Gird your feelings. Grab a tissue. It’s time to confront (some of) the deepest wounds of our protagonists’ hearts and start wrapping up our loose ends.
This week’s episode is a gift from the writers to their faithful fans. At the point in the season where we usually begin gearing up for the finale and inflicting damage every which way, they’re taking the time for some much-needed healing. Admittedly, I read the episode on an airplane so Altitude-Adjusted Lachrymosity Syndrome may have had a hand in my emotional response, but I rather think this week merited the teary eyes.
Because OH MY HEART I didn’t know I needed the gift of William’s reintroduction and reconciliation (oh, uh, hey, spoilers). But gosh, I’ll take it, and oh, it was appreciated.
William made it safely to Binkiinha, where he is recovering (after a fashion) and is respected. Kaab was right: her people’s priests have a much better understanding of the mystical in general and of the effects of shadowroot specifically. William may never be the man Diane poisoned, but he remains a fine man nonetheless. My heart swelled to learn that he has swiftly learned the language and promptly sought out scholars to teach him history (because of course he has).
However, he will always be troubled with visions, and the most troubling for his peace of mind are of a certain young scholar back home. In a call back to season 1’s dream-ridden Go and Tell The Morning Star, William still has the gift (or curse) of unconsciously walking into Rafe’s dreams – although Rafe never quite understands the message William so desperately wants to convey.
Oh, Rafe. It’s to be expected that you would ignore dreams of your lost love and instead allow them to fuel your guilt over your new beau. What came as a surprise – and deep delight – was the full-hearted blessing William wants to give him. Love as thou wilt, young scholar. The love of your life only wants for you to embrace it and be happy.
Are you sobbing? No, I’m sobbing.
Oh, William. I may have cheered the Duchess on in her terrible plot, but I am so glad to see you get a happy ending. May you live long in peace and honour.
Back in the City, events are moving swiftly to resolve other loose ends, and the emotional rollercoaster isn’t over yet. Some academic peacocks in a tavern just happen to be overheard by Kaab as they discuss Rafe’s work; and one just happens to mention that he has a copy. It’s all very convenient, but it’s also charming to see the young students idolising Rafe and embracing his ideas (even if I was vaguely suspicious they were amongst the crowd who assaulted the Academy last year). Honestly, the University is as toxic and as quixotic as the Hill, all gossip and spite.
It’s a testing moment for Kaab: she steals the manuscript (of course), but will she destroy it? She worked so hard to thwart Rafe – she nearly killed him to keep her people’s secrets – and now she has the last copy of his thesis in her hands.
“Knowledge cannot be held back forever. And neither, I hope, can true friendship”
Instead, we get an apology and a reconciliation. The floods have given Kaab perspective (even though she still doesn’t know about Tess, oh ye gods help). The knowledge is already being discussed in taverns; it will be examined further no matter what happens to the manuscript itself (so Rafe gets his victory over the doctors at the University, too). This allows Kaab to choose to be a true friend: not only one who doesn’t drown her friends (which – let’s face it – is setting the bar for friendship awfully low), but one who can set aside her duty to make them feel better.
Besides, she had a terribly guilty conscience. But I’m proud of you, Kaab. And somewhat afraid of how you’ll respond when you do hear about Tess. Kaab has gone out of her way to make peace with her two oldest friends in the City; I can’t imagine she’ll handle news of Tess’s death well – although in time I think she’ll love and be comforted by the legends that Riversiders are building around the Hand. Tess the Hand’s tale-telling funeral was glorious, and so Riverside it hurt: I have no words, I just spilled more tears.
There were lighter notes in amongst the week’s drama: Micah adopting a cow during the floods and meeting her family in the marketplace as she tried to return it was both very cute and oddly… meandering. It felt like a slice of life that sits oddly so late in the arc. I’m left wondering whether Micah is being set up to go home – or being set free to move on, as are our other principals. If so, where will she go? To Chartil with Rafe and Reza? (and yes, I do hope they are going to leave together) To Binkiinha with Kaab? None of these seem right to me; I guess in my heart of hearts I hope that she and Joshua will take over the Academy. Cow or no cow.
What seems entirely right is Basil coming around to the idea of being Crescent Chancellor. Basil is such a rare flower of the Hill: clever, earnest, and honest. I’m not sure what was more charming: two men enjoying a platonic evening of friendship and respect (have we ever seen such a thing in Tremontaine?) or the low trick Octavian and Solange pull to make up Basil’s mind. It was a much-needed moment of delight amongst the high emotion.
So I have just 3 episodes left to go, and no idea what the writers have in store. Will there be one more crisis before the end, or will events continue to resolve themselves so our protagonists can move on in peace? I don’t know, but I think I’ll buy a new box of tissues before I continue reading, just in case…