This isn’t exactly a red wedding, but there is plenty of backstabbing going as The Empress reaches the halfway point. Great storytelling, terrific performances, and a feast for the eyes.
This recap of the Netflix series The Empress season 1, episode 3, “The Wedding,” contains spoilers.
The wedding is on, and it’s a grand affair. Franz (played by Philip Froissant) waits for Elisabeth (played by Devrim Lingnau) at the end of the aisle as she takes everything in. Their love seems to be accurate, even their joy. They are now wed and come out to the country as they leave the church. Thousands of people are there, pushing the police lines behind their will, trying to get a glimpse of the happy royal couple. The police begin to overreach and move the crowd back. Imagine all these suffering people there to celebrate a joyous occasion, and the guards seem ready to put a hammer on their happiness. At the end of the episode, The Empress chooses to deal with the notion of celebrity, nobility, and power.
But have no fear! The Royal Highness, Sophia, will allow 50 long-held prisoners out of jail as a gift from the emperor on his wedding day.
Oh, happy days.
The Empress season 1, episode 3 recap
There are some interesting developments. Maximillian invites Franz’s ex-lover, countess Louise, to come to the wedding party. Franz confronts him about inviting Elisabeth to the party. Franz no longer needs him as an advisor. And by that point, the Russians have violated the border agreement, and Sophia wants to issue 250,000 troops to reinforce and help the border countries. Franz refuses to be pressed into a decision that night. Meanwhile, Elisabeth rocks the boat when she appoints Helene as the head of her royal household.
There are three big storylines of the episode. One is when Louise and Elisabeth come to a head. Another is when Franz desperately tries to get the most powerful men in Austria to invest money into a railway to improve the Habsburg empire’s economy. And finally, Sophia’s relationship with the Swedish prince. At the same time, when Elisabeth confronts Louise alone, they put their cards on the table. In a salacious scene, when Elisabeth asks what Louise’s role is, she coyly says, “The entertainment.”
When it comes down to it, the countess tells the new empress that there are eyes everywhere, and she cannot be truly safe in these halls. Maxi undercuts his brother with a French official. How? By getting the French ambassador’s ear when the moneymen turn down his majesty. He tells him that by staying out of the war, France and Russia will tear each other apart, allowing Austria’s empire to profit from the war. This is Max’s way of developing a relationship with France, as they prefer him in the emperor’s seat. Sophia goes for her Prince of Vasa again, kissing him in some dark and vacant halls. In so many words, she admits to him that the emperor is his son and wants him to see Franz.
Some of these storylines are to cross paths and converge. For instance, the son of one of the money men, Baron von Sina, comes back alone to talk to the emperor about that loan. His concern is his family is wasteful with money. He then drolly adds, “Great party, by the way.” However, he is convinced by the one woman who sings Franz’s praises — Louise! So, the loan is now secure, but Sophia comes walking in and cannot believe her ears. Franz will not enter the war and build his railway.
This all leads to the dance between man and wife. (Why don’t they call it woman and husband)? Elisabeth is overwhelmed now. And as Louise said, you cannot trust anyone. As she dances with Franz, she looks around, you have Sophia whispering to Helene, and both are staring daggers at her. Across from them, you have Maxi, jealous of Franz’s good fortune, which includes the political and the personal. Not to mention the countess and the lady-in-waiting uprising who are off-screen. Her husband asks her what is wrong, but we know what is. Franz lied to her on their wedding day, which is never a good sign, and Elisabeth is now developing trust issues with everyone around her.
But it is not the wedding night, and that creepy cardinal announces they just consummated their marriage, or the wedding is off. Have no heart, though. They must perform the ritual with the first lingerie of its kind, made of curtain drapes. They lay on the floor to relax, as Elisabeth did when he walked in on her, and he reassured her that they could do this. (He also finally admitted her lied to her about Louise). The episode ends with Helene being sent away, her family leaving, and now Elisabeth is on her own.
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