Dimension 20’s A Court of Fey & Flowers delivered on all the romance, intrigue, and revolution seeded in its earliest episodes. The Dungeons & Dragons streaming series, led by Dungeon Master Aabria Iyengar, also managed to deliver all the unexpected twists and turns that actual play is known for, breaking down the formulaic conventions of the Regency genre through mashup and the chaos of randomized dice rolls.
[Ed note: This story contains spoilers for the two-part finale of Dimension 20’s A Court of Fey & Flowers. Episodes 9 and 10 are now available on dropout.tv.]
While Iyengar’s “Pack of Pixies” achieved goals worthy of any D&D party (save the world) and a game of Good Society (find love), the rules of both games were totally transformed by putting them together at the table. Transformation is the name of the game with this one — combat rounds where Arcana checks are the focus, not physical attacks; a near-bloodless revolution; and love plots that aren’t exclusively romantic. In a season where the players reaching out their hands to one another has closed every episode, it’s unsurprising that reaching out — making connections of all kinds — is at the heart of what Iyengar calls this “very strange, very lovely story.”
Iyengar bookends these final two episodes from the rest of the series with a Shakespearean sonnet that sets the stage for the final choices between duty and love, the individual and community. She deftly brought all these ideas together in the series’ final encounter, where the party fought to keep the last remaining portal from the Fey Realm to the Mortal Realm open. This would prevent the flow of magic to mortals and consolidate the Court of Wonder’s power. It would also permanently separate Lady Chirp Featherfowl (Emily Axford) from her wife and daughter, and make Binx Choppley’s (Surena Marie) first found family of friends (and warlocks) fade away entirely.
The final straw comes when K.P. Hob (Brennan Lee Mulligan) is injured. When he staggers toward the rest of the group with a particularly nasty enchanted arrow wound at the start of episode 9, it’s no surprise that the other players at the table are united in healing him — and in a new shared mission. Together, they vow to thwart Apollo and the Portal Plot.
Binx puts it plainly as she tells Hob: “Apollo hurt you, and you’re my family.” Andhera (Omar Najam), who we’ve seen often expressing parallel sentiments to Binx, agrees — and then ups the ante by offering them all a home in the Unseelie Court, explicitly not through marriage or familial relation.
Andhera’s offer isn’t an exchange; it’s an expression that his resources are now theirs. It’s a departure both from the D&D-style power politics and Regency marriage plot. As I’d hoped, A Court of Fey & Flowers continues to include more themes of the real Regency than many other adaptations. Austen grew up on novels by radical authors who imagined new, egalitarian worlds in the wake of the French Revolution. And while Andhera’s offer is generous, it’s Binx’s similar invitation to the Court of Craft that fittingly wins out, focused on “a warm fire” and the chance to be “swept away in stories.” In the end, it’s Andhera who will try to hold allegiances to both his Unseelie Court and the Court of Craft. As the series ends, something within him is now unstable, but holding.
But it’s not as easy as saying that community is the solution to all problems of power. After all, not all groups are healthy. We’ve seen Delloso de la Rue (Oscar Montoya) take decisive steps to disconnect from the Court of Wonder, even if it meant the end of the Bloom. Their beloved bugbear Captain — now Major — K.P. Hob was on a parallel path, struggling to serve a Court that respected but could not wholly understand and appreciate him. Rue and Hob have grown closer and been pushed further apart by the pressures of their Courts and their own misunderstandings. If Hob encouraged Rue to accept themselves and reveal their true, owlbear form, Rue is now the catalyst to push Hob to reconsider his definition of honor.
Because of a disrupted shooting schedule, the last two episodes were shot in one four-hour window, with a final combined run time of three hours. These constraints make Mulligan and Montoya’s intense scenes amid episode 9’s theatrical hijinks all the more impressive, bringing the pair’s misunderstandings to a tense cliffhanger. By the end of the episode, we’ve seen Hob win over the gentle Seelie Lady that the Goblin Court has affianced him to, and Binx taking charge as Weaver of Fate to tell Rue that Hob has deep feelings for them.
Meanwhile, Lord Squak Airavis (Lou Wilson) and Lady Chirp bring a light, bright, and sparkling counterbalance as they attempt to use their wiles to learn more about Prince Apollo and Princess Suntar. They are, of course, multitasking: Squak glorying in “The Green Hunter’s” theatrical debut, complete with “actual Jeremy Renner” — and Chirp bets against herself and matchmakes between a pixie straight out of Jersey and a plucky Salt Goblin.
Like an 18th-century playhouse, the real drama is off stage, and in the final episode the pace picks up as the party is drawn by the sense of magical interference — the final Portal just behind the theater. What follows is an example of character-rich combat, drawing meaning from the Tokens and Reputation tags they’ve earned via the Good Society mechanic to lower the D&D-style difficulty of the skill checks needed for this challenge. Fittingly, Squak burns his “mature” Reputation tag for the first success, and Binx is able to hear her lost Court when she burns the Heart she won earlier. It’s a decisive victory for our Pixies, complete with a statistically bonkers double-crit by Hob. Their sole surviving antagonist, Andhera’s sister Suntar, surrenders… for now. Fey lives are long, after all.
But it’s Chirp who gets the final successes to ensure the preservation of the Portal. Her decisive critical success allows Iyengar to give Axford a vision of her child, Peep, in the mortal realm, posing in the same way as her heroic mama. In a touch of Austen’s trademark free indirect discourse, which allows the audience into the heads of characters from their perspective, Iyengar tells Axford that Peep knows in this moment “that she is yours” and that the most important thing to Peep has been saved — not magic, but “the chance at getting to know you.”
Immediate crisis over, Iyengar moves the scene to our final character vignettes. The Dome glows spring green as we see how love — of all kinds — is magic. The irrepressible Lords of the Wing, affirmed by their grandfather, plan their next orgy (and coffee date with Jeremy Renner). Andhera expresses his gratitude (and hugs) stuffy Advisor, now Librarian (after a much-deserved vacation).
As Rue leaves the Court of Wonder, they note that Wuvvy’s contract is done — they are no longer bound. But Wuvvy gently corrects Rue: She was never bound. She chose — and would do so again. The most loving thing she can do for Rue right now is walk away to leave them to it — to be reunited as friends, peers, and whatever else in the future. And that’s where we leave the most complex relationship of the entire series — and the one that I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.
As Wuvvy walks away, Hob arrives and tells Rue that he’s realized the duty he’d upheld was merely the path of least resistance. True honor is doing what is right. His final oath to Rue is both to renounce his connection to the Goblin Court and declare, “If you are orphaned, then so am I, and you will never know a lonely day again, as long as I draw breath.” (Thus giving this finale its title, “You Will Never Know a Lonely Day Again.”)
Our final image is Binx and Andhera going through the portal hand in hand, as a little brown string ties itself to the pinky of each of our Pack of Pixies — a reminder from the Court of Craft of the bond that still unites them. The worlds they saved are different now, because they dared to reach for each other. We end, one last time, with the cast stretching out their hands to one another.
I’ve been thinking a lot these days about Austen’s endings, how they seem tidy until you look up close. In the same way, Iyengar does not tie off loose ends, but instead ties these characters together. The Pack of Pixies are now off on separate adventures, but we leave them with the sense that they will be together again soon.