In a development that I have found not at all surprising, Princess Principal episode three serves as yet another thrilling romp through steampunk London with our spy ladies, and it most certainly does not disappoint in any aspect that the previous episodes have lead me to expect. Its quality has remained one of the most consistent among this season’s offerings, and it certainly does not leave me at the end of the episode feeling lacking. Rather, episode three follows a pattern episodes one and two have set in place for us, and it goes to town. Or the sky, rather.
Unlike the previous two episodes, Princess Principal episode three brings us to the official inception of a sanctioned mission, as opposed to the start of a mid-party emergency mission. That dastardly ‘ol Duke of Normandy has stolen some printing plates and taken them away in an airship in the hopes of tossing the colonial economy in the toilet, and only our roguish spy girls can stop the plan! It’s an interesting premise for an episode, and it does make for some neat action setpieces using Ange’s gravity-manipulating gadgets. That said, much like Owningmatt93 discussed in his piece about episode two, the subject matter of the mission itself is not terribly important. This episode could have dealt with a hostage situation, a secret infiltration mission for political gain, or potentially anything else spy-related and it could have fit the purposes of the episode. While Princess Principal does play host to an incredible amount of fight sequences and high-octane action, it is pretty clear by this point in the series that this show is likely going to have a laser-like focus on its characters and their disparate histories. That being said, it certainly is a great credit to the show that it is able to competently develop its characters and story while simultaneously developing engaging action sequences to balance the show out. With regards to the story, however, Princess Principal is certainly taking its time, and it is having us trust it with its story by slowly giving us information on a need-to-know basis. We still do not know much about our cast, and that is, honestly, pretty appropriate for a show about spies and deception.
With episode three, we get some of the aforementioned backstory that has thus far evaded us in the series. What is likely the most important and slow-burn-worthy news we gather is that Ange and Princess have known each other for ten years, and that Ange crossed the border ostensibly to smuggle Princess out so they could live together as they used to. Beyond this, it is revealed that they made some mysterious promise to one another in their youth – a promise that Ange appears to find obsolete at this point in time. While the details are blurry and not the most immediately relevant to our place in the story so far, this is clearly information to keep hold of for the future. While we get a lot of screen time for Ange to show off her spying prowess and her high-flying combat skills, this episode really belongs to Beatrice, the boon companion of Princess, and the more immediately relevant backstory we gather belongs to Beatrice. We find out, for instance, that Beatrice’s uncanny ability to imitate voices comes not from her own training, but because of a device implanted in her throat. Beatrice’s father was, to put it lightly, a bit of a tinkerer, and he experimented on her and altered her vocal cords. As such, her voice occasionally needs maintenance, and she can apparently tune it at will to imitate whomever she so desires. Her voice was not always a boon for her, though, as it made her the object of derision for many of her peers as a youth. However, without this, she might not have befriended Princess; when everyone else called her a freak, Princess called Beatrice “friend.” Because of this, Beatrice carries with her a very deep sense of loyalty, love, and indebtedness towards Princess, and to say that these feelings are strong would be a massive understatement.
Beatrice spends a pretty solid majority of the episode talking down to Ange for being a spy, and explaining how fiercely loyal she is to Princess. Beatrice approaches this philosophy of hers with the idea that she is the only one that is truly capable of protecting Princess. She does not trust anyone else with Princess’ care, and that is doubly so for the spies that just rolled into their life days ago. Beyond this, their encounter in the previous episode has left an especially bad taste in Beatrice’s mouth, making her feel outrageously against any and all spies, even those like Ange who are actually working for the sake of Princess, even if it is indirectly. Of course, when someone with a mindset like that decides to tag along on a spy’s mission, what could possibly go wrong? If you said “everything,” you’re exactly right. For a time, anyway. Beatrice’s stubborn idealism and loyalty to Princess ends up landing her and Ange in a heap of trouble, with Beatrice stumbling and putting them out of position with her inexperience, and subsequently costing them precious time behind enemy lines by refusing to work with Ange, despite the fact that she might have just screwed them six ways from Sunday with her bumbling work. By the end of their mission, however, when Ange gives Beatrice the last remaining parachute in order to get her and the plates to safety, and back to Princess, Ange finds that her animosity towards the new spies might have been misplaced, and that she might have misjudged their loyalty to Princess.
While the episode does end with the gang together and Beatrice being notably civil to all involved parties, we find that we have the beginnings of a working spy crew. Despite this, it is still worthy of consideration to wonder about the loyalties of the girls in the Princess Principal crew. In the course of these three episodes, we have discovered that, realistically, the only person that we can truly say we understand the loyalties of is Beatrice. It is quite clear that Beatrice’s loyalty lies with Princess, plain and simple, and I think we would be hard-pressed to find some kind of crazy plot twist that would involve the betrayal of that devotion, if this episode has been any indication. It also seems like Ange and Princess are very much in each other’s corners, but as we have seen, Princess is nowhere near as innocent as she might seem to be, and Ange herself is seen to live her life lying constantly – to comrades, to strangers, and to herself. Beyond that, we hardly know anything at all about Dorothy aside from the fact that she has worked with Ange before, and Chise, our katana-toting spy from episode one, is currently not even in play in the story. In short, we have a cast of spies and persons that we do not know the ultimate motivations of, aside from, assumedly, Beatrice. This leaves for a lot of potential drama to unfold, and as the nature of truth, lies, and loyalty have been consistent notes of discussion in the show, I think it would be prudent to be cautious when considering how well we know these characters going forward.