After an episode of Macross Delta focused on developing the interactions between the main cast under pressure, and establishing exactly how much of a back foot Chaos has been put on, the viewer is given an episode showing the true effects of the battle for Ragna on Windermere. They may have “won” but it was a much harder victory than initially expected, and the next – and most interesting question – is what will they do now they have won?
The way the episode is focused around the ceremonies following Gramia’s death mirrors, in a way, the episode focusing on how the Ragnans dealt with Messer’s death. This procession of traditions and ceremonies provides a framework for a much deeper look into Windermere’s policies and history than has previously been given; the Aerial Knights are given some, if slight, characterisation (Bogue lost his family in the first war against the UNS, many of them hope in some capacity that the war is over now their objective has been achieved, for the UNS will inevitably surrender). It is not quite full-fledged elation at utter victory – for there is still the matter of actually discussing terms of surrender – but there is a quiet, happy confidence that the war is as good as won. Indeed, the objective seems to have been to put the UNS in a position of powerless such that Windermere can force them into a humiliating surrender and embolden other cultures to oppose their expansionism – the occupier, the cultural juggernaut can be beaten and they will be beaten using the very technologies and strategies that created them.
As the older Knights discuss the previous war, however, cracks appear in this idea; it is hinted that Windermere used the Var as a weapon before properly understanding how to control and amplify it with the Wind Singer and Protoculture relics, and this was widely seen as an unpopular last-ditch effort in a war that was going badly. Although, given what is known about Windermere physiology (that they mature and age incredibly quickly) scenes of Keith as almost a child flying a plane are not quite as shocking as they would otherwise seem (the definition of a child soldier might be perceived differently in a species with a lifespan of 30 years) it is still made very clear the UNS were invading in full force and the war was a desperate battle for survival. When, later in the episode, it is revealed the dimension bomb – previously assumed to have been a Windermere plot, some last-ditch suicide attack or Orguss-style failed plan – was dropped by a UNS special forces unit and seemingly went off-target more suspicions are raised; a “cowardly” superweapon attack on a sovereign nation fighting a desperate war for its own sake does raise some unavoidable atomic bomb parallels. But then again Macross has consistently presented big bomb superweapons – as opposed to the “superweapon” that is cultural capital – as the ineffectual, cowardly option. Indiscriminate attacks or miracle warheads rarely provide the expected advantage – in Macross 7, it is not the attack on the Protodevlin that stops them, but Basara’s song. In SDF Macross all the Grand Cannon does is annoy the Zentradi. In the Frontier movies the ultimate anti-Vajra weapon is only developed and finished at the point in the war where it is realised annihilating the Vajra is impossible.
So this episode humanises the Aerial Knights, but does not associate “humanising the enemy” with “making them change sides.” There is not the implication at this stage that any of the Knights are dissatisfied with Windermere’s objectives of humiliating the UNS and seeking reparation for the tragedy of the past. They are determined, heroic, dutiful soldiers that have a cause that – when separated from the increasingly dubious methods used by their superiors – is not so bad. They even have reservations about the use of Var in warfare. Small touches like Keith being Heinz’ brother, or the way in which the whole squadron interacts, make the Aerial Knights feel like a protagonist faction that just happens to be on the wrong side from the viewer’s perspective. The viewer has seen Windermere portrayed as a power-mad faction that seems to have reacted very disproportionally to past wrongs, compounding a military advantage with a ludicrous psy-ops one – yet now the divide between the soldiers and the commanders is emerging. It is worth noting that Windermere is different to many Macross villains; the Zentradi were an alien empire, for sure, but until they discovered culture they were effectively a servitor race, a lot of meatheads bred to fight and embodying space opera “evil empire” cliches. Bodolza, Britai and Kamjin really filled the niches of super-robot empire villains with their faceless grunts as cannon fodder. The Protodevlin were slightly more developed but their endgame was mostly just the acquisition of human souls to feed themselves. The Vajra were a literal insect hivemind whose instinctive behaviour was the root of conflict. But Windermere brings Macross closer to Gundam in pitting two developed, militaristic nations against each other. Windermereans exist in capacities other than soldier or leader and their conflict is motivated by something other than just acquiring planets or souls.
And thus the true villain of the piece, and the force that may bring down Windermere when the Knights learn more about him, is Roid. He is the Oberstein-esque schemer (for those who have seen Legend of the Galactic Heroes), manipulating the war to the extent of destroying the UNS fleet and rejecting terms of surrender. Gramia’s death has handed him a casus belli on a silver platter – while the initial objective of capturing Brisingr has been achieved, he sees no problem with expanding the Protoculture effect across all known space and really teaching humanity a lesson. This appears to even shock Berger and his mysterious allies; they have been giving Windermere the help it needs to gain the advantage, and yet did not expect the proposal for galactic – rather than localised – conquest.