In Riverside, the only true loyalty is to Riverside. Tess and the Salamander give Shade an impossible choice in an attempt to end the stalemate. Meanwhile, Rafe’s plans for his school begin to take shape, while Kaab continues to grow into her new role.
There’s two meanings to this week’s title: the need to re-open the bridge to Riverside is Tess’s prime concern, but the episode is a bridge to new possibilities for the rest of our cast.
Having talked about privilege last week, this week underlines the extent to which life simply goes on for the rest of the City whilst Riverside is under siege. Micah and Joshua are unsurprisingly unnerved when Rafe brings Florian out to the Inkpot to celebrate Joshua’s graduation, but Florian finds little to entertain him in the company of academics (although I found it hard to tell whether his jibe at Micah was a reference to her past adventures in the Brown Dog or a hint that he may have plans for her in the future).
…and it’s just struck me that I’ve missed Joshua. He’s dissolute, but he’s got a good heart, and it was a pleasure to see him not only take interest in Rafe’s plans, but promptly begin to polish them up. Because let’s face it, Rafe is an ideas man, but he’s not big on detail. Joshua, it seems, has the sort of brain that can predict the challenges and come up with plans to make it a success in spite of them. He’s also (oh, welcome back, Joshua) the sort of man who understands how precarious Rafe’s arrangement with the Duchess is – and promptly understands the implications and worries about Micah’s future.
My heart glowed a little when he tried to explain this to her – not least for the way in which she considered it, and – I think for the first time – began to imagine a future for herself independent of her noble sponsor and indeed Rafe. With the insight that people are ciphers and behaviour has patterns, she has a new confidence beyond her belief that her friends and family will always be there for her.
If Micah is growing up, so is Kaab. But for all the support of Chuleb and her aunts, not everyone is quite ready to accept her as the new Trader in the City. One mysterious informant is keeping their distance (and oh wouldn’t we all like to know who that is! Was I the only one who immediately thought of the Salamander?). Meanwhile, Chuleb’s outburst of grief reveals a possible new threat. Last week, Kaab casually dismissed the imminent arrival of the inspector from Binkiinha; this week, there’s a hint that Saabim may have been murdered. It seems Kinwiinik internal politics may be a major theme this season, with the chocolate crisis put to bed.
However, nobody is growing up as fast as Tess is growing into her new role as the uncrowned queen of Riverside. Tess was always liked and respected – but she seems to have gained an authority she previously lacked, and it’s unclear to me whether this is in her own right or as an extension of the Salamander’s authority (because there’s no doubt everyone gives the Salamander room). She has gathered her little coterie of advisers, and she has – as I suspected – leashed Reza by making him her bodyguard (temporarily, presumably). It’s her flash of wisdom that unlocks the conundrum of what to do with Shade – and the scenes that follow were both impressive and chilling in their ruthlessness. I honestly didn’t expect what happened on the bridge, although in retrospect there’s a logic to it that gives me the shudders.
Thankfully, Diane and Esha were on hand to provide a rather different sort of thrill. It’s been on the cards for a while (because the writers just love to tease us), but this week finally sees our glamorous ladies reset the boundaries of their friendship. I may be wrong, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen Diane do something purely because she wants to, rather than to further her ambitions. It may also be the steamiest scene we’ve had yet, so keep your fan handy! My my, I’m feeling warm just thinking about it. I’m ever so curious to see how this relationship evolves – and I do hope Lord Davenant doesn’t get wind of it. I’d hate to see that creep derail something this glorious.
Tremontaine is available from Serial Box Publishing in ebook and audio format – episodes available individually or via a season pass to read it all in one glorious go.