In this episode, some doors close (one perhaps more firmly than another…) while one is literally about to open. AND AGAIN WITH THE MERCILESSLY TEASING CLIFFHANGERS.
Ahem. Tessa Gratton’s back at the helm this time, and again this episode is probably one of my favourites of the season so far. Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
With this being the ninth episode in the season, I definitely got the sense of it being a very pivotal episode: prominent characters have choices to make and personal courses to set, and the outcome of one longer-arc plot may just have been affected by the course young Arthur Chel has set for himself – and by some information he’s able to share.
We get an interestingly closer look at him this week, seeing the City through his eyes – and his perspective on it, its people, and on life in general makes him much more intriguing than I’d given him credit for before. Arthur is, it appears, every inch the guileless sweetheart he seems. He sees only the wonder and fascination – and the opportunities – inherent in growing up in a world that isn’t the one his own people dominate. He sees nothing but goodness (or at least, things to be fascinated by) in everyone, even certain people he should probably avoid.
People like Florian Larue, for instance. FOR GOD’S SAKE ARTHUR, HOW ARE YOU STILL ALIVE.
Quick recap: the villainous, bastard son of a merchant is somebody younger Arthur once followed around like a lovesick puppy, before Larue dropped off the face of the Middle City earth for a couple of years, only to turn up again in Riverside, keeping company with Shade and pestering Arthur for information about the chocolate trade – which Arthur thinks is boring and wants no part of, much to Kaab’s consternation and my eternal amusement. You do you, Arthur.
So Kaab pesters him in her turn, believing that somehow he’s involved in the recent thefts, be it knowingly or otherwise. She turns out to be right, when Arthur realises he may have given away important information to Riverside’s latest flamboyant thief (and let’s not forget his pet murderer). Poor Arthur is stricken by this revelation, and eventually seeks some comfort by going to Diane and telling her everything.
Reminder: Diane + sensitive information = TROUBLE.
But it’s not Arthur’s fault. Diane is this City-loving daydreamer’s true north, being the shining example of everything that’s ever put stars in his eyes. Of course he’d set his course by her. But has he done as much good in confiding in her as he seems to believe? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say probably not.
So the puppy has a forever home now. The thing is, I’m still not entirely convinced – despite him learning of Rafe’s connection to the Duke Tremontaine and speculating about how romantic it could have been – that Arthur is quite as foolish, or easily fooled, as he appears to be. Yes, he has his head in the clouds, but he is, in his own way, good at getting to know people. By the end of this episode I found myself hoping that he’s not just going to be a puppet character, running errands for treats at Tremontaine House. But I admit, I don’t see (yet) how he’s going to become anything else. Like I said, he has his head in the clouds, and I don’t foresee anyone caring quite enough to yank him back down to earth – Diane least of all.
Elsewhere, a course that’s (finally!) being set with a refreshingly firmer grasp of the real world and how it works, is that of Tess. We last saw her facing the end of her not so happy homemaking with Kaab, and for good reasons. The sex might have been amazing but their relationship was one leaky rowboat and somebody wasn’t pulling her oar. Tess knows it’s all over but for the crying, and she seems to have had enough of that when we return to her.
This … has me relieved, to be quite honest. I’ve made no secret of how frustrating I found the relationship dynamic between these two, and given what we see of her this week, it’s definitely a preferable turn of events to get to spend some time with her when Kaab isn’t muscling in, so to speak. For instance, we learn that Tess has had a reliable commission from, and a very interesting connection to, the Salamander for years. She’s been working for them ever since her father died and she took up his work, and has known the Salamander’s real name since she was a child.
Given the importance that Tess places on her Riverside family, I could guess where this scene was going to lead, and I was not disappointed. Kaab bursts in, bleeding but jubilant after a scuffle with Florian and Shade (yep, she handled Arthur’s revelation pretty much the way I expected her to) and, amidst several assumptions that Tess will go along with it, lays out her grand plan to bring the pair down – and possibly even take down the Salamander with them.
Tess putting her foot down about all of it, and finally – FINALLY – getting through to Kaab about why she’s been so upset, is probably my favourite scene of the whole episode (and there was even Vincent!Reza this week – but I’ll get to that). Possibly even my favourite scene of the season, so far.
“When I say my family, I don’t only mean my father and mother or blood, either. I mean Riverside. This place isn’t a garbage heap where runaways and cutthroats manage to coexist. It’s families and a family. Some of us born to it, and others who come here, who truly come here to join us, they become our family, too. You wanted me to – to marry into yours, but would never have even thought I had one that you could marry into instead.”
So now we know where Tess stands, but what this doesn’t change is what Kaab still needs to do to protect her own family’s interests. She needs to stop Larue, and that is apparently going to mean rubbing the Salamander the wrong way. But is Tess going to be required to actually help them or can she wash her hands of the whole thing? For some reason, my gut is telling me she can’t do that…
Moving on, because if anything’s going to refresh my Feelings after all that, it’s some time with our favourite swordsman and the Ambassador he loves.
YES HE LOVES HIM BUT OMG I WAS SORT OF RIGHT ABOUT WHY HE LEFT CHARTIL AND AAAAAAH
Also, REZA IS CHARTIL ROYALTY. Why did I not see that coming? Not only is he a nobleman who doesn’t understand our fair Vincent’s true calling in life (some diamonds are best left rough, Reza!), but he’s a Chartili prince trying to run away from his duties, and wants nothing more than to do it with Vincent. But Vincent knows what’s really up, and the heart-wrenching drama of it all finally spills out this week. After spending all season plagued by his needs versus his wants, Vincent storms into Reza’s house on the Hill and … ahem, tends to his wants for a while.
As we’ve seen before, however, Vincent is capable of much clearer thought when he’s not so terribly distracted; in the afterglow, they have what seems to be the same argument they’ve always had – or perhaps in truth, never really got to have. Reza wants a responsibility-free life with his swordsman lover, and is happy to pursue it in the City; this is why he came. But Vincent knows that the world doesn’t work that way: apparently at least one assassination attempt was already avoided, and the last thing he wants is to lose Reza like that. Better to send him home to marry and have babies and be a good prince and STOP BREAKING MY HEART LIKE THIS, BOTH OF YOU.
This is Vincent’s turning point of the season, but what will actually become of these two? Reza doesn’t seem ready to accept that it’s over, nor does he yet fully understand what Vincent’s trying to tell him about the future he wants.
Reza scoffed. “We appreciate the sword far better in Chartil. We honor it, and warriors, while here you are paid to fight the battles of other men.”
“You’ve never understood, Reza. It isn’t honor, it isn’t … a warrior’s code. It’s only the sword. There’s nothing built up around it, not for a real swordsman. The rules we follow aren’t part of the sword, they’re only the rules made by men who do not fight.”
Being a swordsman is enough for him; he sees no need to glorify it. Arguably, his acceptance of Diane’s job offer does just that, but you could also argue that Diane sees more clearly than Reza in this regard: to her, Vincent IS just a swordsman. A very very good one and a valuable commodity, but she expects nothing more of him than that he’ll do his job, and that’s enough for him.
My feelings can’t take this! Knowing what I do about what’s going to become of Vincent, it is heartbreaking to see this storyline play out and know that he could have had so much more – but it’s more heartbreaking because I know Vincent’s right. This is who he is, and changing all of that just for one man would erase parts of himself. No one should have to do that in order to be happy, and this is basically what Reza’s asking for. I ship these two so fiercely, but I’ve got to side with Vincent here.
Now I’m moving on before I use up all my tissues.
Oh, Diane. The most pivotal point here is, of course, the one that hits hardest – even if it sneaks up on me instead of smacking me in the face.
This week, she’s still in a bind regarding what to do about Davenant, and it’s awfully interesting to see Diane de Tremontaine at a loss for a solution to her problems. It leads her to a fine rage when she learns about Rafe’s rescue attempt at Highcombe, because here is an outlet for her (quite thoroughly justifiable) anger over the whole mess. Once again Rafe is upsetting her balance, and once again – as with season one – she’s got to put a stop to him in order to keep her secret matters a secret. This is pivotal, but there’s a lovely (if chilling) sense of the story coming back to where it began, with one crucial twist: Diane is capable of murder, but is she angry enough to put such a final end to Rafe in order to tidy up this mess? Will it be left to Vincent to do that dirty work for her? More importantly, will Vincent agree to do it, without question?
Most importantly, what will happen to Micah?!
I love Diane. I do. But I swear to God, if she harms Micah in any way, I am done with her.
But I don’t think she will. Diane’s smart, and all of her anger is directed at Rafe. Spillover like that is messy, and Diane doesn’t do messy. But in that case, what will she do with Micah? QUESTIONS.
This is what I mean about the impact of this pivotal moment being the sneaky, quiet kind. All of these questions and observations kept coming as I took the time to really chew over this episode and consider what might follow. I am desperately excited to see what comes after all of this, and to get to the season finale – but this episode was delicious in all of its implications and thought-provoking character angles. My fangirl brain was well fed this week.
But now I’m ready for the next course. I’M READY.
… I’m so not ready, am I?