Just as I manage to reach a point where I'd finally dropped my labelling of ef - a tale of melodies artistic merits as pretentious, so it goes and gets me wondering whether it is a little pretentious after all by airing an episode that is almost entirely shot in black and white. You can argue the artistic meaning and merits of this until you go blue (or a shade of grey) in the face, but if I have to be honest this particular artistic decision did nothing for me, even bearing in mind the way the episode ended, and especially given this series' sometimes excellent use of colour to drive home a point in previous episodes.
Anyway, as far as the actually storyline goes, this was largely a solid if unspectacular instalment, focusing on Yuuko's life post the death of her "brother". Yuu is back at school and studying art, where Nagi is teaching him to draw, he's now living in an apartment with Yuuko, and the two of them have jobs (although Yuuko never actually seems to go to hers, but never mind). Beyond this, a large part of this episode is really used to weave a young Mizuki into the lives of Yuu and Yuuko (and Kuze as well for that matter, which just makes their present-day relationship all the more creepy), as well as giving a brief mention to Kei and Chihiro to complete the circle as far as major characters are concerned.
Of course, given what this series has thrown at us so far, a happy, smiling episode of love and friendship simply won't wash at all, so come the end of the episode we're dealt a shocking blow that is pretty brutal in its final and not a little upsetting in its final moments (now that's where the black and white becomes a useful artistic tool) - A blow that turns things on their head with perfect timing, as the last couple of episodes of this series loom into view.
Again, perhaps ef - a tale of melodies suffers in this episode thanks to the strengths of the instalment that came before it, making this more of a passable effort than a memorable one (with the possible exception of those final few minutes). Even black and white "artistry" aside, it was more about solid plot progression that blowing anyone's mind, and to be honest given some of those incredibly strong moments earlier in the series I can forgive it that, especially now that the scene is set for an interesting (although almost certainly rather depressing) final pair of episodes.