In this episode, everyone’s facing new troubles – but no one is dealing with them quite the way I would have expected…
Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
I’m starting with Diane this time, because of all the surprising turns in this episode, Diane’s is the one that’s intriguing me most. After we saw Esha facing the fact that something’s troubling her enough to disrupt the peace she finds in her faith, this episode sees her confessing it to Diane in the safe confines of Tremontaine House – after an afternoon spent together having (among other things, ahem) a snowball fight.
I’m still bemused by that, by the way. Diane de Tremontaine started a snowball fight. Every way I look at it, it’s whimsical and amusing and utterly charming and totally incongruous with her character. Or is it?
Prior to the snowball fight, Diane is on edge because she knows there’s something Esha isn’t telling her, and we all know by now how Diane feels about not knowing something important. It clearly frustrates her, but even with all of the cleverly manipulative ways at her disposal, she chooses an afternoon of carefree indulgence over prying the truth out of her lover. When Esha finally tells her what’s going on, she does it in her own time.
Unless maybe that was Diane’s play the whole time, as this line might seem to indicate:
“It is the sword,” said Esha finally.
Diane felt a thrill in her breast. Now, now it would come.
Is this Diane playing another subtle game to get at the truth? Or is this simply Diane de Tremontaine being patient with her lover and, because she’s still Diane de Tremontaine, taking a moment of pleasure in the payoff? I honestly can’t make up my mind, but either way you look at it, it definitely feels to me as though Diane’s earlier frustrations were the result of her finding herself in relatively unfamiliar territory with Esha; she doesn’t push her to reveal her secrets like she might with anyone else, and she seems uncertain of herself when the reason for it appears to present itself:
Hope of happiness.
Words that the duchess had long ago ceased to utter.
Not because she was incapable of such hope, not by any means. But because it was a jewel she could not afford.
Was it being offered her now?
… Can Esha make Diane happy? Does Diane have it in her to let her? Or is fate (read: Diane’s own lifestyle) going to stick a knife in it for them? As much as I love the idea of a Happily Ever After for these two … I can’t quite see it working out that way. I know Diane too well. I know some of Diane’s enemies too well. I know Diane is perfectly capable of avenging any such interference, but the prospect of it being necessary scares me. JUST LET THEM HAVE THEIR THING, UNIVERSE.
Next up is Rafe, who is (perhaps entirely predictably) not having much luck in getting his school up and running even with Diane’s backing. The last time we saw Davenant, he was setting himself to interfering with the enterprise, and this week we see how it pays off for him, at least for the moment. The merchants’ sons who were intended to become the first students at the school fail to turn up for its opening day. What exactly went on behind the scenes after Davenant’s interference, I don’t know, but it obviously worked in the Dragon’s favour.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I hope Diane crushes him.
But we’re talking about Rafe, who is taking a leaf from the duchess’s “surprising behaviour” book and not flying into a rage at the setback. In fact, he’s even showing remarkable self-awareness when he goes to visit Reza to talk the matter over and begins by very dryly pointing this change of character out to him.
Our boy appears to be becoming a man! I’m so proud of him. Oh god what’s he going to screw up next to make up for it?
But that’s a question for later. I’m thoroughly enjoying Rafe’s conversations with Reza, though in an odd way. Rafe’s behaviour around the Ambassador is so unlike the Rafe that we know that it’s intriguing for that reason alone. Something is clearly Going On there, but the would-be teacher is learning some lessons at last; instead of just throwing himself at Reza and seeing which parts stick (ahem) he’s treading with more caution. What happened to Will left an indelible mark, and while I might be intrigued by their interactions, my heart hurts a little bit for Rafe every time I see him with Reza. I sincerely doubt that Reza’s going to be as easy a target as the duke, for anyone – but that doesn’t mean bad things can’t happen to him, and Rafe is our perpetually downtrodden puppy. Everybody kicks him, it seems. The people who don’t are so few that I can’t help hoping he can hang onto them for as long as possible – Reza included.
Speaking of hearts, let’s talk about Kaab for a bit now. This week she finally discovers that her suspicions were right – somebody did poison Aunt Saabim, and that somebody belongs to the Cocom family. Was it Ixsinik, the head of that family, herself? Or someone who followed her orders?
That’s probably irrelevant, because now Kaab knows enough of the truth to compel her to act on it – but much like Rafe, she chooses to step carefully from here. Again, she’s aware enough of herself to know that flying into a rage and storming into the Cocom compound to demand bloody vengeance is not the way to go, especially not with the Batab’s shady inspector still under her roof. So for now she’s sitting on the evidence she’s found, and will choose her moment more carefully.
Diane would approve.
Elsewhere, we get a moment alone with Kaab and Tess – the first since their breakup, and it seems they’ve both had enough time apart, not to mention other problems of their own, to give them both a little perspective. For the first time, they’re (more or less) talking to each other civilly about a problem that requires a solution, though Kaab isn’t at fault the way Tess thinks at first. Interesting clues are discovered that Kaab can use to get to the truth, and that’s great! But this scene moved me because it’s the first sign we’ve had that the wounds these two caused each other might finally be healing. Kaab has taken enough hard knocks from reality that she treats Tess with more consideration and respect than she ever has, and it’s a bittersweet thing to witness.
Nobody is behaving quite like themselves, and instead of frustrating me, it’s giving me warm fuzzy feelings. It’s also making me anxious as heck, because this is clearly another ‘breathing space before the battle continues’ episode – for all of this forward progress, there’s bound to be another round of dramatic setbacks right around the corner. There is, isn’t there.
God damn it.