Zack and the other diggers finally manage to clear the tunnel. Above ground, Shiden pilot Elgar is killed by a Graze Schild. Mikazuki arrives in the Lupus Rex and tells Eugene to fall back and do his job as deputy boss. Dante’s Landman Rodi loses an arm, so Akihiro tells him to fall back. The Gusion Rebake takes down several Graze Schilds on its own. Eugene and Dante meet up with Nadi and Yamagi outside the tunnel as Dane finishes preparing the explosive charges. Mikazuki tells Akihiro that he can leave, but he refuses. They begin tearing through the enemy and cause them to start backing off. Akihiro comments that Gjallarhorn thinks they’ve won, so no one wants to risk fighting them. Iok wants to launch in a Graze, but Julieta arrives in the Reginlaze Julia and tells him it’s not time for him to go. Merribit exits the tunnel and finds Ride waiting for her. He blames himself for Orga’s death, but she hugs him and thanks him for sending them the message about the attack. Mikazuki and Akihiro notice that Gjallarhorn suits are pulling back. In space, a Dainsleif team fires shots from orbit. The rounds smash into the ground and heavily damage both Gundams, leaving Mikazuki and Akihiro seriously wounded. Mikazuki finds himself floating in a dark place and wonders if he died because he’s seeing the day he met Orga – the day he was born. After the smoke clears, Mikazuki and Akihiro get up and keep fighting. Iok rushes in to finish them off and attacks Akihiro. Mikazuki uses his tail blade and arm claw to take down multiple enemies, and he grabs an axe from a fallen Graze. He gets hit with multiple axes and is knocked aside by Julieta. Akihiro hears Iok saying his own name and is filled with rage. He picks up his damaged scissors and uses them to crush Iok to death. At the same time, multiple Grazes stab their lances directly into the Gusion Rebake’s cockpit, killing Akihiro. Julieta asks Mikazuki why he won’t give up his useless fight, and he takes down several more Graze Schilds. Mikazuki thinks to himself that he now has the purpose that Orga gave to him. Julieta rips open the Lupus Rex’s cockpit and is surprised to see that Mikazuki is already unconscious. She stabs the Lupus Rex through the head. As he dies, Mikazuki thinks to himself that Atra will be mad at him for getting the bracelet dirty again. Julieta lifts up the severed head of the Lupus Rex and declares victory to the cheering soldiers.
Afterward, the events are dubbed as the “McGillis Fareed Incident.” Gjallarhorn reclaims its credibility by swiftly ending the rebellion, but the Seven Stars system is eliminated following the loss of three families. Gjallarhorn undergoes a series of democratic reforms, with Rustal serving as its first leader. He reduces the size of the Gjallarhorn Mars Branch, and the four economic blocs give up the Martian colonies. The Martian territories join together as the Martian Union, with Kudelia becoming its first chairperson. In Edmonton, Kudelia and Rustal meet in the Makanai Memorial Hall to sign the Human Debris Abolishment Treaty. After the signing, Kudelia thanks Rustal for his assistance. She mentions that she used to have family who were human debris who fought their circumstances and die. Eugene reminds Kudelia that it’s time to go, so they leave. Julieta visits wheelchair-bound Gaelio in a hospital and wonders why Rustal let Kudelia become leader of the Martian Union. Gaelio answers that all people have ulterior motives. He mentions a rumor that Julieta will become the leader of the new Gjallarhorn. She recalls his statement long ago that she should obtain power as a human, and she says that Tekkadan weren’t devils and were the most human of anyone. Gaelio says that understanding an enemy’s purpose allows you to know what their limits are, and he wishes he could’ve understood McGillis earlier. He asks Julieta to eat with him, and she tells him he’s become frivolous, but he notes he was like this before being Vidar. Kudelia and Eugene visit Makanai’s grave with current Prime Minister Alesi and his secretary Takaki. Alesi praises Takaki and hopes that he’ll become an MP in the future. Takaki recalls what Kudelia told him long ago that learning more about the world gives one more choices, which he understands now. He wants to do what he can for children on Earth and Mars. Kudelia returns to Chryse and gets a report from Chad that the Admoss Company is doing well under Cucubita and Dexter. The orphanage that Dante runs is requesting more staff members. He also mentions that Ride has been avoiding them ever since the news spread that Nobliss was back on Mars. Elsewhere, Nobliss goes into a restroom and sits in a stall. Ride knocks on the door and asks if he remembers Orga before shooting Nobliss to death. Chad tells Kudelia that Merribit and Nadi are expecting their second child soon, so everyone is going out to celebrate. Kudelia declines to join them because she wants to go home. Atra folds laundry in a field, and her son Akatsuki runs over to greet Kudelia. Kudelia notices that Akatsuki’s hands have gotten bigger and are the hands that will grasp the future.
Iron-Blooded Orphans comes to an end and adds Mikazuki, Akihiro, Iok and Nobliss to its body count (plus Makanai off screen during the timeskip). This isn’t the first time that a Gundam protagonist hasn’t survived to the end (Char’s Counterattack), but it is the first time done in a TV series. Mikazuki started off in the same vein as similarly cold-blooded killers like Heero Yuy and Setsuna F. Seiei, but his development took a very different path. He became a bit more human, but his growth was always limited by his slavish adherence to Orga’s will. In a typical story, the main character is a driving force of the events, but Mikazuki was more like a passive passenger who only did as instructed by Orga. His romance (as it were) with Kudelia felt forced simply because he was the main character, and the Atra baby subplot took up way too much oxygen. The first half of the episode goes as you would expect – given the the massive death toll leading up to this and the pessimistic nature of the cast, no happy ending was going to arise for them. But then a happy ending does happen, which feels cheap and hollow. We’re supposed to believe that Rustal suddenly becomes this big democratic reformer, even though he spent all his time being the most strident enforcer of the status quo and doing all sorts of shady things. He basically gets away with everything and then is praised for doing things he was previously against. I just can’t buy that he made all these changes rather than clamping down and giving lip service to reform. His lapdog Julieta survives the series, which is a shame because she spent all her screen time as a one-dimensional character obsessed with gaining strength. We also get no indication in her scene with Gaelio as to why he’s in a wheelchair or has bandages around his neck.
The epilogue feels like a cheat – as though the staff wanted a dark ending for some characters, but then an overall happy ending that requires some leaps in logic. It also feels that characters like Julieta get an unearned good ending, much like Code Geass R2. At least some people get the deaths they deserve, namely Iok and Nobliss. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that the main characters lose, which is fine, but somehow still accomplish their goals. A wholly pessimistic ending would’ve been more thematically appropriate here. Overall, the series had some interesting concepts but was ultimately weighed down by some writing flaws, including overtly telegraphed deaths, lack of development for key characters, and cast bloat in its second season (adding to an already large cast). As mentioned before, McGillis proved to be an entirely disappointing character due to his nonsense plans that failed in every conceivable way. Story arcs like the mobile armor fight ultimately served no purpose, other than to prematurely ignite McGillis’ stupid plan. Ultimately, while I enjoyed Iron-Blooded Orphans, it clearly is not better than the sum of its parts, and that’s a shame. I had high hopes that this series could match the quality of Gundam 00, but it just didn’t work out that way.