Content Note: Violence
Claymore Recap: The Awakened Being Rigaldo has arrived in Pieta and massacred the leaders of the Claymore. Raki has discovered that Priscilla and Isley are Awakened Beings.
Claymore, Episode 23: Critical Point, Part 1
As Episode 23 begins, Rigaldo is still in the process of beating down Miria. Clare and the others continually attempt to intervene, but they are too slow and too weak to be effective. Rigaldo brushes Clare off each time as though she were nothing more than a gnat to him. Clare descends into a blood-rage and pushes herself to be just a little faster...
...and suddenly she is. In the moment when Miria is about to be killed by Rigaldo, Clare blazes past in a split second, pushing Miria to safety and taking off Rigaldo's dominant arm. The Claymores and Rigaldo stare in shock at Clare as they realize that she's done something uniquely creative: she's allowed only the lower half of her body to awaken. Her legs are transformed through sheer yoma power, yet Clare is still herself and still fully in control of her body's actions and impulses.
Episode 23 (and the ones to follow) is about pulling together everything we've learned so far. Once again, Clare isn't the smartest or the strongest or the bestest Claymore; she's simply one who has had the advantage of traveling with those who are, and experiencing first-hand the lessons they've taught.
From Teresa, Clare has learned the vital importance of being able to mask one's own movements while anticipating the movements of her opponents. From Miria, she's learned how to hone this skill into something she can use while exerting her own yoma power, which means she's not restricted to fighting in a completely powered-down state.
From Ilena, Clare has learned the possibility of letting a single limb awaken -- the Quick Sword technique -- while still maintaining control of that limb with her mind and the remainder of her body. From Ophelia, Clare gained valuable practice in pushing her awakened arm to the limit without being overwhelmed or controlled by it.
From Helen and Deneve, Clare has seen that there are many layers of Awakening and that one level of Awakening need not make her an Awakened Being forever. From Galatea, Clare has seen how aiding and competing yoma auras can sync up in a manner to bring an awakening Claymore back from the brink. From Jean, Clare has seen that even a fully Awakened Being can retain control over her mind and body.
Without these lessons, Clare simply could not do what she does here to save Miria's life and effectively battle Rigaldo. Not because the act would be too difficult, but rather because the act almost certainly would not have occurred to her. Because the Organization has so thoroughly suppressed real experience and data on Awakening, and because they have so effectively spread falsehoods about it being a one-way transformation, Clare would not have considered awakening her body in stages as something that was even possible. And without all the practice that her travels have imposed on her, she wouldn't have been able to be so successful at her attempt now. Clare has been, in essence, training for this moment -- she just didn't realize it.
Even through her battle with Rigaldo, Clare is learning. At first she cannot control her speed -- she "stops" via the tried and true "roller skating method" of slamming into buildings. But she quickly adjusts and starts to use her sword as a tool to control her movements; she digs her sword into the ground to maneuver her direction and control her speed. Clare's strength is and really always has been, that of being able to learn.
Raki arrives in Pieta in this moment and wants to run to Clare. Helen pulls him back and shields him from the battle with her body. Raki verbally lashes out at Helen, telling her that he's there to find someone important and that she can't stop him. The women recognize him as the boy traveling with Clare. Helen guides him to the battle to see Clare so that he'll recognize that he's out of his element here. "You can't handle what Clare's going through right now," Helen admonishes him.
Raki gazes at the battle in astonishment. He's so used to seeing Clare fight in her human form, and win. Now she's transformed into something not human; her body is awakening and her face is disfigured into a yoma grin. "There's nothing you can do to help her," Helen says sadly. "Just go home." Raki rebels; his own learning throughout the series, his experiences with Priscilla, have told him that it's better to die trying to aid Clare rather than leave her to an awakened fate.
As Clare fights with more and more competence, Rigaldo finds himself feeling 'alive' for the first time since his last real fight with Isley. He relishes the battle, and the building desire to dominate and defeat his opponent. Clare, too, craves more power, pushing herself to awaken a little more and a little more again in order to defeat her opponent. The two enemies are in many ways the same, but Rigaldo never loses sight of the fact that he's fighting for the challenge, whereas Clare maintains that she's fighting to protect Jean and Miria and the rest of her friends. With two equally 'monstrous' beings locked in battle, it becomes clear that the difference between the two is a difference of context.
Episode 23 is about the divide between impulse and intelligence. Twenty-two episodes ago, we were asked the difference between a person and a monster. We were asked if it was simply a question of form: things that look human are people; things that look monstrous are monsters. And we said "no". Raki's village was monstrous for throwing him out, even if they looked like people; Clare was a good person for taking him in, even if she sometimes looked monstrous.
I still believe that parsing is true, but I think we've come to a more refined place. It is impulse that makes the Awakened Beings so dangerous; their unwillingness or perhaps inability to deny their cravings for human flesh. It is impulse that drive Rigaldo: the desire to fight and kill anything that presents a challenge, simply for the sheer pleasure of the sport.
Clare is a powerful, dangerous being, but she is a being who attempts to be tempered by her own intelligence. She tries to direct her quest for revenge onto the single creature she perceives as deserving of it: Priscilla. She does not, like Ophelia or Priscilla, indiscriminately lash out at anything in her path. She focuses her attention on Rigaldo not because he presents a challenge or a training opportunity, but because he is a demonstrable threat to her friends and loved ones. Clare is formidable because she learns; she is markedly different from the monsters she fights because she struggles to override her impulses with her intelligence.
Raki, I think, represents a middle ground between these two ideals. He impulsively flings himself into the cold north in a haphazard search for Clare; now that he's found her, he will just as impulsively turn home, convinced that he can do nothing more for her. But there's an underlying determination there that Jean will appeal to with her logical arguments, and Raki will have to temper his impulses with deeper choices. Like Clare, Raki evolves through learning, and like Raki, Clare will have to find a middle ground between pursuing what she "knows" to be right versus following what "feels" right in the moment.