What is dedication? How many seconds, hours, days, or years does it take?
This episode is a flashback as well as a flash forward. It recalls the past of Homura Akemi and the reason as to why she is so fixated on Madoka.
As it so happens, Akemi was once a weakly girl who suffered from a diseased heart. Her anemic self lacked confidence and clung onto the considerably large personality of Madoka. This Madoka, one from the past, was already a Puella Magi and saved Akemi from despair and from a witch. You remember the gear monstrosity? That was Walpurgisnacht Night.
In the past, Madoka and Mami had fought and subsequently lost to Walpurigis leaving a distraught Akemi to fend for herself. Her only option was to make a contract with Kyubey. The power that she was given was time. Akemi is able to stop, rewind, or fast forward time as she wills.
Over time, she learns that Kyubey had been deceiving them. Again, she attempts to rectify this by bringing Kyouko and Sayaka into the fray but she finds herself too dependent on the more combat oriented users. This is where she learns to use guns and the like. She fails countless times and we end up back at Walpurgis Night, the start of the anime.
Really, the protagonist is not Madoka. It’s Akemi and how she is trying to change the future.
This single episode puts everything into perspective.
Madoka is both the end and the beginning. Every time a scenario plays out, Madoka ends up dying. This is not acceptable to Akemi who intends to rectify the future. Madoka cannot become a witch for she will be the most powerful witch. She cannot become a Puella Magi because she will die. When the anime started, Madoka was shown making a contract with Kyubey. This particular scenario led to the destruction of Walpurgis but Madoka inevitability becomes an unstoppable witch.
It’s not confusing, it’s actually simpler, but it’s very different from what I had imagined at the start of the season.