A running gag throughout Goblin Slayer is the titular adventurer responding to any inkling or suggestion of a disturbance with the presumption of “Goblins?”. It’s one of the show’s bits that I admit consistently works since lord knows a series like this needs some levity. It also serves the purpose as a regular reminder of the Slayer’s always-alert approach. He is constantly on the lookout for signs of goblins, no matter how minor or negligible. This just makes it come off as pure, unvarnished narrative convenience that our vigilant vigilante somehow missed multiple mounds signifying fresh goblin holes popping up around the camp. It’s not so much “bad” writing as it is flat, obvious writing, and it’s exactly the sort of thing I expect from Goblin Slayer.
After three episodes leading into this second season, this fourth drops a fresh goblin situation in our characters’ laps to rapidly resolve this opening arc. A fresh clutch of goblins decides to attack the development site, because that’s just what goblins do, and our heroes all step up in ways that speak to their journeys thus far. As the show’s focus has broadened past the Slayer himself since at least halfway through the first season, he’s understandably not the center for this outing either. The Slayer and how he regards the other characters’ actions still provides some context, but the whole thing is more about the accomplishments of the Priestess or the life lessons that Wizard Boy arrives at.
Goblin Slayer‘s part to play in this goblin slaying is also basic because this is a basic attack by series’ standards. There aren’t any surprising new goblin evolutions to catch characters off-guard. And even when something bigger and badder like a hob pops up, not-Guts is on hand to one-shot it, demonstrating his badassery. It’s like when a game throws an early-stage boss at a now high-level player to let them get an understanding of how far they’ve come. It’s a similar feeling to this episode showing off Slayer and the experienced party members taking on the den of goblins in sync with each other. Watching them coordinate like a well-practiced esports team ought to work well enough for those that just come to Goblin Slayer for Badass™ dark fantasy action.
Everything else happening in this episode is entirely at the behest of the points it thinks need to be made. The goblins specifically going to pick off the fledgling adventurers is the one distinguishing element of their attack. But there isn’t an explanation of the “Why” except for the understanding that goblins love murderin’ in general and this is easier. The real reason, of course, is for the series to redemonstrate the kinds of mistakes newbie adventurers make (one taking off his helmet for no reason) and the consequences that result from that kind of irresponsibility (getting his head caved in with a big ol’ rock). These are points the audience is well aware of, but they need to be reinforced so they can observe the growth of characters like Priestess and Wizard Boy in comparison to them.
Priestess and the crew she brings along aren’t quite on the practiced level of the Slayer’s squad, but she’s still able to handle herself on account of basic experience. Goblin Slayer has always been a show more about demonstrative action than dense character exploration, so having Priestess pay off the value of her experiences over the past season and change works here. It does feel more than a little callous when everyone remarks on her resulting successful rank-up as if the goblin attack that left dozens dead was a lucky break for her to show off. But again, that’s the sort of thing I expect from the series by now.
Wizard Boy’s final payoff is also something of a mixed bag. I’ll be honest, I was expecting him to stick around more, but given his irritation levels, I won’t complain about him heading off to some other adventure. I do enjoy how his epiphany at making sense of the advice the Dwarf Shaman gave him last episode reinforces the pragmatic themes of the series. Understanding the utility of spells as tools is different from simply knowing several spells. And there’s something extremely funny about Wizard Boy driving off the goblins by doing what he’s done best over these past few episodes: Be loudly obnoxious and annoying.
After that though, Goblin Slayer mostly feels like it’s shrugging at its own acknowledged simplicity. Wizard Boy comes around on the importance of simply surviving in this dark fantasy world, as opposed to pursuing a vengeance that’s going to leave most people who aren’t the Goblin Slayer dead. Sure, he probably should have figured that out sooner, but then his other revelation is admitting how whole swaths of this world are simply willfully stupid. I get the sense that this is the series trying to make a (possibly allegorical) point about elitists in places like magic schools who don’t understand the dangers of goblins which Real Adventurers have to deal with. But that sidesteps how we’ve seen plenty of other adventurers also ignorant of goblin-based bad times, to say nothing of still not elucidating on how such a misconception even got started in the first place! But fine, Wizard Boy resolves to shelve his goblin vendetta and try slaying a dragon next. I’m sure no adventurers have ever gotten messily murdered doing that. The idea of the Slayer’s freshly unearthed trauma is teased a bit more, and viewers are treated to the positively bizarre sound of him earnestly, genuinely laughing. But beyond that, this felt like the bare minimum of what’s expected from a middling Goblin Slayer adventure.