The Empress Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2 Review

The Empress. Image courtesy Netflix
The Empress. Image courtesy Netflix /

While I adore a lot of history, I am rather picky with my historical dramas. Which is why Netflix’s The Empress took me by total and complete surprise and continues to do so.

The Empress is a German production of grandeur, meaning unless you know and speak the language fluently, you will be needing a dubbed version in English and possibly subtitles to help you follow along.

Season 1 is complete and has been greenlit for season 2. So, let’s begin at the beginning of this spectacular series by taking a look at episodes 1 and 2!

The Empress Season 1 Episode 1 – The Setup

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen a series or film where the main character is a female lead, who “isn’t like the other girls” of her time. In this case, it works and doesn’t come off like an overused trope.

Elisabeth absolutely stands out but not in your usual, overdone way. She’s outspoken, has different values and ways of thinking, and doesn’t allow anyone to change her, regardless of how overdramatic and overbearing her mother becomes.

In fact, her sister Helene, doesn’t even speak up about Elisabeth’s “embarrassing” behavior until it becomes an obvious threat to her own future. But we’ll discuss more about that at a later time.

Elisabeth loves poetry and wants to marry for love, which is why she continually dodges any male suitor her mother finds her. Fed up with her constant behavior, her mother threatens to send her to a sanatorium if she doesn’t change her act.

The family cannot afford Elisabeth’s behavior to possibly destroy them as Helene is going to be potentially meeting and marrying the Emperor Franz Joseph I. Elisabeth seems to confide in her father about her troubles, who acts rather debaucherously, regardless of his marriage.

But even he seems to almost care less about what Elisabeth does or doesn’t do. He simply wants her to know that her actions will have consequences.

If Elizabeth hadn’t run off with her horse at the beginning of the episode, it wouldn’t have injured itself and be put down. If you think Elisabeth has problems, meet Emperor Franz Joseph I.

He’s the Emperor who apparently the people dislike, has a very controlling mother, and is getting thrown into a war he wants nothing to do with. Franz has big ideas and ambitions for Austria, that we will also get into more later.

He’s struggling to find his voice and make decisions without his mother constantly on his case. But when times get tough, he finds intimate solace with the countess.

However even Franz knows that their relationship cannot continue as he will need to marry. So how do Elisabeth and Franz meet?

The Empress Season 1 Episode 2 – The Betrayal

Elisabeth, Helene and their mother all travel to meet the Emperor and celebrate his birthday at a private but nonetheless extravagant residence. Both Helene and her mother are nervous whereas Elisabeth has no opinion on the matter, finding happiness with her poetry.

Upon their arrival they discover one of their trunks is missing, causing all three ladies to wear black when meeting Franz’s mother, Sophie.

Franz does not arrive until that evening. Both Elisabeth and Helene spend time together, as Helene becomes nervous to meet Franz knowing he will potentially become her husband.

The following day, as Elisabeth is exploring the home she finds an injured bird trying to escape. She brings it outside where she meets Franz, tending to his horse.

Their first encounter feels like something right out of a fairy tale, complete with witty and flirty banter. The guests begin to arrive which include Franz’s younger brother Maximilian and his non-English speaking Italian mistress of the moment, and his adorable kid brother Karl.

As Franz and Helene properly meet and begin a courtship in the presence of both mothers, Elisabeth is sitting with the other three royals. It is very obvious that Maximilian takes an immediate liking to her bluntness, as she quickly notices his true behavior.

Meanwhile Karl adores her, like the adorable kid he is. Maximilian attempts to court Elisabeth on a stroll with the rest of the group, but she dodges his every advance.

Upon returning to the residence, Franz and Elisabeth meet again when he finds her laying on the floor to cool down from the oppressive heat. They spend more time together, which is a nice break for Franz from having to deal with the war.

A war Maximilian seems to have great insight and ideas for. As night falls, everyone seems to expect Franz to propose to Helene the next day.

However, when he calls Elisabeth to his chambers, all becomes clear. He wants to be with Elisabeth after knowing her for one day.

Again, just like a fairy tale. When the day next arrives, Franz proposes to Elisabeth, shocking everyone.

Helene, feeling backstabbed, practically orders her sister to turn down the proposal. However, Elisabeth loves him and cannot reject the proposal.

Their mother is beyond upset, to the point both she and Sophie try to convince Franz that he chose wrong. Franz having been under everyone’s thumb can finally marry and love someone more like him.

Someone who will openly say how they feel and not be afraid to live. But it seems Maximilian is equally angry that Franz proposed, signaling that he too fell in love with Elisabeth after one day.

Sophie is hardly angry, but this can only mean she has horrid plans for Elisabeth, as well as posing to create a wedge between the two young lovers.

The Empress Season 1 Episodes 1 and 2 – Honest Thoughts

Truth be told I have not been this hooked by a historical drama since The Borgias. If you haven’t, watch that series as well!

I regrettably did not know anything about Emperor Franz Joseph I or Empress Elisabeth. But that may actually work in my favor, as I will not know what direction this Netflix series will take.

For those who dislike this genre, they may find absolutely nothing about it original. Admittedly, this is true in a way.

History can often be repetitive for better or worse, but this is the kind of drama I live for! This is the kind of drama where decisions actually matter.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill, love triangle where it doesn’t remotely make sense why it’s happening in the first place except to create unnecessary drama. This is where deciding who you marry and ally yourself with actually matters.

This is a time unlike our own where every decision you make matters. Who you choose to love and marry matters.

Who you ally yourself with in a war matters. Where every decision can affect your position on the throne and thus the country.

Not all history and royalty is glamorous and perfect. There will be times where I expect The Empress to show how downright cruel the lifestyle can become.

But I simply adore the unfolding love story and the twists that manage to creep through. Time will tell if Elisabeth and Franz’s love will last.

Next. Netflix’s Treason season 1, episode 3 recap: From treason to blackmail. dark

What did you think of The Empress season 1 episodes 1 and 2? Leave your answers in the comments below!

You can watch The Empress season 1 on Netflix.