I don’t think I posted this scene back when I was liveblogging this episode (or if I did, I can’t find it now— that’s what you get for fifty pages of liveblogging), which is weird because I love it a lot. It might just be one of my favorite scenes in S, and definitely one of the more intense ones in the entire show to me.
Because for the first time, it is actually impossible to perceive Haruka and Michiru as “well-meaning antagonists who could be easily recruited to the side of good with a bit of persuasion”. Usagi tries to talk to them, to get through to them, and gets nowhere. For the first time, she — and the viewer — understands that there’s no bridging the gap between them, at least not so easily, and not so soon.
And for the first time, Haruka and Michiru are legitimately frightening. The whole scene is so tense and unsettling, and the painful contrast between Usagi’s blind insistence to keep acting the same as before, like they’re still friends, and Haruka and Michiru’s complete disregarding of their relationship up until that point makes it that much worse. Like they’re completely willing to throw away everything that makes them human as soon as it turns out it might interfere with their mission. I mean, holy shit, they played the cool and supportive older sisters role to the inners for twenty episodes, and all that fondness and caring is gone in the blink of an eye. And Haruka physically assaulting Usagi — in civilian form, no less, where Usagi has no means of defending herself against the significantly larger and stronger Haruka — makes it seem much more than just an idle threat when they tell her they’ll kill her.
But how remarkably dark this scene is compared to the show’s regular atmosphere aside, I also adore it from a characterization standpoint. As much as I love them, Haruka and Michiru often fall victims to Long-Running-Anime-Franchise Drag-Out Syndrome, meaning they are prone to go on antagonizing other characters long after there’s any reason or sense in them doing so, and I frequently feel the urge to clutch my head between my hands and yell “no girls, you are being unnecessarily terrible, stop that right now”. And while this might seem like the pinnacle of unnecessarily terrible — attack and threaten a sweet, gentle girl who cares about you as well as the world you’re trying to protect and wants to help you? — it actually makes a great deal of sense.
Usagi is the one person, outside of one another, the two of them care greatly for — Haruka especially so, which is why she’s taking the lead while Michiru mostly just stands in the background. And they can’t afford that. Haruka was a lot like Usagi once, full of ideals and cherishing every life, but she had to seal off that part of herself in order to devote herself completely to her mission. They know better than to believe the world can be saved without any sacrifices, that faith and love is all that it takes — but faced with Usagi and her pure, wholehearted conviction that yes, it can, it suddenly becomes tempting. Like maybe it really is possible after all— but that’s nonsense.
She makes them soft. They can’t afford to be soft.
And there’s the fact that they know that Usagi — Sailor Moon — won’t listen no matter how much they tell her to stay out of their business. She always finds some way to worm herself back in, and maybe they could’ve stood to allow it before (maybe they owe her more than they can admit), but they realize that this battle is wholly different to any one they’ve fought before. It’s a battle meant for them and for them alone. It’s a battle there might be no coming back from. They don’t want her involved. She’ll get in their way. She’ll get herself hurt. If the price is their own lives, then they are fully willing to pay it — but they won’t allow any unnecessary sacrifices. Especially not ones dear to them.
And so, by completely severing their bond with her, they can go into what may very well be their last fight together, with nothing tying them to this world, with nothing to leave behind.
Wow, I don’t think I ever completely understood this scene until I read this. But your analysis of it makes perfect sense. Kudos.