In this episode, NOTHING IS OKAY.
Also, Diane meets her grandson for the first time!
Let’s discuss Tremontaine.
This episode is the first in the final season to be written by Ellen Kushner, and in retrospect I probably should have recognised what this meant?
Reader, I did not recognise it.
Diane’s daughter Honora makes a return in this episode, and with her we get our first taste of The Mad Duke as a wee little boy!
He is SUCH A TERROR. I will gleefully admit that I cackled throughout Diane’s first meeting with her grandson. Crockery is abused, her chocolate is insulted and there’s a spirited attempt at a getaway. HELLO “DAVEY” YOU AWFUL WEE GEM, YOU.
We’ve known all along that Diane was never going to win any Mother of the Year awards, of course, but this whole disastrous encounter gives us a much clearer picture of the relationship between the Duchess and her daughter, and it’s really no wonder that Honora escaped her mother’s clutches as soon as she got the chance. What’s interesting here is that even while I sympathise with her, I have to admit that the vast difference between mother and daughter doesn’t necessarily mean that Honora is a better mother than Diane. For all that she clearly refuses to let her mother either control her life or ignore her presence (make up your mind, Nora), I’m getting the sense here that her own children are acceptable to her as a card to play against Diane. The Duchess will need an heir eventually, and Honora may not want anything to do with Tremontaine House or its fortune but that shouldn’t have to mean her children are left without. But if that gives the impression that she’s acting purely in their best interests, this scene pretty much puts that notion to bed. She seems so determined to show Diane that her children are not there to be controlled by her that she’s ended up with no control of her children.
There is so much pettiness and spite flying back and forth here, I’m surprised neither of them choked on it. It’s no wonder Alec turned out the way he did.
And the crowning glory of that scene? Rafe Fenton showing up just in time to meet Tiny Alec, recognise him as his first love’s grandson (pause for Feelings) and win him over with geometry. He achieves what Diane never will, in the space of about five minutes. Will he ever see little Alec again? I have no idea, but my headcanon says RAFE FENTON, GEOMETRY TUTOR.
Make Love, Not War
Speaking of Rafe and exemplary maturity, he actually manages to actively avoid causing unnecessary drama this week!
I know. I was shocked as well.
Upon overhearing a conversation between Reza and the visiting Tullans that appears to implicate his beloved prince in a plot to invade the Land and conquer its people, Rafe confronts him about what he heard and asks Reza to explain. Which he does, very logically and calmly and without trying to distract his younger lover with anything that might otherwise typically distract him. Ahem.
It’s all so refreshing! So grown-up! So sensible and respectful of each party’s background and their feelings! It’s the complete opposite of what happened the last time Rafe heard something about Reza that he didn’t like. I ate it up, and oh god I want more. (I also wanted Rafe to stay for that bath, but I guess we can’t have it all.)
We also get a reminder that people like Rafe, who have a passion for knowledge and learning, are held in far higher esteem in Chartil than they seem to be in his City, and yet again I was left wanting to shake our young philosopher and yell LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, DAMN YOU AND BY THE WAY TAKE MICAH WITH YOU.
It’s the ending they all deserve, OK?
I don’t want to talk about the rest of the episode. I’m not ready. But obviously we have to, so…
What. The. Fuck. Everly.
So I was speculating pretty wildly about what their discovery beneath the island would lead to, but I was NOT ready for this to happen. I don’t mind admitting that it blindsided me, and that’s entirely to the credit of these writers – especially Ellen, for handling the twist itself so mercilessly well.
Even knowing all this time that Tess was prepared to put Riverside first in her life, no matter what it cost her, I never saw this coming – though if I’m being completely honest with myself, I probably should have. The moment she and Kaab finally, truly resolved to put their past behind them and move forward on a truly equal, respectful (so damned warm-hearted) footing and Kaab asked Tess to go dancing with her, a little voice in the back of my head went “oh, no”. And I should have listened to it.
Oh, Tess. God damn it.
But I’ll distract myself from my helpless sniffling here for a moment, because I also want to chew a little bit on the open reveal of Everly’s … mystical nature? Because it turns out that the ‘Salamander’ appellation wasn’t entirely metaphorical?
I both love and hate the way that anything otherworldly that happens in this story (taking the Riverside saga as a whole, novels and all) is limited to fleeting, puzzling and sometimes entirely questionable occurrences. Also, that every incident of something mystical happening is bound up in madness and the darker aspects of nature, or natural disasters.
The crows. Basil Halliday’s hunting accident, last season. The threat of flooding, here. William’s mental affliction; Everly’s deliberate(?) mysticism; Theron Campion and Basil St. Cloud’s whole fraught relationship in The Fall of the Kings. I understand the approach: you can’t have magic existing out in the open if no one really believes in it, and so we’re left puzzled and mystified because these characters are, or would be, too.
But oh god, I cannot stand it. I CAN’T STAND IT.
Here, it served as one more “oh, no” moment because I knew what it was leading to, but I still wasn’t ready.
THEY WERE GOING TO GO DANCING, ELLEN, YOU MONSTER.