The first episode of this longer Gaiden arc sees Reinhard, now at the rank of Commodore, in charge of a group of 205 ships as the Imperial Space Fleet takes on the Alliance. He has to deal with an elderly commander who seems not up to the job and those who enable him. On the other side of the battle, decisions were being made by those lower down the chain that would eventually have a deciding influence on the battle.
The Van-Fleet Starzone provides the stage for the first traditional fleet battle in Reinhard’s career (unless one wants to count Iserlohn as a fleet battle) and Reinhard has to deal with an admiral who is very, very old named Grimmelshausen. He’s almost universally viewed with contempt by those above and below him. However, the picture isn’t that simple. As he helped Friedrich IV, he had the favor of the Kaiser, which is why Muckenburger as head of the Imperial Space Forces has to acquiesce to Grimmelshausen’s desire to participate in the battle. At the same time, he happens to be the only person in a position of command who seems to have any level of respect for Reinhard.
In addition, Reinhard has to deal with subordinates who openly disparage him on the bridge from the safety of a sound-proof area. His brilliant tactical pitch is praised by Grimmelshausen only to then not be implemented. Ships carrying invasion forces block his own ships from advancing in battle, but they are doing so under orders. Stuck in a situation where he cannot distinguish himself, he would have to wait for his opportunity, even if it would only come from surviving this battle.
There was also the reintroduction of some of the figures on the Alliance side. As Reinhard points out in the middle of the battle, if the Alliance had any level of organizational skill in the battle, they would win it easily. Due to the location of the battle communication between ships is done through shuttles and messengers. In these circumstances, it makes it much easier for someone like Bucock to just ignore those orders and pursue an alternative strategy.
Thoughts: This was a fairly slow start to a battle, and it’s rather understandable. I can see the intend was to link the actions of those constrained by authority in the last arc to even those far up the chain in this arc. Also, there was the need to reincorporate figures from the Alliance. Neither side’s leaders really have a clue what they are doing. It will be interesting to see how Bucock’s decision pans out in the scheme of things and whether Yang will have any influence on events at all. The next episode should see some more tactical maneuvering beyond the simple struggle to organize that was present here.