At a mosque in Azadistan several men tell religious leader Rasul Massoud Rakhmadi that Parliament is defying the will of God by allowing heretics to enter the country. They think now is the time to strike before they lose out to the reformists, but Rasul tells them to calm down because God will bring down divine punishment upon Marina and Parliament. The men insist that they need to fight, but their meeting is interrupted when several masked gunmen storm the mosque and open fire. After the war six years ago, Azadistan annexed the former Krugis Republic and revived its monarchy, but the country is now split between two political groups, making the country extremely volatile. Shirin informs Marina that Massoud has been kidnapped, and that the conservatives probably think it was the reformists who did it. Shirin believes it was spurred on by the UN’s presence in Azadistan, which though approved by Parliament isn’t approved of by the entire populace. She wants Marina to consider the worst-case scenario if Massoud turns up dead: civil war. On the streets, security forces deploy to hold back protesters who demand that the UN leave and burn posters of Marina. On her VTOL plane, Wang receives a call from Alejandro about the deteriorating situation in Azadistan. At JNN headquarters, Kinue’s assistant finds reports of 138 people with doctorates who disappeared over the last 200 years. Elsewhere, Saji wins over Louise’s mom by bringing her a pizza from his job. She says that Saji is a good boy and resembles her late husband, and Louise points out that her father is still alive. Marina recalls meeting with Massoud shortly before becoming the first princess. She told him that even if she was just a figurehead, she wanted to do her part to help. She asked for his support, but he said he would take the opposing stand. He said that though she may want to recreate the nation, many people, himself included, hate change. To prevent others from taking up arms, they’d need someone they can empathize with- Massoud. She asks Shirin if Parliament is willing to consider her suggestion about a mutual compromise, but Shirin answers that there’s no time for that. The reformists have been secretly negotiating with the Union and are asking for military assistance. In the air, Graham’s anti-Gundam team heads for Azadistan. In the Azadistan desert, Hong Long tells Setsuna and Lockon that they’re on standby. Lockon asks Wang what she’s going to do, and she explains that they have to get Massoud to prevent civil war. Setsuna heads for the city and is eyed suspiciously by people on the street. A young boy selling water asks Setsuna if there are really tall towers that go up into space, and Setsuna answers yes. An old man then rudely tells Setsuna to leave because he can tell that Setsuna is Krugis. Massoud wonders how he’ll escape from the men holding him, who are led by Ali. At night, a renegade Anf military pilot opens fire on his comrades and the solar energy receiver antenna. Flying above in his Custom Flag, Graham can’t tell who the traitors are, and suddenly the Anfs come under fire from Lockon’s Gundam Dynames. From nearby, Ali’s custom Enact fires a spread of missiles at the antenna, but there’s too many for Lockon to hit.
Marina is informed that the antenna has been destroyed by ultraconservative agents who infiltrated the army, and Shirin notes that it’s almost as if they knew about Massoud’s kidnapping beforehand. Graham orders Howard and Daryl to find Ali while he takes on Lockon. Lockon tries to snipe Graham, but Graham transforms and dodges. Lockon misses again, and Graham gets in close enough to kick him. He attacks with his plasma blade, forcing Lockon to defend with his beam saber. Lockon fires several shots from his beam pistol, but Graham deflects them all with his defense rod. Graham rushes in again, but he halts when an emergency communication comes in that Azadistan army mobile suits have launched from their Zeir base without authorization and are heading toward the royal palace as part of a coup d’etat. The rebel Anfs march through the streets of the capital and come under fire from the army. Ribbons tells Alejandro that they should find shelter, but Alejandro says he wants to see a Gundam. The Gundam Exia descends from the sky and heads to the battle in the city. Lockon and Graham stand completely still, but Graham regrettably breaks off to head for the city. He asks Howard and Daryl about what they found, but they tell him they couldn’t detect the other mobile suit with all the GN particles blocking radar. In the city, Setsuna attacks the renegade Anfs and slices them apart with his GN sword. Watching the battle from his hotel room, Alejandro concludes that Setsuna relies too much on the Gundam’s abilities. Wang calls Setsuna and tells him that renegade Anfs have also launched from the Gazuna base and are on their way. As Setsuna arrives at the Kesh region, he sees child guerillas killed while fighting Anfs and is reminded of his own past. Setsuna rushes in and destroys three Anfs, but he’s too late to save the three child guerillas who were seeking cover. Two more Anfs appear and open fire, and Setsuna goes berserk. Later, Saji and Louise’s mother watch a JNN report about Celestial Being’s armed intervention in Azadistan. On the Ptolemaios, Christina tells Sumeragi that they have an emergency message from Veda about the coup d’état in Azadistan. In the city, Union reinforcements arrive and achieve air superiority. Graham notes that such tragedies result from unrestricted religious faith. Elsewhere, Ali flies away and is annoyed by the constant interference of the Gundams. Marina is disappointed that she allowed a coup and an armed intervention of Celestial Being to occur under her watch. She falls to her knees and begins to cry, but Shirin tells her it isn’t over yet. With the battle over, Setsuna declares that he can’t become a Gundam.
The flames of war are ignited in Azadistan with the kidnapping of religious leader Massoud and the destruction of the solar energy receiver antenna. In both cases, Ali is personally involved. I wonder if he has a political objective, or if he’s just in it for the money. After all, war is good for business when you’re a mercenary. We learn a bit more about Marina and the nature of the conflict in Azadistan, which by the map shown corresponds to modern Iran. Massoud is an important figure, and though his beliefs are in conflict with Marina’s, he purposefully takes the opposition to help her keep the peace. That’s all pretty tenuous with the current situation, though. There’s also a glimpse of the generational divide in the country- the young boy on the street approaches Setsuna and speaks to him without hesitation, but the adults view him with suspicion and discriminate against him because he’s from Krugis. We also see the Union getting involved, which results in Graham fighting with Lockon and forcing Lockon to keep on his feet. Given Setsuna’s reaction on the battlefield (and in previous episodes), it looks as though he certainly has PTSD from his time as a guerilla. It also has an effect on him because he wanted to “become a Gundam” and save those children the same way the 0 Gundam saved him, but he wasn’t able to do so. The Azadistan conflict certainly isn’t over, and we’ll have to see where it goes from here.