My favourite serial is back for its fourth and final season, and I don’t know how to feel. I only know I am feeling A LOT. Here is where I start to unpack it all…
Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
“Potential” is a nice hefty word, full of meaning. I like to think of it as having mostly positive connotations, but the key word there is mostly.
Everyone in this story has the potential to be someone great. To do great things. For some – arguably more than others – doing great things is what drives them. But the higher you reach, the greater the risk of falling becomes. And some of these characters are reaching very high.
I’ve read Swordspoint. I know which way the wind will inevitably blow for at least one of Tremontaine’s main players, and one or two we haven’t seen as much (or anything) of. That doesn’t stop me from being almost unbearably eager to find out how this part of the story will end, because it while it will go far beyond these four seasons, I’m certainly not going to make any assumptions. These writers are good – they’ve surprised me before.
So whose potential will be fully realised? Who will do great things, and who will crash and burn?
Turn and face the strange
One thing is for sure as this season opens – change is no longer merely coming to the City these characters inhabit and love. Change is here, and what’s most intriguing is how they seem intent on dealing with it.
It’s not confined to the story arc, either. The very formula for this serial is being (I suspect gleefully) messed with, and it’s making things even more interesting on my end. Rather than opening with an episode written by Tremontaine’s creator, Ellen Kushner, first up to bat is Tessa Gratton. It’s a pleasant surprise; I’ve been continually impressed by Tessa’s handling of this material, and by her own gift for prose, so it’s interesting and exciting to see her taking on an opener here.
The episode itself opens not on a quiet moment alone with Diane de Tremontaine in her eyrie, as I’ve come to expect, but with the introduction of a new character. Ahkoet Balam arrives, apparently for the purpose of relieving Kaab of her responsibilities in order for her to return home, as she’s been expecting to do – and it’s Kaab’s story arc in this season which sees the first plot bomb dropped. She’s sitting fairly pretty, having successfully cemented her family’s hold on the chocolate monopoly, and now she can focus her efforts on improving conditions for their holdings in the City before she takes her true vengeance for Aunt Saabim’s murder – nice knowing you, Salford – and finally gets her wish of going home.
BUT. It seems her people have different ideas in mind regarding what’s to become of her.
Ixcho caught their mutual humor at her expense and glared. “I hope this isn’t going to be what it’s like when the two of you are married.”
A wince skittered across Ahkoet’s face, and Kaab felt her mouth drop open in panic.
Yes, I am sure this will go swimmingly and not be an utter disaster in the making at all. *Makes popcorn* I’m sure Kaab can make marriage to a man work despite all the plans for final vengeance that were always totally going to go without a hitch. *Pours a drink, settles in*
Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the fact that she’s recently started sleeping with Diane, who has absolutely NOT forgotten about the blackmailable secret Kaab is holding over her head.
*Long sip* Swimmingly.
We can build this dream together
We do still get that eyrie scene, however, and after her apparently resounding defeat of Gregory Davenant last season (there’s no sign of him among the City nobility, and it would seem that a significant amount of time has passed in the interim), our favourite Duchess is enjoying the fruits of all her political labors by, in truly poetic fashion, knuckling down and quietly getting on with business. Not even the Potentially (ha) Metaphorical bad spring weather can spoil Diane’s mood as she looks to her City’s future, and finds it looking pretty bright. Our Duchess is graceful in her quiet victories, even while she’s enjoying the spoils by steaming up her eyrie window with Kaab, and I’ll be honest. It’s almost certainly going to end badly, but I’m eating it up anyway. I mean, come on. It’s the political-power-player ship to end all ships.
AND THEY DON’T NEED NO SHINY WEATHER
THEY’RE STANDING STRONG FOREVER
NOTHING’S GONNA STOP THEM NOOOOWWWW
(Haha this is probably pathetically wrong but I CAN DREAM)
Elsewhere, the winds of change that are blowing through the City are not so pleasant for a certain Riversider. Under the dubious tutelage of the Salamander, Tess the Hand is slowly, not entirely surely learning to become The Hand, to take hold of whatever power might be there to claim in a place where being openly powerful is as likely to earn you a knife in the back as it is to secure any kind of safety.
Her immediate problem is that she’s still uncertain who ‘The Hand’ is. Or what she wants that person to be. But anything that spells progress for the City is highly unlikely to also be good for Riverside. But what can Tess do about any of that if she can’t act openly?
Well, for the moment she’s apparently content to straight up wreck the City’s shit when they show their arrogance by using Riverside as storage space without any kind of permission. How dare they.
I’m delighted and intrigued by how much change is coming, here – but on the other hand, I’m nervous as hell about it because Tess the Hand is a character who fascinates me pretty deeply. She’s only just starting to come into her own, and she’s got her ways, but regardless I’m pretty sure a good way of ensuring your survival, or that of the place you call home, is NOT to go wrecking shit belonging to the City’s political powers that be.
Oh, Tess. WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
Pass the chocolate. I’m going to need it.