“Come now, Tamlin,” Rhysand said. “Shouldn’t you reprimand your lackey for speaking to me like that?”
“I don’t enforce rank in my court,” Tamlin said. - ACOTAR
“But now—now we need order, Feyre. We need rules, and rankings, and order, if we’re going to stand a chance of rebuilding. So what he says goes. I am the first one the others look to—I set the example. Don’t ask me to risk the stability of this court by pushing back.” - ACOMAF
Okay I know I’ve pointed out the irony in that first line before but with reference to Rhys and the way he and the Inner Circle actually function but I think it’s also incredibly telling with Tamlin. The more power he has the tighter he holds on to it.
I think what happened UtM broke him. I think that this is a response to feeling helpless under Amarantha all those months. But the worst part about all of this is that he becomes what he despises. In trying to force the order that Lucien hammers here, in order to heal he becomes the things he hated most. His leadership style emulates his father and brothers but it also emulates Amarantha.
She made him feel powerless; she took away his power, both literally with his magic and then figuratively having him sit beside her and be her plaything while she toyed with Feyre. He reacts by seizing control of the power that’s been returned to him and abusing it. He tightens his hold on the Spring Court and everything that he can control (everything that he couldn’t control UtM) he controls now.
Amarantha stripping his power away from him made him incapable of protecting Feyre UtM (at least in his mind: but he could have tried more than the silent brooding but anyway) Now that he has that back he takes it to incredible extremes. And the culmination of this controlling protection is trapping her in the Spring Court - the same way Amarantha trapped her Under the Mountain. He becomes the embodiment of his fears; he becomes what he hated and there is a certain tragedy in that.
I think this also explains why, even though it was foregrounded in ACOTAR he was never as bad with especially Lucien pushing back against him (which Lucien does a lot, lot more of in ACOTAR) It’s about control. Lucien refers to himself as the example that the others in the court follow (which has some incredibly sinister undertones - especially because it’s repeated - but that’s too hc based to discuss here) but Lucien talks about the stability of the court and directly ties ‘pushing back’ (again that line) with that stability.
I think Tamlin’s already controlling instincts were exacerbated by Amarantha and what happened UtM. I think he enforces rank so strongly here when he claimed that he didn’t before because it’s an attempt to affirm his power and regain the control he lost UtM. But it becomes incredibly toxic and abusive. He becomes the worst version of himself - the version that emulates the person who took control from him as a way to get it back.
Tamlin reacts instead, based on how he behaved in ACOTAR, by seizing control and clinging to it like an anchor. If he can control everyone in his court, if he structures and orders his court to this great extent and degree it reassures him of his own control. It reassures him that he is the king of his own castle again. Which is why he doesn’t let anyone push back. Which is why he unleashes his power on Lucien when Lucien dares try. It’s why he wrecks the study when Feyre tells him he’s drowning her and she doesn’t want him to do it any more: because it threatens his control and his power.
Tamlin doesn’t like having his authority challenged. This was true about him in ACOTAR: “he’d likely shred them for disobeying him…you don’t hold onto power by being everyone’s friend” // “Don’t ever disobey me again” this just worsens tenfold in ACOMAF. It was all in there already, it just becomes worse and far more toxic and I think conscious than it already was.
The way he responds to Amarantha is a good reflection of it: he doesn’t do anything to help Feyre/react to what’s going on because that’s what she wants and he won’t give in to her. He stubbornly tries to resist instead of working around or undermine. He doesn’t know how to undermine or work a system the way Rhys and arguably Lucien do; he only knows how to confront with brute strength and make his own show and claim on power of his own.
And so when he gets that power back he refuses to let anything stand between it and him. As long as he has that control over the things he considers to be his: his court, his subjects, like Lucien, his betrothed, Feyre, he’s happy. But this mentality and this own way of coping is incredibly selfish and damaging. He sacrifices Feyre and Lucien’s (and his court if you consider the Tithe) mental health and well-being for the sake of his own peace of mind.
He reassures himself that he’s escaped Amarantha, that he has power here but in doing so he becomes like her. He becomes abusive. He becomes controlling. He uses force and fear to stifle and control those around him in order to assert his own dominance over them. He puts down and harms those around him to make them more meek and manageable. He prioritises his need to feel in control over everything else. He’s not driven by mindless cruelty but by the selfish desire to feel in command of the situation regardless of the damage it does to those around him.
Rhys again works as a good contrast to further my point here: he emphasises the continued existence of the things that Amarantha stripped from him as his way of recovering. He emphasises the fact that they are free now, he emphasises the fact that they now have agency again, he emphasises the fact that they have choices that are entirely their own to make. He emphasises the fact that they are in control of themselves again by reminding himself and Feyre that Amarantha no longer owns them.
Rhys’ method allows for the recovery of others as well. Tamlin’s does not. In the same way he shut out her nightmares; that reminder of the trauma they shared; that reminder of weakness that Amarantha made him feel he shuts out her need for recovery. He forces himself back to an extreme normality, reaffirms his place as High Lord and his only consideration for Feyre is to force her to do the same. Force her to play the role of his wife, attend parties, organise the wedding, tries to get her to paint again, tries to force her to cope the same way he’s coping: by burying his head in the sand and becoming the worst version of what he was before Amarantha: the controlling, dominant High Lord because that helps him.
But he ignores Feyre’s needs. He doesn’t realise that trying to force this normalcy on her, trying to force her into playing this role for him is almost exactly the same as what Amarantha did. Forcing her to play her game, to play the part in her performance to make her feel in control. But in the meantime it strips away Feyre’s agency and control which are things that she needs. She needs choices, she needs agency, she needs these things reinforced in order to heal herself.
This is why what he does triggers her so badly: his behaviours directly reflect his counter to his trauma; seizing control of everything around him: which is what Amarantha did to Feyre UtM and when it upsets her so much but Tamlin doesn’t care. Tamlin doesn’t stop to think about Feyre, what she went through, Tamlin just wants to feel in control again because that makes him feel okay and damn whatever he has to do to achieve that.
This is what Rhys does for her. Rhys tailors his response to her trauma. He is mindful of her triggers. He helps her to master her abilities and gives her the methods of protecting herself (rather than simply protecting her himself which is what Tamlin does: he wants to protect her, he wants to take care of her because that gives him purpose and again, power. He wants her to need him and rely on him because that gives him control. He does a similar thing with Lucien) advances her education to help improve her understanding, encourages her freedom and independence even at times when it costs him to do so.
In a very reductive nutshell: in trying to get over what happened to them Tamlin becomes Amarantha; Rhys rises above her.