The Empress – Season 1 Episode 5 “The Shoes” Recap & Review
In a flashback, episode 5 of The Empress shows us what Ava did to become Leontine a while back. This is what Egon was indicating in their tense meeting in the last episode.
In the present, Elisabeth once again showcases her different personality, sneaking around the guards and countesses to write poetry stationed in a tree. Leontine joins her and it seems the two have grown to like and respect one another. They bond over bird calling and Leontine diverts the attention of a soldier to appease Elisabeth.
Theo wakes up Franz for an early departure. He emboldens his soldiers as they fight to protect Austria’s borders. It is truly a winning, sincere, and inspiring speech. He still asks them to maintain peace in their realm but not to hesitate to fight if the Russians offer aggression. Back at the palace, Esterhazy briefs about the golden rules the Empress must follow while meeting the people. It is the day she goes into the city to keep their hopes up; to show them that she cares. Sophie and Esterhazy are stern with her but Leontine provides her support.
Von Bach reports disturbing news to Franz. Sina has canceled the agreement because the Emperor sent sizeable troops to the border. He angrily dismisses him. Elisabeth and Franz discuss the new conditions in the empire and their personal lives. Their bond and love for each other are all that are giving them strength and cause for hope. In other news, Max and Charlotte sleep together for a night. Max practices the rousing speech he will give to the people as the new emperor. At the cabinet meeting, Franz decides the army will hold the lines and not attack. Although Sophie is supportive in the moment, she sings a different tune in person to Franz.
Elisabeth reaches the city with Esterhazy and Ludwig-Viktor, who gives her indications on how to meet them. Against Esterhazy’s insistence, Elisabeth walks inside a foundry to see the despicable working conditions. She meets Hedi, the girl we briefly saw at the start of the episode. When the empress notices she doesn’t have any shoes, she gives her own pair. Kempen carries the Empress out in her arms on Esterhazy’s instructions, angering the people as it gives the perception of high-handedness. Ludwig is injured in the ballyhoo that follows.
Amalia is still on Leontine’s case and discovers a dress covered with blood. As Leontine is about to enter her chambers, von Bach approaches her. They go on a walk together and Bach asks her to see paintings together. To get the throne, max needs three things: the support of the army and the Catholic Church, but most importantly, that of Sophie. She holds the key to his master plan. It seems this might be a problem he will have to deal with “forcefully”.
Countess Louise meets Franz and tells him of his engagement to von Sina. She feels insulted when Franz tries to toast Louise and Sina’s love. Franz beseeches her to convince Sina to rethink his decision. She agrees after some sadistic tactics. Elisabeth is angry with Esterhazy for ruining her gesture. Sophie and Franz convene in their chambers. Elisabeth reports a true picture of the foundry and Franz confronts her about it. He asks her to maintain a distance from the commoners, fully aware yet of the contempt they breed in doing so.
Sophie warns Esterhazy of fire consequences if Elisabeth miscarriages again. Max visits the church and the Archbishop is happy to see him back after the death of his betrothed. He proposes his coup to Archbishop but he isn’t reciprocating. He questions her intentions. Leontine warns Elsa, one of the conspirators in the palace, to call off the plan as Amalia knows of her identity. But she says they will go through with it regardless. Elisabeth can’t sleep again and strolls downstairs to find a returning max from a party in the city.
He offers to go with her to Prague through a secret tunnel – run away from this royal mess. Elisabeth visits Leontine as she is packing her bags to run off. They emotionally ruminate about their purpose in the palace. Hedi is almost dancing in her shoes but harrowingly watches on when she discovers the guards killed his brother in the violence that broke off outside the foundry. Their resolve for a revolution grows even stronger.
The Episode Review
This episode saw Elisabeth falter a bit due to her inexperience at the court and her spontaneity. From what we know of the empress and what we have seen thus far, Elisabeth definitely had room to do something shocking. We know she cares and maybe takes it a tad too far. But taking off her shoes and giving them to the girl seemed more like a gimmick than anything else.
The Empress has slipped in certain places by wielding artistic liberties to comb over historical accuracy. That is all well but going so far off the path is not easily condonable. The slippages in the plot also showed up albeit briefly in this episode.
The way Amalia is going, it might not be the best ending for her. She is close to getting Leontine thrown out of court and maybe even hanged but the game can do a complete 180 in a second. One thing that is inherent in The Empress is this constant need to bring out a fight against the system. In many ways, the show tries to uncover the perspective of the discontented young that were way ahead of its time.
This episode saw an extension of that in the form of the revolution gaining its final strength. Although we do not know how it will eventually happen, it has great demonstrative qualities. Franz’s circumstance has greatly suffered and the Emperor is coming up short of answers and allies. The political side of his reign reached its zenith in episode 4 and tortured the ruler mercilessly in episode 5. It is not uncommon for historical shows to exploit that essence of the time but The Empress does it in a respectful manner.