Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I figured we’d treat ourselves to a fresh episode of Spy x Family, and see what cozy shenanigans our diversely talented found family are getting up to. Spy x Family has proven itself a warm security blanket of a show on the whole, exploiting Tatsuya Endo’s keen talents for comedic timing and anticlimax in order to spice up a fundamentally heartwarming exploration of three strange outsiders discovering trust and community in each other.
It’s a show that never fails to buoy my spirits in difficult or anxious times, and that is an eminently honorable pursuit. I’m sure you all know I love the shows that break my heart, but equally precious to me are the shows that offer comfort in the storm, speaking to both our common humanity and the glory of talented artists celebrating all that is warm and beautiful in life. I’ve greatly enjoyed our time with the Forger family, and am thankful that our journey through Spy x Family’s first season has carried us all the way to these goofballs’ triumphant return. Let’s see what nonsense awaits at the end of Spy x Family’s first season!
God, this continues to be a devilishly effective OP in terms of conveying the warmth of a place where you belong. It makes sense that the show began with an OP emphasizing the more energetic, hook-laden spy end of this fusion, but this feels like an ideal tone setter for what Spy x Family has swiftly become
It’s simply comforting and invigorating to spend time with characters who genuinely enjoy each other’s company. I feel like a lot of quiet dramas and slice of life shows are similarly freewheeling in terms of the relation between their elevator pitch and their actual content – you need something like “they don’t know about each other’s secret identities” to get folks in the door, but the ultimate payoff is just people trying to grow closer
The absence of music and distant sounding of a bell create a sense of anticipation as we enter the episode proper. Stillness in visual and sound design always creates a sort of pregnant hush, telling the viewer to pay close attention to whatever happens next
And indeed, this is a momentous occasion: the Eden College Social Gathering, the event around which the entirety of Operation Strix was constructed
So the episode title “First Contact” must refer to the first meeting between Loid and Damian’s father. An appropriately consequential milestone for the end of our first season; given the initial operation was plotted entirely around engineering this meeting, I’m curious to see how this episode will establish Loid’s future objectives
With Anya still nowhere near the level of an Imperial Scholar, it appears Loid is performing an incognito infiltration. Feels like we’re slightly chafing around one of Spy x Family’s baseline preposterous assumptions: the idea that it’d somehow be most convenient to establish an entire family in order to actually be invited to this event, rather than infiltrating it in the guise of a guard, host, or by replacing a kidnapped attendee. You can generally ask your audience to believe at least one impossible thing for the sake of establishing your narrative, but you don’t want to then turn around and draw attention to that charitable suspension of disbelief
This is also why I tend to consider parodies that make hay over the goofy assumptions of one or another genre to be one of the lowest forms of comedy. It’s not insightful to underline how genre fiction involves suspension of disbelief; we’re not idiots who aren’t aware of the trick, we’ve simply all agreed to suspend our disbelief in order to facilitate an interesting story
Loid here explains the origin of Operation Strix as the result of many prior failed attempts to infiltrate directly, each of which led to increasingly vexing security measures. It is an author’s privilege to be able to set up such ironclad retroactive explanations, answering reader questions with a firm “they tried that and it didn’t work.” And again, any reasonably sentient viewer understands that coherent stories often require a winnowing of possibilities in order to provoke a particular dramatically fertile result – to say “well, why didn’t they try this” is to drift from the realm of meaningful textual criticism into the media-illiterate inanity of stuff like Cinema Sins
We are treated to a digital grid of the venue’s layout, a clever exploitation of the prep work that already goes into these digitally constructed backgrounds
“The purpose of Operation Strix is to establish a continuing relationship with Desmond. To get into his good graces and extract information from him.” That does indeed severely limit the number of viable options for a successful infiltration. It’s easy to look like you belong somewhere a single time, but becoming a known regular requires a far greater degree of integration into your environment
Loid’s statement that Desmond might simply never attend again if he gets suspicious is lent validity by our prior understanding of Desmond as a fundamentally distant father
We witness a phone call between Damian and his brother Demetrius. It’s clear Demetrius also sees Damian as a burden, opening with “what do you want” in spite of Damian’s fervently apologetic manner. Their conversation incidentally reveals that even Demetrius rarely interacts with their father directly, as the scholar event is apparently one of the few opportunities Damian has to ferry a message of his own through Demetrius to his father
Oh my god, this goofy scampering animation for Anya tailing Damian down the hall is so good. This show is replete with simple pleasures
“Perhaps she’s following us to get in your father’s good graces.” An unusually cunning deduction from Damian’s football-headed underling
In spite of his doubts, Loid is also beginning to trust Anya’s methods and intentions. Even his internal analysis of her behavior has softened
Dang, the older Imperial Scholars look quite intimidating. They’re really rocking those capes, a hard look to pull off
“You’re a special VIP too, since you’re his son!” At this unconsidered praise from his lackeys, Damian loses his nerve and decides to cancel the meeting, undoubtedly mentally admonishing himself for the presumption of assuming he deserved to meet with his father
But Anya’s there to, uh, offer support? “Second Son’s scared. Anya knows”
“Anya’s a little scared because she’s not sure if Papa loves her or not. But I believe in him because I love him.” Ah, a perfect direction to take all of this. In spite of literally reading Loid’s often cynical thoughts, Anya has chosen to put her faith in him, and is thus perfectly positioned to urge Damian to embrace a similar faith in his own family. Her blunt acceptance of her faults and doubts gives Damian the courage to not be constrained by his own
Loid uses a replica of Anya’s sheep keychain as an excuse to infiltrate the garden himself, allegedly in search of his daughter’s lost item
He then pushes further, making a dramatic apology to Damian for Anya’s behavior on the first day. Damnit Loid, you’re fucking up Damian’s chance here!
“I’m truly sorry, Damian.” Love the contrast between Loid’s razor-focused expression and genuine sympathy in this moment – the man he still has to be for his work versus the understanding and appreciation for the emotional needs of children that he’s developed through the course of Operation Strix
And at last, Desmond and Loid are face to face
Excellent use of shading to amplify Loid’s menace through his introduction
A brief cutaway with Handler serves to reaffirm the tension of this moment, emphasizing how Loid’s conversation is the spearpoint of this whole war
Ooh, some lovely loose brush strokes as Loid hypothesizes as to what lies in Desmond’s heart
Desmond waves away Loid’s apology, stating that it was only a squabble between children. A harsh loss for both Loid and Damian – there’s no way Loid can apply pressure via this lever, because Damian considers an insult to his son beneath his notice
“No, you have every right to be angry, Damian. I’ll be sure to lecture her so this doesn’t happen again.” In spite of directly contradicting the perspective of his actual target, Loid can’t help but assure Damian that he is right to feel this way. A clear, potentially damning indication of how Loid has come to value the heartfelt emotions of children even more than the completion of his mission
“I guess a parent shouldn’t assume they can control their child.” Anya has changed Loid and taught him to more freely speak from the heart, but this might be the worst possible moment to be sharing that revelation
“You are correct. Even a child that shares your blood is ultimately a stranger. People will never be able to understand each other.” Fortunately, Desmond is so certain in his own misanthropic philosophy that Loid’s words actually register as flattering to his perspective
“It’s true. ‘We can talk it out’ is nothing but idealism.” And in turn, Desmond’s harsh words remind Loid of the stakes involved here, and the cruelty he is attempting to avert, sliding him back towards his initial calculating perspective. Man, what a fiery, emotionally loaded conversation! A terrific choice for the climax of this first season
“What’s truly important is to keep walking beside them in spite of that.” Love does not require total understanding. Loid’s spy instincts rally against the inevitability of unknowable variables, but his experiences as a parent have taught him that such surprises are actually one of the great joys of life
“Didn’t you also make time for your son, in spite of how busy you are?” Loid’s experiences as a father are allowing him to confidently push against Desmond’s words, which is actually likely to foster a stronger connection than if he merely echoed Desmond’s ideas back at him
“Anya doesn’t actually dislike you. It’d make me happy if you could be friends with her, too.” And concluding on a healthy push for Anya’s own mission. This has been a highly successful conversation!
And with Anya’s words encouraging him, Damian is able to finally relate his school successes to Desmond, earning a precious “continue working hard” in response
Man, what a triumphant note to end on! The long-awaited first meeting with Desmond served as a key victory for Loid, Anya, and even the young Damian, with both the Forgers’ support facilitating a precious moment of connection between father and son. And over the course of that encounter, it was repeatedly made clear how much Anya’s presence has changed Loid, teaching him to pursue his grand political aims without losing sight of the lonely young boy he once was, or all the children he’s currently fighting for. Anya’s faith in Loid, Loid’s appreciation for Anya’s unknowable eccentricities, Damian’s melancholy pursuit of recognition – all of Spy x Family’s best threads were validated and furthered across that tense conversation, which simultaneously served as one of the show’s most deliciously layered acts of espionage. A fantastic note to go out on, and a devilishly effective hook for the next season!