After the first two episodes of Cross Ange gave us back to back rape scenes and badly executed fanservice, I was kinda wondering what they'd force us to endure with the third episode.
To my surprise, it was a LOT better.
The first half of the episode begins where the second episode left off, with Ange still wanting to haul ass even after getting someone killed in the process, and even though she almost does get shot for her trouble, the actual battle commences (and the mecha fight scene wasn't too bad, somewhat like Macross as interpreted through a Gundam lens), and Ange crashes into Zola in her fear of getting killed, they crash, and as Ange barely survives, she wakes up to find Zola's blood all over her, and in a scene I thought was quite dramatic, Zola's cybernetic eye lands right in Ange's lap.
The fanservice took a backseat and instead decided to focus on the "War is Hell" aspect, and wow, I was impressed.
Later, we get to see the banged up Ange restrained on a gurney (again, not played for fanservice) as Jill gives the after action review. Jill rubs in the fact Ange's desertion attempt caused things to go so horribly wrong, Hilda's understandably mad Zola (her lover) is dead, and Ange is still in denial mode, but the denial is obviously getting harder to maintain.
Later, Jill breaks the bad news that the Empire Ange tried to return to has ceased to exist (the coup d'etat as the cause), and this further breaks the shell of Ange's denial (which is the point of Jill's reveal), and just before this scene we find out Ange was so freaking pampered and sheltered it's no freaking wonder she had a huge mind block against herself being anything other than a non-Norma princess.
We also get to see a scene where they are paying last respects to the fallen, and Ange gets a continued bitchslap concerning her reality when she realizes just how horrible the fate of a Norma basically is, and in a weak attempt at denial, tries to use Mana again and fails. Jill also continues being a hardass and tells Ange to realize her life is utterly fucked over as it was and that she needs to accept her fate or just get herself killed.
Sometime after, Jill is still pissed they are down several pilots and mecha, and apparently the only one they have left in storage is some problem child of a robot called Vilkiss (i.e. - that Super Prototype in most mecha shows that most people can't pilot worth a damn except the main character), and at this point, Ange has started to accept her reality to the point she doesn't want to live in it anymore, so she volunteers willingly to be the pilot, hoping she can die in a blaze of glory at least. Jill lets her, obviously figuring Ange will either kill herself off or harden the fuck up.
Latyer, part two of DRAGON hunting commences, and right off the bat, Hilda really wants to watch Ange get herself killed. The mecha fight again looks like Macross as interpreted through a Gundam lens (with a little bit of high fantasy tropes thrown in given the DRAGON's attacks), and just as Salia (the purple haired girl who was willing to cap Ange in the head for desertion) is about to get killed, Ange attempts a kamikaze run.
Self preservation prevents her from offing herself properly, and just as she finally looks like she's really gonna die, she flashbacks to when she saw Coco (the girl killed at the end of Episode 2) die in a cloud of gore, her ring (one of the last reminders of her former life apparently) reacts to the blood dripping off her still not completely healed wounds from earlier, and the Vilkiss glows all golden and gets a scene that had a Gundam SEED like debut of the Freedom/Justice vibe to it.
Survival instinct totally takes over at this point, she flips out, and not long after starts owning the hell out of the DRAGON, managing to vivisect it from head to waist.
As it dies, she snaps back to reality, realizes what she had to do, and while she doesn't want to accept the fact she had to kill to survive, the denial filter is totally gone now, and she finally accepts her former life is gone.
Jill was listening to her PTSD moment, and leaves, happy Ange hardened the fuck up and accepted her situation.
The next episode preview indicates the next episode with be a breather/fanservice episode for the most part, which I'm actually looking forward to now that they got some decent plot with good writing done first.