The 97th episode of Legend of the Galactic Heroes sees a brief meeting at Iserlohn before moving on to Reuenthal’s retreat. Grillpalzer finally makes his decision to act and it has devastating consequences both for his commander and himself. In the wake of that incident, both sides begin to mentally prepare themselves for Reuenthal’s end in their own way before Mecklinger arrives and quickly discovers the tragedy of the rebellion from it’s origin.
The episode begins a few days earlier in the Iserlohn Corridor. After receiving the clearance to pass through, Mecklinger is told by Reinhard that Yang must have chosen a good successor. Mecklinger’s subordinate Wünsche remains uneasy at the fact that the Thor’s Hammer could still annihilate them if given the chance. Mecklinger says they would only be inviting a full-scale assault from the Empire if they were to fire on them. However, Mecklinger remained uneasy about the situation and hoped that Yang’s successor would not be pulled by ambition.
On Iserlohn, Julian and his men see Mecklinger’s fleet enter their firing range. Julian knows they will not fire on them because they would be destroyed easily by Iserlohn. Attenborough and Poplan begin expressing a need to see action, but that is interrupted when Mecklinger calls them. Mecklinger expresses gratitude for Julian’s favor and hopes that it will eventually lead to normalized relations between the 2 sides. Then, he asks to see the grave of Yang before they went on their way. After he disconnects, Schenkopp remarks on how they are both bunches of sentimentalists with Iserlohn now representing a holy grave. Schenkopp then asks Julian if the two sets could find a common understanding since they had similar traits, Julian hoped that would be the case, but that it wouldn’t be a straight path. Julian then thought of Yang’s analogy of space as a theatre with tragedies and comedies coming to an end eventually.
Schenkopp understands the purpose of Iserlohn as it is now. Since it has no strategic importance it now serves as a marker of the resting place of one of the great military minds of their generation. For those on Iserlohn, it is obviously a much different picture, which comes far from outweighing the Empire’s view of the place.
Back to December 7, Mittermeyer’s fleet had caught up to the rear of Reuenthal’s retreating fleet. When Reuenthal issued the command to turn around to face Mittermeyer, Grillpalzer made his decision to betray his commander. In the midst of the confusion, several of Grillpalzer’s ships were destroyed while trying to interpret the order to fire on their own men. The fiercest resistance to Grillpalzer’s treachery came ironically from Knapfstein’s subordinates.
Caught up in the confusion was Reuenthal’s own flagship. After initially dodging fire, they were hit and the explosion caused Reuenthal to be pinned under his own chair. As he looked up, a piece of the ceiling came down and impaled him through the chest. With his subordinates panicking, Reuenthal stayed calm, pulled the piece of metal out and got up after he was freed. After receiving treatment to stabilize the injury, Reuenthal is told that he would require immediate surgery as an artery was damaged. He says he hates surgery and then says that dying in pajamas on a hospital bed wouldn’t suit him. The rest of the men get the message as images of the other dying admirals pass through his mind. He quickly handed over command to Litterstolf and Bergengrün to take on Mittermeyer while his own fleet retreated to Heinessen. Despite the injury, Reuenthal was still able to command effectively, though his men were preparing for the worst as his condition deteriorated rapidly.
After Reuenthal had completely retreated, much of his fleet chose to surrender and minimize their losses since both sides fought for the same side in the end. Litterstolf had suffered an injury of his own, but most importantly Grillpalzer chose to surrender to Wahlen rather than Mittermeyer. This was yet another act viewed as cowardice.
After the battle, most of those who had surrendered felt that they had served their obligation and wished to serve the Reich again. When Mittermeyer heard this reaction, he knew that Reuenthal was finished. He issued the order to pursue Reuenthal to Barlat, stating that he could rise there. However, he knew in his mind that defeat here meant likely death, as did the other admirals. Bittenfeld laments the fact he has to fight against his comrades while philosophically talking about lives having to be written in blood. He then asks Wahlen whether he would lead an expedition against himself if he were ordered. Wahlen immediately says yes, then asks for Bittenfeld to be more considerate before asking a question like that, because Wahlen thinks that Reinhard’s trust of his subordinates must be damaged.
Traveling back to Heinessen, Reuenthal’s wound opened up and he lost consciousness. When he woke up, he was receiving a blood transfusion and Bergengrün stood above him advising him to abandon the Tristan and lead from a different ship. Reuenthal sat back up, and said that Müller was commended for changing ships because he was able to continue to fight against the enemy that way. Doing so now would only make him remembered as a coward in his opinion. He remained firmly Fleet Admiral Reuenthal up until his death.
On December 11, Mecklinger’s fleet met with Mittermeyer’s at Uruvasi. Mecklinger would restore order on the planet, but first he wanted to investigate the attempted assassination. He told Mittermeyer that he believed Reuenthal was not behind the incident because it would be out of character and that the attempt did not measure to his ability as he would have challenged the Kaiser to a fleet battle. Later, Mittermeyer once again ran through the events in his mind. The fact that Reuenthal would have chosen a way that gave him no political legitimacy, chose a strange location to stage a plan and the fact that he let the Brünhild get away easily made him uneasy about the rebellion in the first place.
With Mecklinger arriving to investigate, he tells Wünsche that Reuenthal was too proud to proclaim that he was a sacrifice as part of a conspiracy. Mecklinger pondered whether Reuenthal had convinced himself that he had chosen to rebel of his own free will. He then thought to himself that 2 men with such great ambition could not coexist in the same era. Then, he wondered why Reuenthal had chosen not to punish those responsible on Uruvasi. That question was answered when he figured out that Grillpalzer had suppressed evidence of a Terraist plot and claimed that the culprits could not be determined.
With Grillpalzer’s intentions revealed, Mecklinger had him brought before him. Mecklinger starts by saying that he would have had a promising career based on his own talents and studies, but that was ended by his double crime. He betrayed both the Kaiser and Reuenthal, who he says never would have rebelled had he reported the incident correctly. Grillpalzer then argued that he was doing it for the Kaiser, and that his betrayal ultimately ended the rebellion. Mecklinger asked him rhetorically whether the Kaiser would have wanted to win this way, but then he says Grillpalzer thought that was what the Kaiser wanted. He then says that the mouse’s wisdom could never reach the lion’s feelings and that they would never become friends. Grillpalzer silently accepts his fate as Mecklinger has him led away. Mecklinger was then caught wondering whether he should report that the rebellion was caused by a Terraist plot and Grillpalzer’s plotting and then how he could tell Mittermeyer and Reinhard.
It’s pretty well astonishing how many chances there were to prevent this from happening beginning from Wahlen’s attack on Earth up through Reuenthal convincing himself that he had to rebel. It’s also interesting how long Reuenthal’s death is being stretched out. Mere minutes were afforded to most of those who had died already, but Reuenthal has to suffer for 2 episodes just makes it all the more painful.
On December 16th, Reuenthal’s fleet made it to Heinessen with fewer than 5,000 ships remaining. Despite the fact they were at just over 10% of the original size and half of those who did not make it back had surrendered, Reuenthal’s fleet continued to maintain the same order and discipline it always had. As Reuenthal was being driven to the Governor-General’s office, Bergengrün informed him that 4,000 men were gathered there to be with him until the very end. Reuenthal was astounded at how many idiots in his words would be there, but as he arrived at the office, there was one thing only he could do to begin the longest day of his life.
Thoughts: As the sad end is near for Reuenthal, I suppose there are a bunch of things he has to do. In the aftermath of this, the next focus for the series has to be on finishing off the Terraists on top of resolving any remaining plot strands. I’d say these last few episodes serve fairly well as a final climax before the story’s denouement. There’s still 13 episodes remaining, so I could still be wrong.