Elliot and Ahsley continue their relationship, now into vanilla sex. This scene is fully in the conventions of softcore porn, with soft lighting and rich textiles in Elliot’s bedroom, instead of the hard lighting and concrete walls of his dungeon. He even makes her breakfast the next morning. While it’s competently done, it’s pretty standard, instead of the kink we were promised. I have nothing against romance, but you can get that everywhere.
Then Dylan phones Elliot and threatens to blackmail him by sending Ashley videos. In fact, she gets downright domineering when Elliot confronts her in the dungeon, shoving her boot into his crotch. Dylan uses the threat of blackmail as a therapeutic method to get Elliot to admit he’s falling for Ashley. She demands that Elliot “loan” Ashley to her. Again, it’s toxic combination of Dylan’s jealousy over Ashley and Elliot’s secrecy and manipulativeness. Yet I can’t escape the feeling that Dylan is being made into a scapegoat. It’s a lot like Fatal Attraction, in which the jealous Other Woman is turned into a monster in order to obscure the husband’s infidelity. The real problem here is between Ashley and Elliot.
For that matter, I don’t understand the situation at all. Why does Elliot pay Dylan to bring women to him? He’s not famous or rich enough that he needs to be that deeply in the closet. Is it just sheer ego that he’s so powerful that he can get a woman to bring him other women?
Meanwhile, Jules finds that being the trois in the menage isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be, especially when she’s also an employee of both Scarlet and her husband. The husband dumps 26 pages of rules on her, in a take it or leave it deal, instead of negotiating the situation between all three.
Elliot and Ashley have another soft scene, with bondage but in bed. This is when Elliot tells her he’s sending her to another dominant, couched in pseudo-therapeutic terms. This is when Ashley puts her foot down and says a hard no. Elliot gets creepily insistent and manipulative. Ashley gives in to emotional blackmail and agrees.
Before Ahsley comes to her scene, Elliot and Dylan meet. It’s even more obvious that both regard Ashley as a thing to be controlled, rather than a person with agency. Dylan even says that if Ashley safewords, she reveals everything. In effect, Dylan is testing how well Elliot controls Ashley. Dylan sets it up for Elliot to watch video of her dominating Ashley. The entire triangle is toxic.
Ashley shows up, and learns that she’s about to submit to Dylan (who has been her housemate for a while). Dylan does nothing to set Ashley at ease. She comes on strong, doing stuff that Ashley has never experienced before, but also goading her to use her safeword. Things go off the rails when Ashley gets turned on and gets into kissing Dylan.
Afterwards, Elliot does aftercare with an upset Ashley, but continues to lie that he has no relationship with Dylan. Then he comes clean and says he hired Dylan to find him submissives, and sometimes he “let her join in on the fun”. Ashley says she doesn’t want to do that again, and Elliot says she won’t have to. Are we supposed to treat them as the one-true-love of this series now?
At least Jules knows when the situation stinks and leaves the menage. The dick of a husband (the guy wears an ascot in bed) even says if she leaves, she gets fired too. She quits.
As Dylan moves out, Ashley insists that she and Elliot are in love. Dylan drops her blackmail bomb anyway, revealing that Elliot has been using the “Nolan Keats” name to seduce women, but he didn’t write those books. Elliot is just the copy-editor, and the real Nolan Keats introduced Dylan to him. (BTW, how does Elliot afford the trappings of wealth on a copy-editor’s pay?)
What the hell is wrong with all of these people? At least Dylan walks off, having told the truth, while Elliot is revealed as a fraud. She leaves a fuck-you message to Elliot.
The series ends with Jules flirting at the coffee shop, Ashley in tears, and Dylan going to another house where she says, “Hi, Nolan.” to the unseen person who answers the door.
Submission left me with a “so what?” reaction. The story doesn’t break any new ground, and mainly it shows how not to do a threesome or a dom/sub relationship. What we really have is two sub women ending up as a pawn in the power dynamics of established hetero couples. It also doesn’t go deep enough into the characters to make their stories interesting. Why does Scarlet stay with her husband? Was Ashley into her experience as a submissive, or was she into the person she thought Elliot was, or both? I wanted more psychological depth. For example, what was going on with Ashley as she prepared to submit to what she thought was a stranger? There’s no scene showing her thoughts, which would have given her some agency.
Likewise, the relationship between Elliot and Dylan is too lightly sketched to make sense. Why does Elliot go to all the trouble of hiring Dylan as his she-pimp to get him women? Why does he break from that strategy when he meets Ashley? What does Dylan get out of it?
Submission in the end has nothing intelligent to say about BDSM. The extraneous subplots and sex scenes appear to have no function other than to pad out the running length and obscure the fact there’s not much substance here.