Sayaka’s attitude throughout this episode suggests a weakness which Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer identified as the Yoko Factor. Turn the heroes against each other, and they will be easier to destroy. Already, Sayaka has decided that all other magical girls are her enemies. Kyouko is outright aggressive; Homura has been mistrusted from the start, and Sayaka blames her for Mami’s death (wrongly). Mami is the only magical girl Sayaka absolves of ill intention, but she’s not here to help the fight. If the Walpurgisnacht that Homura warns of is a threat that magical girls need to battle (the first scene of the series comes to mind, no?), these girls are not in good shape to meet it.
Of all of them, Madoka is the only one who seems to want to work together. Sayaka, Kyouko and Homura all have different views, but they share a conviction that magical girls are not or cannot be allies. Madoka desperately wants to them to be friends, and she herself, the innocent and unstained one, either is or wants to be friends with all of them.
Despite the divisions between them, this episode revealed something which might have a chance to unite the girls: the nature of the Soul Gems. [Spoilers – although you really can’t discuss this show without spoiling major plot points, when this much has happened in six episodes.] Not just a pretty name, a magical girl’s soul gem is actually her soul, torn from her body and kept in a “safer” container – which makes perfect sense in terms of the creepy ritual scene from earlier:
Judging from Kyouko’s shocked reactions, this detail is generally kept from girls making a contract (which makes it rather ethically questionable, but then, this is Kyubey). Homura was not only not surprised, she jumped into action and possibly saved Sayaka’s life (what happens if you’re seperated from your body for too long?). I wonder what else Homura has learned in the past that set her against Kyubey? Stubborn Sayaka missed the revelation, being otherwise occupied; it might not even shake her conviction, since she willingly sacrificed herself for Kyousuke’s benefit. In previous episodes she seemed to feel it was well worth his happiness whatever happened to her, but it is starting to become evident that he doesn’t return her feelings to the same degree.
Leaving speculation for the moment, let’s discuss the purity of the magical girl. Generally they’re as pure as you get: sweet, good-natured virginal girls who face dangers to protect the world and its order (see Kylaran on mahou shoujo and the status quo). Their powers come from things like the powers of love and friendship, and they frequently purify impure objects (think Shugo Chara or Sailor Moon). By contrast a magical girl’s power in this show is polluting, not purifying; it dulls the soul gem. Their soul, remember, their actual soul is dirtied by magic! Kyubey also assures Sayaka that with a clean gem she can use as much magic as she likes without worrying, implying that over-use of magic could otherwise have consequences. Naturally he didn’t elaborate…
Further evidence for the popular ‘Kyubey is evil’ school of thought in his ‘eating’ of a used grief seed. These remnants of witches are too dangerous to leave in the hands of magical girls, but he seems positively eager to absorb it. Whatever Kyubey is, I don’t think he’s a force for good, purity and light…if he’s a force for anything but himself. I can only hope we get to see something of his motives eventually.