Episode 34, "Fortress vs. Fortress Akt I: Cannon Fire"
Synopsis: Iserlohn and Geiersburg exchange main weapon fire, damaging both fortresses. In charge until Yang returns, Caselnes wants to concentrate on purely defensive measures. The fighter craft are sent out and engage in space dogfights, but it appears to be a feint so that Mueller can circle around Iserlohn and deploy explosive charges that damage Iserlohn's gun batteries. Empire troops penetrate Iserlohn in landing crafts, only to meet the Rosen Ritter.
The battle that the season had been building up to finally begins with a lot of bangs. I'm not sure if we're going to get the entire confrontation in these episodes before the break, but perhaps we'll at least get up until Yang arrives back at Iserlohn. Right now, the Empire is still under the impression that he's still there, not knowing of Rubinsky's manipulations to get Yang recalled back to Heinessen for an inquiry. And because Yang isn't there, the fortress garrison has to move very carefully.
This episode covers parts of Chapter 7 of the third book, but it skips around a little bit. For instance, the episode has the fighter combat take place sooner than in the chapter, pushing the hand-to-hand combat inside Iserlohn to later and recontextualizing the dogfights as a distraction so that the Empire can land in the base. This allows us to get a bit more time with the dogfights as Mueller moves into position with his ships. It also makes the Kempf-Mueller team seem much more competent. And finally, it means we'll probably get to see more combat inside Iserlohn next episode. At least, I'm hoping it means that.
Because Yang isn't at Iserlohn, Alex Caselnes is in charge of things, and he's not as proficient in combat as Yang. He's always been in charge of supply lines and resources, so taking on a major battle like this is a little out of his league. But he can't exactly just push all his duties off to the others because it would create a conflict in the ranks over who's in charge. Hopefully he'll see the wisdom to letting the guest admiral, Merkatz, do something to help out.
Kempf, who ordinarily is a pretty together guy, is starting to get a little ahead of himself, it seems. He suggests that, should the Empire take control of Iserlohn, the corridor might be named after himself and Mueller. But Reinhard would never bestow that honor upon them, reserving such honors only to the late Kircheis. Mueller seems to notice this change in attitude of Kempf, too. It goes to show that he's losing a step because he's intoxicated on how well things appear to be going for them.
Most importantly in this episode, though, is we get a good helping of my favorite LoGH character, ace pilot Olivier Poplin. He's a sardonic fellow with a love for the ladies and a natural gift for aerial combat. He's not such a major character until the later books when he tags along with Julian a lot. In the OVA, we had a lot more of him by now, so it's one of the deficiencies of DNT, but hey, at least he's here. And awesome.
5 out of 5 (because Poplin)