[Review] Tremontaine, S1E12: “A Tale of Two Ladies”

A Tale of Two LadiesWe are down to the season finale from here, and in this episode Kaab finally confronts Diane with what she knows – but there’s more to the story, and Diane finally ‘fesses up…

Guys, I am so very nearly out of Can. I, in fact, Cannot.

Let’s discuss Tremontaine.

So after last week’s episode, Kaab pays Diane a visit to drop her bombshell and make her demands. This is a really big deal for the story arc, and it makes perfect sense that this episode would focus much more closely on the two of them than any previous episode has. In fact, we get much more of Diane’s own story, and her own perspective, than ever before. Until now she’s been a player, but she’s also been a bit removed from the level of personal, emotional interaction that we’ve seen the rest of these characters experience. Through all the romantic affairs and family dramas, Diane’s been more of a puppet master than anything. She’s been very deliberately portrayed as the least emotional character in the story, but this episode changes all of that, and it’s been fascinating as hell to read.

Not least of all because the Duchess Tremontaine is not who we thought she was. This episode switches between the present day and the fateful events of young Diane Roehaven’s journey to the City to wed the Duke Tremontaine, finally explaining everything that Ben Hawke had tried to blackmail her with – and revealing the missing puzzle pieces that Kaab hadn’t yet put together. The Duchess is an impostor – the real Diane’s former maid, passing herself off as a noble lady. But what happened to Diane Roehaven?

The thought of what would happen when Diane woke up filled Louisa with a swelling rage. The girl would be a terrified, simpering mess. She had absolutely no backbone; she would weep and shriek at every little noise in the forest, and Louisa would have to deal with her. […]
Louisa would make a much better duchess.
[…]It wasn’t fair for Diane to have been born into a noble family, and for Louisa to have been born to paupers, to be forced to toil in service to a nitwit when she was a hundred times smarter, a thousand times more driven. None of it was fair, but that was why the highwayman took what he wanted when he wanted it. Perhaps Louisa should take what she wanted, too.

ARGH I KNEW IT. You do not mess around with Diane. Louisa. Whoever the heck she is. She’s out of her mind. You do not mess!

Unless you’re Ixkaab Balam.

If everything about Diane and what she’s done is terrifying, then Kaab’s share of this episode makes up for it in sheer nerves-of-steel awesomeness – rather than being scared OF Kaab, though, I have to say I’m still terrified FOR her. See above regarding not messing with Diane.

But of course our girl has thought of that! She was smart enough to go to Tess first for one more professional service (more on THAT scene in a bit) and when she does challenge Diane, she’s got (fake) proof of her claims to back up her own blackmail, in the form of a letter detailing the significant differences in appearance between the two Dianes. Of course, the Duchess sees the danger in this letter being leaked at once.

The Duchess Tremontaine met Ixkaab Balam’s steady gaze over the tray of untouched chocolate. She still held the letter in her hands, the letter that would condemn her in the eyes of every noble in the land. If they so much as suspected any part of the truth, the duchess would be ruined.
Ruined utterly.
The nobles’ obsession with bloodlines was a moat around them, separating them from the low-born commoners who toiled in their service. No one was allowed to cross that moat. There were no bridges of merit or marriage or even of wealth. A merchant might be wealthier than all the dukes combined, but he would still never be one of them.

Here is where things get more tense than ever before, because if the local nobles are guilty of too much pride and a whole lot of prejudice, then isn’t Diane also guilty of it? As Kaab points out, people have underestimated her and been brought down for it – and Diane is, and could very well still be, one of them. Right here, Diane has a choice between maintaining her pride (and all that prejudice), or doing the smart thing and acknowledging when she’s met her match, if she wants to hold on to everything she’s worked so hard for.

Naturally, this is where the episode ends. If you heard a distant scream of anguish a few days ago? That was me, reading this the first time round. WHAT WILL SHE DO?!

*Deep breath* Before I go, though, let’s talk a bit more about Kaab, and her own path to this moment. At the start of this episode, she’s fully committed to her course of action, even (ha ha, oh you dear girl) willing to end her relationship with Tess to keep things simple. Like that would work, am I right? Tess, though, has other ideas. As her confrontation with Kaab shows us, she isn’t asking for Kaab’s whole world. Just the respect of an equal partnership, and the honesty that comes with it. If Kaab isn’t willing to bend that far, she can GTFO.

And Kaab is surprised by this ultimatum. *Looks at camera*

I love our Kinwiinik spy. I do. She’s quick and clever and all kinds of awesome at what she does. But she is so unbelievably, arrogantly clueless about relationships! This seems to be a turning point for her, though, and I want nothing more than for her to choose Tess over her well-meant service to the family, if it comes to that. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t – but at least now she’s not kidding herself that she could walk away so easily as she believed. It’s also perhaps worth noting that in this respect at least, she seems to fall prey to the same prejudice that Diane does, in a way. Tess is a pale-skinned foreigner, which is enough for Kaab to know that her family will not accept her as Kaab’s significant other – and before her argument with Tess in this episode, she doesn’t think to challenge this status quo. She accepts it as the way things are. Tess is the one who refuses to do so. ALL HAIL TESS.

So this episode really, truly is about a meeting of equals and a rude awakening for both women, and I absolutely love it. There is such a tangible sense that everything is about to change right here, and I cannot wait to find out which way it’ll all go! BRING ME THAT FINALE.


6 thoughts on “[Review] Tremontaine, S1E12: “A Tale of Two Ladies”

  1. I’m going to remain mum on most of the hopes/speculations/etc. here, other than to note that our weekend to figure out what happens in season 2 is coming up soon.

    However, Ann, one thing you said struck me as very interesting: “Re-reading Swordspoint after reading this is interesting, though. Some dialogue exchanges in that are now “Ah ha!” moments, whereas before they never got much of a reaction out of me. Knowing the backstory definitely illuminates Kushner’s first Riverside novel.”

    It’s fascinating to think about Swordspoint being illuminated by a past that didn’t exist when it was written—giving meaning to something by creating its past in its future, so to speak. All of the authors had read Swordspoint before we started to work—I’ve read it several times—but I haven’t cracked it since we began season 1, and I’m betting that at least a few of those “Ah ha!” moments were the product of happy serendipity. I’ll have to read SP again now that season 1 is over so I can have some of those moments myself.

    1. I had originally intended to wait on reading Swordspoint until Tremontaine was completely done, but now I can’t! After I write up “Departures”, I’ll be starting on the novels. Those “Ah ha!” moments are my favourite thing about rereads, so even though I’ve never read Swordspoint I’m looking forward to that. 🙂

      1. Have fun! Do note, though, that some of the stuff in Swordspoint gives away the final fates of some of the characters in Tremontaine. Just so that it doesn’t accidentally spoil you on this delightful tension that these writers galore are beautifully building up. Hence the thing with prequels. =)

  2. I’ve been feverishly devouring Tremontaine since I discovered it a few weeks ago, and also reading your reviews after each chapter as well. Like you up to this point, I still think Kaab needs to watch her back around the duchess (not Diane, but Louisa the maid. That surprised me and even more so seeing how she got there). If Kaab’s got the knife to her throat, I would not be surprised if Diane starts lining up contingency plans and traps within traps for Season 2. Diane is a survivor and a player of the political field – I doubt she’s gonna let Kaab’s blackmail last forever. There’s a particular line about her uncle Chuleb from the previous episode where it’s mentioned that Kaab’s aunt’s husband was too beautiful. Knowing how these writers don’t waste lines, I don’t think that’s a throwaway line. Maybe we will see some attempt at seduction or enticement in the next season for Diane’s reasons for keeping Kaab off her back?

    Also, I’ll be a bit sore if Kaab gets to keep her Tess, and Rafe and Will never get to meet again now that Diane’s sending Will off to Highcombe with very strict instructions about no visitors. It doesn’t feel fair. Like you, I wasn’t big on their affair but it did grow on me and with Diane poisoning Will…yeah. I want them to be happy together for a bit longer. Hell, I was rooting for everyone up until Diane brought in the shadowroot. Then, Diane wasn’t someone I wanted to cheer for at that point.

    Re-reading Swordspoint after reading this is interesting, though. Some dialogue exchanges in that are now “Ah ha!” moments, whereas before they never got much of a reaction out of me. Knowing the backstory definitely illuminates Kushner’s first Riverside novel.

    1. I’m not convinced that Chuleb would fall for a seduction attempt coming from Diane – the Balams seem pretty wise to her at this point. They did give Kaab their full blessing to start spying on her, after all…

      But we agree about Rafe and Will. I admit it, I have become a sucker for those two and their relationship. I can’t quite shake off the sense that they’re doomed, but hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully!

      1. Maybe Chuleb will not fall for a seduction from Diane, but she is crafty enough to think of other ways around. And then again, being Diane, who knows what she’ll have in mind in Season 2? We already know she sees Saabim as someone else to keep note of besides Kaab, so…anything goes from hereon out? She had that ominous thought about letting the Balams know that they were not equals, but did not have a plan yet on how to get her point across to them.

        As for Rafe and Will, it hurts my heart seeing how Will’s deteriorated so far. And yet, the creatures he sees in those shadowroot visions of his is peculiar. The crow mentioning a carriage and highwaymen *coughDianeLouisacough*, and the possum and the hint that someone the possum knows will betray Rafe and Will’s love *coughKaabcough*.

        I was upset at Kaab when she decided not to interfere even when she saw the vial of shadowroot in Diane’s room. So Will’s gonna continue going mad in Highcombe (shudders whenever Diane mentions giving him the medicine to his loyal friend, considering how the historical text in the Shadowroot chapter foreshadowed how the queen got her husband dosed) and poor Rafe….argh! It is possible to love a character completely (i.e. Kaab) and then thoroughly want to shake them when they make certain decisions (again, Kaab). I’m also hoping for a better resolution for Will and Rafe, because Kaab and Tess can’t be the only happy couple.

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