“The North Side of the Sun” (Tremontaine, Episode 2)
by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Narrated by Sarah Mollo-Christensen and Nick Sullivan
Length: 1 hour, 38 minutes
While last week focused on the different introductions to Riverside and this cast of characters, this week the story seemed to tighten it’s focus on Kaab in particular, though we also spent time with Micah, Rafe, and (SURPRISE) Tess and Ben. Kaab’s storyline drove the whole episode — she’s sent on an errand to the Fenton household to secure saffron and hares, and has the good fortune to meet and verbally spar with Rafe, went to the market with Rafe to meet Micah and witness a protest, and then returned for the feast. We do find out a little bit about her’s past — Rafe asking if she was fleeing a marriage really seemed to set Kaab on the defensive, but there still seems to be a lot we don’t know. Yay, mysterious pasts!
Sadly, Kaab didn’t challenge anyone to a duel this week, but both she and Rafe seem to embody the conflict between the nobility and the working class. Rafe, who fancies himself a philosopher and intellectual scholar, is furious with the nobility and leads the scholars to a protest. There, he encounters the Duke of Tremontaine by chance, and is immediately smitten by him. (I was a little surprised Rafe didn’t recognize Tremontaine — I had thought he’d know what the duke looked like). Despite his political persuasion, he helps the duke escape before the crowd realizes who Tremontaine is and turns violent. (Apparently, Rafe isn’t the only person who doesn’t recognize Tremontaine.) Rafe states he believes in nonviolence — I wonder how that will work out for him in the course of the story.
During the protest, Kaab meets Micah, quickly determines that she is in fact a young woman disguised as a young man, and then later discusses with her uncle all she’s learned about the political factions and Rafe’s curiosity about how quickly the Balam ships are able to travel and trade. Kaab doesn’t seem terribly satisfied with keeping Rafe in the dark on this, but seems to go with it for her family. Meanwhile, Micah’s cousin seems content to let Micah go to classes and work on equations with Rafe. (Micah’s cousin doesn’t seem as concerned about this as I would have expected.)
We also learn a bit more about Tremontaine’s sinking investment, and how Diane is never to be underestimated.
Finally, in the last couple minutes of the episode, Ben walks up to the flat he shares with Tess, drunk and in possession of a mysterious locket his father bestowed upon him around the time of his death. Ben is sure this will give he and Tess a way out of Riverside.
While I found this week a bit slower than last week’s episode, I felt flowed pretty organically from where we left off last week, progressing the story in a natural way. And best of all, this still felt like Riverside, filled in with some of Kaab’s mysterious backstory. So that’s a big success for author Alaya Dawn Johnson, who did an excellent job making Riverside and these characters just as recognizable as when Kushner was writing them.
I also have to give a lot of praise to Sarah Mallo-Christensen — I’ve really warmed up to her reading of Kaab and am digging the way she’s reading all the characters. I haven’t heard her narrate before, but she’s doing excellent work here. And YAY Nick Sullivan! It’s nice to have him back in Riverside, especially as a character like Rafe.
All in all, this was a satisfying follow-up to last week’s episode — I really feel like I’m getting to know and enjoy these characters, and I’m curious to see where we head next in “Heavenly Bodies.” What did you folks think?
(Edited to correct a typo/grammar error -DT.)