Episode 20, "Tragedy"
Synopsis: Kircheis, Lutz, and Walen engage the Littenheim Fleet in battle. Littenheim fires at his own supply ships when they block his escape, leading some to defect. One soldier kills Marquis Littenheim and damages Garmisch Fortress, giving Kircheis an easy victory. Reinhard lures Braunschweig and the nobles' forces into a trap and they are just barely saved by Admiral Merkatz. Following this, Braunschweig, enraged that one of his territories has begun to rebel, orders the bombing of the planet. Reinhard receives word of this ahead of time, but is convinced by Oberstein to allow it in order to show the high nobles' true colors to the public. After the attack is carried out, Kircheis recieves word of Reinhard's forknowledge and worries.
Back to the shameless actions of the boyar nobles with this episode. Is it just me, or is Littenheim, like, the worst fucking boss? Not only does he underestimate Kircheis, but then he shoots his way out through his very own supply ships. So he gets a payback he so richly deserves.
The episode is a decent adaptation of Chapter 6 of the second novel, but there are some differences, and a few even bothered me. For one, the abbreviated battle between Reuenthal and Merkatz left us less of the former's character to chew on. In the novel, Reuenthal had to pull off a very careful and organized retreat from Merkatz's forces, an act he had had reasoned through in narrative exposition. It easily could have been done as inner monologue as the retreat was ocurring. They also cut out Farenheit (that officer from episode 1 of the series who ended up siding with the Lippstadt League here) and his suspicions about why Reinhard's forces were appearing to lose (a trap to lure them into a false sense of security). We don't even see Farenheit in this episode, so far as I can tell. One thing that I did enjoy was the over-the-top nature of Flagel and the riled up younger nobles, Flagel even dramatic enough to put a gun to his own head to show his willingness to die. As Jessica Edwards said of the coup faction in the FPA, "You think you can do just any stupid thing just because you're prepared to die?"
To drive in the human factor in these battles, we have the scene with the two Konrads. Sole survivors on the bridge of one of Littenheim's supply fleet ships. We see that the people who get killed or injured in these battles aren't just motes of space dust, but real, breathing people with beliefs and hopes. And in Littenheim's cowardly act, he showed himself unworthy of the loyalty he demanded of his subjects. That's a big theme in LoGH, loyalty belonging only to the deserved. It comes up again later in the episode.
You have to admire Reinhard's psychological game when dealing with the aristocrats. They're eager to believe their own superiority, so he gives them exactly what they want, small victories that boost their confidence, so that he may completely demoralize them when he actually puts effort in. Merkatz, and to some degree Ansbach, play Cassandras, constantly warning Braunschweig that his and the others' hotbloodedness is ruining their chances of winning, but like with Yang and the FPA military, Merkatz is one man, and against many, even with his power over troop movements, he can only do so much. Reinhard knows that there aren't enough clearheaded tacticians among the nobles to make a difference and plays it smart instead of rushing in full force. We'll see Yang's psychological game in the next episode.
This brings us to the big event of the episode, the Westerland Incident. Braunschweig, in his anger and callous cruelty, orders a planet to be nuked to quell a rebellion. Ansbach himself is horrified by the suggestion, landing him in prison for questioning authority. But for Reinhard's part, he allows the massacre to occur, ostensibly to show the citizens of the Empire the injustice and brutality of the nobles, and one wonders if he doesn't share some responsibility.
Yes, Braunschweig deserves the lion's share of the blame, but he's clearly mad at this point (in my favorite scene of the episode, Merkatz calls him a very sick man, and in a way a victim of generations of privilege), but Reinhard allows Oberstein to convince him not to act to defend Westerland when they have the chance to.
Oberstein's calculating logic is, on the one hand, spot on. If the war continues on, more people than the population of Westerland will die needlessly, but if they can show the Empire the destruction wrought on the citizens by their supposed benefactors, the nobles will lose support. On the other hand, this is "trading lives" (which Captain America disapproves of!), allowing many to die for the sake of potentially risked lives later on. These are very real lives before them, and they are, through inaction, allowing them to die to avoid greater statistics. Surely they could have stopped the attack in a way that would show the intention of the nobles, right? Or would that not play as well? And what does it matter if it would or not if it meant saving lives? It's an interesting dilemma.
Next time on LoGH: Ice, ice, baby!
4 out of 5