Tremontaine: What the River Wants

Header image: Tremontaine - The Final Season (copyright Serial Box: two figures swordfighting, seen from above)

As the weather improves, the River is still running high. Up on the Hill, Diane is finding her latest affair unexpectedly satisfying; but in the City, Rafe is given cause for concern by his new lover. In Riverside, Kaab and Tess make peace, former lovers finally able to be just good friends.

Tremontaine has been on hiatus for 2 weeks, and yet I’ve been putting off writing about the last episode because I WAS NOT READY. Go no further if you want to avoid spoilers; I’ve got feelings I need to work out.

Let’s start on safe ground, with the City’s latest unlikely affair. Diane is unexpectedly taken with Lord Octavian Perry: an arrangement of convenience is beginning to look more like a meeting of minds (and, err, other bits). Perry is as adept at misleading his peers as Diane is, with his clandestine and successful interest in commerce and his razor sharp brain. Plus he’s quite good with a flute, apparently.

Who am I kidding, I ship them. I ship them madly. Nonetheless, I am quietly urging Diane to be cautious. I find Perry’s fascination with Diane’s heirs… concerning. He’s not wrong: spending time with her family is an excellent way to convince the Council she has given up her political ambitions; and she should be grooming her unruly grandchildren if she does want to keep Tremontaine in the family.

But the Duchy doesn’t have to stay in the family. A Duke (or a Duchess) can choose their heir. For all his joking about clever, ugly children, what does Octavian Perry really want from Diane? Is he just thrilled by his beautiful, clever lover? Because meeting Diane’s descendants seems like an odd demand, and I’m quite certain he – unlike Diane – knows exactly where Honora is.

And oh my but it’s plaguing me that I can’t recall who the various Perrys of the books were descended from! Where do you fit in, Octavian? I can’t recall, and it’s making me nervous. I am made of questions and anticipation. I’m also hoping wildly that Octavian is genuine, and that Diane has finally found a lover who can both make her laugh and keep up with her machinations.

It looks like Rafe’s ecstatic peace of mind won’t even last an episode. No sooner has he found his way into Reza’s bed than he overhears a conversation he shouldn’t as he stumbles out of it: Reza and his guests discussing the invasion of the Land.

Say this for Rafe: he’s grown up a lot. The Rafe Fenton we first met wouldn’t have stopped to reason out that no invasion could be imminent given the weather. He’d have (incoherently and melodramatically) confronted Reza on the spot, or run to raise an alarm. And given it’s not that long since his best friend nearly drowned him to ensure his silence, hats off to Rafe for having the balls to quietly and calmly question Reza later, given just how dangerous he knows his lover to be.

I was reassured by Reza’s response (while I’m left wondering what game the Emperor is playing, I’m prepared to accept the Tullans are here only to bring Kaab’s tale full circle). Besides, his comforting answer allows us to focus on what we’re really all keen to see: his evolving relationship with Rafe. Surely – surely – Rafe’s future lies in Chartil?

Perhaps. But first, he must beg the Duchess’s aid once more. And I won’t lie, this whole scene had me in stitches. Diane is utterly ill-equipped to deal with children; both she and Honora seem to think the kids are playing pieces they can score points with. Young Davey is every bit as self-centred and erratic as his older self will one day be. The scene is glorious even before he throws chocolate all over his grandmother’s floor and pelts out of the room …and straight into Rafe Fenton, who – oh, that painful beat of the heart – instantly recognises his beloved William in his wayward grandson. And so Rafe is surprisingly good with him: teasing, distracting, teaching. Is this the encounter that set Davey/Alec’s feet on the road to be a scholar to spite his grandmother? I like to think so (partly because it’s such a good scene; partly because I love the symmetry of this being just one more way in which Rafe Fenton might frustrate the Duchess).

Meanwhile, Kaab did nothing this week to make me feel better about the fridging of David Rook – or well, more specifically, the introduction of his distraught lover (I’d half thought she might become relevant as a red herring for Kaab, but no: Mahana seems to exist only to add pathos. Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh). However, Kaab’s visit with Tess formed a lovely interlude in contrast: former lovers and sometime opponents finally able to celebrate an enduring friendship in spite of the odds (and speaking of symmetry, I love how this episode is shaped around the delight of the new lovers; the courage and reassurance of the ahem-slightly-more-established couple; and the longer-term love of old friends).

Reading the scene a second time, however, it takes on an entirely greater resonance.

It’s a farewell to Tess, isn’t it? We first met her through Kaab’s rash, covetous gaze and so we see her through Kaab’s wiser eyes now: older, a little thinner, but stronger in herself and more powerful. Kaab’s equal, worn by cares for those she feels responsible for, but standing firmly on her own.

There’s so much water under the bridge between these two: Vincent’s death; Kaab’s rejection of Riverside’s punishment of Shade and her incitement of the siege of Riverside; their deeply opposed views on the building of the new bridge. And yet there’s so much affection still here. First time around, I liked that they could reach for friendship and find common ground in the regrets of leadership. Second time around, I’m nearly in tears because dammit, they were going to go dancing.

Ellen Kushner, did you just break my heart?

I think you just broke my heart.

Oh, Tess.