From The Writers' Room Featuring Tremontaine

Mary Anne Mohanraj on writing Tremontaine S2E12: “Smoke and Ashes”

I didn’t realize until I re-read the episode right now, just how grim it had become.  This has been a hard season for many of our characters, and they’ve often found their personal desires pitted against other, more urgent, needs.  The City can be a place of much beauty, but at this point in the story, it’s hard to see that through the grit and darkness.  I didn’t set out to write such a downer of an episode, but it seemed the natural next step, especially knowing, as I
did from Swordspoint, what was coming for Vincent down the line. Sometimes, no matter how you twist and turn, you can’t escape your fate.

Kaab has learned that too, learned that love is sometimes not enough to carry the day (though she’s also learned that family will always have a place for her, which is some comfort).  Tessa has learned a similar lesson, though her family is more diffuse – I like to think she’s coming into her own as a little Queen of Riverside, a natural leader that her people turn to in times of trouble.  She may hate what has to be done, but when hard decisions have to be made, she won’t flinch from them.  In her own way, she’s as much of a fighter as Kaab or Vincent – maybe more so.

And while Diane may soon have everything she needs in her grasp, I wanted to leave the readers with a sense of what her overwhelming ambition is costing her.  The loneliness she struggles with, the way in which she turns away, over and over, from letting herself be vulnerable.  Vulnerability might win her love, but it won’t keep her
safe, and it won’t get her what she so badly wants.  Diane is willing
to make that bargain, in the end.

My natural tendency is to give every character I love a happy ending, and a happy middle too (hence the lovely little threesome moment a few chapters ago).  But that wouldn’t be much of a story, would it? Everything went swimmingly from that point forward, and they all lived happily ever after.  Maybe in another world, maybe someday — but not here, not now.

Sunnier days will come to Riverside, but right now, our friends are stumbling around in the dark, finding what brief moments of beauty and joy they can.  One of the things I’ve always loved about this world is how it faces the darkness head on; there’s a sharp honesty, even brutality, that Ellen didn’t hesitate to confront in Swordspoint; that’s much of what made me fall in love with the world to begin with. When life is lived on the edge of the blade, it’s inevitable that one will be cut by it.  We take consolation that the blood is lovely, making intricate patterns on the fallen snow.

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