The God Who Us Has Freedom Sent
Elisabeth writes about her intoxicating life of luxury and excesses to her father at the start of The Empress episode 6. She has come to terms with her limited and hollow role as a baby producer in the palace.
In a montage, we see her partying and merrymaking. She can hardly even walk back to her chamber, stumbling on the stairs like a hopeless drunk. The family is going through tough times as Franz has breakfast alone. There are fractures in their relationship, it seems. Elisabeth walks to the table in her altered state and receives a letter from her father. Franz understands her anger from the foundry incident.
The foreign minister informs max that the Tsar is intimated by the forces. Their moment to strike is slipping away. As part of the coup, the rebel men will take Franz from the palace into confinement. Franz tasks Elisabeth with taming a wild horse. Amalia confesses she has gathered proof that Leontine isn’t who she says she is but the Empress dismisses her claims. Her likeness for the countess won’t allow it.
Leontine informs Egon of the plan: after sunset, the door to the east isn’t guarded. She will plant a knife for him there. She reaffirms her old resolve to kill the royal family but it is only a ruse for Egon. Louise might be able to secure loans for Franz but wants “something in return”.
Sophie asks Franz to bring back Elisabeth in line. Her actions have been unworthy of her title. Sophie warns Franz of doing the necessary or else she will have to intervene. She has even barred Elisabeth from leaving the palace courtyard. Elisabeth and Sophie sit together in the church. When she asks her what the most valuable virtue in a ruler is, Elisabeth replies empathy. Sophie tells her about Anna’s fate, her little daughter who was taken by a mysterious disease.
She hasn’t been the same ever since that day. Her family’s survival is everything she cares for. Elisabeth is presented with a choice: either to go back to Bayern and then annul the wedding with Franz, or, stay and play by their rules. She will stay in the northern quarters away from Franz and with Esterhazy.
Sophie’s ruthlessness also brings Esterhazy to her feet. She has failed Sophie and might not be up to the task. Elisabeth cannot believe that Franz has acquiesced to the new arrangement but the Emperor doesn’t meet with her.
Elisabeth and Max share a moment of passion, where he comforts her and tells her she will always be by his side but the former has her wit to stop in the middle. Max has already talked with Sophie about the change but she isn’t forthcoming. But she isn’t oblivious to the idea either. Max approaches Franz directly but the elder brother mocks him. Franz says max isn’t ready to shoulder the burden of the throne that he will have to carry alone. Franz exclaims the throne is his birthright but Max says he has everyone’s support, including Franz’s support. He punches and asks Max to get out.
Leontine comforts Elisabeth, who reveals she isn’t well. But she is actually with child. Amalia’s spy brings insightful revelation to her, photos that confirm Leontine isn’t who she says she is and is actually a nursemaid. She rushes to Sophie but the archduchess isn’t available. Amalia takes her leave.
Franz and Elisabeth have a fight, post which the Empress decides she is going back to Bayern. She cannot take the burden of being the Empress anymore. Kempen reports about 300 commoners at the gates. Franz asks him to increase the guard at the gates and asks him to shoot anyone who dares to even move a muscle.
Egon enters the palace disguised as a soldier. In a blow to Max’s ambitions, Franz’s plan is a success. But Max asks the foreign minister to keep the news to himself and not tell anyone unless he has tried once again to convince Sophie. But she shoots him down in an instant. She calls him weak and even admits Franz might not be fit to rule. What she has built is too precious to be taken away. Sophie says her final goodbye to Elisabeth. Theo boldly asks Franz to reconsider his decision to send her away, giving him Puck’s lock of hair that she gave to him.
Elisabeth sits in the carriage and at the whip’s lash, the carriage thrusts forward. Egon finds the knife and Leontine waits in silence for the drama to unfold. In a twist of things, royal guards with guns ambush Egon. He shouts “revolution” before being shot dead. Leontine betrayed Egon. Elsa warns her that the time for Leontine in the palace is running out. If she steps outside, the conspirators will kill her. Charlotte reports the photos to Leontine. She rushes after Amalia and in a fit of rage, pushes her down from the railing. Charlotte witnesses it.
Elisabeth is stopped at the gates by Kempen. She noticed a crying baby and then we cut to everyone running towards the gates. Elisabeth walks towards the people outside the gate. She asks the guards to open the gate and confronts the people. She walks among them as one of their own, as the heads bow in shock and disbelief.
Theo apprehends Max on Franz’s orders. Elisabeth informs the people that she is with child and shakes their hands and hugs them, in a sign of royal defiance that brings her closer to the people. She has one final look at the camera, faltering and emboldened at the same time by the irony of conflicts.
The Episode Review
An extremely endearing and thrilling finale draws curtains on the first season. Opting not to disrupt the tone of storytelling hitherto established, the makers executed really well in the finale. The revolution was quelled quite underwhelmingly, which was probably a letdown. Something more invested couldn’t have done the trick. But the makers decided not to focus too much on it in the first place. So ultimately, fair enough. Elisabeth’s eccentricity and borderline madness manifested in a chest-thumping moment when she decides to go among the commoners without guards.
It really could have gone either way for those unacquainted with 19th-century European history. The final nod of approval was a huge victory for Elisabeth and something that she will use as a shield against Sophie and naysayers in season 2 if it happens at all. The Leontine-Amalia rivalry was brought to end distastefully. Viewers would have liked to see more of Hanna Hilsdorf, who was terrific in the first season. This certainly puts Leontine in the driver’s seat if the story continues.
Her closeness with Elisabeth was probably a good hint that she would be the one to survive. Other than that, Franz prevailing on Max’s devious devilry was a triumphant and relieving moment. It sort of validates his vision for the Empire and hopefully, we get to see more in the second season.