Episode 22, "The Fall of Goldenbaum"
Synopsis: Kircheis confronts Reinhard over the Westerland Incident and the latter's allowing it to happen. This creates a small rift between the two as Lohengramm's forces close in on the nobles. Said nobles, meanwhile, are dwindling after failures in battle and bad publicity. Flagel is determined to challenge an admiral one-on-one and is rejected by Reinhard's men. He is ultimately killed by his own subordinates after refusing to listen. Admiral Merkatz's own subordinate saves him from a suicide attempt and suggests he defect to the Free Planets Alliance instead. And Prince Braunschweig's assistant, Ansbach, forces him to die by poison to go out with dignity. Geiersburg Fortress is occupied by the new power in the Empire.
The battle between the Lohengramm faction and the boyar nobles ends in this uniquely tense episode of Die Neue These. It ends pretty much as predicted, sure, given the arrogance of the aristocrats, but it still ends dramatically. This season is surely almost over.
As an adaptation of Chapter 8 of the second Legend of the Galactic Heroes novel by Yoshiki Tanaka, the episode is pretty straightforward, basically one-for-one in all but a few spots. For instance, in the novel, the meeting of Reuenthal and Mittermeyer where they discuss the rift between Reinhard and Kircheis, and the objection of Oberstein to the latter's privileges, is different than here. Here, it's basically just an exchange from one to the other on a train through a ship, just a passing few comments. In the book, they're sitting in a more intimate setting, playing cards, which gives us the impression that the two admirals are good friends. There's also a bit at the end of the chapter where one of the old aristocrats, clueless about his surroundings, attempts to go to work as the one in charge of payroll. This has been excised, probably for time. It's not an important scene, but it does show the indifference and out of touch nature of the nobles and their steadfast clinging to the old ways.
This episode has a perfectly precise theme of the relationship between commanding officers and their subordinates. For Reihard von Lohengramm and Seigfried Kircheis, the relationship had always been a deep friendship, despite one outranking the other in both command and ambition, and a rift is formed when the former sees fit to assert their superiority over the latter in such a way that it makes clear the new status quo. Reinhard is deeply ashamed when he's confronted with what happened with Westerland, but as he has to keep a strong front, lashes out and divides himself from his old friend.
Compare this to other commander-subordinate relationships. Look at the scene where Farenheit objects to Prince Braunschweig's foolish plan for a final, all-out assault against the encroaching forces, for instance. Farenheit insists that, although Braunscheweig is technically superior in rank, the Lipstaddt alliance was formed as if between equal, and they all equally serve the greater cause of preserving the Empire's Goldenbaum Dynasty.
Or look at Flagel's inability to cope with the reality that he's simply being ignored by Reinhard's forces and the outrage over being called out by his subordinate Schumacher for wanting a "glorious death". Far from being a noble, self-sacrificing gesture, Flagel is only looking for death as a vanity, to prove his worth, while discounting the lives of his men. This proves to be his downfall, as his subordinates see the futility in throwing their lives away for a completely fruitless endeavor, and end up gunning him down. All of Flagel's boasting and posturing came down to his ignoble end at the hands of his own troops. In the end, he could not command the loyalty he believed himself worthy of (another theme of LoGH as a whole).
Then there's Scheneider's relationship to his own commander, Admiral Merkatz. He fools the old man into thinking he's emptied his gun of laser cartridges, to save his life so they may live another day. He pleads with Merkatz to defect to the Alliance and leave his life in the capable hands of Yang Wenli. He's willing to stake his own life in the process, even offering to die with his superior if it should come to it, as he's the only superior he chooses to follow. This is the kind of loyalty Flagel could never have inspired of his men.
Finally, there's the death of Prince Braunschweig at the hands of Ansbach. Despite having been previous reprimanded by the prince, Ansbach remains both loyal and patient during Braunschweig's delusions. He calmly explains why it is that Reinhard doesn't need anything from him now and cannot possibly keep him alive, especially after Westerland. Braunschweig's final scene has a certain strange intensity, the close ups of his face showing the horror of his realization that he has to and is going to die. Ansbach is quietly sympathetic to his plight and even essentially promises to avenge a master who was unworthy of his loyalty. Ansbach takes no pleasure in administering the poison to end the prince's life or the death itself. He easily could have felt it was his just deserts, but instead is obviously sullen and affected, albeit with a muted dignity. It creates an oddly tragic scene for the end of a heinous individual and one of the best scenes in this series.
We see the various shades of loyalty in the closeness or drifting of relationships between commanders and their subordinates all throughout the episode and it even reflects on the previous episode's theme of misplaced trust and pride, resulting in the break down of the coup faction in the Free Planets Alliance.
Next time on Die Neue These, the probable season finale.
4 out of 5