The Empress – Season 1 Episode 3 “The Wedding” Recap & Review

The Wedding

The opening scene for episode 3 of The Empress hovers around Elisabeth’s marriage. Her crowning as the Empress is eagerly awaited by the people. The makers have done a fantastic job of enveloping the viewer with a beautiful, royal mix of stunning visual choreography and a spine-chilling soundscape.

As the minister beseeched God to drill sense into the new Empress, Elisabeth walks down the aisle. She is seen as a huge beacon of hope for the people in Austria’s difficult circumstances. She is received with boisterous applause and overwhelming love. Only time will tell if this affection can sustain. Her popularity almost causes a stampede, with people gushing to catch a glimpse of her.

Franz and Elisabeth look like a couple deeply infatuated with love. Countess Louise, Franz’s ex essentially, is called by Max to his chambers. It is the celebration of the new couple’s wedding and Louise has been called to add “color and pizazz” to the evening. Amalia is still on Leontine’s case. She is desperate for answers about her mysterious background and unsettling demeanor. The Foreign Minister brings bad news to Sophie. He reports that the Russians have amassed large numbers at Austria’s Eastern fronts. A clear sign of insult to the Empire.

The newlyweds finally emerge to light up the court. And the festivities begin. First up is a court dance in their honor. Sophie and Max discuss Elisabeth’s reception by the people, which was quite unexpected. They clamored in joy for her, something that Sophie didn’t want; Austria didn’t want, in fact. She wanted the bride to bring a certain sense of calmness and quell fears of war. As the intense and marvelously put-together dance takes place, we see Louise and Elisabeth sharing a stare.

She asks Franz if he knows Louise but he lies. Franz is called away by Sophie for the border incursions. Elisabeth, even in his absence, boldly requests Esterhazy to allow Helene to head her court. This is acerbically out of tradition and isn’t looked upon with sympathy. The Chief Court Mistress is “distressed” but will take the request to Sophie. Both French and Russian ambassadors are in attendance and Franz must decide whose side to take. Sophie advises that they mustn’t give in to the Russians’ pressure.

The Minister reminds Franz of his duty to the border people – Romanians – and Sophie joins in by saying they should reinforce the Eastern borders. The Emperor defers the decision to later that night. He confronts Max about Louise but allows her to stay. He asks Theo to keep a close watch. Franz realizes it might have been a mistake to invite Max back to Vienna. Louise tries to fish for information about Franz’s plan but Theo isn’t forthcoming.

An injured Kempen reports growing restlessness in the city to Sophie. Liberal propaganda is gaining strength and being circulated virulently. Sophie spots Prince Vasa nearby and almost fails to respond to Esterhazy, who reports the Empress’ request. Sophie says she will handle it and also asks Kempen to make as many arrests as he wants.

Elisabeth and her mother’s cold war seems to be going on steadily. Ludovika and Karl too have engaged in one. The Empress asks to be left alone to meet the Countess but Amalia intervenes.

She cleverly causes a distraction by saying “Liszt is here now”, which Leontine approves of. Not playing by the rules is a quality she likes to see in the royal crown. Louise and Elisabeth have a showdown. The Countess calls herself “the entertainment”. The Empress warns her of any more impeachments in her marriage. Louise warns Elisabeth of spies everywhere in the palace and takes her leave. Franz meets with businessmen for loans. He follows up on Stephenson’s request for funds but the businessmen are more interested in investing in troops. Elisabeth intervenes but Franz asks her to wait.

The businessmen decide not to comply with Franz’s request and his plan is now in dire straits. Max meets with the French ambassador but does not propose as Franz had asked him to. He instead winds him up, saying staying neutral is Franz’s way of ensuring Austria holds sway over Europe as France and Russia tear each other apart. Prince Vasa and Sophie have a secret meeting. They profess their love for each other. The Prince asks Sophie to come with him, as the palace now has a new Empress. But Sophie instantly rejects the idea. Although she isn’t able to say it, Vasa puts it aptly; her true love is with the palace. But he warns her that there can only be one Empress.

Elisabeth walks outside to catch some air and finds his father in the pool. drunk. She reprimands him and among other things, asks him to be happy for her. But the truth saddens her. She asks both of them – mother and father – to leave the palace in the morning. Vasa and Fran have a chance meeting in the hallway. the former reveals intimate details about the latter’s childhood, befuddling him. The Interior Minister apprises Franz of a waiting Baron Sina for him. Sina Jr. greets Franz and says he makes the decisions where their bank invests money. He agrees with Franz that the ind8strial revolution must come to Habsburg now.

But Sina is concerned that the Crown spends carelessly. Franz offers his word but he says that someone else has made sure that is not necessary. Countess Louise, who is Sina’s partner, has already made those assurances. Sophie stumbles upon the news that they have got the loan. Franz asks the FM to say he allies with no one and that he will build the railways first. Sophie is incredulous but the Emperor has made his decision. With Elisabeth nowhere to be found, Franz chats up Helene. Sophie advises Elisabeth to trust carefully and pose her faith only in those whom her instincts tell her to.

She also says she will arrange for Helene to stay with a cousin in Bohemia. Elisabeth agrees and proceeds to the first dance with Franz. Helene is heartbroken when the news is broken to her. There is some semblance of tension between Franz and Elisabeth. As the classic operas blare inside and the newlyweds dance gracefully, outside, the riots grow more severe. Esterhazy strictly asks Elisabeth to wear a gown for the “consummation” on the wedding night. Another tradition she dreads but has to go ahead with it. Franz comes clean about Louise. Elisabeth is insecure about people perceiving her as being silly.

But Franz comforts her. They lie down on the floor, just as they did when they met in the palace before. In a reassuring touch, they profess their love and commitment to each other. Sophie is concerned her time at the palace is over. It is also implied that she and Esterhazy might have had relations previously. And finally, when the night is over, Elisabeth rids herself of the stupid gown and consummates her marriage with Franz by making love.

It is a small yet bold and significant act of defiance and shows her true rebellious and stubborn character. Max mulls what the French ambassador says to him; maybe Hadsburg needs a new Head of State, as he sits on the Emperor’s throne while the court is empty.

The Episode Review

This was the episode I discovered that the show is also dubbed in Hindi. Way to go, Netflix! It’ll be huge in our country, considering how much we went ga-ga over The Crown. For some reason, all I could think of while watching “The Wedding” was Game of Thrones. The two shows have strikingly similar themes and settings while being remarkably distinguished in their executions.

Even in episode 3, The Empress resists any over-the-top drama that has become synonymous with modern-day period pieces. It goes about its business with a unique mix of grace and simplicity that is difficult to find.

Maybe that is what makes the show so endearing. Another element to glean from this episode was the makers’ confidence to avoid any kind of haste in representing Franz and Elisabeth’s blossoming love. This is perhaps the first historical show where the depiction does not feel hollow or merely representative. The comfort level is instantly enchanting. As a result, we see and feel a tangible set of emotions as it ebbs and flows.

My God is the production sweet. Despite the relatively low budget for new television series, The Empress sports magnificent values. No stone is left unturned to give the most authentic and immersive impression. Every episode must be relished for that quality alone. It is that good!

The dance choreography coupled with the classical strings was reminiscent of The Black Swan in some ways. The Empress is not a show about history. But the people who made them. Season 1 has until now only skimmed the surface, giving wild indications of what is yet to come.

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