In episode 7, Diana and Matthew arrive at Emperor Rudolf II’s court in Bohemia to search for the Book of Life and to check on Edward Kelley for Queen Elizabeth. They reunite with Gallowglass, Pierre and a few other members of their London family, who help out with their quest. The Emperor is quite taken with Diana, which sets off Matthew’s Blood Rage again, threatening their mission.
Diana and Matthew reach Bohemia and ride straight to Emperor Rudolf II’s mountain hunting lodge to request an audience. Rudolf’s guard refuses them entrance, telling them that the Emperor has had enough of Queen Elizabeth’s ambassadors. Matthew arrogantly refuses to accept the refusal, saying that he’s no ordinary ambassador. He won’t leave until the Emperor tells them no to their faces. The guard meekly acquiesces to Matthew’s demand, as if Matthew is royalty himself.
The guard takes them into the hunting lodge, which is actually a castle decorated in a woodsy style. Matthew notes that the Holy Roman Empire is much mightier than England in every way. Diana is impressed with Rudolf’s collection of artwork. The guard returns with the message that the Emperor will give them a few minutes and escorts them into Rudolf’s presence.
The Emperor mostly wants to fuss at them for bothering him. The guard was correct- he’s sick of Elizabeth sending emissaries to pester him. Matthew is notorious, so he’s already known to the Emperor by reputation. Rudolf has already been informed of both of Matthew’s current names, that he’s Elizabeth’s spy and that he’s a vampire.
Matthew hates being one-upped, so this doesn’t endear Rudolf to him. Since Rudolf is the ruler of an empire, he doesn’t actually care whether Matthew approves of him. Matthew appears to have suddenly forgotten how politics work in the 1590s, in favor of needing to be the alpha-wolf of Bohemia.
Matthew asks to speak with Edward Kelley, but the Emperor says he stayed in Prague rather than travelling with them. Matthew says he’d heard Kelley was with the Emperor. Rudolf gets in Matthew’s face and threatens to throw him out of the country for questioning his word.
Elizabeth would have done the same or worse if Matthew called her a liar and Matthew would have deserved it. Rudolf is mild mannered compared to her.
Diana jumps in to explain that she’s an alchemist and Matthew was asking about Kelley for her sake, since she’d hoped to speak with her fellow alchemist. Rudolf is intrigued by this enchanting woman and asks Diana’s name. When he learns it, he calls her La Diosa del Casa, the Goddess of the Hunt, then kisses her hand. Matthew gets jealous and remembers to introduce Diana to Rudolf as his wife. Rudolf snidely tells Matthew that he would have already heard if they were married.
Matthew stupidly insults the Emperor again. The Emperor tells Diana that it’s been lovely to meet her, but her husband is a boorish idiot. Diana shoots Matthew a dirty look on their way out.
Are we supposed to be amazed by Matthew’s wit and cheer him on while he jeopardizes the mission and their lives because his ego is so fragile?
Remember when Diana met Queen Elizabeth, who flirted with Matthew, possessively discussed her past with Diana’s husband and insulted Diana? Diana was expected to bow and scrape to the Queen and even leave Matthew alone with Her Majesty if requested. And she did, without complaint. Meanwhile, Matthew, a condescending, ancient vampire, can’t make it through a few minutes with the Emperor without his blood boiling.
Once they’re outside the lodge, Matthew complains that the Emperor looked at his wife the wrong way. Diana tells him that in order to get the book, she can handle the Emperor’s flirting
since she’s an attractive woman who’s dealt with men all of her life and a powerful witch who can handle herself plus her own husband stalked her not that long ago so she’s still in practice for dealing with creepy male behavior.
Before Matthew can become any more offensive, Gallowglass arrives to rescue him from himself, which is his nephew’s perpetual role in life.
Diana runs over to hug Gallowglass. He makes a disturbed face when he realizes they’ve fully mated, but recovers quickly and jokes that he’ll call Diana Auntie from now on. He doesn’t congratulate them on their mating. He’s the only one who comments on it- no one congratulates them.
Gallowglass takes them to their new apartments, where Pierre is waiting with their unexpected guests. Francoise had to give in and bring Jack to Bohemia because his nightmares became so severe that they were affecting his waking behavior. Jack missed Diana and Matthew so much that he even tried to run away to find them on his own. It got so bad that she couldn’t take her eyes off him. She decided that it was safer to bring him to them. Matthew snarls at her that it’s not safe in Bohemia either. Francois tells him she didn’t know what else to do. Matthew doesn’t have any solution for her. Diana supports her.
Later, Gallowglass tells them that he hasn’t been able to find any evidence that Edward Kelley is in the area. Matthew is sure that Rudolf brought Kelley with him, since the alchemist promised the Emperor eternal life. He thinks they should focus on Kelley to find the book. Diana doesn’t think Rudolf will allow Kelley to take the book, since he believes it’s necessary for creating the Philosopher’s Stone, the key to immortality.
Gallowglass agrees with Diana, telling them that the Emperor is extremely tenacious once he’s decided he wants something. Before he can continue, there’s a knock on the door. The Emperor has sent a package to the Goddess Diana- an automaton in the shape of her namesake. Matthew is aggravated again.
That night, as they prepare for bed, Matthew tries to convince Diana that the emperor is hostile toward them. She points out that Rudolf likes her a lot. He’s only hostile toward Matthew
and Matthew is the one who started it, when you consider that Rudolf is one of the most powerful men in the world and has the right to demand Matthew’s respect.
Diana says that she can use Rudolf’s affections while they search for the book, but Matthew insists again that they have to go through Kelley.
He’s not being self-serving at all. Diana argues that they don’t even know if Kelley is still in Bohemia. She finally convinces Matthew to let her go back to the castle with Gallowglass to work on Rudolf, while Matthew searches elsewhere for Kelley using all of his nonexistent leads.
She looks deeply annoyed by the end of the conversation.
Diana and Gallowglass arrive at the castle the next day to find a line waiting to see the emperor that stretches for days. It’s unlikely they’ll be given an audience if they wait their turn. While they wait, Gallowglass tells her that he’s surprised Matthew let her come to see Rudolf alone, by which he means without her husband, since she’s chattel now that she’s mated and married. She tries to cover for Matthew and says he’s evolved in the last 400 years. Gallowglass explains that things are different now that they’re mated. The Blood Rage is primal and when provoked, Matthew will struggle to control himself.
Gallowglass is a little late with that explanation- it would have been super helpful to know before she married and mated with Matthew. But better late than never. Though Gallowglass is one of the few who seems to worry about Diana’s well being, he doesn’t really have a handle on the severity of Matthew’s emotional state. He speaks as if Matthew wasn’t angry and possessive before they mated, when in reality Matthew has been so unstable that he nearly ripped Kit’s head off a few episodes ago, in London, because of his guilt over Philippe’s death and his emotions connected to Diana, which also include guilt. MAtthew’s Blood Rage was first apparent in the pilot, when he smelled Diana’s jacket and made her walk, not run, past him.
Gallowglass decides to accelerate the proceedings and heads upstairs to speak with the guards. After he leaves, another vampire stops to speak with her on his way downstairs. He recognizes her as a de Clermont because of Philippe’s blood vow, which is on auto repeat for the next year and loudly audible to other vampires. He notes that the blood vow is “positively deafening”.
The vampire introduces himself to Diana as Benjamin Fuchs, a collector for the Emperor. He explains that he was cast out of his own vampire clan and is “beneath the interests” of the de Clermonts. He tells her that he’s more comfortable around other creatures, then continues on his way.
Matthew decides to find the alchemical laboratory where Kelley works in town. He guesses that the apothecary is the most likely spot. He and Pierre have a confrontational meeting with the apothecary, then break into his shop to steal his appointment book. Matthew figures out that the apothecary is using the code name Talbot for Kelley in the book. Talbot/Kelley only visits the lab at night. Conveniently, Talbot/Kelley has an appointment tonight.
Matthew doesn’t believe in having a normal conversation and bribing the truth out of someone when he can argue and break things instead.
The guards dismiss the crowd waiting to see Emperor Rudolf, except for Diana. Gallowglass tells her he convinced the Chamberlain they have a painting for sale that the Emperor wants. This gets her in front of Rudolf, who is happy to see her again, but she has to talk her way out of their “miscommunication” about the Hieronymous Bosch painting he thinks she owns. She thanks him for the gift of the automaton he sent her, noting that she recognized it as the work of Joachim Friess. Then she gives him the book she got from Dr John Dees, but he’s already seen it, so he’s not impressed.
She tries a little philosophy, telling him that even the wrong book can send the seeker in a new direction. “Nothing is worthless to an enquiring mind.” He responds with a kernel of his own: “The deepest truths always come from the most unexpected sources.” He tells a servant to send for the Rabbi and asks if Diana is interested in the “rare and uncanny arts”.
I think he’d be surprised at the depth of her interest.
Rudolf introduces Diana to his guest Rabbi Judah Loew, aka the Maharal, a noted historical Talmudic scholar. Rudolf explains that the Maharal has a gift for ancient languages and gives him the book Diana brought so he can study it. Rabbi Loew tries to explain that his only gift is for scholarship, but that’s not something Rudolf wants to hear.
They visit Rudolf’s traveling Kuntskammer, or Cabinet of Curiosities. Rudolf explains that this is just a small portion of his entire collection. He shows her a drinking vessel carved from the horn of a unicorn. Then he describes the infamous Jewish Golem, an animated man of clay, to Rabbi Loew, who created the Golem himself according to real life legend. Loew insists that the legends of Jewish magic are nothing but rumors meant to create fear of the Jewish people. Rudolf persists, asking about tales he’s heard that Jews know the secret names of angels and the ways of numerology.
Finally Diana distracts the Emperor from Loew by mentioning the Philosopher’s Stone and he returns to showing her the treasures in his collection. Gallowglass has been casing the Kuntskammer so that he can return to search for the Book of Life later.
That night, Matthew and Pierre intercept Kelley on his way to the apothecary. He’s escorted by two guards who he says take orders from the Emperor, not him. Matthew deduces that Rudolf has grown impatient with Kelley’s empty promises about the Philosopher’s Stone. He accuses Kelley of stealing the Book of Life from Dr John Dee. Kelley grows angry and claims the book belongs to him because it speaks directly to him. It screams in his head.
As his guards drag him away, Kelley says that Matthew has no claim on the book. Then he recites some of the opening words from season 1:
“It begins with absence and desire. Blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches!”
He’s still screaming about his work as the guards drag him out of sight.
Matthew accompanies Diana when she visits Rabbi Loew the next day. He was thrown by Kelley’s raving madness and the fact that he’s being held prisoner. Diana tells him that Rudolf has been fine with her. She’s certain Loew is trustworthy, both because of her own experience with him and because of his historical reputation.
Loew recognizes Matthew when he opens the door, noting that this is a secret gathering of a witch, a vampire and a Jew, something the Christians wouldn’t like to see. Diana notices that he’s forced to wear a yellow circle on his sleeve (a Jewish Badge). She asks about the book Rudolf originally wanted Loew to study.
Rabbi Loew: “Your husband believes that is a dangerous question to ask. One should find wholeness in a marriage, Matthew, but it should never become a prison.”
Matthew ignores the Rabbi’s advice and says he wants them to be honest with each other. They’re looking for a particular book. Loew understands which book they mean and tells them he couldn’t read it. He wonders if Diana is the one God will choose to do so. Rudolf showed Loew the book of his own volition, but Loew hasn’t told the Emperor that he can’t read it, since it can be deadly to disappoint an emperor.
Diana and Matthew look like this has never occurred to them. 🎵 Ominous music plays.🎵
Back at the apartments, Jack’s role as a thief in the book, which saved the mission, is replaced by Jack beating Gallowglass, Pierre and Francoise at cards by cheating. Being a child master thief is not the same as being a cheater, though I have known people who possessed both skills, so, whatever. Mostly just pointing this out to help non book readers make sense of things. Jack is also in Prague to set up events for S3, but the show took away everything he does in the book that gives him an immediate reason for being written into these scenes.
When Matthew and Diana get home, Jack gives them a message from the Emperor inviting Diana to go on a pheasant hunt. Matthew immediately becomes jealous and argues that the Emperor has gone too far. Everyone but Gallowglass clears out as their argument escalates. Matthew argues that Rudolf will imprison Diana with the book. Diana tells him that unlike the others, she’ll be able to read the book, so Rudolf will react differently to her.
Plus, she’s a powerful witch, not a daemon like Kelley. She’s much harder to capture and hold than even a vampire, which Matthew definitely doesn’t want to admit.
Gallowglass interrupts to suggest that Matthew and Diana go to the pheasant hunt together while he breaks into the Kuntskammer to steal the book. Then they can all get out of Prague. Matthew reminds him that they also need to bring Kelley back to the Queen. Gallowglass predicts that once the book is gone, Rudolf will release Kelley.
Rudolf isn’t happy to see Matthew at the hunt, but he finds his nemesis a bird to hunt with anyway. The Emperor shamelessly flirts with Diana throughout the afternoon and gives Matthew a bird half the size of his own. Diana manages to bring up alchemy and the book, but there are too many distractions to keep Rudolf’s attention where she wants it. Matthew waits to release his bird until he can send it to attack the Emperor’s bird, injuring Rudolf’s prize falcon. Matthew gets a moment of triumph out of it, but angering an emperor is a bad idea. Rudolf orders them to be gone from his lands.
Gallowglass has no trouble getting into Rudolf’s collection, but the Book of Life isn’t there. He finds a box of preserved creature body parts instead, such as the hand of a witch, vampire teeth and a daemon’s brain. When Matthew hears about the body parts, he decides they need to leave that night and screams at Diana when she brings up the book. Gallowglass is out of ideas, so he leaves them to their argument.
Matthew tells Diana that she’s not allowed to see Rudolf again. She asks why he doesn’t trust her. He says that it’s not her he doesn’t trust, it’s himself and the things she makes him do. He can’t bear for her to see Rudolf alone because he’ll still be able to smell the Emperor on her.
Then he goes feral and blames his Blood Rage on their mating. He goes on a long diatribe about everyone he’d kill for her, which she of course finds sexy, because she’s so into this BDSM relationship, I guess.
The bulging red eyes and sneer are a major turn off for me.
When it seems that Matthew has reached the height of his frenzy, Diana surrounds him with a ring of fire and speaks softly to him, taming her rabid dog with excessive flattery and promises of devotion. Nothing soothes the savage beast like pumping up his ego. And then taking off your clothes. Once she fully submits to his manic superiority in body and mind, everything is great again.
Evenually, the Emperor regrets his outburst at his beloved La Diosa. Proving once again that he’s the better man, he sends his apologies and invites Diana and Matthew to view the Kuntskammer. Now that he’s covered Diana with his scent, Matthew agrees to go. He tells Gallowglass to have the rest of the family waiting near the palace so they can make a quick escape when they’re done with the Emperor.
Matthew tries to apologize to the Emperor as soon as they arrive at the soree, but Rudolf waves it aside, saying it was all in good fun. He offers Diana a sip of a medicinal drink in a magic cup, then leads her away to show her a wine glass which has a decorative snake wound around the stem. “It represents the serpent in the Garden, reminding us to be watchful for the poison tongue of flatterers and deceivers.”
Diana starts right in on the flattering and deceiving, asking if he has better treasures that he hides from the public. She’s heard he has a book that possesses the secrets of life itself. He confides that recently he’s been surrounded by liars and deceivers. Then he has Rabbi Loew brought into the room in handcuffs so that he can publicly call the Maharal out as a fake and a charlatan.
Once Loew is gone, Rudolf hisses at Diana, “If I did have this book you speak of, why would I give it to you, a prying English spy and charlatan?”
Without saying a word, she turns the glass snake into a live snake, just as she did accidentally with Mary Sidney’s shoe. Then she says, “I am no charlatan.”
Rudolf is stunned. He calls her magnificent and offers her anything she wants. She wants to see the book. Rudolf leads Diana, Matthew and Gallowglass into a private office, then through secret passages hidden behind a bookcase. They travel through rock tunnels until they come out in a large dungeon with a skylight.
Edward Kelley is being held prisoner there with the book. Matthew demands that Kelley, as an English citizen, be set free. Rudolf tells Kelley that his time with the book is up and orders him to turn it over to Diana. Kelley refuses, so Diana takes it using her powers. The book lands on the floor, flipping open to the Tree of Life page. The illustrations come alive, sending 3D visions of light growing out of the pages. The screaming that’s driven Kelley mad can also be heard as the glowing visions shift.
Rudolf tells Matthew that they’ll be trading Kelley for Diana now, so Matthew can be on his way back to England. La Diosa is the best thing Rudolf has ever seen. His guards try to grab hold of her as many more guards pour into the room.
Diana isn’t particularly worried about being captured. She yells to Matthew when Kelley takes the book back and tears out the three missing pages. She breaks free from her captors and retrieves the book from Kelley, who’s been yelling at the book to stop screaming.
Once Gallowglass takes down the palace guards, they run back through the castle to the front doors. Gallowglass stays in front of Matthew and Diana, fighting off attackers as they go. Pierre is stationed outside with their horses. Francoise and Jack are waiting a couple of miles north.
As Matthew hands Diana the book, he tells her that it’s made from the skin, blood and hair of creatures. He thinks it’s more of a book of death than a Book of Life.
Edward Kelley is still in the dungeon, left with one guard. He says he can still hear the book screaming. The guard doesn’t care about the book. Benjamin Fuchs, moving at vampire speed, kills the guard then kneels before Edward. He looks at Kelley intensely and tells him that he cares about the book.
In the present day, Peter Knox visits a remote mountain museum where writings made by Edward Kelley while he was imprisoned by Emperor Rudolf are on display. In his letters, Kelley mentions a mysterious screaming book that’s never been been identified.
Fascinating article about some of the real life alchemy, chemistry and history behind the Philosopher’s Stone: The Philosophers’ Stone: History and Myth by SES Medina
Rabbi Judah Loew – “The Maharal of Prague” at chabad.org
Sorry, but I can’t understand how anyone who’s experienced the real trauma and violence that Diana and her family have would want to live with Matthew’s threats. Generally, when you’ve been through the kind of attacks she has, you don’t find more violence or the threat of more violence sexy if you are mentally healthy enough to want to continue to live. The way this relationship is portrayed on screen and the things Matthew says border on offensive at times.
The differences between Gallowglass and Matthew are striking in this episode. One man is easy to work with, makes the best of situations and is a problem solver. The other creates the problems, has a terrible attitude in general and lets his negative emotions rule him. Over the course of season 2, his behavior has deteriorated to the point where we are meant to be relieved and grateful when he occasionally exhibits normal adult self-control.
Why is Matthew in charge?? Why would Diana want to be with the jealous, angry jerk and not the hero who gives her an amazing hug at the beginning of the episode, has good ideas in the middle, and almost single handedly fights off Rudolf’s soldiers at the end?
Just sayin’. Ladies, don’t stubbornly swear you’ll never leave someone until you’ve fully assessed your options.
I’ve always found it notable that going forward, almost none of the vampires mention the mating, wedding, blood vow or Philippe’s adoption of Diana . Vampires are supposed to be secretive, on the one hand, on the other hand, it’s been made clear that they can all smell that Matthew and Diana have mated and can all hear the blood vow, so those are not secrets.
The fact that Matthew (and Philippe) didn’t mention to Diana that the vampires could all hear the blood vow every time she walks into a room is another aspect of his issues with secrecy and control in their relationship. He hoards information about the creature world and his own history in order to continue a semblance of the relationship they began with, when she was the needy, ignorant young woman and he was the all knowing, powerful older man who could be the daddy that saved her. She has some daddy issues since her parents died young (but apparently she was a Daddy’s girl who mostly bonded with her father and barely thinks about her mother- this story has some misogynist blind spots), so she’s enjoying the feeling of being overprotected for once in her life. Will she eventually resolve those issues and fully come into her own emotional power, so that she no longer needs or wants a restrictive, overprotective husband?
Meanwhile, Gallowglass calls her Auntie to remind himself that she’s off limits. He also watches her and Matthew like a hawk because he knows Matthew’s history of ultimately murdering the women he’s obsessed with, as alluded to in his talks with Hamish in S1. Diana is very powerful, but she might not protect herself in time if Matthew loses his mind in a jealous rage someday. We’ve already seen Juliette and Rudolf’s falcon die because they were involved with Matthew’s jealousy and Blood Rage. He didn’t kill either directly, but he brings that energy with him and people use it against him.
Emperor Rudolf’s Kuntskammer, then and now:
Images courtesy of AMC and Sky One.
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