In this episode, it’s time for reflection, careful plotting, and some introspection for good measure. It’s a very thoughtful episode from Tessa Gratton, and so I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
Everybody’s dealing with a problem of some sort in this episode. Kaab and Diane are playing their political games to outsmart their enemies, while on the other hand Reza and Rafe are facing up to some painful realisations about what they need to do, and where to go, from this point in order to keep moving forward in life. Rafe with his school, and his lingering grief over Will, and Reza in his more turbulent grief over Vincent.
In fact, moving forward and coming to terms with one’s feelings and even one’s self seems to be an underlying theme here. Beyond all the plotting and planning, there are glimpses here of the much more private struggles all of these characters are facing, and by the end of the episode more than one has made a surprising personal choice.
The episode is focused mostly upon, and framed by, Reza’s reasons for leaving Chartil after Vincent’s disappearance three years previously – and the point he’s now reached, having had to come to terms with Vincent’s death. He’s given up a great deal to pursue him, and now having lost him, Reza himself feels lost. As the flashback scenes with his sister remind us, Reza isn’t a diplomat. He’s a warrior, and now the war he’s fighting is internal. Given that we’re shown how fiercely and completely Reza throws himself into battle, it’s no surprise that this internal war is eating him up so thoroughly. But he faces it regardless, and it’s heartbreaking to see both the depths of his grief and the fresh pain of realising just how wrong he was about the man he loved. Reza might have loved Vincent, but he was a long way from really understanding him. Everything about this character development is expressed beautifully by Tessa Gratton here; it’s as much her wielding of (literally) poetic prose as the clarity of Reza’s pain that I find so affecting.
Something I also find interesting about Reza is the contrast he presents. To certain perspectives (such as Diane’s), he’s a bit of an enigma. He’s a warrior, not a diplomat, by nature – but there’s a cunning intellect and insightfulness to him that makes him intriguing. Diane is even beginning to speculate about whether Reza is someone to be considered an enemy, or if he’s merely playing political games of his own that have intersected with hers, thanks to the involvement of Rafe Fenton.
Speaking of Rafe, he and Reza continue to charm me with their budding ‘friendship’. I say ‘friendship’ because I suspect there’s more to it than that – or that there could be if both men weren’t so distracted by grief and their own concerns. But still … I ship them. If they were eventually to *cough* become better friends, I would not object. Just saying.
Then there’s the women. If Reza and Rafe are finally learning to let go of someone they loved, even if only symbolically, then for Diane de Tremontaine that choice to move on represents more the loss of a playing piece in her political game, even if – as it is for Rafe – mostly only a symbolic one. If the fact that it’s William’s name attached to Rafe’s school which is causing a problem, then the clearest solution, as Rafe points out, is to remove it. Even if it pains them, which it clearly does – and I won’t lie, I felt sympathy for Diane over it. It burns her to have to concede anything to Davenant, which in her eyes is precisely what Rafe asked of her even if he wasn’t aware of it. But she agrees, and the act of swallowing her pride is Diane’s version of moving forward, in a way. This is a significant moment of change for her, because I just can’t imagine her doing something like that a season ago. I feel for her, but I admit I also feel a bit worried for her. She might be the Duchess Tremontaine but an exposed weakness is an exposed weakness, and with Davenant on the prowl I have a bad feeling about it…
Then there’s Tess, who might just be the most surprising element in this episode as far as I’m concerned. While everyone else is struggling with feelings of grief and finding their way past it into whatever the future holds, Tess the Hand seems more prepared to finally accept her own future and her real self, whatever that brings, by embracing it. She’s revealed – or at least heavily implied? – to be behind an assassination attempt on Florian, and to all appearances she’s got no qualms about it. Considering how hard she was digging her heels in about embracing any sort of ruthlessness at the start of this season, she definitely seems to be emerging as a real power player now.
And, come what may, I have to admit I am here for it. Tess’s personal development fascinates me more with every step forward she takes, and I might have some fears about where it will lead but I am definitely here for seeing it play out. At this point I honestly don’t know where it’s leading her, though – but again, that’s the crafty beauty of it. I am so hooked. Very afraid, but so very hooked.
So the season finale is looming ever closer, and I’m getting excited for it now, so that’s it for me this round. I’ve got more reading to do…