In this episode, one deadly problem is solved, while another arises elsewhere. And in the midst of it all, a certain relationship blossoms in perhaps unexpected (but certainly not unwelcome) ways for Diane.
Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
This episode was extra exciting for me because it’s Karen Lord’s Tremontaine debut, and I always enjoy seeing what new members of the writing team bring to the story, or where they might shine in terms of characterisation. “The Bridge” is one of the episodes I suspect is the toughest kind to tackle in that sense, because rather than focusing on just one or two main characters, it’s more of an all-rounder – all of our favourites make an appearance, and arguably none of it is filler detail here; everyone gets something done, or is given something serious to consider. As a result, I’ve got a lot to chew on after reading it, which is where I always like to be after a dose of Tremontaine. So let’s go visiting, shall we?
I’m starting with the ‘quiet’ plot thread in this episode, because it might just be the one that fascinates me most – and with all the ‘noise’ from elsewhere (*cough* Diane *cough*), that’s no small feat. Rather than getting these scenes solely from Micah’s or even Rafe’s point of view, as we normally do whenever Joshua turns up, we get a more direct study of this secondary character, or at least of his place in the lives of his two POV friends, and how seriously he takes it. This might also serve to highlight his value, both to Micah and to Rafe, though it shows very clear differences between one and the other.
In Micah’s case, Joshua is interesting in his own right because he’s possibly the only person she’s met since coming to the City whom she has “mostly figured out”. He also seems to be the only character here, arguably aside from Rafe, who doesn’t have some underlying motive or purpose in befriending Micah. They just get along, and while he may not be a political player, Joshua does seem to take his role as a friend seriously when it comes to looking out for Micah. Now naturally, given her cinnamon roll status and her eternal place in my heart, this endears Joshua to me at once. Somebody’s got to have Micah’s personal best interests at heart, and bless him for gently leading her to a point where she begins to consider them herself; we all know she’d probably problem-solve her way right through life and forget to try to live it, if she was truly left to her own devices.
With Rafe it’s a little different, and Joshua gets a bit more direct with his caretaking. … OK, a lot more, all things considered. With Florian now seemingly on Rafe’s arm, though evidently not winning the hearts of Rafe’s friends – they all remember that card game in the Brown Dog, even if Rafe remains oblivious, or at least indifferent, to the tension – the dynamic is threatening to shift among their little group, and that’s before we even touch upon the ways in which Florian is actually dangerous to them, with or without Shade around. But all of that is a nasty surprise waiting to happen, and for now Joshua’s got to do something to remind Rafe, as with Micah, that he needs to do something more to take care of himself. Even if, for now, that something is taking Joshua to bed instead of The Creeping Creeper Who Creeps. To his credit Joshua waits until Florian’s lost interest in the talk of Rafe’s school and gone off to a different tavern, but I’m still worried already about what Florian might do if he realises he’s got any sort of a rival for Rafe’s affections, regardless of whether or not his own affections are true.
JOSHUA YOU ARE PRECIOUS, NOW PLEASE BE CAREFUL YOURSELF.
Diane and Esha
… I said at the end of my last Tremontaine review that I wanted these two to stop messing with my feelings and get on with it. Little did I know what was around the corner. Sweet honey-coated teacups, this episode was steamy.
More so than usual, in fact, which surprised me a little at first. On a reread, and after thinking it over, though, I appreciate the way their scene this week doesn’t shy coyly away from … well, anything. The flirting’s done between these two, and this week we get some results. And as is perhaps typical of Esha’s approach to anything, it’s cautious at first, but with certainty achieved, the gloves not only come off, they’re flung away with abandon, and nobody’s pointing the camera at them as they land on a lamp, either.
*Pauses to fan herself*
What’s really interesting here, though, is the change in Diane’s behaviour. It’s not just her willingness to take Esha as a lover – and they are indeed lovers, there’s no other apparent motive or transaction to take the erotic edge off, here – but the way in which she responds to how Esha treats her. We get to see a bond forming between two women who each consider the other to be an equal, and for Diane especially, this is a really rare thing. The last time anybody spoke frankly and/or critically of Diane’s behaviour, as Esha does here, Vincent Applethorpe ended up fighting a duel that might have killed him in truth, had it gone just a little differently. The only other person we’ve seen Diane accept open kindness and concern from is Micah, and I think we can safely say that she doesn’t consider Micah her equal, no matter how sweet our cinnamon roll might be. I mean, come on – Diane de Tremontaine didn’t even truly respect her own husband as her cerebral equal, and yet here we are, and she appears to be doing just that with Esha.
Undoubtedly, the chemistry between them is real, but I honestly didn’t expect this sort of twist to their affair. Seeing Diane caught off guard is one thing; seeing her let her guard down, openly and willingly, is something else altogether, and it fascinates the hell out of me. It’s also a timely reminder that, for all her ice-queen badassness, Diane is NOT entirely inhuman. There is still some semblance of a heart beating under all that cool exterior, and here we get to see nothing else. Or at least, nothing else for now.
Of course, the darker flip side of the ‘timely reminder’ scenario is that, with Diane letting Esha in past her guard, she’s also very possibly making herself vulnerable. Let’s not forget that Davenant is still working to figure out who betrayed him, or that he’s still looking for a way to ‘win’ Diane back. (Creeeeeeeep.) Both of these women have a remarkable alliance in the making, beyond their fling, so I’m not too worried about Davenant … but I am still worried about Davenant. Again – I hope they’re both careful from here on out…
If taking care of one’s self is the theme in this episode, then I’m pretty sure Riverside as a whole is a perfect example, in more than one sense. Yes, there’s the tightly-knit sense of community among Riversiders, and their defiance in the face of City oppression during the siege has been wonderful to see. Yet on the other hand, there’s this emerging dark side to all of that, and it’s demonstrated with chilling effect in the way Riverside decides to break the siege. What I wasn’t expecting, and what I’m still chewing delightedly on, is the Salamander’s part in all of it – and beyond.
It’s Everly who suggests the solution to the Riverside ‘committee’ (Tess and friends) regarding the problem of Shade, the siege, and the City’s arrest warrant. Riversiders can’t and won’t simply hand one of their own over to be jailed or executed, but in their confrontation scene with Shade, it gave me chills to see the way they decide to handle him when he’s declared where his real loyalties lie. Shade couldn’t give a damn if all of Riverside is under siege; he’s willing to take care of himself, and that’s enough.
Oh, Shade. Wrong thing to say, bud.
So, that settles that part of the problem. If Shade isn’t with them, then Riverside won’t lift a finger to help him. He’s promptly shut out of that community I mentioned – but it goes beyond that. When faced with the option of handing himself over to the Watch, or seeing the Salamander send Florian down for his crimes instead, Shade realises just how tightly his hands are tied, and for all that he’s a sociopathic murderer, he’s still got enough of a heart left to protect his former lover. But his acquiescence isn’t enough; Riverside still has to hand him over, and it’s in the act of doing so that we see their true colours. They do eventually give him up, but if the City wants him, they’ll have to scrape his remains off the bridge they leave him on after stoning him to death. Shade belonged to Riverside, and so Riverside has the final say in his punishment.
If that doesn’t deserve a resounding “holy crap”, I don’t know what does. It would be truly tragic if we didn’t know just how dangerous Shade really is, but none of that changes the light in which we’re now seeing Riverside – and Everly seems to be pulling more strings than we’ve seen, so far.
… Which leads me to the Balam family’s network of spies. This week sees the ritual grieving for Aunt Saabim begin to wind down, and the family turns its attention to cleaning out her rooms, tending to her belongings, and moving forward without her. All of this gives us a chance to see the change in Kaab, which was taking its baby steps previously, now taking a surer hold. She’s learning that taking proper care of herself is the first and most important step in taking care of her family (there’s that theme again), but what doesn’t help is learning that Ixsaabim may have been poisoned.
I’ll admit, I was absolutely not expecting that twist, but if it’s true, then Kaab is about to have a harder time than even she imagined. Is she even safe among her own people, after all? Someone had to be pretty damned close to Saabim to be able to harm her this way, not to mention cold-hearted enough to risk her unborn child at the same time. BUT WHY?! And does this mean Kaab’s in danger now, too? WHAT IS GOING ON.
But that’s not all. After Saabim’s passing, her network of spies must make their own positions known; will they remain loyal to the family and dedicate themselves anew to Ixkaab’s service, or … not? All but one has reported in to declare themselves by this point, and it’s that remaining one that’s apparently going to be of intriguing importance. When Kaab finally does receive a note from her missing spy, it got my speculative brain fizzing. Whoever this spy is, they’re in the know about Shade’s death soon enough to report it back to her, and they knew Arthur Chel’s Kinwiinik name.
So, this elusive spy is apparently someone from Riverside, or at least someone who was in Riverside that night, and banks on information well enough to know the true name of someone who didn’t use his in the City. A Riversider who places importance on names.
ARE YOU ALL THINKING WHAT I’M THINKING BECAUSE WHAAAAAAT.
How does that work? How DID it work? And to what end? Also, and I think this is more of a curious note than anything right now, but I couldn’t help drawing a certain parallel here between how this spy ‘speaks’ to Kaab, and the intriguing understanding we saw last season between Diane and Arlen – “Impress me, and I will”/”I am not yet satisfied”. Clearly, whoever this spy is, they expect something from Kaab as a spymaster. BUT WHAT?!
PLOTS ARE AFOOT. I am so here for this. I don’t have a clue what’s going on but I love it. AAAAH NEXT EPISODE PLEASE.