Welcome to the Ending Explained for The Empress, the latest period piece show on Netflix, developed by Katharina Eyssen and Lena Stahl. The series tells the story of Empress Elisabeth of Austria as she tries to survive the terrifying politics of the court. While also trying to remain true to herself, a passionate woman who has a lot of trouble following the rules. The show is period piece paradise at its best, with fantastic locations and sets that help sell the period when the story takes place.
The series also offers incredible acting, with Davrim Lingnau killing it in the title role, and a astounding supporting cast that brings to life very complex and nuanced characters. The writing could use some work, as it sometimes falls a bit too often into tropes that are too familiar and a bit annoying nowadays. Thankfully, the quality of the rest of the production allows for an impressive story that will leave you on the edge of your seat as you binge-watch all six episodes of the season. We can only hope season 2 is on the way right now.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Season 1 of The Empress. Read at your own risk.
Does Elisabeth’s Love For Franz Wins In The End?
The Empress begins in a very dramatic but innocent way, as young Elisabeth meets Franz, Emperor of the Austrian Empire, and they fall in love. The beginning of the tale is quite basic, Elisabeth’s sister was the one who was supposed to marry Franz, but he fell completely in love thanks to Elisabeth’s attitude towards life, a rebel through and through. The new Empress of Austria must survive a court full of deceivers and people that do not want her on the throne because of the way she is.
However, for some people, it has become clear that Elisabeth needs to go. The person that thinks in this way the most is the Archduchess, Sophia, Franz’s mother. After the disaster concerning the foundry, Elisabeth has been in a place of depression. She now spends most of her days, parting all night and feeling like nothing really matters. The defeat has turned her into a soured individual. Someone not even Leontine can support. Let’s remember that Leontine is a commoner passing as a countess, and she is trying to make a change from the inside.
Sophia is taking the opportunity to convince her son Franz that Elisabeth is a distraction, and it has made him weak. Franz even tries to amend the relationship by gifting Elisabeth a horse, but his mother dismantles the effort very quickly. In a secret meeting with Elisabeth, she gives her speech in which she tells her she is not made to be Empress because she has too much compassion, and that is not something that is needed for a ruler. She gives Elisabeth an ultimatum. She can leave for Bavaria or stay and be basically arrested in her room. Elisabeth doesn’t partake in the deal.
Later, Elisabeth finds out that she is pregnant Leontine confirms her suspicions, and she runs to tell Franz all about it. However, the conversation takes a turn for the worse, when Franz accuses her of being involved with Franz’s brother Maximilian and thinking about taking Franz off the throne. Franzs says some hurtful things and makes Elisabeth leave. She doesn’t tell him she is pregnant, and she also decides to leave for Bavaria. Leontine tries to convince her that the only way she can help the people is if she stays in the court.
Does Maximilian’s ambitions come to fruition?
While all of that is happening, the rest of the cast is also getting involved in some very sketchy business. For example. Maximilian’s ambitions to become the next Emperor have reached their limit, and thanks to his fabulous political abilities, he has managed to secure the support of the church, and the military. He just has to wait for the Russians to stomp on his brother’s army to take the throne for himself. Meanwhile, he sees how disturbed Elisabeth is after having been basically left out of court by Sophia and Franz. He then kisses Elisabeth and says she should stay with him when things change.
Leontine is also playing her own games. She has been working with Egon on the inside, and now he is ready to make his move and kill the Emperor. After seeing Elisabeth’s behavior, Leontine decides that Elisabeth should die as well. She has left a knife buried in the garden that he can use as a weapon later that night. However, after spending more time with Elisabeth and seeing that Elisabeth is only there because she loved Franz, and not there for the riches, Leontine decides to keep her alive. Which means betraying Egon, who gets killed by soldiers in the garden.
Another spy inside the castle tells Leontine that she cannot go to Vienna anymore because she will be killed as a traitor to the cause.
However, Leontine doesn’t manage to convince Elisabeth to stay. A gathering of people has been increasing in front of the castle’s gate all day. Now they number to at least 300 people. Franz, Sophia, and others don’t think anything could happen, but they become restless as the size of the crowd only increases. Elisabeth finds out she cannot leave that day because the people have obstructed the gate. She demands the gate to be opened, and she goes inside the crowd, who parts way for her and bends the knee in front of her.
She says to them that she sees them, and she bends the knee towards them to respond. The situation doesn’t become violent, and it is revealed that Elisabeth has told the people that she is pregnant. As the episode ends, we can see Elisabeth crying while hugging a common woman. Will Elisabeth be able to be the face of the people? Will they turn against her, or will they support her as change starts happening in the new age? We have to wait for the second season to see.