Fire Force: Joker’s Dark Past Reveals a Surprising Connection to [SPOILER]

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 2, Episode 12 of Fire Force, "Shadows Cast by Divine Light," now streaming on Crunchyroll.

Fire Force's partnership of Joker and Benimaru Shinmon looks to expose the secrets of the Holy Sol Temple through an all-out assault of their headquarters. As the duo infiltrate the Temple, a secret tunnel puts them face-to-face with a group known as the Holy Sol's Shadows. Once a member of this team, Joker's dark past comes to light as he returns to his former stomping grounds and up against an old enemy.

Though it looked like Benimaru Shinmon, Captain of Company 7, would be down for the count after being dosed with an unknown poison, he quickly recovers and helps Joker take out the remaining Holy Sol Temple disciples guarding the entrance. They make their way inside, and while it initially looks empty, Joker finds a secret entry into the Nether hidden beneath a pulpit. Joker leads Benimaru down, but the Company 7 Captain begins to question his mysterious new partner.

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When Benimaru demands answers, Joker reveals he used to be a part of the church but worked in the shadows. As they make their way deeper into the Nether, we see what Joker referred to is the Holy Sol's Shadows, a secret assassination team for the Holy Sol Temple. Joker smirks at the mysterious group, who are all masked and dressed like harlequins, and mocks them for such an unfriendly homecoming before reminding them of who he is, giving them his old codename.

Known then as "52," Joker was brought up through the ranks of the Holy Sol's Shadows, showing his promise as a fighter from a young age. However, he frequently clashed with his commander, who preaches that "people are not individuals; they are a group. A collective." The commander aimed to snuff out any signs of individuality, giving Joker a bloody beatdown when he seemed too confident, but that was far from the end of his punishment. As a penalty for holding onto a personal watch, Joker reported to the commander's room where he is whipped, and worse, there are despicable implications of sexual abuse.

Years later, on the night that Sho Kusakabe was kidnapped, Joker finally escaped from the Holy Sol's Shadows. As he ran, he clutched his now-patched eye and wondered if the burning sensation has something to do with Burns. This is the first hint that Joker and Burns are acquainted, but before Joker could finish his thought, he was distracted by the light of the sun. Joker collapsed in the street as he hopes to feel the freedom of light. A kind family found him, offering him food, new clothes and a place to stay. Unfortunately, this happiness came to an abrupt end when Joker returned to his new home with groceries to find the entire family slaughtered by his former assassin associates.

Back in the Nether, Joker drops the gauntlet against his old commander with Benimaru taking on the remaining forces. The skilled and stoic Beni unleashes his signature lackadaisical, yet frighteningly fluid, style to prove once again why he is one of Fire Force's most fearsome fighters. Meanwhile, Joker relishes the opportunity to engage in a deathmatch against his tormentor, ready to showcase how much stronger he's become. Using a whip-like sword, the commander seems to have Joker on the ropes, but the card slinging dark hero is determined to win using the 52 cards in his deck.

Joker smokes throughout this episode as usual, and the reason why is revealed during the climax of this clash. Before the commander could land his final strike, Joker stands back up to his feet as three other Jokers materialized in the plumbing clouds enveloping the area. Suddenly, there's a psychedelic sequence of Joker's making, revealing the smoke produced by the leaves he's been smoking have a hallucinogenic effect. While Joker and Benimaru are immune, the commander and other assassins succumb to the smoke. The vibrant colors, jester imagery and cacophony of laughter make this trippy sequence one of Fire Force's most iconic.

In a flash, Joker slashes off one of the commander's arms and taunts him. Joker smiles, holding up a flaming joker playing card, revealing that he has more than 52 cards now before dicing the commander up in an instant, killing him. However, Captain Burns emerges from the shadows as Joker says he's been saving the ace up his sleeve for this fight. Since Company 1 is openly affiliated with the Holy Sol Temple, it's not too surprising that Captain Burns could be aware and complicit in their underground dealings. Burns and Joker have a history that looks to be coming to a head and could reveal where Burns lies in the fight against the Evangelist.

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