So the door is the way out. Like for everyone. Including the king. Very easy, yes. Pregnant woman, jerked out of bed by king … kill the guy in the suit. He’s like Dustin Hoffman’s Gruvey in Full Metal Jacket
Except the guy is nothing like Dustin Hoffman’s Gruvey. At least not so much. King Stefan’s reign is never going to pass. Something has to give. So is the future the key to it all? Or, more realistically, the present?
Season three, episode six: Succession – who does the heavy lifting? Read more
In roughly chronological order, the whole of the episode moves through different, fairly distinct timelines. Let’s run through them one by one.
Bibi, a heavy midwife, wakes up in a smoky room. Already, it’s easy to see that the King can’t be trusted (hence the pregnant woman). One minute he’s riding with a bunch of his soldiers, giving out coronation speeches. The next, he’s commanding his men to go and get a mother for one of his test subjects – a baby whose family will now potentially cause untold suffering and be stolen by the Queen – and thus set in motion a devastating chain of events. Stefan has painted a very moral picture of a king ruled by conscience, insisting that he’s fair and just. Well, you can’t have a monarch who also secretly has power over his soldiers. To know Stefan, you know that he won’t let his country slide into unsavoury excess – sure, but he will let evil-doers and oddballs, at least.
No sooner has Stefan’s men got their baby than Stefan announces victory – or at least, “defeat” – to his people. There’s a moment when he plays Lord of the Clouds, giving a speech in which he describes the wreckage and depravity that he says the Dirty Cousins have wreaked on Germany, and it’s all very surreal. “The federation of nations is burning,” he says. “Not me.” Later, he returns home to find the morning paper full of calumny about him, with the Dirty Cousins nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t seem to bother him, as he listens to the chorus of inane praise, accompanied by some terrible German ballad. The only time Stefan loses his temper is when he becomes enraged at the first plan advanced against him.
In an almost sleazy manner, Stefan leans into camera and announces to the world that “events are unfolding before our eyes, and people are dying before our eyes. We will not be stopped! They did not know that we were becoming a nation of men!” This week, he isn’t just going to tell the people, he’s going to see it happen. First, Vincenzo, his uncle, thinks about assassinating Stefan, but the Lord of the Clouds has to intervene, and ends up getting cut off in half. More importantly, when he opens the wings to fly, he turns into a butterfly. He is going to fly away now.
Truth in advertising
The thing is, it’s pretty hard to be scary when a lot of the country hates you and you have real villains and threats of untold misery. Stefan’s constant boasting hasn’t been much of a way of keeping people in line, and continues to be so in this episode. What he really needs is a credible enemy, and having Stavros as a dark angel is no way to compete with that. Which is why Stefan’s attempts to press the Dirty Cousins harder don’t work. Eventually, he decides that Orestes, not once, but twice, and much more prominently, doesn’t deserve to die. It’s effectively pushing him all the way out the door. Instead, he finds his way back to Bibi – the woman who made him King. Stefan knows his end is coming, and is prepared to fight for it. That is certainly a lot of fighting up against a wall with a gun aimed at his head.
Pretenders to the Throne
Back in the present, it seems like the Dirty Cousins are about to take control of the country (using the vague rule of succession, of course). While Stefan was attacking them, it seems like the German parliament did make some reforms that it likes – chiefly to ensure that all adult citizens are registered, and German citizens can vote –