The Empress (Season 1): Recap & Ending Explained – A Royal Portrait of a Wild Flower
The Empress (Season 1) Recap & Ending Explained: Netflix teams with Sommerhaus Productions to have us witness ‘The Empress’, a German six-part series exploring the true-story telling of the journey of Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie (her true name in Bavaria), who struggles with herself and a family of royalty. In the series, we know her as Princess Elisabeth Von Wittelsbach of Bavaria. She falls in love with her sister Helene’s suitor, Franz Joseph, the then reigning Emperor of Hungary-Austria. When they wed, life takes her by surprise as the royal household reeks of conniving and sly motives, exhausting her and forcing her to play their game to experience a temporary win.
When endowed with a title of royalty, Elisabeth learns new lessons about how women are caged within the palace and must remain aloof from the commoners, a contrast to who she is as a person. As her freedom and ability to move around is limited, her frustration reaches an all-time high putting her in the middle of Franz’s realm to change her fate, solely by her wish. Accompanied by a faithful lady-in-waiting by her side, she is spared of an ill-willed fate when she decides to leave the palace. Suddenly, a change of heart thrusts us into an eagerly expectant second season.
The Empress (Season 1) Recap:
A Youthful Spirited Teen Turns Queen In An Abyss Of Secrets
As the bashful, energetic, and youthful (16-year-old) Sissi, Elisabeth visits the Austrian Royal Palace we know as Habsburg. Sissi’s mother concentrates her efforts on obtaining her sister married to Austria’s Emperor, the current King Franz Joseph I, as she is convinced Sissi would never find a suitor (after the previous suitors were politely rejected). Events that occur in quick succession suddenly change her fate when Franz chooses Elisabeth as his Queen rather than Helene, whose heart is severely broken.
When Elisabeth’s fate changes, Prince Maxmillian, Franz’s younger brother and suddenly widowed, has made his want for Elisabeth known. His effort to court her reveals that he is not afraid to take what is not his if circumstances allow him to do so. Nevertheless, he is ever-willing to scheme for more. When his wife dies (mysteriously), we observe his appetite for power starts to grow teamed with an over-zealous vision for the future of an empire that does not belong to him as yet.
With Elisabeth’s future changes and a slow change in her lifestyle into a rigid structure of royalty, we are reminded of what Princess Diana may have had to go through. But with this moving portrait of Elisabeth, we learn of the intricacies of a Royal household. With 10 ladies-in-waiting to attend to the Empress’s needs at any given time, six would be her primary maidens. Two maidens get caught in cross-hairs with each other when one is out to prove the other is fake.
Amalie is trying to find every clue possible to prove that Countess Ava is not who she is sought out to be, undeserving as well as a danger to the Empress. While Ava does prove to the viewers, she has an agenda of her own and is quite dangerous, her heart turns a new leaf on discovering that Elisabeth is not like the rest of the royal household. With Ava’s boyfriend close around the border of the palace grounds, he reminds her of her mission to kill the emperor. Contrarily, his fate is decided by Ava.
Franz’s physical affair with a Countess comes to an abrupt halt, severely breaking her heart. Respectful of his restrictions and rules of the Palace, she understands that he must carry forward the royal bloodline. Franz’s mother Archduchess Sophie is a dominating figure always trying to push Franz towards war to defend their border. Franz believes that the country cannot afford or suffer another war. His ideas are more of a lengthy reach. It is to bring a railway that allows for international trade, which will help lift their economy.
With Napolean close at their helm, Hungary and Austria would do well with an ally to remain strong. Worried about the country’s fate, Franz makes a call that his brother strongly disagrees with and is willing to challenge the throne. Elisabeth finds herself in the middle of all this chaos when her one task is to bare a male child. When she tries to find a place for herself alongside her husband and instructs him on a method to win over the Tsar of Russia’s son, plans change and things turn sour. Losing her place next to him, Franz seems lost making his mother take extreme steps to protect him. Even if it means making Elisabeth lose her royal status.
The Empress (Season 1) Ending, Explained:
How does Elisabeth Remain the Empress?
Elisabeth rides the wave of being a royal for as long as she can. The parties held in the inner sanctums of the palace allow for a temporary release of frustration and offer temporary relief. It catches her in the act when Franz needs her to be at breakfast in an orderly fashion to resume royal duties. It becomes too difficult to move forward. An occasional letter between her father and herself helps ground her in who she is as a person. Meeting the commoners of the towns goes sour and makes Elisabeth lose face within the royal household.
Archduchess Sophie makes her final stance against her youngest son, Archduke Maxmillian, who has expressed his intense desire to be an Emperor. Calling him an inferior and weak man, she believes both her sons are men that do not know how to lead an Empire. While self-claiming herself as a true monarch and the sole builder of her current empire, she maintains Franz as reigning emperor and wins when Elisabeth decides to leave the palace and go home for some time. The tide suddenly turns when just before leaving, ‘Countess’ Ava sits beside Elisabet on the bed to tenderly test if her nipple is hard. After many months of an unsuccessful pregnancy and a recent record of her not bleeding the past month, Elisabeth discovers she is pregnant.
After having made the decision to leave, Elisabeth has not told Franz she is pregnant. In fact, she has not revealed this fact to anyone in the household. With Maxmillian having made advances toward Elisabeth promising her the world when he is Emperor, Elisabeth does not respond or react to his advances but remains in question about his motives. As it is time for her to leave, Maxmillian goes to his mother, who strikes down his dream to challenge the throne. While he evidently does not have her blessings and could presumably be arrested soon, the palace is in danger even on the outside. The common people have gathered outside and stand vigilant in peaceful protest.
With Elisabeth ready to move out of the palace, the commoners pose a threat to her safety. Unbeknownst to the palace, they are in complete adoration of her. When Archduchess Sophie has dealt with her youngest son, she walks out to deliver her ‘last’ popsicle-lick power move over Empress Elisabeth with a sultry couple of words regarding vulnerability. While Maxmillian discovers that he may have a new adversary in the household, Elisabeth learns the same as she silently walks out of the palace. At the gate, the peaceful protestors remain challenged when Empress Elisabeth steps down from her carriage to hug some of them and see them eye-to-eye. When she ‘sets eyes on her realm all at once’, she reveals she is with a child. In one swift move, she remains Empress.
Some claim that this television series is comparable to how we might anticipate seeing the current royalties of England played out, albeit in a foreign nation. The series exposes the deep underbelly of trauma, plotting, and power games that remained common at the time for any kingdom to survive in a war with quacky, odd customs and the rigidity of a royal administration.
This television show illustrates a lustful game of power exceptionally well. After a promising first season, we would anticipate a second season that would keep true to portraying a story as dynamic as the history of the Empress of Austria-Hungary, which is supported by the evidence we can verify.