If previous episodes have been any indication, Tanya has had a bit of a rough time trying to balance out world events in her favor. Being X is definitely not doing her any favors, and Strategy and Operations Vice Director Hans von Zettour has been making sure that Tanya is advancing through the ranks in the way that is most beneficial to the Fatherland, not necessarily in the way that she would like. With her being placed as the head of the Rapid-Response Mage Battalion, which some might consider being tantamount to suicide, Tanya’s plan to spite Being X by surviving in a safe administrative position seems to be flying further out of her grasp with each passing episode. With this simultaneous advancement of position and wresting of power from Tanya seeming to be the show’s running theme for the last four episodes, I entirely expected episode 5 to give us much the same, and in some ways, it does. However, it also shows us a view of Tanya at the most powerful that she has been for this entire span so far, with no intervention from military or metaphysical forces.
As usual, Tanya begins the episode in the grasp of forces outside of her control. She definitely did not want to be in the position of leading and selecting a battalion of mages, but in spite of this, her initial plan is to, of course, delay the selection process for as long as she possibly can, keeping herself out of harm’s way nearly indefinitely. Also as usual, her attempts to circumvent the powers that be don’t pan out quite as much as she would like; Viktoriya Serebryakov, now a Second Lieutenant, has been sent to help expedite the process, and being the proactive soldier that she is, she has called in for several other officers to help lighten the load. As if this were not enough, as Tanya begins the selection process, her methods for selection are deemed to be too strict, as countless mages fail the test, and she is advised that she needs to speed things up even further on her end. Three strikes for the “Taking This Process Slow” team. Despite these “setbacks,” Tanya eventually gets her crew together, and in an unprecedented move, decides to train her entire battalion in the span of a month, whereas the norm for such training takes up to two full years.
This all takes place in the first three and a half minutes of the episode.
For these first few minutes, we see Tanya struggling with the forces that constrain her, forcing her to adjust her movements within the ranks to what von Zettour and others believe she should do office-side. For the rest of the episode, however, we see Tanya in an environment where she can be almost entirely unrestrained, and she takes the opportunity to do just that. After having to skirt around the brass and Being X for a time, Tanya unleashes herself and her ruthless tactics on her ragtag band of mages, and forces them to play by her rules if they want to survive her planned month of training.Unsurprisingly, it is this ruthlessness that ultimately hardens the Rapid-Response Mage Battalion into a force to be reckoned with. That being said, creating a battle-hardened force of mages is not exactly what Tanya had in mind when she planned this grueling month of training, which included thirty-six hours of defense against live-fire artillery rounds, and a grueling forty-eight hour trek across a frozen tundra, among other challenges. If anything, the battalion’s resilience is another curveball thrown at Tanya. She fully expects that a number of the force will quit halfway through their trek across the tundra, but soldier-by-soldier, each unit under Tanya’s command perseveres, initially to the chagrin of Tanya.
Tanya’s opinion on this resilience quickly changes, however, when she is commanded to take her battalion against a force from the Dukedom of Dakia. Dakia, staffed with no air forces and unencrypted radio communications, seems to be too good to be true for Tanya, and at this point in the series, it would probably seem that way for many viewers, as well. It isn’t. She tells her troops that the deployment will be a man hunt; a sporting event; and by the time it is over, from Tanya’s perspective, this is entirely the case. Not a single member of the Rapid-Response Mage Battalion is so much as hit by a stray bullet, and the Dakian forces that Tanya and co. encounter are, to put it lightly, slaughtered. While the forces of Dakia certainly were lacking in firepower that was completely up to par, the event’s success comes in large part due to Tanya’s training and battle tactics during the short span of time. By the time everything is over, Tanya is so pleased that you would never even think for a moment that she had any reservations about leading the force in the first place.
Up until this point, every episode aside from the first has left us seeing Tanya either be thrust into some situation that is out of her control, or dealing with unexpected consequences of her actions that slowly lead her farther away from her initial goal. Episode five is markedly different, however. Episode five closes with Tanya returning as the proud commander of the Rapid-Response Mage Battalion, seemingly eager to take on the next challenge that is ahead of her and her troops. Previously, Tanya worked to react to forces that affected her own trajectory, pushing back against them in what ways she could. Now, we see her fully pleased with how things have turned out. She isn’t trying to devise a plan to get her out of being the battalion’s commander. She isn’t attempting to get off the front lines. Her outlook seems to have shifted to one that is in some ways openly accepting of the new trajectory that she has been given, going more directly with the flow of things now than ever.
Now, for all we know, come episode six, Tanya might once again slide back into regretting how things have turned out, and it is possible that there will be internal wailing and gnashing of teeth for her own situation as we have seen previously (I do not know–I have purposefully not yet watched episode six to keep this piece as present as possible). But for the time being, we see Tanya in a different light – she is not a slave to fate, and she does not seem to be anywhere near as concerned now with a cozy desk job. Instead, she is focused. She is the commander of a highly-trained force of mages, and she has her sights set on further seeing the extent her own and her forces’ power. God help whoever stands against her, but I don’t know if he’ll be listening any time soon.