I'm doing two weeks' worth of TremonTEAM challenges.



Last week: The women of TREMONTAINE are passionate, powerful, and driven. Write a blog piece discussing your favorite one and why.

Favorite? Really? I love them all.

Diane is a force of stability, which is ironic, all things considered. She isn't really trying to change the world. Heck, she stands against the tide of progress, as she is pledged to keep her own people from learning the secrets of navigation.

She has done terrible things, and some of them were foolish and unnecessary. But, I think the reason she keeps my sympathy is that she does step back and reflect, and that when she does something not merely cruel, but foolish, it is generally because she has bottled everything up so tightly inside her that the pressure bursts out somewhere. Another reason, of course, is that I first encountered her in Swordspoint, where she is no less terrible, but where one sees some of what she does for the city.

Now, what she does for the city is not necessarily what everyone in the city needs, or even what the city itself needs. Tremontaine comes first, and Tremontaine means Diane. But, by Swordspoint, she has become a mentor to the next generation, and while some of her pupils may not be the people we cheer for, some of them are. We are starting to see this here.

Basil Halliday's ending assessment of Diane in Season 2 isn't entirely wrong. Diane is grieving and under pressure -- and she is stepping up to a position that will take every ounce of her ability.

I suppose in some ways, I like her for the reason I like Euripiedes's Medea. I started to write a paper in college about how this Medea challenged the norms of her society, and then realized that I had to change my thesis. Everything Medea does in that play is done in the name of upholding tradition. The same is true of Diane.

It's fascinating that Diane isn't the one who first thinks of holding Tremontaine in her own right. That's the Duchess of Hartsholt. I enjoyed the glimpse of that formidable woman, and I'd like to see more of her.

I like Tess as well, although I'm not sure I understand what she can and cannot accomplish -- not as forger, but as a power in Riverside. Season 2's been annoying coy at times with hints and apparent contradictions, and we still have no idea what Tess learned from the Salamander.

Kaab. Oh Kaab. I've lost a great deal of sympathy for her, and I've discussed why. She's a strong woman, yes, but she's a bit of a f*ck up this season, and I don't generally enjoy reading about that kind of person.

But Kaab has a lot to live up to, between her legendary mother and her aunt. Saabim is remarkable. She heads the family in the City, but is also capable of delegating. I don't know if she's ever been in a difficult position as far as loyalties and making decisions for the family go, but the biggest flaw I know of is a lack of perfect understanding when she learns that Kaab has been telling Tess family secrets. It would be nice if she magically understood that Kaab wanted to make Tess family, but one can't really expect that, and I don't know if it would have changed anything. And, while she is angry, she doesn't seem to doubt Tess's discretion or to feel the need to take action against her.

As for Esha, well, I don't really know her. She has made a place for herself, as Diane has, and like Diane, has occasional trouble with overly ardent suitors. Other than that? She doesn't like being in debt. She oh so conveniently copies incriminating papers of her clients. I am hoping we'll learn enough about that next season that it doesn't smack so much of Esha ex machina, because it's honestly a little disappointing that Diane's triumph this season rests on this person we'd never heard of having this unusual habit and having conveniently gotten the kind of dirt Diane needs.

I am not sure I'd call Micah powerful, but she is passionate and driven. I'd like to see more where she's less of a plot device herself. Folks have mentioned Honora, who seems quite passionate and driven in her one appearance, and I'd like to see more of her as well.

This week: I've done two of the three challenges, skipping the first one.

Challenge two: write a blog post on the biggest twist/turn/shock of this season

Hm. I think the biggest shock to me was the Dragon Chancellor's attempt to force Diane into marriage. On the one hand, it was nice to see that Diane can't control everything and that he is smarter and less manipulable than he seemed. On the other, this seemed to come out of the blue. I'd have liked to see more of the inside of his mind -- when did he decide on this course? What did he plan to do regarding his wife and Diane's husband?

Arthur Chel's death saddened me, but didn't really shock me. As soon as Shade approached him, I knew where that would end. And, I didn't really think Shade would be allowed to harm Micah, who is everyone's favorite character, triggering amazing protective instincts in the fans.

Similarly, Kaab not leaving the city didn't surprise me. She's a main character, and while I would have been fine with her leaving, I half expected something to stop her.

Saabim's death did surprise me. It's not that this isn't a setting where such things happen, but it was astonishing that it happened to someone apparently well positioned to prevent such things. I admit to wondering whether she was poisoned, but I don't think it likely at the moment, and, indeed, mostly hope not. If you're going with "sometimes, people just get sick and die", go with it!

I am somewhat shocked not that Kaab is remaining, but that she's now apparently head of Balam intelligence. Really? Really, Chuleb, there's no one else who could _possibly_ be an Agent? Like you? Or your contacts? In the entire family, only Saabim was capable of this until Kaab arrived?

I was a little surprised that Kaab came up with a solution for what to do about William. But, it fit. It makes sense, and I hope that he does spend the rest of his life with the Kinwiinik in their land, as that makes all of the rumors folks will have spread about him by the time of Swordspoint utterly wrong, and I like that.

Challenge three: Write a recap of the season/hopes for next season.

It's been an eventful season.

Diane was inspired to become Duchess Tremontaine in her own right, and succeeded in doing so. I'm not thrilled that this took an Esha ex machina. I'm sorry she didn't destroy the Dragon Chancellor. I hope that this loose thread will come up in Season 3. After all, he's not pleased, and he has a grudge. And, Diane may well have reason not to want to remove him -- part of which may be that she'd want Arlen's input. Arlen may have more than an inkling about the Dragon Chancellor's embezzlement, and may have his own reasons for wanting to keep the man in place.

Diane's also got Micah staying in her house, and that is an interesting conundrum. It's good for both of them, but Micah is likely to get more and more trying, unless Diane figures out how to establish rules that work for them both. I don't know if Diane will, like Kaab, tire of the game, and I hope she is more sensible than that.

Honora's in the city, and I hope we see more of her. It felt odd to have her blow in like a gale, only to be fobbed off somewhere offstage where we never hear from her again this season.

I like that we're seeing Diane starting to become a mentor to Lionel Chesney and that we're seeing the interest she has in Basil Halliday and vice versa. I'd like to see more of that, more of her as a force of stability, and more of her working with Arlen.

I'd like to see more of Esha and how she fits in. I'd like to see more of Reza, though if he thinks Vincent is dead, I'm also fine with him going offstage. Seeing more of Vincent, and perhaps seeing his sister would be nice, but it isn't necessary. I don't want to see the authors falling over themselves to rush to set up the board for Swordspoint, and I'm very ambivalent about the Vincent-Kaab duel.

Ah yes, the duel. We've had Vincent lose his arm, as many of us were expecting, and I'm very ambivalent about that, both because of the concern about rushing to set up the board for future tales and because the whole thing made me want to shake Kaab.

Kaab. Oh Kaab. The woman who seemed, last season, to be making good progress as an agent, as a swordswoman, and as Tess's lover has thoroughly screwed up at least two out of three. I would have preferred her relationship with Tess to have broken in, well, a more mature way on Kaab's part. Instead, Kaab refuses to clean up after herself, complains about how much she prefers her family's ways, and crosses lines you don't cross if you're a Riversider. And that last could have been more poignant if she, as well as Tess, had been aware of the problem.

Kaab and Vincent were set up by Diane in a duel that was supposed to end in death. And, what I object to the most is Kaab's childishness. I could see her thinking that disabling Vincent would be enough and being wrong. But this?

And what happened to the agreement they'd made involving her teaching him the dagger? This seems to have been utterly forgotten.

As for Vincent, we now have most of his history. He left Riverside because of a messy kill of which he was ashamed, a kill to avenge his teacher. He went to Chartil, where he became Reza's lover, but he wanted to dedicate himself to the sword, not to a man, and he wanted to be a swordsman, not a soldier.

So, he returned to the city and became Tess's protector, a responsibility he unaccountably sheds this season based on what logic I cannot fathom. But then, this season, he is moved by passion, thrown off his guard by Reza's presence. He becomes Diane's swordsman because of a mess he made of a duel she had him fight to aid Esha. He loses an arm to Kaab because he offends Diane by daring to suggest she is too good to have him murder the Dragon Chancellor. And he has Tess make everyone think he is dead, which is actually probably sensible, given what seem to be his priorities.

It's odd that Diane hired this man, given what will happen, but that also begins to explain some of what she will later understand (or think she understands) about swordsmen. She currently still has the first swordsman of the house, but needs to hire another.

I do wonder about Norris, turned out without a recommendation. This is the man hired by Diane, a newcomer to the Highgate household. We never see her hiring him. I regret that, because they seem to have one of the same flaws: An assumption that everyone they interact with thinks the way they do.

But, that said, Norris sets the household on edge by his belief in conspiracies, unaware that the only conspirator is Diane herself. He's a noir detective in the wrong story. He also keeps Rafe and Micah from rescuing / kidnapping William, does so non-lethally, and strengthens Diane's position. I hate to say it, but he deserved better from her.

Norris insists he's not from Riverside, and that brings up one of the themes of the season: Riverside. Riverside is a place, but also an attitude, a community, a family. Norris isn't part of it. Vincent and Tess are. Kaab isn't, and one of the final straws for Tess is her realization that Kaab never even considered it an option to become a Riversider, joining Tess's family.

Florian and Shade? That's apparently more complicated than I realized.

I wanted to hate Florian and Shade. Who wouldn't? They threaten our beloved Micah, and they threaten Tess. Shade kills Arthur in an imbecilic attempt to get to Kaab, who doesn't even realize that's what's happened until near the end of the very last episode.

It's the joy they take in their activities and each other that makes them all too easy to like. That said, I'm not entirely sure I understand their plot thread, which is the thread about warehouse thefts, particularly of chocolate.

As near as I understand it:

Someone's been stealing from Rafe's father's warehouses, possibly them.
Kaab seems to figure out that there have been such thefts in the first episode, only to apparently forget it later.
There have been thefts from the warehouses with Kinwiinik chocolate, which is a problem because there will be an inspection by the Batab's people, probably next season.
Florian and Shade are doing the stealing and selling to the Salamander.
The Salamander wants them to have papers for the chocolate, which I don't quite follow, but that's part of why they go to Tess and why Florian goes to Arthur.

I'm not sure how involved the Salamander is. I mean, they're a fence, but beyond that?

Are only Shade and Florian the ones who thought up the plan of stealing the chocolate? Or did the Salmander have a larger role?

I'm presuming the first, as the season closer makes more sense that way, and the Salamander's advice to Tess makes more sense.

So, Riverside is a community, a family. Florian tried to join it, more or less, but Tess informs him that he is no longer family. Why? Just as Kaab is sent away because she is an outsider planning to go to outside authorities, Florian is shunned because his plans brought the outsiders in.

That is, the chocolate thefts attracted attention from the Kinwiinik, who don't play by Riverside rules, and from others in the City -- and the murder of Arthur did as well. That murder was unprovoked. And, as Tess says, Riverside isn't getting enough from Florian to make it worth Riverside's while.

I don't know how fair this is, but if it truly was Florian's idea to steal the chocolate, then yes, Florian brought the unwanted attention. What could he have done to make it worth Riverside's while?

Interestingly, Shade isn't shunned, but can choose between Florian and Riverside. Interesting because it is Shade who killed Arthur at a time when Florian did what was probably the correct thing by the rules of the game that is Riverside -- he pulled himself and Shade out of Riverside to lay low. And when Shade killed Arthur, he warned Shade of the consequences for doing that again.

But, apparently, Riverside has judged Florian responsible for Arthur's death.

That said... both are alive. And Shade isn't present when Tess informs Florian that he's persona non grata. Has Shade chosen Riverside over Florian? What will either of them do next season? I'd like to know, especially as Kaab has now figured out Shade is Arthur's murderer, and is potentially in a position to do something about that.

If Shade's left Riverside, this is no longer Riverside's problem. If he hasn't... well, if he's sticking to Riverside and staying in Riverside, then Riverside should protect him from outsiders, up to and including getting him to a place of safety. (This may not count stopping outsiders coming in and killing him, especially if the outsider is Kaab.)

As for Kaab, she's done what she could for Rafe, if as ineptly as she could, right down to remembering just too late to inform Rafe about William. Still, I am glad that clears their slate, because the stakes were high enough that I would likely have made the same decision Kaab made last season if I were her.

But now, she's in Saabim's position, which really boggles me. Saabim gave birth to a healthy baby, and then died of a sudden fever. This is shocking, as she's exactly the sort of person who should be immune to that sort of thing -- and I admit I wondered if there were secret foul play, but I mostly hope not.

Given that Kaab missed her ship, given that she now knows who murdered Arthur, and given Saabim's death, I understand completely why she's staying. I'd expected something to keep her in the city. And, she is useful to her family.

But, I don't understand why Chuleb or anyone thinks that Kaab can take her aunt's place as "chief of Kinwiinik intelligence in the Land". She's barely a decent agent -- flashes of brilliance and flashes of shocking incompetence, even ignoring what her family doesn't know -- and she's never, to the best of my knowledge and belief, managed agents and information networks. She knows zilch about this, as far as I know. And she's going to be in charge? Not Chuleb? Not any of the other Balam? I find that hard to believe.

I'd like to see next season starting with an early explanation that, no, Kaab isn't head of intelligence, but more of Chuleb's apprentice, and Chuleb is teaching her and others about how you run an intelligence network. We have seen him doing some of that last season.

And, of course, the inspection will be coming.
And rivalries with other families. Arthur's family can't be pleased at his fate, and one wonders whether they'll learn of Kaab's role in it.
And, of course, no one of the Kinwiinik knows exactly how badly Kaab messed up. She is the one who let slip the key to the secrets of navigation, and she has, as far as I can tell, never confessed to this. I understand why. But, Rafe apparently still has the key to that, with Micah's notes.

Rafe is also going to try to build his own school. I'm skeptical that he'll succeed, but it will be interesting to watch him try. I'd like to see more of his friends, especially Joshua.

And he's reconciled with his family. His father's a remarkable man. I'd like to see him and his lawyer with Tremontaine's lawyer. I'd like to see more of him and Micah's Cousin Reuben, as we've established they've met.

Family runs through this season. Micah's, Rafe's, Kaab's -- all reasonably functional, though not infallible. What about Arthur's? And are there any other young Kinwiinik who think as he does, as people whose ties are far more to the Land and the City than to some home their elders insist has first claim on their loyalty?

And Diane's own family, such as it is?

And the family that is Riverside. Tess needs a new protector. Does Riverside still consider Vincent to have been that until news of his death? If so, she has two weeks.

Finally, there's the Salamander and their ties to Tess. What is going on there? How does the Salamander fit into Riverside? How fanciful is it of me to think of them as Riverside's equivalent of Arlen?

And is it Fall of 2017 yet?

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