The seventh episode of Tremontaine – the halfway turning point for this season – is a turning point for all the characters involved, and not every development they face is a pleasant one…
*Deep breath* Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
Diane’s play for power continues, with the “play” part being rather more literal as well as metaphorical this week. A game called ‘shesh’, currently being enjoyed as part of an ongoing contest/wager between two of the ladies on the Hill, gives the Duchess a chance to make another move to win support on the Inner Council, and it gives us readers a chance to see Diane de Tremontaine at her wily, ruthlessly scheming best. Every ladylike skill, every popular pastime on the Hill, every expectation of how a lady should look and speak and act, is something that Diane can use to her advantage, and ‘shesh’ is no different. As she herself observes:
It was a game, she found, uniquely suited to her temperament. It left nothing whatsoever to happenstance. It required forethought, vision, and strategy. It required confidence and equipoise. It required an ability to dissemble. And the willingness to lose a battle in order to win the war.
Her opponent in this particular game has basically put her dignity on the line in a wager that she can remain undefeated for a season. She also happens to be Diane’s only means of getting what she wants from the Raven Chancellor. Before long, Diane has her right where she wants her: winning the game would preserve her pride, but losing would take her further in her longer game. So Diane loses, but not without making it crystal clear just how capable she is of winning, and why she’s choosing not to. Diane de Tremontaine is nobody’s fool, and I loved every second of this opening scene.
Someone who still needs to learn that lesson about Diane and foolishness, and who I suspect is going to do just that before long, is Gregory Davenant. The Dragon Chancellor still stands between Diane and a unanimous Council vote in her favour, and so she’s obliged to end their stalemate. Rather than play any kind of manipulative game, though, Diane knows that this round will require bargaining instead; Davenant knows her too well for her usual tactics to succeed, and apparently so does he – the bargain he offers Diane is his support on the Council in exchange for her agreeing to marry him. Naturally Diane reminds him that they’re both still married, but apparently that’s not enough to discourage him, and he’s creepily dismissive of his own married status:
“There are any number of ways in which I might suddenly find myself unmarried.”
… I never thought I’d say this, but Diane might just be in an actual tough spot here. She can say yes, win him over and secure Tremontaine, but then she’d be The Wife all over again and, to put it delicately, her autonomy goes out the window. Or she can say no, keep her pride and be her own woman, and lose what she’s working so hard for. Neither of those options are acceptable to Diane, and she almost ends this episode in the grip of pure rage.
Enter Vincent Applethorpe.
As I said, this episode is a turning point for everybody, and everybody’s finding their balance upset by the end of it. The only one who appears to have found a bright side at the end is Diane, and she only does that because Vincent, still up to his pretty eyes in inner turmoil thanks to Reza, loses his temper during the duel he agreed to fight on Lionel’s behalf, and not only injures his opponent (Filisand himself, instead of Filisand’s swordsman) but puts Lionel’s honour at stake as a result. His only hope of fixing his mess and staying out of prison is to accept Diane’s formal job offer and become her house swordsman. She must be so happy.
Vincent, on the other hand, is even more of an angsty mess than before, and who could blame him? The kicker here is that he sits through the entire conversation with Diane to seal his fate while being perfectly, painfully aware of the trap he’s just walked into. He knows exactly how much control he’s handing her, right down to her manipulative little conversational cues. Diane practically makes a puppet out of him, and the worst (read: most intriguing) part is that Vincent wants to say yes to her.
In this episode, we get to see depths to Vincent’s character that we’ve never seen before. He’s become so cynical about life at some point that he no longer believes in true safety. He takes a twisted sort of comfort in living in a place like Riverside, and is comfortable working as a swordsman for nobles on the Hill, because he understands how things work there. Riverside is dangerous, but he knows those streets like the back of his hand. Nobles are just as dangerous, but to Vincent that danger is just as clear as it is in Riverside. He’ll never be in danger of underestimating somebody like Diane, and he knows perfectly well what kind of person he is. He’s a swordsman. Diane isn’t asking him to be or do anything he isn’t comfortable with, however much he might hate the (literal) trappings of the situation.
Which is making me wonder, now – did he walk away from his fling with Reza because Reza, a man who is very clearly not of Vincent’s world, wanted him to become someone else? We get hints in this episode that this is what Vincent would have had to do to stay with him, in Chartil. Reza’s world is not the one Vincent loves or understands. Is that why he left? Is the reason Reza seems to be pursuing him that he hasn’t come to realise this yet (because Vincent didn’t stop to explain it to him, and please tell me that confrontation’s coming I MUST HAVE IT)?
SO. MUCH. DRAMA. It’s delicious. Poor Vincent.
Speaking of drama and downtrodden men, IT FINALLY HAPPENED.
Quickest recap ever: Rafe is getting nowhere finding Will, so he gets stupidly drunk. Kaab is miserable after what happened last week, so she’s already stupidly drunk by the time Rafe finds her. He can’t stop talking when he’s stupidly drunk. Kaab is officially the Worst Spy In the Whole World, because she can’t stop talking when she ISN’T stupidly drunk, and… Oh dear.
The truth comes out. There’s yelling. There’s vomit. There’s also Micah storming out in disgust because they’re being messy and she can’t get any work done in this situation. Poor cinnamon roll.
Yes, I feel sorrier for Micah here than I do for either Rafe or Kaab. I can sympathise with their plights, but really? They both got themselves into this. I get that Rafe is caught up in his first love, and can’t let it go. Kaab isn’t wrong when she tells him he’s being foolishly narrow-minded about it; there’s far more at stake than his own personal happiness, and this is why she kept the truth about the Duke’s poisoning to herself.
I can also understand why Kaab chose to keep those secrets, but here’s the thing about being good at your particular job, Kaab: you’re only good at it when secrets remain secret. They can’t really do that if you go around telling people what you’re not supposed to tell them. And sober or not, she still doesn’t understand why her aunt (and Tess, because let’s not forget about Tess’s feelings) are so unhappy with her?
REALLY WOMAN? REALLY?!
I could rant some more about Kaab here, but honestly, I’m a little tired of doing it at this point. She’ll either learn, or she won’t. I’m here for her learning, but I’m not holding my breath for it.
In summary, this week:
- Diane has bought time with Davenant, to ‘consider his proposal’. You just know, or at least I really really hope, this means that she’ll find an Option C opening up to her before long, and using it with a vicious will. Get him, Diane.
- Damn it, Rafe, you’d better get in at least some basic sword-fighting practice before you go haring off after your Duke and … he’s not going to do any such thing, is he.
Everything is not awesome. Everything is freaking awesome.