Something I’ve always respected about Princess Principal is how unabashedly it likes to just do its thing time and again. From its first episode, it tossed us into its high-flying world of steampunk technology, deception, and espionage and essentially told us nothing except to buckle up. It asked us to trust it with its narrative, its characters, and its fascinating world, and to just let it take us where it was going, wherever that may be. If the final three episodes are any indication, this show did indeed go places, and it escorted us through them in a masterclass style.
Following on the heels of the last two episodes, Princess Principal 12 picks up right where 11 left off, and it’s only fitting for the rollercoaster ride that this finale has been shaping up to be. The show decides to ask us again to simply sit back and take in the sights one last time, and it truly is worth it to do so. The major happenings of episode 12 aren’t necessarily surprising, per se, but they are cathartic, and they work to bring an all-around satisfying conclusion to Princess Principal.
In a lot of ways, the episode feels like a victory lap of sorts, strutting off all of the big points that the show is known for – intense stealth sequences, high speed car chases (or in this case, car being chased by train chases), and good vibes all around from the spies themselves, when they aren’t caught up in the work of the moment. From where the last episode left off, Princess rendezvoused with Zelda, all the while trying to appear to be Ange in disguise. Her subterfuge does not last long in the eyes of Zelda, but her determination in attempting to keep in disguise really shines as a testament to what she learned from her peers, and how far she is willing to go in order to save her people from a bloody revolt. Determination seems to be the course of the day, however, as the rest of the Principal team is also doing what they can to get to the center of the situation. Dorothy and Beatrice have been working with Control in secret after the military’s power shakeup, Chise convinces her liege to attend the victory ceremony about to take place, all so that she can meet back up with her crew, and Ange sets fire to the zeppelin that she was trapped in so that she could escape. It is with Ange’s escape, though, that we see the first of this episode’s repeated shows of affection between Ange and Princess – despite trapping Ange in a zeppelin headed for Casablanca, she left behind a jacket and a message in lipstick for Ange to live on for herself. In a rare turn of events, Ange actually begins to cry. We’ve seen cracks in her facade through the journey here, but never to such a degree as this have we seen such raw emotion come from Ange. And with this episode, it is certainly not going to be the last time.
Following some underground shootout shenanigans, the gang reunites, sans Princess, and they set out to stop the assassination of Albion’s queen, and the beginning of a bloody revolt. During this time, Princess works her magic, or rather, her way of simply being herself, and speaks to the leader of the revolt, convincing him that a bloodshed-stained revolution is not the way that Albion should be changed. We see in this moment the full fervor that Princess has for her country, and for her desire to become a queen that can change her country for the betterment of her people. Zelda has other plans, however, and decides that she needs neither the revolt captain nor Princess, killing the former and setting her sights on the latter. With seemingly perfect timing, the Principal team swoops in and cuts the ceremony short with a few smoke bombs, a shootout with Zelda, and a daring rescue of Princess herself. Ultimately, Zelda escapes, the revolt is stopped, Princess is rescued, and the team steals away to Casablanca to wait for the heat of the situation to die down. The ladies of the Princess Principal team don’t have much time to relax on the beaches of Casablanca, though, as the OG Control wrests back their rightful place from the military coup, and a new assignment for them is just on the horizon. No rest for spies, human and black lizard alike, it seems. Honestly, this last episode hits a lot of necessary high notes – it makes for a fantastically orchestrated series of events, and it’s honestly one of the most heart-thumping episodes of the series, period. Beyond this, though, it makes for one of the most heartwarming, as well, as Princess and Ange truly seem to be back in sync with one another, and the depths of their care for one another is very much at work. Princess’ promise to Ange that she will work to tear down the walls around her heart is one hell of a heartfelt last line – or, well, last line before post-credits scenes, anyway.
As seems to be the case with many shows these days, despite being a solid last episode overall, at parts this final episode of Princess Principal does feel somewhat rushed, but the condensed acton does not make for a bad experience with the episode, or open any glaring plot holes. In the end, it still feels as though most of the main story elements that we wanted to be concluded were done justice. However, we are left with a rather large amount of questions that makes me eager to consider the possibility of a second season. For one, we have no idea on the current status of Operation: Changeling any longer. Is the operation being scrapped, now that the Princess of Albion has disappeared entirely from the country? Since only the leader of the planned wall revolt was convinced by Princess to do things differently, are the rest of the soldiers involved still holding the seed of revolution in their hearts? Who on earth is Zelda, and how did she get her hands on a C-ball like Ange’s? The Duke of Normandy is still going strong, despite many of his plots being foiled by the Princess Principal team, and he does not seem to be planning on slowing down his quest for power any time soon. What is his next move? And are we ever going to learn about the origins of the Black Lizard Planet? There are of course many more questions abounding, but these are just a few that spring to mind when considering the whole of this final episode.
In a way, having all of these questions arise shows a strength of Princess Principal in that since the first episode, it has worked to create a living, interesting world for its characters to inhabit, with many moving parts that all have some meaning to how the show operates and interacts with its audience. The show has always been good at only revealing the information that was immediately necessary for understanding what’s going on; kind of like we ourselves are spies, and the information given to us is only on a need-to-know basis. Not knowing what is happening with Operation: Changeling, the kingdom of Albion, agent Zelda, the Duke of Normandy, or anything else is not frustrating. It is exciting. This fascinating world that the show has created is very much still alive in my mind because of questions like these, giving me cause to keep it alive through my musings about what might be to come in possible future seasons.
In a sense, it felt like a gamble for us initially when we chose to write about Princess Principal for this season, but with each successive episode, it continued to do new and interesting things with itself, continually building a more interesting world for us to explore and unfold along with the Principal team. It’s honestly going to be one of those shows for me that I don’t think I’ll ever forget, not just because of the sheer joy that it brought me each week, but because it asked us to trust it, and that trust was certainly not misplaced. I may gladly re-visit this world at some point down the road, and hopefully, that might be in a second season. But for now, the girls should enjoy their hard-earned down time.