in order to master Ilena's Quick-Sword technique and hopefully bridge the gap between the warrior-she-was and the warrior-she-hopes-to-be, and with her weaker arm, to boot. Finally Ilena tells Clare that rest and refreshment are as vital to training as practice is. (This seems like something Clare should already know, but the Organization training methods seem to be to just let the students do whatever they want.)
While they rest, Ilena discusses Teresa with Clare. I have to think this must be an incredible relief for them both, at least in some ways. Ilena left the Organization and fled because of what happened that day, and it's implied that she carries a huge burden for her part in the death of her friend. Clare has been carrying the same guilt and frustration and anger with her all this time, and yet has had no one to confide in. All the information she has about Teresa and that day was gathered quietly, without the approval of the Organization. In a world without counselors, finding a kindred soul carrying the same burden as you must be a bitter-sweet relief.
Ilena senses that Clare blames herself for Teresa's death, and supposes out loud that this is probably true from a certain point of view. By tethering Teresa to humanity, Clare inadvertently 'weakened' her -- as we saw when Teresa couldn't bring herself to kill young Priscilla. And yet, Ilena points out, Teresa died protecting the only person she loved and the only person who loved her back. "You gave her a better death than she expected," Ilena tells Clare, and this is true: Claymores die in battle on the side of the Organization or as an Awakened Being, and rarely are they mourned or even buried.
Clare's passion to avenge Teresa has kept her alive so far, but it also effectively prevents her from ever mastering the Quick-Sword technique. Ilena recognizes this, and in an instant she slices off her own arm and gifts it to Clare. There's a finality to this scene, that all Ilena's talk of survival and Clare's protestations that the arm is a loan she will return, can't diminish. Ilena is choosing to die, and in fact made that choice from the moment she used the Quick-Sword to protect Clare. She's being hunted by the Organization, and now that she's used her yoma power in battle, she can't hide any more.
Ilena knows this, and I wonder why she doesn't just go with Clare. She's still an incredibly powerful warrior, based on her interaction with Ophelia, the Number 4, and she could be a great aid to Clare in her battle for vengeance. Probably she would be more valuable to Clare by her side than as her new arm. And yet she chooses not to go with her. I think Ilena has been craving the peace of death one way or another since that last day with Teresa, but she couldn't bring herself to leave with the weight of her guilt still weighing her down. Now she can die protecting Teresa's child, and she does so with a rare smile on her face.
Clare flees through the forest, where she is accosted by an Awakened Ophelia. Clare draw back in alarm, gasping "An Awakened Being?" and Ophelia looks around in shock... and maybe a little fear. "Where do you see an Awakened Being?" she asks.
Ophelia doesn't recognize that she has awakened, and this is a new facet in our understanding of Claymore. Miria, Helen, Deneve, and Clare all hadn't realized immediately that they were awakened, but this was at least partly because their outward appearance didn't match with what they thought awakening brought. Now Ophelia has an outward appearance of awakening, but her mind is in many ways the same as its always been. Sure, she wants to kill and eat humans, but only the latter half of that statement is anything truly new -- Ophelia has been killing things for as long as she can clearly remember.
It's only when she sees her own reflection in the water that Ophelia recognizes what she has become. She's distraught and fights the realization: "I don't deserve this... I can't have awakened! I only wanted to avenge my big brother!" And in some sense, this is true. She's devoted her entire life to killing Awakened Beings, in much the same way that Clare has devoted her life to killing Priscilla. Indeed, though Ophelia doesn't know it, the Awakened Being she wants to destroy is the same person that Clare is after.
But Ophelia has been fighting her battles in pretty much the most evil way possible. In order to satisfy her need to slay awakened beings, she has been quietly engineering awakenings within the Claymore ranks, so that she can continue to self-medicate her pain with battle. Ophelia has demonstrated that fighting evil isn't enough to be 'good', and she's slowly become a much more evil monster than many of the Awakened Beings she's faced. She may look like a monster now, but she's been becoming a monster for a very long time.
Ophelia concentrates the core of her humanity at one end of her huge serpentine body and tells Clare that they'll play a game: if Clare can cut through her entire body and kill her, then Clare will win. But if she can't, then Clare was never going to be strong enough to kill Priscilla anyway. When Clare begins to cut, Ophelia muses at how foolish Clare is: "She could've ignored what I said and targeted me here directly." But the thing is, Clare accepts Ophelia's framing of their situation: if Clare can't get through Ophelia, she really isn't strong enough to kill Priscilla.
As Clare struggles to defeat Ophelia, Ophelia oscillates between contempt and cheering for her opponent. When Clare looks like she might be defeated, Ophelia yells "Are you just giving up now? Have you thought about what happens to everyone who depends on you if I kill you right here?" When Clare finally wins, Ophelia scoffs in her arms, "I despise people like you, who put their lives in jeopardy for some glorious, hopeless cause."
And yet... Ophelia really doesn't despise Clare. She dies giving Clare her blessing, saying that Clare fights "in my place". And her final realization is that her brother's last smile was for the fact that he's been able to save her.
Ilena believed that Teresa had no regrets, giving her life to protect Clare. Ilena herself gave her own life willingly, that Teresa's legacy might carry on. And Ophelia's brother died to protect his little sister. Ophelia's moment of redemption comes in realizing that these acts of sacrifice are not weak. Clare's moment of motivation comes in realizing that sometimes the act of living is the greater sacrifice.