The story of Lord El-Melloi II is ultimately one of great change
Lord El-Melloi II of the Lord El-Melloi Case Files is no doubt a strange yet oddly charming man. He is deeply relatable; choosing to play games in his spare time and wanting to spend another five minutes in bed rather than get to work. He gets annoyed when his favorite cafe closes down and he doesn’t have a place to work at. Overall, he’s an eccentric yet clever man. Yet at the same time, he’s noted by most of the cast to be extremely unconventional, carrying none of the condescension and mystery typical of mages. Lord El-Melloi II, formerly Waver Velvet, didn't always start out this way, but grew into the adult he is now. It was a harsh journey, but one he no doubt had to take.
When we first meet Waver Velvet in Fate/Zero, he’s a brat. At the same time, young Waver deeply hates himself. By mage standards, he is an absolute failure, having poor talent in magecraft and shunned by both peers and teachers alike. He enters the Holy Grail War not because he wants to find the Root, but because he wants to prove himself; by winning the Holy Grail War with a matchless Heroic Spirit, there would be no doubt of his abilities. He starts out reckless, putting up a boisterous front to hide his inadequacies and his cowardice. Even though he has an idea of how a mage should behave, there isn’t any strength behind his conviction because he's plagued with doubts. Nobody believes in him, not even himself.
However, meeting Rider, Iskander, radically changed his life. Iskander is a prideful type, but not overbearing; he has lived his life and is very confident in his abilities. He is also generally a righteous person, not ignoring the fact that he can’t always be perceived as good by everyone. Iskander has a dream that gives him purpose, and his charisma moves Waver. They come to respect each other, and Waver slowly begins to realize his own self-worth. He begins to take pride in himself, both as a person, and as Iskander's retainer. His focus shifts from no longer wanting to gain respect from others at all cost to being a person worthy of respect.
This isn’t without a cost—even as an adult, Waver is forever mourning the time he spent with Iskander. The Holy Grail War may have traumatized him deeply, but it was also the most important time of his life. He can never go back to those times, and spends his adult life mostly longing to see Iskander again, even if there’s no real way to reunite with the same person who changed him. Still, despite being forever in mourning, he has built a group for himself in the students who learned so much from him, especially in an environment as hostile as the Clock Tower.
To put things lightly, for the most part, mages are not good people. They have a singular dream and push their magecraft to its furthest to achieve that dream, regardless of whether people get trampled underfoot in the process. The Clock Tower, despite being a place of knowledge and a venue for mages to grow, is extremely ruthless by nature. Its politics are for the most part, self-serving. When he emerges from the Holy Grail War as one of the few survivors, he takes up the El-Melloi name, but in doing so, is sucked back into Clock Tower politics. Even then, he’s noted to be an eccentric, and by mage standards, he is. He doesn’t seem to have any interest in reaching the Root, and he doesn’t really adhere to a lot of conventional unspoken magus teachings. Most importantly, he has an unspoken empathy for other people, especially those who are more unconventional. As we know from real life, just because someone is knowledgeable about a subject doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the ability to be a good teacher. Teaching is a skill that not only involves breaking down complex information so it can be understood easily, but also accepting that not everyone will pick up on it easily. Yet, to fail is overall, something unsuitable for a mage, but who understands failure better than Waver?
Most of his students are far from the norm. Flat, as seen further in Fate/Strange Fake, has never quite clicked with regular standards of communication, and his magecraft is quite unusual. Caules, most distinctly shown in Fate/Apocrypha, doesn't have nearly as much talent as his sister and is a far lesser mage by comparison. Gray, his apprentice, isn't even a mage. While the Clock Tower wouldn't reject people like them per se, they at the very least wouldn't be able to reach their full potential under conventional means. Yet, as exasperated as Waver acts, he is still their professor and mentor and he cares for their growth. To him, his students aren't just pawns, but people who will grow into the future.
There’s no mistaking that even as an adult, Waver is a terrible mage. His magecraft is third-rate, and even with a title and a stellar knowledge of theory, he has no way to put his practices into execution. His best days are past him, and it may feel like he’s among the dead. At the same time, he followed Iskander’s teachings, he did survive and go on to spread his teachings. he is no doubt a good person, and a stellar human being—and that’s what truly matters.
What do you think of Waver's growth? Let us know in the comments!