--How can you take a coup d'etat seriously when the guy in charge introduces himself as Hank Hercules? I mean, come on.
--This is so not going to end well. Even the episode's name.
--Baww, poor Sergei sitting and drinking tea alone without his adorable soldier daughter.
--Those photos! His wife was so adorable. And the one in the center of all of them is him with Soma! Bawww.
--I bet his wife was such a badass. I want a name for her just so that I can ship them.
--Yay, delicious Nena! Please let her actually do something this episode. Okay, I don't have my hopes up very high.
--Is it just me, or does Nena pause a little before adding "...ojou-sama?" to Liu Mei now?
--Almost seven minutes into the episode and this is the first we see of Our Heroes. Impressive.
--Boring battle between characters we barely know and automatons...is boring.
--Aw, poor Sergei has to choose between his friend and his Noble Cause, and following his orders to infiltrate the coup.
--Are we not going to find anything more about Sergei's wife beyond the way she died? Sadness.
--Holly! She has a name.
--Hank Hercules, you're kind of a dick.
--What exactly is Sergei trying to do? He's too honorable to join in a coup d'etat that threatens innocents, but he's also too honorable to just go along with what the Federation and A-LAWS are doing. He's kind of stuck here.
--I see, he also wants to find a way to protect Hercules so that he doesn't die like Holly did.
--"Omae," huh? Sounds like Sergei's pretty pissed off at Hercules now.
--Klaus, you're so useless. Why is someone awesome like Shirin still with you?
--Hmm. So Hercules did it knowing that his message would probably never get out past the few thousand citizens he had within the station, but hoping that they would bring the message out themselves? I think I see where this is going. The trains carrying those citizens are going to have an unfortunate meeting with some Innovators, aren't they?
--And, of course, they're going to make it look like the casualties and terror were the fault of the insurgents, but I took that as a given.
--You know, I really wish we had more background on Katharon. They're such a generic rebel organization.
--"That is why I'm getting the citizens to Earth." They are so doomed.
--The return of Weeaboo Suit!
--Oh yeah, this is just the end of last episode. And yet they put it well over halfway through this episode. Sigh.
--This is totally vintage Graham. He's so deliciously crazy.
--Well, that was pretty much just confirmation that Setsuna is going to survive: he now understands that the life of fighting Graham clings to is not the only way.
--Bawww. Yeah, he's going to survive. And yeah, I know it's because of Marina, but I'm going to attribute it to Lockon instead, dammit.
--Goddamn, the ED is still so pretty. It fills me with angry conflicting feelings about this whole season.
--Well, I guess it's not the Innovators who are going to show up and kill the hostages, but obviously A-LAWS is arranging for someone to do it.
--Oh, for fuck's sake, not another of that same goddamn superweapon!
--Yeah, Sergei goes down next episode. I'll be happy so long as it affects Marie somehow.
Following my thoughts on this episode, let's discuss my thoughts on Lyle. The thing is, as I realized from staring at the new ED, he's not exactly a separate character from Neil. He's a continuation of and counterpoint to Lockon's story: Neil was the one who destroyed himself for the sake of fixing the world, and Lyle is the result of that sacrifice. Considering Lockon is my favorite character and I RP him, I'm pretty embarrassed it took me this long to fully get it.
The problem is, they are really not putting a whole lot of effort into showing it anywhere other than the ED (and possibly the novels, as I've heard some things about those).
It is an interesting perspective to take and an interesting way to handle two intertwined characters. But throughout the first season, we saw all of two oblique references to their connection--the graveyard scene, and Lockon's shoutout to Lyle in his last words. If they wanted to then start the second season with Lyle already established as a character in his own right via his connection to Neil (which seems like what they wanted to do), they needed to put in more references to him in the first season. Flashbacks and brief references would have been fine, but there should have been something. Failing that, they should have used the first few episodes of the second season extensively to set up Lyle as a character, complete with copious references to Neil.
A lot of this seems to be a severe case of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too on the creators' parts. They want Lyle to be a mystery and a surprise in S2--but they also want him to come with the audience already invested in him without the need for actual personality and development. They want Lyle to quickly take over the "Lockon" role so they can keep putting out the same merchandise and official art, but they also want him to be a fully-realized character and significant part of the theme. They can't have both of those things in either case, so each time instead of sacrificing convenience/shock value/flashiness, they give the boot to deeper character development and consistency.
Not to mention, while having Lyle take over Lockon's role may make sense thematically--he's the "Lockon" who gets the happy ending because the previous one sacrificed himself for it, complete with a
Basically, I now understand what they're doing as I didn't before, and I might have hated the season less if I'd realized it before...but not by all that much. There are so many better ways they could have gotten the "Lyle and Neil are two sides of the same coin; everything about Lyle is because Neil destroyed himself for him, and this Makes A Statement About War" message across while still keeping halfway decent character development. The way they've chosen to do it instead is cheap, lazy, and inconsistent, and because I can't separate my favorite character's story from it, it makes it really hard for me to enjoy the show.