I feel like the episode tried to do way too much at once. While most of the plot points it hit were very interesting (and I’ll get to those in a minute), they weren’t given a lot of room to breathe, which does strip away a lot of the potential I feel like this episode had. In this single episode Wolfwood confronts his adoptive brother, Meryl shows her resolve, some kind of desert street gang attacks the ship, a runaway cruiser ship is stopped, a giant rail cannon gets destroyed and finally, we end on a cliffhanger that alludes to Vash’s non-human nature. That’s a lot, and while some of the things here were foreshadowed or farily predictable, I didn’t feel like STAMPEDE was actually building to any of them. Rather, it just felt like a bunch of things happened at once.
That being said, I did like a lot of the episode’s plot points and foreshadowing, even if I wasn’t too keen on the execution. To me, this feels like the episode that helps differentiate STAMPEDE from the original series the most. Not only do we have a crisis of identity revolving around Wolfwood that ties into the main villain’s story in a different way, but we also get to see how faith and belief are used as justification for decisions that range from frustrating to incredibly cruel. The original series had some significant religious overtones (I mean for god’s sake we literally have a hitman walk around with a giant cross on his back). However, allusions to faith and religion were more symbolic in the original whereas here it feels more like they’re driving forces to the narrative. Wolfwood seems to have a jaded relationship with faith given his position, the creature that came out of the plant looks like an angel, and the organization that is creating all of these humanoid weapons seems to be doing it under the guise of faith. There are even a lot of allusions to Knives being revered as some kind of God, and Legato walks around with what appears to be a Bible. All of this is interesting stuff, and if STAMPEDE just slows down a little bit to really let these elements breathe, then I feel like it has the potential to be just as good as the original.