Tremontaine S2E10: The Coming Night

 

So this review will be a bit dual-purpose, because our latest TremonTEAM challenge was to pick a favourite episode so far and talk about why it’s our favourite. After some inevitable indecision (and a great deal of thought), I realised a couple of things. One: this latest episode deserves that spotlight here. Two: on the list of my favourite Tremontaine episodes, Joel Derfner is the only team writer to have all of his episodes included. So of course, my favourite episode so far would be one of his.

With ‘The Coming Night’, not only do we see deeply interesting character development dovetailing with dramatic twists, but we’re seeing the best work by this writer yet in the series.

So, here we are. Let’s discuss my favourite episode of Tremontaine.

 

So this week, there are finally consequences for Rafe’s actions. But they are not what I was expecting. Nor, evidently, were they what Rafe expected. The same goes for Micah.

The real curiosity here, though, is what Diane had expected, versus what she perhaps did not.

It doesn’t surprise me, in retrospect, that Diane sits down to talk to Micah, fully aware of how best to treat our young savant. As we get to observe via Diane’s own side of the narrative, she is used to using subtlety and manipulation to get results. She plays mind games. Any sort of open-handed tactic, anything that gives away complete control to someone else, is not her way. But to deal with Micah, Diane realises that she needs to do the exact opposite: she’s got to be completely honest and speak plainly.

Well, almost.

Let’s not be too hasty here, after all. Diane is Diane, and she is still aiming to manipulate Micah to her own ends. She wants Miss Cinnamon Roll under the ‘protection’ of Tremontaine House, and so she does what she does best: she offers Micah what she wants most. The only difference is that … Well. She isn’t being very typically Diane about it.

What this means for us readers is that we get to see Diane acting out of character, and we see it filtered through Micah’s POV. Diane Duchess Tremontaine (bless her, that still amuses me) expresses outrage at the way Norris treated her and Rafe, and fires him on the spot (much to everyone’s delight, no doubt). We witness Micah stepping out of her comfort zone enough to hug Diane for her kindness – and Diane hugs her back!

They eat tomato pie together WITHOUT A KNIFE AND FORK. And DIANE ACTUALLY LIKES IT.

I do not know what this world is becoming, but I’ve got to admit. It is a wonderful one. Slightly upside down, now, but wonderful. DIANE LIKES TOMATO PIE, YOU GUYS. SHE IS HUMAN AFTER ALL.

I still cannot quite believe I read this (twice), but what’s really remarkable, what’s really got my mind in a twist, is that we know Diane is using Micah. We know that. What we’re seeing is Diane being Diane. And yet…

And yet. We’re seeing Diane … just being Diane.

It makes no sense, and yet it does.

And when we broaden the scope a bit more, what this scene does is set a tone for the episode in general. What we see here is Diane not only allowing herself to be vulnerable, but for once, she’s embracing that vulnerability. She does have a softer side, and for perhaps the first time since this series began, she’s letting it guide her actions. Now this is not to say she’s buckling under any pressure. She’s the Duchess Tremontaine. She does not buckle. But it serves her purposes to be soft. The question remaining is, how will the changes she’s setting out to make here change her, in turn?

Can even the Duchess Tremontaine resist the sweet sparkly bundle of innocent joy that is Micah Heslop?

I adore the prospect, even while it scares me. Micah is, in many ways, innocent and unworldly. Not a fool, by any means, but easily manipulated in the right (wrong?) circumstances. And Diane is clearly using her. Diane is also not, in her heart, a very motherly sort of person. Honora is proof of that. What will happen if she doesn’t get what she wants from Micah?

But … But, what if she does? What if this turns out to be precisely the sort of double-edged sword that even Diane isn’t prepared for?

My mind can’t handle this, you guys.

But regardless of all of this, Diane’s nature is a constant. She has a game plan, and there are other players to deal with. She finally confronts Rafe Fenton after his disastrous attempt to rescue the duke – and oh, what a scene this was. She plays that boy like a fiddle, and he walks right into it like I fully expected he would. Their whole conversation, from start to finish, is full of knife-edge tension and crackling, hateful chemistry. It’s a masterpiece of a scene, and even without Diane’s encounter with Micah, this would put the episode at the top of that list I mentioned.

Let’s cut right to the chase: Rafe Fenton is young, stubborn, generally unlikeable, and foolishly romantic. By attempting to rescue Will, he is acting out of the sincere belief that Diane is the villain, the evil witch in her tower, destroying their happiness out of spite. As usual, he is wrong – at least about her motivations. Those, he has no clue about. And I could roll my eyes yet again at the egotistical way Rafe is casting himself as the victim in this story. He might love Will, and he might be considerate of Micah (and thank goodness for that), but the centre of Rafe Fenton’s world is Rafe Fenton. And Diane knows it. She has absolutely no qualms about using that against him, and it leads to the one dramatic turn I hadn’t expected – though in hindsight, I really should have.

Diane has him over a barrel after what he’s done, and for all of Rafe’s raging outbursts, they both know it. It’s not like he can accuse her of anything. She’s a Duchess, and her position puts him beyond his striking range even when they’re sitting in the same room – and what a moment that was, by the way. Diane being so cool under threat is my favourite badass Diane. But I digress. Diane needs to know that she’ll be able to keep him under her thumb and out of her affairs from now on, and given all that’s hanging in the balance for her, I can’t say I blame her. So she lays that much out for him: he’s a nuisance, but he’s become a liability now, and so she’s got an offer for him that he can’t refuse.

Micah wants peace and quiet to do math and eat tomato pie and learn new things. Diane wants her brilliant brain where she can pick it whenever she likes. Rafe wants Micah to come to no harm. He also wants to be with Will, but he’s still a scholar. He had grand ambitions for a school for the poor, before Diane went and ruined his life. (Eye roll.) Diane wants Rafe to stop trampling all over her carefully laid plans. She also wants her husband back, but by this point that’s asking for too much, and Diane knows it. She knows now that, regardless of who’s to blame for what, none of them can go back to how things were. She’ll never have her doting husband back – so she resolves to move forward, while simultaneously making sure that if she can’t have Will, then neither will Rafe.

She’ll fund his school and take good care of Micah, if he stops being the bull in her china shop – and promises to stay away from Will from now on. She’s even ready for him when he counters with a demand that she stop poisoning Will: thanks to one more heart-rending encounter with her mad duke than she could stand, she already did.

Oh, Diane.

But that’s the softer side of the Duchess that Rafe will never believe exists, and of course Diane intends to keep it that way. She admits perfectly openly that she loathes him; of course she’d never show him any vulnerability. He doesn’t know the first thing about her, but she accepts his view of her as a fact that requires no correction on her part. Why try to change the mind of someone whose opinion doesn’t matter to her?

She is, after all, our villain.

 

His voice was that of a ruined man. “I was wrong before. You are not a monster. You are a torturer.”
“I am who I am,” she said.

 

And God help me, I love her for it.

So I had intended to write more about the rest of the episode. About how heart-wrenching Rafe’s farewell to Will was (Diane allowed it, because of course she’d twist that knife harder). About Kaab finally (finally!) having to face the truth that her relationship with Tess is over. About how Esha’s been borrowing from Diane’s ‘subtle manipulation’ playbook in the City in her absence and now knows about her troubles regarding Davenant, and heaven help us all if she uses that to her own indebted-to-the-Duchess ends. Esha going toe to proverbial toe with Diane de Tremontaine? Bring. It. On.

Also, about that damned crow and why nobody seems at all concerned about it.

I was going to talk about all of that, but I have a feeling that whatever else happened in this episode can wait for future reviews to have its turn – and that it’ll be worth the wait. We are so close to the finale. So. Close. I am braced for impact, folks. Let’s go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Tremontaine S2E10: The Coming Night

  1. I very much read Esha’s comments as being taking the goods on Davenant to Diane to clear her debt (rather than setting up to go toe to toe in the future), but… I may just be very much invested in Diane having a lady soulmate.

  2. My personal take is that the magic is always there in the Swordspoint world, but most of our protagonists aren’t interested in or receptive to it so it rarely features, let alone takes centre stage! I think a few of the short stories have an ambiguously magical element?

    Cat (a fellow Riverside fan)

  3. Joel Derfner is a wizard. I am amaze.

    The pizza-eating scene is hilarious, and the scene where Diane goes to see Will is wrenching (honestly I thought more wrenching than Rafe saying goodbye to Will), and the scene in which Diane coolly manipulates Rafe is delicious. And meanwhile we get Kaab near rock bottom and Rafe with his rigged choice. A lot of emotional range to this episode!

    One thing this episode makes clear is that Diane couldn’t be such a master manipulator if she was without feelings; her ability to feel, and understand others’ feelings, and if necessary to conquer her own, is what makes her so successful (and also, occasionally, vulnerable). She may sometimes seem like a woman with a clockwork heart, but it’s an illusion.

    The situation with Davenant is interesting. I’m betting that his downfall will be scandal attached to financial mismanagement (at some point a few episodes back Basil Halliday says something about how badly kept his records are). I think Esha will get the goods on him and soon his political career will soon be in tatters.

    But I don’t like the crow. I like Tremontaine better when there is no hint of magic or the supernatural.

    1. Yes to your take on Diane, and this is why I love her character so much. If she really was the cackling wicked witch Rafe believes her to be, she’d have gotten dull long before now. Instead she’s got feelings, she’s got flaws, resentments and motivations and, yes, even the capacity to love. It makes everything she does mean so much more. Though I suspect she needs a few more Micah Hugs…

    2. I get you about the crow. The Swordspoint world has always had an interesting relationship with magic. SWORDSPOINT was classified as fantasy even though there wasn’t a word in it of magic. Same with the sequel. In FALL OF THE KINGS there’s magic bubbling up but nobody is willing to believe it. Ellen has described the world as one “with magic on the fringes.”

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