What The Empress does so well is polarize the viewer with political actions, as even the most well-intentioned character soon finds the world is aligned against them.
This recap of the Netflix series The Empress season 1, episode 5, “The Shoes,” contains spoilers.
If you remember, at the end of the second episode, our favorite conspirator Ava was snuck into a pair of shoes, which was unusual, even for the people. Are they poisoned? Laced with snake venom? Who knows, but they are presented to the empress herself as she is shoved off to meet the people. Not before we are treated to a flashback of Ava and her group killing the real Leontine of Apafi and her driver. Even though she has dirt from head to toe, she puts on the dead woman’s nice clothes. This is how she became the lady-in-waiting for the empress. Ava continues to gain trust in her by sneaking a cigarette with Elisabeth (played by Devrim Lingnau) while hiding in a tree and comforting her before she goes out amongst the people.
The Empress Season 1, episode 5 recap
Franz (played by Philip Froissant) has a professional setback (the loan disbursements have stopped), and his marriage to Elisabeth has been on rocky ground lately. They have not seen much of each other, and the emperor is sending out troops to the border states. However, they are there only to show strength and not attack. He gives his troops a rousing and meaningful speech about what they mean to him and his home country. Franz is showing understandable signs of posttraumatic stress, as he has flashbacks to that day he was stabbed in the neck with an attempt on his life.
However, it all goes back to those damn shoes. On a trip to the people, Sophie sees a young girl working in the factory. She insists on seeing the conditions, taking Franz’s small brother with her, followed by her head lady-in-waiting. Elisabeth offers up her shoes to the little girl who has none, the same ones the resistance snuck into the palace. The lady-in-waiting refuses to let her walk out on her own feet and is carried by the royal police. The crowd is astounded at the bratty behavior where an empress cannot possibly walk on dirt. A riot broke out after someone threw mud and hit the young imperial majesty. Sophia has had enough; she tells the lady-in-waiting. One more misstep and not producing a child, Elisabeth will be gone… and so will she.
Meanwhile, Maxi cannot help himself. The cabinet tells him that he just got the church and his mother on board with overthrowing Franz. The only way he knows how is to get the church involved and kill two birds with one stone. He enticed the church to include neighboring Catholics to be added to the Habsburg empire. Here is the problem with Maxi, as the cardinal points out. If he stands for nothing, what will he fall for? He is not the only one going behind people’s backs, however. Now we have Franz flirting with disaster by bringing in countess Louise to help him grease the wheels with the banks again. She, though, has him beg, and they kiss before he is pulled away because of Elisabeth’s disastrous visit with the people.
Ava is close to being discovered as her boss looks through her things and finds clothes with blood on them. Later that night, she tries to ask to be pulled out, but Elsa tells her it is happening soon. When she asks when all Elsa can repeat, like a doll having its string pulled, is, “For the people!” When Ava returns to her room after being forced to go out on a date with the accountant, she finds that most of her clothes have been gone through. She panics and begins to pack when Elisabeth enters. They connect as strong-willed people do, and Elisabeth wants to hear her story, but we never hear it.
Elisabeth comes across Maxi when her “ghost” walks through the palace. They talk, their connection growing stronger, and he offers to take her out of here in a tunnel. They can be in Prague in a day, he tells her. The final scenes have the little girl with the empress’s shoes finding the royal guard who murdered her older brother, and stoic tears come to her eyes.
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