In this episode, Diane discovers that City politics is even more of a boys’ club than she’d thought – and how. Elsewhere, the problem of stubborn men and how to deal with them is also proving difficult for Esha, and there’s an unpleasant turn of events in store for Tess and the River Rats.
Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
The Tremontaine writer duo of Liz Duffy Adams and Delia Sherman is one of my favourites, and they’ve only written one other episode together. That should tell you a lot. When I clocked their names attached to this episode, I was eager for more of the clever subtlety and character interaction that made their Season 3 outing such a highlight, and they have not let me down. In fact, they’ve gone one better and written another stellar episode in that vein, with an added sense of not only Looking At Camera but of Taking Camera By The Face And Staring Straight Through It.
Much of this episode revolves around the thoughts, feelings and actions of men – but it’s filtered through the (mostly) outwardly calm and (very) inwardly ragey lens of various female POVs. And most interestingly, there’s still more nuance and more shades of moral grey among those POVs than this apparent feminist solidarity on the surface might suggest.
On The Hill
Let’s start with Diane, sitting in session with the Council to secure what she believes will be the minor detail of final planning permission for the City’s new bridge. As far as Diane is aware, the matter of building a new road and cutting down an old tree isn’t anything to be particularly concerned about. It’s progress for the City, and that’s a good thing! Right?
Remember when Diane fought so hard to be granted the right to control the Tremontaine estates and money, and to take a seat on the Council as Duchess in her own right? Remember how she thought the biggest problem she was facing was opposition from one man, albeit a truly devious, cold-blooded and despicable one?
*Stares at camera*
Yeah. Turns out that sexist, self-centred assholery was not the sole province of Gregory Davenant. Diane might have slain the dragon, but misogyny is one fugly hydra. Entitled men who are used to getting their way will not give ground easily to one upstart woman – and in this case, the ground in question is literal. When she’s faced with outrage over the notion of building the bridge, and a road, over and through the Grove of the Sacred Oak, Diane asks the very reasonable question: What’s that, and why is it so important? She’s met with silence, and literally informed that The Men can’t explain it to her, so she’s just going to have to take no for an answer. Even though it pretty much isn’t one. And in this scene is one golden nugget of a quote that encapsulates perfectly why female rage is eating itself in our own political climate:
Diane did not like direct confrontation. Arguments made her impatient and liable to lose control of her temper, which, she knew, would be disastrous. Karleigh could swear, Nevilleson could rage without anyone thinking the less of their sense or opinions. But Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, must retain her poise and her smile, come what may.
Smile, Duchess, it can’t be that bad. You’re so much prettier when you smile. Women are so emotionally fragile, it’s a shame, it’s a pity, it’s an unbecoming sight, why don’t you just smile?
Diane may have cultivated her poised and elegant persona with care, but what choice did she have? I’ve never felt emotionally closer to the Duchess than I did during this episode. Never in all four seasons, and there have been some very engaging moments throughout. This scene, though. This damned scene. Diane ends up simply walking away, and I can’t blame her one bit.
Middle (City) Ground
Elsewhere in the City, Esha is still puttering around Ambassador House, though at least now all of her hard gardening work is bearing fruit. Thus, she must find other pursuits with which to distract herself, although the seed of a thought of possibly returning home to Zeren has planted itself, thanks to Salford’s aside last week. Nonetheless, she attempts to play matchmaker and coax Reza and Rafe towards sorting out their differences and seeing sense about their painfully obvious feelings for each other.
But one can never underestimate a man’s ability to cling stubbornly to a course of action, once he’s already put his foot in it.
*Stares harder at camera*
In short: neither Rafe nor Reza can be persuaded to sit down and talk openly to each other, much less to do something about all the pent-up chemistry between them. Esha knows what us ‘shippers all know – that regardless of what might happen in the near future, not doing something about their feelings for each other may well be the thing they regret the most in the end.
As much as I’m on Team Esha here, though, I can’t deny that the conflict is as interesting as any potential for sexytimes. Reza can’t risk putting Rafe’s life in danger because of who he is, nor can he risk giving in to love again. Rafe can’t ignore his deep-seated feelings about monarchy and class distinctions any more than he can ignore his attraction to Reza. I want, so badly, for Esha’s logic to win out for them and for something glorious to happen, even if it’s short-lived, because I want them both to be happy. But for that, they have to get out of their own way, and that doesn’t seem like it will happen easily, if it happens at all.
Down and Out(?) in Riverside
So Diane’s co-conspired plan to push the bridge project through its last hurdle in Council fell apart, and it’s left to Kaab to share the news with Tess because now it includes Karleigh’s “solution” of building the bridge on Riverside’s south end instead. Even though people are living there and it will displace those people, most likely without any real effort at re-homing them because this is the Council of Lords we’re talking about. Who cares about a bunch of poor people who are probably all criminals anyway, am I right?
*Digs fingernails into camera casing while eyes get bloodshot*
Kaab does, however (and bless her wrongheaded soul), try to persuade Tess to see the upside. Sure, people will lose their old homes, but they’ll totally be offered better ones! The City won’t up-end life in Riverside for nothing. This will mean new jobs! New homes! New opportunities! New pockets to pick and fresh minds to scam and yeah, it’s entirely understandable that Tess loses her shit and kicks her old lover out at this point, because try as they might to align their interests, it’s still painfully clear that Kaab cannot, and is not particularly trying to, grasp the interests of Riverside. Tess’s people are less important to her than her own family, or her alliance with Diane. At least her alliance with Diane serves her interests. She seems to be trying to patch things up with Tess out of nothing more than a sense that she did something wrong there and she feels bad, but once again Kaab is putting both feet right in it in her efforts to make things right.
And on a final note, this week: I WAS NOT EXPECTING CHARLOTTE’S PLAN TO GO SO WRONG OH SHIT THIS IS NOT OKAY.