In this episode, Diane and her select company of nobles leave the City for the annual visit to the Tremontaine hunting lodge in the country. But despite the wild surroundings, some things about the nobility never change…
Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
So first of all, before we get to Diane and Co. and all their shenanigans, we get some progress on the Balam front, as Kaab seizes the chance to snoop around in the inspector’s room at the compound while he and his servants are gone. I appreciated seeing how sharp Kaab’s spy skills really are in this scene; I feel like it’s something that’s been lacking up until now. With some good reasons, given all of the emotional distractions she’s had to deal with, but it seems we’re moving past those now and getting to the real meat of her story this season, and it looks like it’ll be paying off!
And how. So she was right about the inspector bearing some kind of personal grudge against her, which is apparently against the fundamental rules of his office. Not to mention being shady as hell and a bit dangerous for the Balam in general. This inspector is related to someone who got burned during whatever failed mission got Kaab exiled in the first place, and on top of that he appears to be conspiring with one of the Batab’s wives, who’s got designs on the chocolate monopoly for her family – the Cocom. But will the inspector place his desire for vengeance above his duty? That remains unclear for now, but things are so deliciously tense now that I’m finally, properly gearing up to enjoy this storyline. Bring it on.
Meanwhile, the bulk of this episode is focused on Diane’s hunting party, and here’s where my thoughts really get engaged. This episode didn’t feel like it flowed as smoothly as they usually do, moving from one POV/storyline to another, but I can forgive that when I’ve got this much to chew on.
All in all, strictly speaking, not a whole lot really happens in this episode, but it’s one of those ones where I suspect the point is to take a breather before Dramatic Things Happen – and the setting is appropriate to that, at least. We’re into deep winter at this point (aren’t we just), and that sense of the days being long, dark and very quiet, and quite sinister if you look and listen hard enough … It’s beautifully atmospheric, and gives me delicious chills.
We get another glimpse of the almost-magic that lingers on the fringes of this world, definitely there if one pays attention, but mostly just adding up to a sense of unease otherwise. I feel so teased, honestly. I should be mad about it, but … I can’t be. It’s something that’s designed to require delicate handling, and I don’t think anyone’s fumbled it yet. I do think that if the magic in this world became any more prominent, it would upset that balance and kind of spoil everything else. Which is probably me changing my tune from previous discussions of it, but that’s where we are now. I’m in love with Tremontaine for its people, their humanity (or occasional lack of it), and the way their minds work and relationships form. Active magic would make this story something else entirely, and who knows if I’d still love it that way?
On that note, what is interesting to me about the presence of that almost-magic is how it’s subtle enough in its effect upon these people to leave me questioning whether or not it IS actually influencing them, or if it’s just a means to show us more of who these people truly are, beneath all the manners and careful cultivation of their image.
Lionel seems happy to throw caution to the wind for the sake of getting Diane into bed, despite the relatively close quarters and the risk of discovery. (Bad move, Lionel.) Davenant is shown to be struggling with maintaining his iron-clad composure versus letting it all go for a while and indulging his base impulses – sex, revenge … power, basically. (This is my surprised face.) Basil Halliday is still the proverbial stag being hunted, though it’s somewhat more literal than metaphorical in this time and place – and that, dear reader, is perhaps the creepiest part of all.
Most interesting of all, though, is Diane herself. She’s uneasy about being at the Tremontaine lodge, away from the City and her house on the Hill, where all of her power truly lies and she has a place for everything, everything in its place. While everyone around her is either shedding their ‘mask’ or struggling with the desire to do so, Diane … can’t. Her mask isn’t something she simply takes off behind closed doors, anymore. Her image, that carefully created and controlled persona, is bone-deep with her. Oh, she’s absolutely got hidden emotions that no one else really sees – but she’s buried them so deep for so long that when they do surface, she doesn’t seem to really know what to do with them. Diane’s deepest feelings have become a weakness for her, and if there’s one thing Diane can’t tolerate, it’s weakness.
And on top of all that, she’s got to continue playing the Perfect Hostess when Micah is sitting in the same room with Davenant, playing cards with her nemesis and trying to figure out why everyone’s acting so weird all the time. Including her friend the Duchess.
This is so messed up. So. Messed. Up. I love it.
So what will happen when they all return to the City, and to their ‘proper’ selves? I get the feeling Grabby Lionel may be in for a rude awakening regarding his standing with Diane, and frankly he’ll probably deserve it. But the others? Will there be ripples on that surface, or will this proverbial stone simply sink without a trace and leave the water as calm as before?
… I know what I’d bet on.