Devrim Lingnau lights up the screen in The Empress as the second episode becomes more layered with political intrigue.
This recap of the Netflix series The Empress season 1, episode 2, “The Arrival,” contains spoilers.
Where some things change, they really all stay the same. Elisabeth (played by Devrim Lingnau) has arrived at her new digs and has no idea what she is in for. Meanwhile, since Duchess Elisabeth is coming, her staff is fine-tuning so that they can engage her “mind and spirit.” And if you look closely, one of them is part of the resistance we saw at the end of the pilot episode. She now has a beard as a “lady-in-waiting” to the empress to gain her trust for the resistance.
The Empress season 1 episode 2 recap
However, things are happening behind the scenes. Like Sophia is splitting at the seams, it appears she is mourning a child’s death. She is found sobbing while on all fours in her bed chambers. When she gives her soon-to-be daughter-in-law a necklace to wear, she has a flashback of chasing the child around. It does not help that her husband, who lives in the country, arrives, hinting that he wants a chance at physical relations. Even more distracting is a former lover, the Prince of Vasa, who Sophia wants to allow in her bed, but instead asks if Franz is indeed his son. Sophia will not give him an answer.
And Franz (played by Philip Froissant) breaks it off officially with the countess. She is heartbroken. He must move on though and has a meeting with his advisors on if he should join the war and honor the treaty with Russia. He says no because that will take all their money, and the country is starving. The emperor tried to arrange for a railroad to be built through Vienna to improve his country’s economy, but he must come up with more money. It seems like he has another mess to clean up everywhere he turns, including his brother. Maxi, it turns out, impregnated two sisters. One killed herself when he refused to marry her, and the other ended up in an insane asylum. Franz takes care of it by offering the father nobility and a pension.
The relationship between Elisabeth and Helene has been strained for months. The blonde sister has cut her hair short and refuses to talk to her. Yet, she came with the family to attend the wedding. But like all sisters, she is eventually there for the future empress. For instance, she is upset when Elisabeth feels violated by going through a “purity” and “chastity” confirmation procedure involving a doctor and an obnoxious religious figure. During the pre-wedding ceremony, she boldly challenges the man’s authority by saying it was nothing more than an excuse for two older men to look up her skirt. Franz and Sophie are appalled by her behavior. Even her mother knocks over a tray to distract everyone from her daughter’s attitude. Elisabeth’s future husband insists she go rest since she obviously is not well.
That is where Helene comes in. While Franz is off trying to save Austria, Elisabeth goes to a pre-wedding party and drinks some wicked absinthe. She also develops a connection with Maxi, who is there. The future imperial empress finds his advances unbecoming but does not want him to go either. When she wakes up the next day, she is hungover and hiding under a table, shrouded by curtains. The staff leaves after Helene finds her and asks them to leave. The sister’s make up, and she reassures her Elisabeth will be all right. After all, she can advise her because she has been preparing for this all her life.
The episode ends with both preparing for the ceremony. Elisabeth is wearing a beautiful white wedding dress with the veil drawn. Franz is in his full regalia. Before she takes off, he runs up to her, putting his hand on the window to reassure her. As she rides in her private carriage, the music plays, and her future people cheer her name, banging on the glass, demanding her attention.
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