Episode 24, "My Friend"
Synopsis: Peace has returned to the Free Planets Alliance. However, Yang Wen-li has his doubts as to the nation he's saved, and its leader, Job Trunicht. Yang is surprised when he hears Imperial Admiral Merkatz has defected, and plans to take him at his word. Trunicht and his inner circle discuss what to do with a reluctant Yang, but he has no fear and leaves it be for the moment. Reinhard, now recognized as a duke, and de facto in charge of the Empire, visits Siegfried Kircheis' grave on Odin, while Yang visits the graves of Jean-Robert Lapp and Jessica Edwards on Heinessen. But meanwhile, on Earth, the cult of Terra waits to see if their machinations pay off.
Okay, so this is the real season finale! And you see that synopsis? I really had to stretch out what little they gave us here, because it was very minimal in actual story progression, it was just wrap-up.
The episode is a pretty straight-forward adaptation of the last few pages of Chapter 9 of the second LoGH novel, albeit with some small additions. For one, we have the short extra scene with Dusty Attenborough, Ivan Konev, and Olivier Poplin. In it, they discuss why Yang can't get a promotion (because then he'll be on the same level as the highest commanders, and the government doesn't want that). Poplin is dismayed that it means most of Yang's men won't be getting promotions either (the next scene we see that only Julian and Walter von Schonkopf have promotions). I do believe this was discussed in the chapter of the book, too, but not in character dialogue, but rather in exposition from the third person narrator.
There's a lot of that in this episode, actually, for a good reason. It transforms a lot of the inner musings and historical perspective of the characters and narrator into actual dialogue that makes it more viceral. However, it can also have the downside of seeming too wordy at times. Maybe if there was a little more inner monologue, it wouldn't seem like a lot of unnecessary chatter, and would just be the thoughts of the characters. But it's not a huge problem. My real problem is in something else.
I hate to say this about this series in general, because I have been enjoying it, but because it does adapt everything from the books in a straightforward manner, it sometimes feels a tad sterile, and even forgets some of the small nuances the book adds, in favor of getting everything into one episode. For instance, in the novel, when Yang tells Julian there's nothing to get worked up about and Julian tells him he was reacting to Merkatz's defection, Yang jumps up, completely betraying his philosophy, as it says. Now, that happens in this episode, too, but with a small little nuance removed that humanizes the character: in the book, Yang is so quick to rise to his feet after hearing about Merkatz, he actually bangs his leg on the table in front of him. Another thing is, instead of telling Julian to use the medal boxes as soap dishes, it's Yang himself who's done that. They also missed Yang scrubbing his hands so hard that he scrubs them raw and has to blow on them, after the handshake with Trunicht. Little nuances like that help fill out the character.
However, while it does lose a little bit of characterization, it does do the philosophy spot on. In this episode, Yang muses about the worth of a democracy that gives power to an opportunist like Job Trunicht, and wonders if he has the same lofty sense of responsibility to humanity Rudolf von Goldenbaum had that led him to try to control humanity or whether he's simply a garden variety parasite on the FPA's democracy. Both are dangerous, mind you. Trunchit has come out of the disastrous campaign into Imperial territory and the coup completely untouched. better than untouched, even, more popular than ever. This was largely thanks to the help of the Terra group shielding him and the coup group's over-zealousness. The public think, well, compared to the coup, this guy is beneficent, and he was dead right about not invading. Perhaps at this stage of the story, Trunicht is more of an artful dodger than a true snake. Trunicht's inner circle, however, are less patient than he is, and are all scrambling to impress him with their condemnations of Yang's attitude. This will bear nasty fruit in the future (should Studio IG continue this adaptation).
A nice capper on the season was the scene where both Yang and Reinhard visited graves of the loved ones they lost, and cutting back to one and the other as they did. It showed that both men, for whatever philosophical differences, are fairly similar, and everybody has lost somebody to the dangerous lives they lead. In their case, people who were dear and made up a lot of who they were as people are now gone, and they have to go on facing the future with only their memories of them (Reinhard goes the extra step by having that locket with Kircheis' hair). Visiting the graves alone lets the narrative draw a focus on the two main characters and their thematic gains and losses (the narrator mentions it as well).
But, of course, the real ending was in the post-credit scene where we see a gathering of Earth cultists. The barren, arid landscape highlighted in red as the sun sets in the sky. The group is bathed in the color of blood and fire as they contemplate their far-reaching influence and their hopes for the Earth's revival, which has been waiting for, as the leader expresses, eight centuries. But as with Trunicht, patience is advised, as they can replace Rubinsky any time they please. This scene creates an eerie, foreboding, even nightmarish final note for the season, setting up events for later chapters.
That is something I hope we get to see, another season, and seasons after, adapting the rest of the novels. Hopefully, Die Neue These remains popular enough in Japan to do so. I certainly plan on picking up this season on Blu-Ray when Funimation makes it available, and I'll continue watching the English dub until then, despite its overall averageness. And when DNT returns, you can be certain I'll return to reviewing each episode just as I have here (what will I review until then?!).
We need more Poplin, by the way, IG. Next season, more Poplin. Come on, we all need it.
3.5 out of 5 (only because so little actually happened in this episode)