Reign 4.09 “Pulling Strings” Recap - SpoilerTV.com
Reign “Pulling Strings” was written by the team of April Blair and Laurie McCarthy and was directed by Andy Mikita. As is often the case with McCarthy penned episodes, the title resonates nicely throughout the episode and has at its centerpiece the wedding game of literally pulling strings. I loved the metaphor of how all things are connected in this way, with one decision leading you along that string to an almost pre-ordained outcome.
As the episode opens, Mary and Catherine are walking along the street – how much will I miss seeing these two share a screen? Catherine’s last words to Mary in the episode would seem to indicate that as history dictates, this will be the last time the two are physically in each other’s presence. Hopefully, Catherine has now taught Mary enough of how to be ruthless enough to protect herself and her heart – though history dictates that Mary, Queen of Scots's life will not be an easy one.
In the episode, however, Catherine tells Queen Mary that if she wishes, she will spread rumors of Darnley’s affairs – because of course she’ll embellish it! – and the people will then blame him even if it’s Mary who calls off the wedding. Catherine advises that Mary can appease the nobles by giving them a “parting gift” of money or jewels to keep them happy, but Mary tells Catherine the palace coffers are empty.
James Stuart interjects that the Vatican will be very displeased if the marriage is called off and they can’t be appeased with money or jewels and they don’t care who Darnley sleeps with either. Mary tells James she still needs to check on one more detail before she can call the wedding off anyway. She asks him to keep watching John Knox (Jonathan Goad) – she needs to know where all her enemies are.
I loved the look at Scottish marriage rituals! Lord Darnley is carrying a giant stone through the streets to lay at Mary’s feet. The creeling of the bridegroom is a time honored tradition that proves Darnley’s strength and virility. Darnley tries to talk to Mary after his task is complete, but she puts him off, saying she’s too busy with wedding details. And of course, Darnley has already proven his virility because the final information Mary needed was to confirm that she’s pregnant! She has no choice but to go through with the wedding – I loved how the string she follows in the wedding game leads her to a cradle. Sleeping with Darnley before she knew what he was really like has lead her inexorably here.
Darnley doesn’t want to talk to his mother, but Lady Lennox insists. She tells him that he’s winning the people over by performing the Scottish wedding traditions. It’s what he came there to do – to win power. She reminds him that there are people coming to th wedding who will be able to make his every desire a reality.
I was happy we finally got to see a lot more of Greer in this episode. It looks like she might be headed for a happy ending after all. She’s been assigned by Mary to help look after the guests, especially the important ones. She is tasked with looking after Cardinal Odomo (Paulino Nunes) – the representative from The Vatican. And I was thrilled to see Nunes – a terrific Canadian actor who I really enjoyed in Bitten – though he has relatively little to do in this episode.
Greer is surprised to see Martin de Lambert (Saamer Usmani), who is there with one of his Italian women friends as part of the Vatican delegation! I was also happy to see Saamer Usmani back! After all, who doesn’t love a pirate! Greer, however, is not happy to see him, especially when Martin expresses a wish to spend time with Rose Castleroy. Greer is short with James in an attempt to keep him away from Martin. She is terrified that her secret will be discovered and she tells Martin as much – she went to great lengths to ensure that Rose was not seen as illegitimate.
Meanwhile, Mary’s love life becomes even more complicated when Lord Bothwell (Adam Croasdell) shows up at court. Mary is surprised to see him as he made it very clear that he disapproved of her marrying Darnley. Bothwell tells her that she can’t marry Darnley, but it’s not about him. He tells her that he feels something far deeper for her than he should, given the short time he’s known her… The kiss passionately and then Mary runs away! Will she never get a break?!?!?
Mary tells Catherine that she can’t call off the wedding because she is pregnant. Catherine tells her that she must protect her crown and her heir at all costs. Mary is resigned to there being no backing out now.
Neither Greer nor James are planning on attending the knotting ceremony. Greer tells James she can’t leave Rose in the nursery because the nobles don’t like a baby of color. James is outraged and says that he will set them straight. He tells Greer that the three of them will go to the knotting ceremony together!
Meanwhile, however, James goes to see Emily Knox (Claire Hunter), and she professes her love for him. It seems to be clear that James is actually falling for Greer and is only using Emily to get information on Knox’s plans for Mary. He does learn that Lord White, Keira’s husband is coming to murder Darnley. James leaves to take care of it.
Mary tells Catherine that she suspects some plot is afoot when neither James nor Darnley show up for the knotting game. David Rizzio (Andrew Shaver) is introduced to Catherine, and I adored him fanboying her! Shaver is great in this scene – and really in the episode. I loved him giggling over the honor of meeting Catherine! Rizzio also comes to Mary’s rescue and tells her to begin the game – no one gives a damn about the groom!
James finally arrives and fills Mary in that he’s saved Darnley’s life, but has no idea where he is. Mary is sure that Lady Lennox will know – and she sends Catherine to find out.
I adored the scene between Catherine and Lady Lennox. First, Reign is just so good at these wonderful sumptuous events. But more than that, Megan Follows is simply brilliant in this role. Catherine is standing on Lady Lennox’s string – physically preventing her from getting to her reward. Very much like a spider catching a fly in her web. Catherine begins by saying that she and Lady Lennox have a great deal in common. Lady Lennox agrees that they are both the mothers of Kings. Catherine clarifies that she meant that they both have great affection for Mary, Queen of Scots – not so subtly underlining who the royal is. And driving the point home with, “I suppose a King Consort is a kind of King…” Lady Lennox tries to get some of her own back by disparaging King Charles as a “special” kind of King, but Catherine is having none of it. Lady Lennox’s face gives away the fact that Darnley is meeting with Cardinal Odomo.
Rizzio is bringing Mary cake and overhears Mary and Catherine talking. He tells them that he can find out where Darnley is meeting with the Cardinal. Catherine immediately wants to know who he is sleeping with – and he admiringly remarks that she’s good! Catherine modestly says she doesn’t judge… As it turns out Rizzio is sleeping with Father Julian (Kyle McWatters]).
Mary warns Rizzio that what he’s doing is dangerous, but thanks him for his loyalty. For his own part, Rizzio says he still doesn’t ever really understand how he got there. He’s clearly Sebastian's emissary to carry out Bash’s promise to look out for Mary – at least as far as the series goes. In real life, however, David Riccio di Pancalieri was Mary, Queen of Scots’s trusted private secretary.
Darnley and Odomo are having a nice chat, agreeing that women are not suited to rule. Darnley insists that he’s a friend to the Church, and Odomo tells him that the Vatican will supply him with the funds he needs to keep Mary in line. The two are interrupted by a furious Mary!
Adelaide Kane was terrific in this scene. She confronts Odomo and tells him in no uncertain terms that Scotland has one true ruler. Mary, Queen of Scots, daughter of King James V, crowned on her sixth day. She tells him, “it’s my crown and my birthright and I’ll defend it from anyone who tries to take it!” I loved how uncomfortable Darnley looks too!
Mary still has doubts about her own border towns, however, and confides as much in Catherine. Catherine assures her that there are other ways to keep them in line. And this is Catherine’s final gift to Mary…
At the knotting game, James apologizes to Greer for being late and the three follow a thread together, growing closer. Later, James accosts Martin, who tells him that he met Greer in France and means her no harm – he insists that he’s no threat to the relationship that he sees beginning between James and Greer. James quickly realizes that Martin is Rose’s father. He insists that he’s heard “bastard” too often to be offended by the term – he is one after all! Martin then has a proposition for James.
James tells Greer that he knows about Rose and tells her to let Martin spend time with Rose. Greer is mostly worried about what to tell Rose. James urges her not to let her past cloud her future. He insists that Martin could make both Greer and Rose’s lives richer. He tells Greer to let Martin look after Rose during the wedding so that she can attend the wedding with him.
Meanwhile, Emily Knox is in a carriage with John Knox. He takes her to see a woman who is being savagely punished for committing adultery. James and Mary knew too much about his plans so he’s had Emily watched and discovered her affair with James. Luckily, for Emily he doesn’t want quite so public a punishment for her – it would be bad for him too. But he does take her shoes and her dress and sets her out on her own, telling her he doesn’t know where she will go, but she will go there in shame.
Mary breaks the news to Bothwell that she will marry Darnley. She tells him that she’s not as strong as he thinks she is.
There is a lovely moment between Mary and Catherine as she presents Mary with a piece she embroidered for her herself. Mary is surprised, but Catherine insists that poison and political manipulation aren’t her only skills! Catherine tells Mary that she may not love Darnley, but she is surrounded by people who love her and there is still much to be gained from the marriage.
Rizzio comes sailing in to interrupt them – pausing to be distracted by Mary’s dress with a breathless “oh my!” he tells them that there’s a problem with Darnley – he’s drunk…
Mary goes to Darnley – who is indeed drunk. She tells him that she wants to try over and Darnley does seem to want to do better. He tells her that he wants to be a better man, but what are the chances of that? They set about trying to sober him up, but he’s still clearly drunk as the wedding starts. This was a really nicely filmed sequence as Darnley offers his hand, but Mary fails to see it. He thinks she is pushing him away again, but then she offers her own hand and he takes it, realizing that she hadn’t seen his. Lady Lennox is happy to see it.
The wedding is another typical Reign spectacle. James takes Greer’s arm to lead her in and she thanks him for his advice about Martin. She also tells him that she has a checkered past, but he’s not deterred and the two share a nice moment. Greer’s ultimate happiness is threatened again, however, as a very disheveled Emily is seen watching from the background.
As the wedding winds down, we see somewhat confusing views of changing crosses and flags. I was actually pretty confused as to what we were seeing. However, it was the border towns leaving England for Scotland – or at least declaring their loyalty.
Queen Elizabeth is furious. She has been growing closer to Gideon Blackburn – even letting him win at chess to cheer him up. He has completely forgotten about Mary. He tells Elizabeth that he will defend her against Spain. Hearing the news of the border towns, Elizabeth has one of her cloying tantrums. However, she does bring up a good point, blaming her father for creating a lasting distrust of her legitimacy. This creates a nice resonance with Mary’s speech earlier to Odomo about her own legitimacy. And of course, those lines of heritage and legitimacy are also strings that are pulled. Gideon comforts Elizabeth and the two make love.
Meanwhile, Greer has returned to her chambers to discover that Martin has pierced Rose’s ears! More lines of heritage. Greer points out that noble babies don’t have pierced ears and Martin insists that pirate babies do! To make up for it, he leaves some gems – rubies, diamonds, and emeralds – that can be cut down to make earrings for her. In fact, he’s proven that James was right – the stones are worth a fortune in and of themselves. He’s already made Greer and Rose literally richer.
In their final scene, Catherine tells Mary that the border towns have been swayed – because Catherine saw to it. She took Mary’s wedding gifts and distributed them amongst the towns, winning their loyalty – or paying for it anyway. Mary is hopeful that she will never have to sleep with Darnley again. Catherine advises her to take trips away from him and then claim that the pregnancy makes sex out of the question. Catherine also warns Mary that she needs more than a child and being Queen – she needs to be careful to ensure her own safety.
The episode ends with Mary going to the wedding chamber only to find Darnley passed out on the bed. She goes out onto the balcony to see Bothwell looking up at her from the courtyard – the two share a long look…
I thought this was quite a good episode, with the themes carried through the various threads/strings of the story. We are galloping along now, and I’m enjoying seeing the threads of history woven into the story as well. I am also sad that there is still so much of Mary’s story to tell in such a little time. It’s going to be interesting to see how far they will go. What did you think of the episode? Did you miss the France storyline? Would you be as happy as I would be if they’d just mostly drop the Elizabeth storyline?
By: Lisa Macklem