WARNING: The following contains spoilers for 86-Eighty-Six Episode 9, “Goodbye,” now streaming on Crunchyroll.
After being racially oppressed and forced into war against the autonomous mecha-army known as the Legion, Shin and the remaining Spearhead Squadron of 86 – Raiden, Anju, Kurena and Theo – have survived against all odds. Now they're leaving the home base they've known for years, marching directly into Legion territory to fight on until they die.
Shin has fought and survived all this time in order to one day confront his brother Rei – whose mind was taken and placed inside a Shepard (a commanding Legion mecha). Years ago, Rei blamed Shin for their parents' demise, and one night choked him very close to death in his madness. This incident is all Shin remembers of his brother now, and he refuses to die until he confronts Rei once more. 86-Eighty-Six Episode 9 delivers heavy emotions as tears fly – both for the cast and viewers.
As the Spearhead Squadron begin their final, one-way march into Legion territory, they come upon an enormous horde of various types of mechas. The numbers suggest the 86 could fight for a few minutes at most before being wiped out. However, their number goes from five to four when Shin hears his brother's voice close by. It's a Shepard, a much larger Legion with enhanced metal armor, advanced machine guns, and even metal hands aiming to reach out and claim the mind of another dead human.
Despite piloting his smaller, less powerful Juggernaut, Shin insists on going off to fight the Shepard by himself. He feels no fear at all – in fact, he smiles manically at finally having the chance to accomplish his one true goal in life. The duel is surprisingly short, but intense and emotional. As they battle, a part of Rei's human consciousness seems to mix with the Shepard's pure desire to kill, as flashbacks to the siblings' happier times suddenly appear on screen. Despite the Shepard Legion not having Rei's full mind and personality, his human sense of regret still rises to the surface, if only briefly. Shin and his Juggernaut take a heavy beating, both physically and mentally, but in the end he does indeed achieve victory – thanks to a surprise helping hand.
Episode 9 of 86-Eighty-Six also displays a very different side of Lena, who decides to stop following the Republic's horrible laws and help her subordinates by any means necessary. Despite her falling out with Annette in Episode 8, Lena goes to see her old scientist friend again. She reveals she's been in contact with Shin – Annette's former neighbor who she failed to help when the 86 were being rounded up by the Republic's government – and asks her to upgrade the Para-Raid with visual enhancements.
Sometime after, Lena also sends a Republic military airship filled with warheads to fly over the battlefield. Just as Spearhead are hopelessly outnumbered and about to accept their fate, explosives suddenly rain down from the sky over the Legion's massive platoon. This could've easily killed the 86 as well, but there's a catch: half the warheads were duds, purely being released as a distraction.
Lena's clever strategy saves Shin's life as well. With his Juggernaut firmly beaten and Shin himself covered in blood, Legion Rei advances with metal hands extended, ready to physically remove Shin's brain. Suddenly the Legion is distracted by a falling warhead, giving Shin enough time to get in close and detonate an explosion of his own, which finally kills the Shepard – and Rei's consciousness – for good. As Shin watches the Shepard's remains burn, his long-repressed memories of Rei start to return. It's extremely emotional as he cries, hard, knowing his past trauma is finally laid to rest.
With all the Legion in their vicinity now dealt with, the 86 are, to an extent, free. Having advanced beyond the Republic's 86th sector and into wholly new territory, their destiny is their own. They know they'll have to continue fighting, but a notable change in tone occurs as Shin and the others speak optimistically of the future for the first time in 86-Eighty-Six. Lena, having filled her role as their faraway commander, must now say goodbye – but she can't do it.
An incredible scene plays out as she runs across her city, desperate to keep hearing their voices over the Para-Raid as long as possible. In the background, drums and violins build into a crescendo, then as the 86's voices grow fuzzy, a single, solemn piano takes over as Lena sinks to the ground in tears. Their wild journey together is over, and she knows she must let them go. With a few episodes still to come in 86-Eighty-Six's first cour, it's not clear how either party will move forward. For now at least, there's a budding sense of optimism amid the unknown.