[Review] Tremontaine S1E2: “The North Side of the Sun”

*Sneaks away from the Sci-Fi Month party for a while, curls up in a comfy chair with a cup of tea*

So! Today is the day I talk about episode two of Tremontaine, AKA My New Favourite Thing. Because seriously. A mere two episodes in and I am loving this so hard already!

Now, as with last week, I may get spoilery for this episode, so if you haven’t read it yet, you may not want to go further!

North Side of the Sun

Tremontaine

In a city that never was, the rich live high on the Hill, the criminals and swordsmen live on the dangerous streets of Riverside, while foreign merchants keep them both supplied with their daily chocolate and through it all weaves a dance of politics, intrigue, and secrets.

Previously on Tremontaine

New to the city, Ixkaab Balam delayed her arrival at her uncle’s house by provoking a swordfight in Riverside in defense of a stunning woman. Farm girl Micah Heslop found herself at University, where her exceptional skill at math and cards won her the friendship of volatile scholar Rafe Fenton, who thinks she’s a boy. And in her mansion high on the Hill, Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, assessed her house’s perilous finances… and her options.

So in order to keep my thoughts organised, and to tackle each thread of this plot (mostly) individually for now, I’ll examine each of the apparent primary characters in turn and offer my thoughts on how I think they all fit together as we go. I’m going to do it this way because the political machinations here are apparently going to run deeper and more complicated than I had expected – not that this is a complaint! There’s some delightful plotting afoot here, and the excited puppy of my speculation is peeing everywhere and… I’m not sure where that particular metaphor came from, but OK, brain. Whatever.

Rafe Fenton

I was a bit surprised by the prominence given to the character of Rafe in this episode, as he struck me as being secondary to Micah in the pilot last week. As it happens, though, the amusingly clueless friend of our girl genius has more relevance than I thought he would! He’s also even more of an egotistical peacock than he seemed. Normally this sort of character does nothing but annoy me, but the potential here for Rafe to cause political upheaval is strong enough that I’m intrigued by him. As a student philosopher and aspiring scholar, Rafe is interesting because he appears to have his head in the clouds (or somewhere lower) and while I don’t get a Bad Person vibe from him, exactly, his career ambitions and the intelligence revealed in his scenes with Kaab, as well as his scheming regard for Micah (who still hasn’t told him she’s a girl) in this episode make an unnerving counterpoint to his amusement value, to the point where I’m honestly not sure which emotional direction Rafe is likely to go in from one moment to the next.

Damn it, he’s fascinating. He has grand plans for changing the world via his scientific research (think Copernicus and Galileo, and the earth being round instead of flat), and he’s apparently not above cultivating (or in Micah’s case, exploiting) relationships to achieve his goals. The way he tries to casually coax information on her people and culture out of Kaab, and the way he sees mathematical genius Micah as the key to proving his scientific beliefs, are pretty strong evidence of that.

On the other hand, when he meets the Duke Tremontaine during a student protest that’s about to turn violent, Rafe shows us he’s not entirely selfishly motivated when he advises Tremontaine on how and where to avoid the mob. With the Duke being on the Board of Directors for the University and thus among Rafe’s antagonists, he’s briefly torn about whether or not to help him at all. Then again, the Duke’s (admittedly rather effective) come-hitherness probably had something to do with that. Anyone for trouble? I think Rafe might like himself some trouble…

Kaab

This episode focuses mostly on Kaab when we’re not being introduced to Rafe and his ambitions, and while we got a humorous introduction to her last week, this week she is all about her own personal goals: to restore her honour with her family, and to serve it by doing what she does best – in this case, gathering intelligence. From pirate lady duellist to spy on a mission, Kaab is definitely snaring my attention here so far. With the possibility of a war breaking out in her homeland, the trading advantages her family has in the North are more important than ever, and it seems to be up to Kaab to safeguard them, hence the spying on important Locals. Obviously the Tremontaines are on her watch list, but after meeting Rafe he quickly goes on the list as well, because he might be a smart and driven scholar but his own information-gathering efforts need a little polish. The reasons he tried to question Kaab may not be what she thinks, but it’s definitely going to be interesting to see where her mistaken impressions lead with him.

I think she has, however, caught on fairly quickly regarding Micah’s importance to Rafe, and it’s kind of reassuring to see her befriending the other city newcomer here. Rafe may mean well, but you know there’s trouble brewing there too, one way or another, and given Micah’s endearing innocence where all things society are concerned, she’s definitely the one I’m most worried about. She could do worse than have Kaab around to watch her back…

Micah & Diane

I’ll take these two together here, because they feature much less prominently compared to the pilot episode. Micah and Rafe have switched places here, more or less, with Micah now the secondary-character foil for Rafe as we learn more about him, and Diane technically not appearing at all; she’s mentioned when Kaab’s uncle receives a letter enquiring about a meeting, but in this episode the only Tremontaine we actually see is the Duke. This tells me that for all of Diane’s behind-the-scenes political influence, the writers have no intention of overlooking her husband. Curiouser and curiouser, especially given what happens when we come back to him here.

As for Micah, I still have a favourite place in my feels for her, however nervous I am for her safety in the city. She’s also the character I feel like I connect most strongly with, emotionally. Take this moment in the Blackbird’s Nest, as she’s by herself when the protests start to get ugly:

Micah, putting the last five-minnow in its stack, had been trying to ignore the noisy intruders. But then the student with the wandering eyebrows stood abruptly and smacked his fist on the table, toppling her careful piles. The shouting grew very loud. In a sudden panic, Micah shoved the coins into the inside pocket of her jerkin. Losing the coins would be worse than jumbling them up, and she could put them in good order later. She was still very hungry. She should certainly leave. But when she looked up, all she saw was a smear, noise and high emotion blurring the angry faces before her into a mob.

SHE HAS SOCIAL ANXIETY AND I UNDERSTAND THIS SO WELL. I just want to shove all the shouty people away and let her sort her coins in peace and oh, my feelings! *Glares at Rafe for leaving her there*

Rafe may not deliberately set out to hurt her, but he’s clearly self-involved, and it doesn’t take a genius to see the potential danger signs here. I just hope that Kaab, as is hinted at in this episode, doesn’t forget to have a care for others while she’s restoring her honour…

Augh! The drama. It’s so twisted and sneaky and troublesome, and I can’t get enough. Wednesdays are going to be my favourite weekdays for a while…

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “[Review] Tremontaine S1E2: “The North Side of the Sun”

  1. scrolled quickly through because i didn’t want spoilers.

    Just so you know, you had me at Swordspoint. I just downloaded the 1st ep, and am suddenly looking forward to Monday’s 3 hour drive.

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