(Catch up on previous episodes here)
As the show enters the stretch run, the action really picks up in starting with these three episodes of Last Exile. Now that the back story is out of the way for all the major characters, it's time to establish their places for the final thrust of plot. Once again, I'm impressed with the storytelling and attention to narrative pace in this series. We are certainly leading up to the climax of the story when the first officer of the Silvana, Sophia, revealed to be the Emperor's daughter in the last episode, leaves the ship to return to the capital. We learn that she was originally assigned to the ship to keep an eye on its rogue captain, Alex Row...she stayed only after she fell in love with him. Too bad for her, he's in still in love with a woman that died years ago. By returning to the capital, she hopes to convince the Emperor to end the war that has been tearing apart the world. Her plan is severely sidetracked when she's arrested and imprisoned for treason. During her imprisonment, the Disith, now a desperate enemy with nothing left to lose, unleashes a devastating surprise attack on the capital that night, killing the Emperor and clearing the way for Sophia to claim the throne.
Meanwhile back on the Silvana, Claus is going through some turmoil of his own. As the main hero of the story, his destiny and ambitions are still up in the air. He is still unsure if he should remain on the ship as a fighter vanship pilot or leave with Lavie and attempt the to cross the Grand Stream as they had always said they would since they were kids. In another clever literary device, pieces of an earlier plot line are revived as the Silvana docks for repairs in a hidden station where a secret force is training for an assault on the Guild. Part of that assault is training vanship pilots and using the smaller ships as the main attack force. As it turns out, a large group of the pilots training are Claus and Lavie's old racing friends from the first few episodes. The reunion brightens Claus and Lavie's moods...until they realize the idea for the vanship attack was born during their first encounter with battle, seen by the viewer in the earliest episodes. They are both horrified and feel responsible for turning their beloved vanships into battleships, a purpose far from their noble intention.
Back in the capital, as the city lay in ruins, now Empress Sophia is able to organize a cease fire with the Disith. Then she travels to Claus and Lavie's hometown, now occupied by the Disith, to meet with their commander. She explains that the entire war may never have happened if Claus's father had been able to deliver his peace treaty years and years before, blaming the Guild for his death. It is finally (at least, partially) explained that the Grand Stream is a kind of barrier between the two nations, operated by the Guild. Sophia asks the Disith to join her against a common enemy. Their alliance is quickly forged and members of the Disith join the secret training squad. Of course the Guild, having been presented as a superior, almost omnipotent force, is aware of the alliance. In order to make their presence known, their Maestro, or queen, arrives at Sophia's coronation, hovering over the ceremony in warship that puts the entire alliance fleet to shame. It's hard to imagine even the Silvana can match the Guild's warships...but I'm sure we shall see in future episodes.