I laughed all through this fake-out. I’m pretty sure most of you not familiar with the story must have realized almost immediately that the anime is building toward a “PSYCH!” moment, right?
So, this episode is just OK after the action of the previous episodes. When half the episode is spent waiting for 50 hours to dwindle down, then you know you’re probably not in for the greatest story, although I did enjoy Killua and Gon getting into pillow fights not long after Killua brutally killed the most infamous serial killer of his generation. Again, if you really think about it, Gon and Killua are kind of creepy — they so easily detach themselves from this insane behavior, Gon because he’s basically a mountain child, and Killua because he was raised from birth as an assassin. What makes it weirder is that Gon is clearly capable of feeling empathy for others; it’s just that “Pillow fight!” sometimes takes higher priority.
This episode also presents a bit more evidence that Tonpa must have some fighting ability in him; otherwise, he never would have tried to be one of the three who goes through the easy path. He clearly doesn’t think much of Leorio’s ability, but he’s seen Kurapika and Killua fight, so he has to know what he’s getting into there. Gon is the wild card, since I don’t think Tonpa has seen him battle; however, he has seen Gon display some impressive physical feats (notably running to that one dude in warp speed and blowing out the candle), so he can’t think he has an easy battle there, unless he’s like, “Meh, he’s just a kid, I can axe him to death.” But, yes, whatever the case, ol’ Tonpa has some fire in him — he even wants to pass the exam now instead of slacking off and entering again the next year so that he can fuck with some more rookies!
The ending to this episode is more or less the same as the original series, except the order of events is switched up. The original is more linear — you get everyone trying to reason with each other, that failing, and then the weapons come out. Gon comes up with the same idea to break down the wall, but first he has to persuade everyone to open the path to the long way, whereas in this version you just see everyone breaking down the wall without any explanation about why they suddenly started doing it (though it can be presumed that Gon persuades them here, as well). Then everyone goes on their merry way and lives happily ever after until the next grueling portion of the Hunter Exam.
There’s one other difference, though: The original hints a bit that Gon is actually kind of lucky with his plan. The proctor for this portion of the exam is actually surprised at Gon’s ingenuity; he never figured that someone would try to break through the long portion to get to the quick portion. (I’m guessing he’s a pessimistic dude who figures everyone would kill each other to be the one who passes this part of the exam.) So without saying it, that means there’s a possibility that the wall could have been unbreakable with the weapons they had on hand, and if that happened, they would be fucked. But because the proctor never thinks of someone doing this, he doesn’t go through the trouble of reinforcing the wall.
Nobody ever said skill alone determines the victor. You gotta have luck on your side, too.