Reign Series Premiere Review: Sensuous. Spooky. Side-braids
I am going to have to open an investigation, because it appears someone stole a rough draft of a novel I wrote at age 13 called like “The Quickening Tide” or some silliness and turned it into a waaay better series called Reign. Not really but sort of? You can’t have ever been a teen and NOT feel a visceral connection to some element of the adolescent fantasy that is The CW’s audacious historical fiction teen drama, which was essentially a perfume commercial with a plot, and an actually good one. It would be hard to overstate the visual lushness of Reign, which is much more than just a pretty face. Mary Queen of Scots spent the hour swishing around in prom dresses like they were sweatpants, she has a spooky guardian ghost-angel with a ruined face, and she almost kissed a breathy, moody prince. Let’s all braid a little side-braid into our hair and talk about this show in a breathy English accent.
First of all, I’m very impressed with how Reign sidestepped so many of the errors that plague historical fiction on TV. At no point did anyone sidle up and whisper “Dear, dear brother!” or whisper “My Queen, be patient. For you know the plot to unseat thy blahblahblah.” The pilot got through the exposition quite gracefully, and by the end of the first 15 minutes we knew who was who in our love triangle, the basic premise, pretty much everything except what this lady had been about to say before her brain melted
It says a lot about where I am now vs. where I was at 13 that I related to her the hardest out of the whole bunch. She thought she had such a sweet gig taste-testing the porridge and bloop, suddenly she’s bleeding out into her burlap habit. We’ve all been there.
As an inciting incident, an assassination attempt is just a great choice, and the fact that Mary was no longer safe at the convent meant it was time to put on the first of her many, many hair crownlets and slip out of the frying pan and into the fire: the hot, lusty fire of the French Court, where legendary bitch Catherine de' Medici was waiting to become her mother-in-law.
Meet the worst family of in-laws ever: a super horny French King, his moody son Frances, his bastard son Sebastian, and his rich and scheming Queen Catherine, who likes to get together with Sexy Nostradamus and huff spray paint out of goblets (a cherished royal tradition, just ask Kate Middleton) and talk shiiiiit on Mary, Queen of Scots.
Mary, we learned, has been engaged to Frances since age 9, when Queen Catherine shipped her off to the nunnery—and now the royal family is not so sure if they want to actually go through with the marriage or investigate other options (maybe Italy or Spain is DTF!). Mary’s only support group in this overdressed viper’s nest comprises her four best friends Kenner, Greer, Peaseblossom and Lola, who I think she just met? (They sure weren’t at the convent.) These Scottish noble ladies talk in English accents somehow and are so into side-braids it’s not even funny.
Like there is not even another place to put a side-braid on this girl’s fool head.
I am going to mention this once and then leave it at that, because this ain’t the History Channel and actual Tudor-era clothing is kind of the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled, but the gorgeous parade of prom dresses these girls would spend the rest of the episode wearing would not even pass as sufficient underwear in the 1600s. Not even on prostitutes. They would all be required to wear this sort of thing, especially the headgear:
And Mary, Queen of Scots looked like this :
Make of that what you will. I would much rather enjoy the dresses these legit fashion models ended up in after their makeover scene, where they acclimated Mary to her new life at court by making her put pink Vaseline on her hand and line her eyelids with burnt twigs. Cosmetics used to be HELL! Thank GOD for Wet N’ Wild and MAC and all the things that don’t involve grinding choke berries and chicken period into rabbit fat or whatever they used to use for lipgloss.
After changing into a dress so beautiful it made me all but roll around on the floor and molest myself (Kenner knows what I’m talkin’ about), Mary sought out Frances, her betrothed. Another great move the series made was to scatter in a few little flashbacks to their childhood friendship, which helped us feel as puzzled and taken aback as Mary when she actually got to talk to Frances and he was terse and tetchy. He was very territorial about his special blade-smithing room, something we would not understand until we realized it doubled as a skank-smithing room. Natalia is such a skank but I already like her for some reason? I agree with Frances: skanks are just good company.
When Mary returned to give Frances some pebbles he could use to decorate his knives (??? Great idea). Frances got twitchy and ordered her to leave because Natalia was probably, at that very moment, like, licking his ankles and Mary was like “Arrgh!” and ran outside and threw the pebbles at the cold, indifferent sky and her dog ran off (probably the random burning pyres and flying pebbles put him on edge).
Mary needed a vacation from this vacation and it was only day two. When she tried to follow her dog about four feet toward the woods, she was confronted by Frances’ half-brother and full-bastard Sebastian. And so our love triangle is in place! The cold prince she wants to love, the charismatic non-prince who is already way too concerned with her welfare. Oooooh weave it into my brain’s side-braid.
Meanwhile, Lola was surprised in her bathtub (no, they didn’t have those kind of bathtubs then shhhh just go with it) by Colin, a fresh-faced Aberdeen dude. Of course they asked Catherine de’ Medici’s permission to marry and she was like “I’m sorry, who the hell are you people again?”
I seriously loved this scene. I loved the overdramatic stage whisper and the hand shadow and the secret passage behind the panelling! What I especially love about it is that it sort of leaves the supernatural element in question: Be this spectre a ghost or mortal?! Some benevolent spy? Some less fortunate half-sister?
The entire ball scene… just yes. Yes to everything. Yes to Mary’s black dress, and to her pulling all her friends onto the dance floor and all of them kicking off their shoes for a rousing folk dance.
Yes to the breathless, lingering glance between Mary and Sebastian and the breathless, lingering glance between Mary and Frances. To the white feathers floating onto black hair. I’m not ashamed to say that I am all about this and can we all just vicariously spin around at a ball wearing all black? Yes. Then it was off to the sexual consummation of the bride and groom!(Record scratch)
Yes this was a real thing that actually happened back in the day. Isn’t history a nightmare? What’s so compelling about this period is that life was incredibly fleeting, the life expectancy was somewhere around 29 years of age, and people did the bulk of their living and made their most significant life decisions in their teen years. The whims of horny teenagers literally ruled the world and a lot of their natural hormonal wildfire was held in check by incredibly rigid laws concerning sex, with an intact hymen being a woman’s passport to basically ing. So yes, it was customary at important ceremonies for the wedding guests to follow the couple into the bedroom (and sometimes even crawl under the sheets with them) to make sure sex happened. King Henry VIII had a he-said she-said thing with Queen Katherine of Aragon about whether or not she was a virgin when they married that brought Europe to the brink of war: It was better to just be certain, and there was no “pic or it didn’t happen.”
So Mary, her ladies and four frowny middle-aged perverts watched the newlyweds don approximately 12 yards of muslin each and then get into a heavily canopied bed and more or less do the nasty.
It was so hot that Kenner had no choice but to flee the room, get to the top of some stairs and polish her ring finger, if you know what I mean.
Guys, real talk: They are in a winding, twisty-ass royal castle. How many tapestries and dark corners and private chambers did she pass by on the way to measure herself for bowling gloves at the top of a well-lit staircase? And then the KING HIMSELF happened along and literally gave her a hand.
Where will this lead? Were your parents watching when this happened? Dudes if I was watching this show with my parents during my teen years I would have sunk into the floor faster than the Wicked Witch of the West at Six Flags Ragin' Waters.
Anyway. Mary meanwhile learned that Frances was not completely 100 percent sure about marrying her, stomped off to her room, lit 48 candles, and tried to get some sleep.
Guys, attempted rape scenes are the worst. They make me sick no matter how subtle they are. The moment I hear a belt buckle jingle, I just start like clenching my shoulders. So this seemed pretty disturbing, Colin climbing onto the bed and unbuckling his trousers and then clapping his hand over Mary’s mouth when she woke up. The ghost had warned her, this dude totally roofied her wine. Ghost you are the best.
So this was the part I sort of had trouble with: Lola totally defended him. We would learn later that Catherine de’ Medici FORCED him to roofie Mary’s wine so he could have sex with her while she was unconscious and thus make it impossible for Frances to marry Mary, which yikes, Catherine is now an unforgivable villain and so too is Colin. That is RAPE, yo. That Lola even tried to apologize and guilt-trip Mary about it, and that poor Mary (who I'm starting to think may have self-esteem issues) even tried to defend Colin is sort of insane and ridiculous. "I may have given him the wrong message in my happiness of the wedding"??!! I’ll forgive Mary because I think she just wanted to talk to him to figure out who had supplied the roofies, but Lola is officially a garbage person. She doesn’t just have bad taste in chartreuse prom gowns, she is a terrible person and if I were Mary I would demote her to chamber pot duty immediately. Yet Lola burst into tears and all the noble ladies gave her a group hug and Kenner thought it was so hot she had no choice but to flee the room, find a very well-lit staircase and moisturize her hangnails. I assume.
After what had truly been a bummer day, Mary left her royal ladies and walked smack into a very cute guy and her dog. Sebastian had found Stirling! And he was waaaaay too concerned with how Mary was doing. Oh Sebastian. Later we found out the dog had been attracted by the blood in the woods. The blood in the woods!!! Oh this show.
In another exceptionally well-framed shot so gorgeous that Kenner had no choice but to flee the environs and, well, you know, Mary stood atop a turret in a dark cowl and thanked her ghost guardian angel. I got chills, I’m a sucker for turrets and cowls and howling winds.
And the episode ended with a breathy almost-kiss between Mary and Frances, which Frances stalked away from like the tortured, brooding soul he is. To be continued next Thursday!
I really don't have any complaints here. I earnestly hope and pray that Lola falls into a hole that goes all the way to hell, but I genuinely like Mary. Adelaide Kane is tremendous and likable and restrained. I want to see her be happy with one or both of these dudes. Catherine de' Medici seems like a devious and sinister opponent, and I want to see Mary win Frances over and make him squirm a little, too. I am interested in the king and Kenner, I'm even interested in Peaseblossom and Mirthseed or whatever their names are. The pilot set up a dangerous and beautiful world that I want to return to. Will you be attending Queen Mary next week?
By Lily Sparks
Reign "Snakes in the Garden" Review: Age of Consent
I know it's a little early, but I kind of want to give this show a friendship bracelet. Friendship crownlet? It's like someone I want to know made this show just for me. How did y'all like the arty new opening credits? How did you like the establishing shot of the for-real, mortar-and-stone, no-CGI-thanks castle? How did you like the anachronistic music like in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette? Reign's second episode was slightly more restrained, but it raised the stakes and proved our girl is no fool. Just very lonely. So lonely she is sweating a ghost. But let's start at the beginning, with a crazy torture scene and a scuttling hunchback.
Colin was not, after all, beheaded last week: Someone painted a red X (the international sign for “execute tomorrow”; apparently 16th century French justice had no time for paperwork or asking people their names) on the wrong prisoner's door, and our spooky ghost/disfigured creature of shadows loosed Colin to try and make his rapey way out of the keep. Thank you?
Of course, this was good news for Mary, as she wanted to interrogate Colin about where he got his roofie wine. Mary demanded the King and Queen find him and restrain themselves from beheading him for at least 15 minutes so she could figure out who orchestrated the attempted assault on her last week. Of course obviously this was Queen Catherine de'Medici, so she was like, “Who knows what our guards will do? We certainly can't give them orders” and the King was like, “I'll see what I can do.” Score one for Mary! Mary also skillfully inserted herself into a totally cool road trip out to meet Francis's brother's 7-year-old fiancee Lady Madeleine, part of Mary's continuing efforts to seduce Francis against his will. Catherine de Medizzy was not pleased by the idea of Mary and Francis sharing the 16th century version of Combos and listening to hot jams on an unchaperoned trip, but she needn't have worried as Mary apparently fell immediately asleep. Yes, Mary is that girl on a road trip.
But see what gentlemen guys were before Vine videos? Prince Charles and Prince Francis politely let her slumber and complimented her body spray (Calgon Vanilla Cupcake), whereas guys today if you fall asleep on a road trip will draw all manner of crude runes on your cheeks then put shaving cream on your hand and make that shit viral.
Mary's big wakeup call came when instead of a pink, sparkly bridal ship at the harbor there was an approaching English warship! Francis was about to send Mary flying on a horse into the wilds (THE BLOOD FOREST!!) for her safety, but luckily Bastian arrived and, like he does, made everything okay: He explained that the English had just given the 7-year-old bride-to-be a ride when her ship broke down. All was well. Not a hair on her head or pearl on Madeleine's hat had been touched. Look at the hats! Gosh those hats.
The engagement party for the children (HRRRK involuntary gag excuse me) was a chance for Mary to meet the English envoy, Simon. Simon lost no time in body-shaming Mary (“You are clearly of age”—new creepiest comment ever) and asking why Francis hadn't set a date to marry her.
Francis, sensitively enough, whisked Mary away to fake make out against a pillar. This was a big moment for Francis as a protector, potential love interest, and all-around savvy dude, he managed to look out for Mary and frustrate an English envoy and whisper nose to nose with Mary. He would later prove to be not so awesome, when she alluded to her suspicions that his mother had forced Colin to try to assault her, and Francis freaked out. It left her with no choice but to ask old Crazy Eyes to do her a solid and get Colin first—even though it meant GOING INTO THE BLOOD WOOD!!!
Also... am I alone in kind of giggling at “the English” being constantly named as the big bad when everyone is speaking with an English accent? It's sort of hard to remember all the characters are basically French (or Scottish) and all these breathy English accents whispering about how the English want to just take everything... it's sort of folding my brain in on itself like a taco. But that's nothing new.
Speaking of folding in on yourself like a taco, Kenner and the King's super sexy little storyline got both heated up and cooled down this episode, suggesting a long-term arc: The King (his regular mistress is on vacation) approached Kenner and asked if she'd like to bed down for realz, she answered later that she had to focus on marrying rich dudes who would want a virtuous wife, an explanation followed by the greatest segue ever: “Do you see that man who can't take his eyes off me?” BWAAHHH!!! Genius line. How quickly can I incorporate this into literally everything I say? “Do you see that man who can't take his eyes off me? No? He must have scuttled off. Anyway nice to meet you, I'm Lily.” “Do you see that man who can't take his eyes off me? He just made my Subway sandwich and is waiting for me to give him five dollars for this footlong.”
The King pulled perhaps the greatest pimp move in French history by showing up at Kenner's door with the rich guy in question and proving he could get them engaged in a moment's notice regardless of whether she had been a freak in his bed. Kenner was appropriately dressed for such a conversation in a push-up bustier?!
Guys these clothes!! They are so technically inaccurate, but I would argue that they are technically accurate in the sense of beauty and fashion they convey, transporting us to a greater sense of empathy for the time? I don't care how I have to rationalize it. It's like a moving Elle photo spread and I want to look at it, thanks.
Mary's dress when she tried to chase down a ghost was particularly beautiful. Also we can stop calling her the ghost, Mary learned that her helpful guardian angel's name is Clarissa and Mary REALLY wants them to hang out more. Not only did she basically beg her to hang out in the middle of a fa-la-la garden party, she went into the secret passage and started up a game of marbles.
Seriously though I love how Mary is not afraid of Clarissa at all. She knows a friend when she sees one (not often, apparently) and is completely okay with hanging out with a ghost, no shame, no reticence. I've honestly never seen a character so comfortable with a mysterious, possibly malevolent presence and it's sort of refreshing and intoxicating. Also Clarissa helped Mary figure out who'd poisoned her dress. Or rather not poisoned her dress? Basically the English envoy Simon had STAGED a poisoned dress attack rather than actually paying for the poisoned dress (pricy, and lots of cleanup when the flesh bubbles all over the floor), and he started really digging at Mary about how France was no safe haven for her, they were in cahoots with the Queen to oust her and she should get on back to Scotland. The show then took possibly its biggest historical liberty yet by making Mary assert that she had no desire to assume the English throne. English historians all over the country started throwing things at their TVs because the Mary, Queen of Scots was like a full-time all-day English throne coveter, she wanted that English throne like a fat kid wants cake. She spent the majority of her reign jumping through hoops so Elizabeth I would consider naming her as successor. Whatever, maybe Mary was just trying to throw him off. Pretty sure this isn't meant to be a documentary y'all!
Meanwhile, in the heart of the Blood Wood(shiver of joy) Bastian was doing what he does best: GETTING RESULTS. Unfortunately the results were blood-soaked and upside-down. Nostradamus's pilot prophesy had already come true! Blood on petals! It took Bastian a long time to get the body down, apparently, by the time we saw him again dark had fallen and Francis had shown up. They lost one point for referring to each other as “Dear brothah!” but I'm still so impressed they kept that out of the pilot I'll let that one slide. You get ONE, Reign, you get ONE.
And immediately the show got even more awesome as we noticed mysterious figures flitting around the Blood Wood, shifting through the trees. Bastian, thinking fast, cut his palm open and started talking witchcraft. WHAT WAS HAPPENING?!
Apparently Bastian knows things about the Blood Wood and its heretics (pagans?!) and their crazy blood vows and how to deal with them. God knows what crazy poems he had to recite and what body parts he had to let blood from to get Mary's dog back last week. He translated the witch language to Francis later as “Deep the roots dark the night red the blood I will pay.” YUP. Somewhere, right now, Loreena McKennitt is setting these words to a melody for an autoharp. TRUST.
However the terrifying PTSD-triggering episode in the woods did make Francis take the threat to Mary more seriously. Realizing her life was at risk, he went toe-to-toe with Catherine de' Medici, proving he was no mama's boy by telling her that if Mary died, he would be really, really, really mad. Take that, mom. No seriously though, Francis stood up to both his parents in defense of Mary and clearly he's making her a priority—a pivotal moment for him as a man coming into his own and a suggestion that he completely wants to consent to a marriage with her like uh YESTERDAY.
Of course Catherine had arranged for Colin to be bled to death in a tree, in addition to all her child wedding preparations (sooo many Jordan almonds tied up in little bags) AND being chastised by her son about her international scheming? No wonder she was just bushed, but before she could lay down, Catherine realized someone had painted the executioner's X on her sheets and let out a whoop. Clarissa you cheeky little devil you.
So, slow progress this week: Francis and Mary trust each other, Francis seems quite protective of Mary (even after she pulled the risky “your mom or me” card), and instead of ending the episode staring out into the middle distance over the lake, Mary ended the episode staring out into the middle distance over the lake with Francis.
The preview for next week's episode looks incredible. A rival proposes a new alliance? Another ball? Mary wears a neck ruff? I think I'm sort of completely hooked on this show and I intend to spend my weekend convincing people who haven't watched it yet to do so. They will learn a little too much about my affinity for side braids, but the real friends will be cool with it (and maybe even look up crownlets on Etsy with me later.)By Lily Sparks
A little boy climbing a hill with a grown man's face. The distant call of bag pipes. An angry English knight copy-pasted all over a field. Scotland is in trouble, trouble that can only be solved with romance. God I love this show.
This week's episode of Reign put aside the hunched-back ghosts and passageways and torture for an hour and zeroed in on the essentials: drama, sex, and "hand detailing the downstairs." Or at least that was Kenna’s focus. AGAIN.
Leave it to Kenna to turn a few girlish giggles about first kisses and court crushes into another crash course on the benefits of a thorough masturbation session. No, I seriously love Kenna more and more with every episode. Finally, a girl who regularly blurts out uncomfortable statements and makes everyone sit there until the moment passes like they’re waiting for a garbage truck to pull away. Kenna managed to make everyone who was on camera with her uncomfortable TWICE in this episode: once under the weepy willows and once during the lush boating party in act three, when she sidled up to Bash and was all, "Argh, my affair with your dad isn’t going great," and he was like, "That’s my dad, weirdo, please stop talking," and she and I made eye contact through the TV and were both like, "Yeah we need to stop over-sharing." Is that over-sharing of me to say? Speaking of over-sharing, let’s go back to the top of the episode, when Hipster Nostradamus had another one of his inconvenient visions: a lithe, bloody torso, which he interpreted as meaning war—war that would reach inside the castle!
The English were indeed encroaching on Scotland’s borders, so Mary was standing on the brink of war, which would mean strategy for a man but for a lady queen meant a lot of shaming from a random Scottish emissary. Poor Mary got another talking-to for why she’s failed to successfully woo Frances and is still a spinster at, like, age 16. But luckily this episode, Mary was about to get some options, a little affirmation. Some hot, Portuguese affirmation. But first she had to climb 14 feet into a tree.
The bastard son of the King of Portugal had come to the French Court to buy some timber, and his interest in Mary was immediately piqued when he found her STANDING IN A TREE and looked up her skirt. How in the HELL did she get up there? Seriously. We all know how she came down, because it was painfully captured on camera—she shot out of that tree and slammed Tomas to the ground like they were in a cage-match fight. It looked like a truly awkward and painful stunt, however Tomas had never felt more inflamed.
The fact that the one-two punch of Mary’s climbing skills and + the literal impact of her pelvis into his rib cage won Tomas over was a tragic turn for Greer, Mary’s rich-but-not-noble Scottish lady-in-waiting who was counting on marrying him to boost her fortunes. Greer had a whole river picnic planned to seal the deal, and spent a whole scene assembling her shopping list at a 16th century Whole Foods equivalent. Her high-strung, demanding sense of entitlement caught the attention of the time period's version of a cashier, who was easy on the eyes though quite possibly illiterate.
But even while Greer was planning the sandwiches that would make Tomas hers forever, Tomas was presenting Mary with legit chests of treasure and offering his hand in marriage. Mary pointed out he wasn’t a royal and she was a Queen, so gross, and he countered that his dad was petitioning the Pope to legitimize him, so one day he could be King of Portugal. Has Bash heard about the Pope’s magical ability to legitimize people? You’d think he might be interested.
Bash was getting squeezed out of fencing practice by Frances, who was trying to do Mary a solid and get her some troops to defend those borders. King Henry was like, "Yo, the English are always going to invade Scotland, Scottish sovereignty will be debated well into 2013 basically," and Frances was all, "But dad, Mary is very very pretty. I am trying to make her think I am a tough guy despite having features more delicate and beautiful than those of a young Winona Ryder." King Henry even agreed that if Frances beat him at playing swords he would send six companies of men off to Scotland, but when Frances unbelievably did somehow beat him, Henry was like, "Haha, King Lesson #1: We don’t have to keep promises! Who you going to call, Ghostbusters?!" and Bash was like "Can I go now?"
King Henry was in an ill-tempered mood this episode. Perhaps it was because Kenna was denying his lusty urges, or perhaps it was because the first chill of winter forced the Court to don their bulky, woolly sweaters. But he really reamed out Nostradamus at the SECOND AMAZING BALL that’s taken place in three episodes. P.S., if you are a show and you have two royal balls in three episodes, then I will watch you until I can watch you no more. Even if you make the main character wear a dress that really emphasizes her armpits. But anyway, King Henry started yelling at Nostradamus: What kind of fortune teller was he, anyway? He didn’t even do card tricks. Hipster Nostradamus was like, "That’s completely not what I do, I’m more like a seer taken by visions," and King Henry was like, "I said go do some tarot," and Nostradamus was like, "Yes sir."
Luckily, the mystical visions that beset Nostradamus like screeching birds of prey fell upon him that very instant and turned him into a stage-whisper maniac. He stage-whispered to Greer that she would marry a man with a white mark on his face, he told Peaseblossom she would never go home, and then he informed Mary that a dragon and lion would fight on a field of poppies.
No time to explain, it was time to tango. No one puts Mary in a corner. Tomas proceeded to dance the most erotic dance known to man at that time, despite the fact Mary was wearing a dress whose statement was "Armpits: Here They Are." No it was lovely, and Adelaide did an amazing job of seeming very demure about all the sexy dancing while falling in step with it rather gracefully.
Is this the same girl who tripped out of a tree a few scenes earlier? She regained her footing. And of course the scene was fantastically lush—even the floor appeared to be inlaid with intertwined Hs and Cs! How did they do that?! Did some PAs come in and spray-paint a mosaic? I was impressed.
Of course, now that she had dirty-danced with the Portuguese Semi-Prince in a spectacle that was the 16th-century equivalent of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, Mary had a lot of 'splainin' to do to both Greer and Frances. She told Frances straight-up: "Tomas wants to marry me, and you, uh, don’t, and also my citizens might legitimately be killed if I don’t find someone willing to help me and yes that might mean marrying this random dude." Frances had nuffin' to say to that.
So at the lakeside picnic, Frances figured out how to get some kind of upper hand on his slippery eel of a Royal Dad. Referencing the fact that Henry and Kenna had been shooting each other bedroom eyes constantly, he told Henry that he would alert both his mistress and his wife to the King's new finger-blastin’ shenanigans if he didn’t send a company of six French soldiers out of their country and to a sure death on the Scottish planes at the hands of the English. To this, Henry was like "FINALLY!" What? King Lesson #2: Manipulate people by learning the intricate details of their sex life, even if they’re your dad and it makes you want to ball up and cry when you imagine their sex life. Which brings us to Kenna complaining to Bash that Bash's dad was not being a thoughtful lover and Bash silently offering her some of his 40oz of Olde English.
And also Greer mourning the picnic that never was with the 16th-century cashier, who then kissed her. And she was like, "Oh, GROSS!" but though his status may have been lowly, his genes were looking tight.
Frances asked Bash to ride with the six companies toward Scotland since Bash is the fastest rider in the kingdom, apparently. So Bash dunked his head in a trough to sober up and took off for the highlands, mumbling something about how it would be worth it if it meant Mary would stay around. Bash you are trying to give me feels, aren’t you? You and your laser eyes are trying to give me feels.
Frances told Mary the news, saying he couldn’t guarantee that just because France had sent soldiers he’d actually marry her for realsies, but he was trying, and Mary was like, "I’d rather be your hope than someone else’s certainty!" Big romantic sighs all around.
Mary was able to make things up to Greer by introducing her to an interesting new drink, coffee (lol), and Greer was like, "This is perfect because I was already hassling people with really complicated orders for vittles, it’s like I’m an angry Starbucks customer before Starbucks even existed, I can get so mad about how I drink this that I’m already excited." And Mary was like, "Word."
Meanwhile, Frances’ hopes were dashed, perhaps even BASHED, when Bash’s horse returned dragging the poor bastard behind him. Hipster Nostradamus immediately recognized the bloody torso from his dreams and King Henry used this as a teachable moment for Frances: You made a decision based on your affections and it cost six companies of men their lives! However much a company is! I’m guessing somewhere between 12-50 men! Catherine asked King Henry afterward, well, hadn’t the loss of the soldiers been due, actually, to some kind of spy at Court letting the English know the French were sending troops? And King Henry was like, "Shhh, teachable moment." King Lesson #3: It’s important to form life-altering philosophies based on situations where you don’t have all the facts.
So Frances was standing in the garden, an expression of tortured angst distorting every ligament in his countenance as he no-doubt pictured the suffering of his lost French compatriots, when Mary approached, eager to assuage him that he’d done the right thing in trying to help her. Instead of the explosion we might have been expecting from Frances, he turned around and kissed her passionately!
Aaaaaand then he immediately told her she should just marry the Portuguese guy, because clearly France was not going to be able to send Scotland anymore troops after the first six companies AND his brother couldn’t even make it onto a boat without getting crushed by the English as thoroughly as a piñata in a trash compactor. So now Mary has promised herself to a Portuguese Half-Prince! And Bash is in mortal peril! And Frances is going to be unnecessarily emotionally traumatized! And Kenna is horny.
A great episode, basically, and a cliffhanger! This show is not really into holding the hands of new viewers—you either keep up or get out of its way—and barreling straight into a two-episode arc is a daring decision for such a new series. Here’s hoping more viewers get up to speed and tune in next week, because I really want this season to ascend to the throne.
Reign "Hearts and Minds" Review: You Don't Know What You Got 'Til It's Gone
One of the most heartbreaking lessons of adulthood is that the world is not a meritocracy. TV will tell you otherwise, but offscreen, “fair” is just simply not written into the physical laws of our world. Awesome talents go ignored until it’s far too late. The bad guys are sometimes the ones who get to put up the battle monuments. And fantastic shows go unseen and get canceled. Reign is trying to do something rare and right-hearted and weird and ambitious. It's not talking down to its audience and it's painting a forthright and original heroine. Although fewer and fewer viewers appear to be attending court, the show and its actors have incredible merit, and the show is on the right side—if not the accurate side—of history.
Oh and BTW, my bad for not mentioning this before, but did you recognize Queen Catherine as ANNE OF F-CKING GREEN GABLES?!?! It didn't sink in for me until this episode. Megan Follows just straight up doesn’t look old enough to have starred as our beloved Anne of Avonlea all those years ago in far-off Canada. She is lookin’ GOOD, is what I’m trying to say, though truly that’s none of my business. Weirdly, though, the costume department has not yet featured her in a gown with puffed sleeves.
Our angsty royal teen soap opera opened this week with a tournament betwixt JUST Tomás, the Portuguese semi-Prince, and Frances, taking shots at a target that looked inexplicably like the “castle ghost.” Tomás handily won and handed off his favor, a decidedly phallic pink rose, to Mary.
Mary was stressed enough about Peaseblossom’s sidebraids slowly enveloping her entire head, poised to weave themselves into her nose and mouth, but then the tournament got super serious when Simon the Bitchy English Envoy was arrested for ambushing the French troops last week and sending Bash to Nostradamus’s studio for doctoring!
Nostradamus, in addition to being a vizier and paint-huffer, apparently also did a little medieval first aid, also known as grave-digging. Haha but seriously, what a terrible time to be sick and/or a human being. People died for want of Neosporin, basically. Bash was on death’s door, and Lola checked in on him, bewailing that he was going to leave this mortal coil “so soon.” So soon indeed! We're only on Episode 4! When Bash asked if she had the heart to stay with him and nurse him, she answered that she had nursed two brothers into the grave. So, fair warning: Lola is apparently a TERRIBLE TERRIBLE NURSE. Bash, perhaps deciding she shouldn’t handle any bandages, asked her to read him a coloring book.
Meanwhile things were NOT looking great for Simon: A hussy (or as Frances delicately whispered to Mary, “She’s a prostitute”) testified she had seen Simon apparently bragging about ambushing France in a French pub? Geez, this guy has cojones. Mary agreed to sign the prostitute’s evidence, magically making it true, and King Henry decreed the man would be beheaded as part of their Michaelmas celebrations. I am glad we no longer celebrate Michaelmas, is all I can say about that.
Mary and her four willowy maids would be hauling ass to Portugal directly after Michaelmas: They intended to leave in two days' time! Mary generously told her maids they didn’t have to go with her, they could stay in the French Court if they wanted to, and presumably become hussies to earn their keep. All the ladies were like, “Boo, we don’t want to be homeless, we can learn Portugese, 'hola' or something” but Kenna got that twinkle in her eye. Being a hussy suddenly seemed like a savvy lateral career move.
Mary and Frances were, perhaps now that they were no longer officially engaged, seriously feelin’ it with each other and up on all over each other if you get my drift. You don't know what you got 'til it's gone when it comes to smokin' hot royal fiancees. They were stealing little kisses between every sentence, and Mary even suggested they meet out of sight of the castle to make out on a blanket. This was a very cute scene where we learned that because of a fumbled childhood portrait, all of Europe believed Frances was a sickly dwarf! Haha, all of Europe believed his half-brother the better man, hoho! Once Mary started needling him on his insecurities and really negging him out, Frances was putty in her hands. Sexual putty.
Kenna, meanwhile, was pleading her case to the King: “Why remain loyal to your wife and/or the mother of your son, who’ve stood by you for decades, when I’m horny NOW? Make me your mistress instead.” Almost zero guys ever have been able to resist this line of logical reasoning, but Henry actually told her that he had to be loyal and true to both of the women he was committed to. Wife, Mistress, and Honor: the code of chivalry.
Tomás, meanwhile, had found out about Mary and Frances’ blanket diddle session, though we did not see how—every time two Portuguese people got together and started talking the scene cut away, making me think no one on the set knew a word of Portuguese. So Tomás mercilessly whipped one of his servants to intimidate Mary and get her to submit to her “betters,” a group of which he considered himself a part. It was around this time that Mary started thinking maaaaybe Tomas was not nearly as romantic as the pink roses and chests of costume jewelry might have led her to believe, a suspicion rapidly confirmed as Tomás continued shouting at her that he would rule Scotland like she didn’t even exist. But obviously if she didn’t marry him there’d be no Scotland anyway, moot point. Mary was really between a rock and an angry sociopath on this one, but luckily Francis and Bash had a plan.
Or at least, Frances and Bash had a gossip session that was immediately interrupted by Tomas, who was like, “Why can’t you talk shit to my face?!” He snapped on Frances pretty hard about how many ships he had access to (harsh), and was basically like, “Yeah Mary is mine, if I want to hold her upside-down and mop the floor with her pretty pretty hair, that’s my beeze.” Bash, showing that passion (or shall we call it "Bashion") for which he is apparently known all across Europe, was like, “Yeah, we gotta kill him.”
The ghost, proving even more useful than two royal brothers, put a chest full of Portuguese secrets in Mary’s room. Mary was like “I love you, ghost. And I miss hanging out.”
The girls, meanwhile, were determined to enjoy their last masque at Court by finding really sexy costumes for Michaelmas, which was going to involve a masquerade in addition to the big beheading! Again, super glad we no longer celebrate this jacked-up psycho holiday. Masques, in general, were like the Halloween of the 16th century: social permission to dress as sexy as humanly possible. And dress sexy they did... all except Lola, who apparently went to the 16th century version of a Rite Aid for her costume.
Mary’s dress, however, was one of the best things that could ever happen to eyeballs.
So at the ball(THREE BALLS IN FOUR EPISODES THIS IS WHY THIS SHOW IS EVERYTHING), Simon was chained to a chair, like you do on Michaelmas, and Mary stopped by and started making smalltalk about what color the rose on his seal was. For a man minutes from the grim spectre of death, Simon was surprisingly witty and composed. After Mary was done chatting up the Condemned, her fiancée came across the room and squeezed her publicly. A public squeezing!
Despite that loathsome contact, Mary knew she now had the perfect intel with which to confront and interrogate that tramp whose evidence she'd co-signed. Mary gathered from the trollop's hot new shawl, cool new hoopty (okay, a vegetable cart), and the bitchin' mass of bruises on her neck that her testimony had been both bought AND coerced by Tomas. The hussy was hiding something about the true party that ambushed the French!! Guys I need a Cliff Notes for this teen drama!
Tomas was in the middle of dispatching the only other witness to his treachery with an arrow (Whipping Boy Miguel, or FML Miguel, as he's also known) when he was interrupted by rapscallion royal Hardy Boys Bash and Frances. Even though there were three guys fighting one angry dude, this fight was a pretty close call, and for the third time in two episodes, Bash was almost killed! But eventually Frances skewered Tomas like a corn dog, totally bumming himself out. In a moment of transcendent, basshionate bromance, Bash told Frances it was GOOD he was freaked out by killing someone. We are not supposed to be okay with killing people. How is it that I have almost NEVER HEARD this sentiment on TV before? Especially on The CW, where necks are snapped as casually as a Doritos bag might be opened. I appreciate u Bash. I APPRECIATE U REIGN!
Meanwhile at the ball Kenna was begging the King to hold off on killing the Envoy because any minute, witnesses would refute the testimony that convicted him. Henry was like, “I do as I please,” and then I was like, “Wait, where are your boobs?” In a shocking turn of events, Kenna was wearing a baggy shirt and for once he looked at her face and listened to her words instead of merely planning their next fingerblastin’ session.
Kenna eloquently pleaded for the English envoy and Henry could not get enough of it. He told her that her confessing her feelings was so brave that he had no choice but to abandon his mistress and mother of Bash for her. Good job, Kenna! You successfully got a much older guy to agree to have sex with you and abandon not one but two families! You are a winner... until you, like, get older and some young up-and-comer does the same thing to you.
So all was well that ended well: Simon the Bitchy English Envoy will still be snipin’ around court causing Mary trouble, yet now he'll have some respect for her Angela Lansbury steeze. Mary is no longer engaged to Tomas, whose murder has been brushed under the rug, with Frances announcing he was gutted by a stag’s horn, and Frances and Mary’s engagement is to resume—with Mary negotiating her own terms!
Of all the many graces Mary possessed, perhaps none impressed Frances more than her business acumen in this affair. As he later praised her, she was a Queen any King would kill for. BUT DIE FOR!? DUN DUN DUN Nostradamus wink
After Frances and Mary were done chastely holding hands and talking about how they were committed to taking it slow, Mary then crept to the secret mouldering passage and basically told her Ghost, Clarissa that she was the greatest and she loved her always. It was genuinely touching how cool and appreciative Mary is with this creature everyone else is terrified by. Then the show was like HORROR STING CLARISSA UNDER THE BED! AHHH HUMANS CAN LICK TOO! No seriously are we really scared by this? Clarissa is the best and if I were Mary I’d even invite her to curl up by my feetsies.
So technically, the fourth episode leaves us exactly where we were the first episode: Mary and Frances are engaged, but negotiating the terms with no set date, Kenna and the King are having intense physical good times, a ghost is somehow the most in the know, Bash is... Bash, and Queen Catherine is most displeased about everything. However, now we’re confident that Frances and Mary are very much in love, and we’ve seen Mary be willing to sacrifice everything for her country but also stand up for herself. She’s a postmodern hero, she’s a semi-accurate sketch of a 16th century princess (but with better clothes). The CW keeps promoting this series as a hit, and I sincerely hope it is. I hope this show reigns over my Thursday nights for many seasons to come.
By Lily Sparks
Reign "A Chill in the Air" Review: Things Just Got Juicy
Hurrah! Fill your chalices to overflowing and slosh it on your bosoms, it’s party time! Reign has received a full-season order from The CW!! I’m happier than Clarissa with a new potato-sack head-mask, I’m that grateful we’ll get to see this series unfold, especially since with "A Chill in the Air" it just got so, so, so much more complicated and dramatic and JUICY. (Bloody? Juicy can also mean bloody, though don’t tell that to the ladies with the velour sweatsuits.) Basically the episode started with a scene from a horror movie, so obviously Reign knew after its happy ending last week (Mary made savvy businesswoman moves to negotiate her own wedding! She and King FrancisFrancis]] are in lurve!) that it was time to pour on the heavy conflict and double up on the strife. We saw a carriage forced to make a detour through the Blood Wood, and then a lady got her throat slit!
Meanwhile, a blissed-out Francis and Mary were mooning over each other’s perfect faces and looking forward to the Harvest Festival, with its exciting tradition of writing your deepest regret on a tiny ship and sailing it off onto a lake. You know, just traditional, universal themes of harvest times: galleons, regrets, and naval exercises in miniature. Do you think Reign is savvy enough to the dual-screen experience (ew ew ew I know I’m sorry I typed it but I’m leaving it in) that it specifically inserted imagery that fans on Tumblr could caption for Reign .GIF sets? ("I built you this ship. It sails itself!") Just a thought.
Anyway, all these good, harvesty vibes were totally ruined when Olivia breezed in and it was revealed she was Francis’s ex-girlfriend! And like, not the kind of puppy-love girlfriend where they they played lutes together. They DID. IT. And now she can’t marry anyone because Sex Cooties! Mary, because she is the heroine that 2013 wants and needs and not just the heroine it deserves, went out of her way to befriend Olivia, asking her to come hang out with her waiting besties. She even ransacked her own closet to play personal stylist to a girl who was being treated as nothing less than a strumpet. It was another moment where Mary just shone as an unconventional trailblazer: Efffff society, she is not going to support some lame-ass double standard where girls’ virginity is fetishized and guys can do the nasty. This blue would go great with your complexion, Olivia! I’m not scared of women who embrace their sexuality (have you met Kenna?) and I’m not shook that you dated my boyfriend.
Unfortunately Olivia did not give two tits about Mary’s generosity or feelings. She made it completely clear she had one goal in coming to the castle: to offer up her body to Francis as his taut, tempting, 24-hour sexual playground. There's not a lot you can do to spackle female solidarity over that. And Francis wasn’t exactly standoffish when Olivia made the offer; they traded some facial juices.
And then Mary learned from Queen Catherine that this was basically what she’d signed on for: Kings and Queens married young, and in time the King was offered every bit of tail from border to border, which inevitably eroded his scruples.
And then Mary got to see Kenna’s side of things, as Kenna was about to become officially the New Royal Mistress: She felt she had total impunity under the protection of the King, felt ZERO allegiance to Mary, and argued that he was not in his marriage by choice, so why worry about the fact that he had a wife? As many tomes as have been written about sexual politics in royal courts, we got to see so many sides of how this systemic oppression turned everybody against each other and made them all dependent on one man’s favor: Olivia had no other options, Mary wanted to fight the system but not at the cost of being seen as weak by a rival, and Francis needed to be a dominant King fighting with the honorable urge to show allegiance to Mary—so many subtle themes in 40 minutes, seriously brilliantly done.
So what would YOU do if some dewy blonde ex rolled up and shamelessly campaigned to be your fiancé’s full-time f*ck buddy? Would you have a reasonable, empathetic conversation with him about it, the way Mary did? Once again, Mary was totally awesome, requesting that he remove Olivia from court out of respect to Mary's feelings, but without being weird about it. Now what would YOU do if after a reasonable discussion like that, your fiancé installed his ex in the Skank Wing of his castle and told you it was none of your beeze? You’d get good and drunk, that’s what you’d do. Then you’d follow the unerring instinct that would issue forth from the alcohol-soaked fissures of your most primordial lizard brain, which would tell you to find the guy he cares about most, and make out with that guy. That’s what you do, girl. We’ve all been there, and that’s just what Mary did, and that’s why I love her. She's trying, but she keeps it real. Mary hunted down Bash and made out with him, arguably out of pure spite, and then Bash responded in the most Bashionate way possible with the best dialogue I’ve heard after a kiss in many, many years:
Mary: That kiss, I shouldn’t have done that!
Bash: No, you’re right, I should have.
My side-braid THROBBED at those words. But of course Francis saw and of course, just like in real life this nasty little moment is going to haunt the rest of the season if not the series, but that’s what we call drama.
So obviously the solidification of the primary Love Triangle was the big development this episode, but there was also the super sinister intrusion of The Blood Wood pagan element INTO the castle. One of the pagans who slaughtered the servant and driver traveling with Olivia works in the kitchen, and Olivia recognized his voice.
I have always associated paganism with like, Druid-esque stuff in the U.K. and Ireland, and Germanic/Norse mythology in Scandinavia, but apparently French pagans not only exist in this universe but they like to drain poor 16th-century day-trippers in an effort to appease the Dark Grundle. Wait no the Grundle is the space between a guy’s family jewels and his throne-sittin’ cushions (take note, all you aspiring mistresses). There was a name for the Pagan deity, but I forgot it and anyhow I am not going to mention it, for fear we draw in the wrong element (homicidal Grundle-worshippers) to this webpage via Google search and I am found hanging upside-down from my apartment ceiling with my useless, adorable terrier licking up my entrails for sustenance. That escalated quickly!
On the waiting-besties front: Greer is continuing her unlikely affair with a kitchen boy who knows how to treat stains, despite having access to this really awesome guy who knows a lot about pepper. Which I think is actually pretty entertaining and fun? I would be into pepper guy, but that’s just me.
Finally, Peaseblossom was chased down the hall by Anne of Avonlea Catherine de Medici and confessed to being a kleptomaniac. BTW how young does Megan Follows look?! Like seriously, WTF? Anne of Green Gables came out in 1982 but Megan Follows looks about 35. What dark sacrifices is she making to the Grundle to look so amazing?! Anyway. Catherine told Peaseblossom (during parrot time) that in order to keep her terrible sticky-fingered secret, Peaseblossom would have to deliver Mary’s letters to her before putting them in the 16th-century mailbox (a pelican’s mouth? I don’t know). Peaseblossom, whose side-braids now resemble the intricate rigging of a 40-sail galleon (perhaps in tribute to harvest time?), agreed.
We then learned, while Catherine painted her face with a mixture of rubber cement and peanut butter, that she had brought Olivia back to the court. She was scheming to make Olivia Francis’s Queen and oust Mary. But BOOYAH, MARY KNEW EVERYTHING MAWF*CKAHS!
Mary had manipulated Catherine into requesting her letters and had correctly deduced that Catherine had engineered Olivia’s return. How refreshing is it to have a heroine who CANNOT be outsmarted? The reveal that Mary had planned the whole letter scheme from the beginning felt totally innovative, and made me love Mary even a little bit more somehow? She hangs out with ghosts and a Medici is her puppet. I love how chill Mary was (initially, at least) about Olivia. I love how she good-naturedly slut-shamed Kenna, and I love how she just up and kissed Bash because she felt like it. Long may she reign! This episode complicated literally everything and GOOD. I can’t wait to drink up the drama of the coming season.
Blood Wood, blood month, bloodLUST. If you correctly guessed last week that the next word to be modified by 'blood' would be 'lust,' then WELL DONE! Reign’s “Chosen” threw around the term bloodlust like so much confetti or at least its 16th-century equivalent (the eyelashes of servants?) and put Bash in a situation that stretched his bashionate nature to its utmost: The pagans threatened Mary’s life first with itchy accessories...
And then a STAG’S HEAD! Quite a wake-up call, I think we can all agree. Like I can’t even deal with taxidermy and taxidermy doesn’t drip.
Yes, the pagans were intent on Bash replacing the human sacrifices he had so casually cut down last week—by FORCING him to kill an innocent and spilling that innocent’s blood!! And if he didn’t, they would kill Mary, because frankly the security in the Court of France is right up there with the security around the bathrooms at a wooded campsite with no doors on the showers, located downhill from an insane asylum. And also it’s not camping season. What I’m trying to say is the security at Court is terrible.
I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little disappointed that they tipped Bash into such a terrible do-or-die, Mary’s-life-is-at-stake, countdown-clock situation the episode after the kiss. I was hoping for a little soul-searching, a few whispers in the corridors betwixt him and Mary, a little more “Dare we even dare to fall in love?” but before Bash could so much as gently offer to fingerblast Mary in the privacy of a palace staircase he was AXE-FIGHTING with Wiccans (okay, I know they weren’t Wiccans, they were pagans) in the woods and catchin’ a case of Bloodlust so fierce he had no choice but to tip poor Jean Valjean off an extremely picturesque cliff.
Bash! Bash. I suppose it's sort of dramatic and romantic to think he was doing all of this for Mary’s sake, although it could also be argued he was doing it to shield his mother and hide her terrible secret from the court: that she was DEFINITELY a Wiccan back in middle school.
Diane, a.k.a. the Official Royal Hussy, definitely got a little spotlight this week and she was pretty great. She’s not particularly shook about Kenna taking over as new Official Royal Dick Warmer, in a few lines between Diane and Henry, we learned this has happened before and that Henry is held in thrall by her ability to arrange her own interior decorators and not complain. Meanwhile, Kenna had a full-on tantrum this episode over iconography in the floor tiles.
Kenna’s first mistake was slapping away Mary’s kind gesture when all the waiting besties went to greet the King on his return from Paris. Kenna was wearing every cape and shawl and hair crown and generally looking like she’d rolled around in the lost & found the last day of Coachella and all the girls were like, “What’s up ho?” and Mary was like, “Kenna can look nice if she wants to!” and Kenna was basically like, “Good job defending me P.S. I hate you.” Oh Kenna.
Kenna invited all her friends to the King’s bedchamber (awkward) to make the big announcement that she was the new royal mistress. Peaseblossom and Greer and Lola seemed tentatively cool with it, but foolishly asked for details, sending Kenna off onto a tangent/flashback about that time the King fingerblasted her at the top of a staircase. (Was this perhaps the footage that got cut from the original controversial masturbation scene in the pilot?!) Did you notice how instantly awkward everyone got, the resigned expressions of “TMI but what can we do” that filled their faces? I mean every conversation with Kenna comes back to this:
Any of the waiting besties could sit across from a police sketch artist and produce a photographic representation of Kenna’s genitals at this point.
However then one of them pointed out Henry and Diane’s initials intertwined in the tiles of the floor and Kenna kind of lost it a little bit. Immediately she was haranguing the King about knocking out all the tiles and being the kind of honorable man who would ditch the mother of his child for a teen he met two weeks ago. As a show of good faith, he arranged for CGI artists to depict her name in glowing lights.
Sweet, right? Impermanent but sweet. It was more than enough for Kenna, who lost her mind and sucked face with the King in gratitude. I will say that while their relationship is shady on every level, the two actors have so much chemistry that I am constantly delighted when they’re onscreen together. Their banter! Their flare-ups! Their sultry eye contact! I don’t agree with anything y’all are doing but also please don’t stop.
Much like her purported waiting ladies, we actually didn’t see a lot of Mary this episode. Poor Mary, her life in danger, had to resort to asking Sara Too Many Headbands to come and sit with her and she had her life threatened by a freaking Pagan charwoman who had an ankle knife! I mean really, security?! Come on. Peaseblossom, where were you? Greer, for shame.
Evil had infiltrated the serving folk of the castle, and we got to see the contrasting between Mary and Catherine’s leadership styles when they took turns asking the servants which of them were in league with the Deville. Mary was like “No judgement. We just want to know who is trying to kill me because France. No judgement.” and Catherine was like “Rat out whoever put the stag in Mary’s bed or I’ll burn all your houses to the ground.” Catherine: She gets results!
I also genuinely liked how angry Catherine was about Mary’s room being broken into by someone that wasn’t her. And Mary instantly calling her on it, like, “Oh you’ve broken into my room before maybe they borrowed your jimmy.” I mean Mary just genuinely does not give a shit about putting on the nice around Catherine. Next week I half expect her to pull on Catherine’s pigtail and call her “carrots” a la Gilbert Blythe.
With both Catherine and Mary on the case however, the truth surfaced: One of Catherine’s own guards had hung the stag in Mary’s bed, and then when she deduced (aloud, Angela Lansbury style) that he would've then had to change to another uniform, she remembered how baggy her guard’s sleeves were and fingered the culprit! (Not that kind of fingered, Kenna. Take it easy.)
I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but there was more than one guard in an ill-fitting costume this week. I’m not sure if that’s good continuity or just a bad coincidence, but there was one guy in like a midriff-sized piece of armor who I noticed before it even became a story point. I guess what I’m saying is it takes balls for a period piece to make a huge story point rely on an extra wearing ill-fitted armor. I mean they are basically DARING us to monitor how well-fit the costumes are on minor characters in future scenes and episodes. Cojones for days.
Speaking of cojones for days: As much as I did not like Bash immediately morphing into Blood Bash the very next episode after the Kiss of the Century, I thought Francis’s speech to Bash and Mary was kind of incredible. He pointed out how the pagans had exploited Mary because of the feelings they knew the two had for each other, and how they all had too much responsibility to get jealous and petty about their love lives. Just a really responsible moment for him there and well said and a lot of complex emotions. Aaaaaand then he somehow twisted that into him and Mary being on a break!! Hahaha that was the best indication we've seen so far that Francis is a born politician: "We've got to be more responsible and focus on what's right for the country. P.S. we're single now so I can sex with Olivia and it doesn't count." He also explicitly forbid Bash from having a crush on Mary! Can he even do that? Bash was like, "Dude, I just killed two people for this girl. You are the worst brother ever."
Poor Olivia. This is a victory for her, but what a line from Francis: “I can’t promise you anything.” I can’t speak for all ladies everywhere, but that is the mental equivalent of hitting an “eject” button on this Batmobile (I can speak for Batmobiles everywhere when I say that we expect emotional commitment and accountability). However Olivia was like, “JUST GIVE ME THE SPERMS” because she wants to get pregnant, lest Catherine haul her in front of another green screen and use the phrase "into your bed" again. So it was very much a win for Olivia and a devastating loss for Mary. I mean, talk about a bummer of a night: Not only was Francis getting busy somewhere down a corridor, but they straight-up burned the pagan pyres DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HER ROOM. The howling screams, the smells. She really should have closed those windows. Like, there aren't enough Glade Plugins in the world.
Of course now Bash has ammunition for wanting to oust Francis kinda sorta maybe? Look, I love that these two love each other. And I love that Bash told him once that being terrified about killing someone was a correct response. But Francis played some mind games with Bash this episode and Bash did not come clean about liplocking with Mary, and also they called each other “brother” about 75 times, which is usually how period dramas convey rising tension. Which is good! Bring it! The conflict and drama, is what I’m saying. Good things! I hope Bash isn’t permanently a pagan psychopath, though.
“Left Behind” was a super-sexy, rampantly rape-y episode, but if you managed to survive it without crushing your pearls to dust you probably noticed Megan Follows is truly at the top of her game. Like, get out a shopping cart and go around to the Emmy voters and the Golden Globers and just get those awards together, because Follows, a.k.a. Catherine DeMedizzy, won them all last night. She volleyed so quickly between a sinister villain and fragile maternal figure and rallying archangel, and I bought all of it thanks to her commitment. Well done Your Majesty!! She is just on fire right now, reminding me of the stellar turn Madeleine Stowe did as Victoria Grayson in Revenge Season 1. Just bitchy and emotional and sympathetic and then sociopathic. I’s wonderful. Tell your friends.
But maybe you were distracted from Follows' performance by the looming threat of rape?! My good dear Lord, but the threat of rape hung over this episode like a soupy Scottish fog over the Stirling moors! I get very squeamish about rape scenes no matter how veiled, so if you’re like me, let me just say this before we start talking: thankfully no rape actually happened! Phew. But the French Court, which we’ve already deduced has the same level of security as a Taco Bell bathroom when the manager takes lunch early to smoke meth in his car, was TAKEN OVER by an angry Italian Count and his legions of swashbuckling henchmen! And then Mary and her ladies were invited to a late night dinner, and it was just so terribly Mysteries of Udolpho.
The episode opened with Catherine taunting Mary that Francis wouldn’t just hook up with any old ho, he would only bed a woman he loved and therefore loved Olivia, which is a tit bit more than a mom should know about her son. But then we found out from Olivia that at the moment of the completion of his passion (giggle) Francis had called out Mary’s name!
Yowza! Can I just say this is the most creative and weirdly effective device I’ve ever heard of exonerating a male character for cheating on a romantic interest? It’s like that question about a tree falling in a forest/does it make a sound: if your almost-boyfriend has sex with another girl, but then he screams your name in her face erstwhile, is it even cheating? Like, he was presumably fantasizing about you the whole time!? Can I call a Worldwide Council of Women to officially legislate on this? Speaking of worldwide female issues, shout out to Reign passing the Bechdel test for 7 out of 7 episodes! The Bechdel test, for those of you who don’t know, essentially means two main female characters talk about something other than a guy in a tv show or movie. And yes, female disfigured faux-ghosts count. But I’m getting ahead of myself!
In a stunning lack of foresight, every able-bodied man in the castle except for Francis, Bash, and Kitchen Lad Leith left for 16th Century Boy Scout Jamboree/Lazer Tag right before an Italian Count came to visit and unpacked a full Louis Vuitton Fall Season of mental baggage: last year the French stole his son, ransomed the son for a small fortune, and then his son died on the way home after the money had been spent. And then his wife died. And then he spent the last three weeks camping in the woods waiting for King Henry to leave, which would put anybody in a tetchy mood. Basically, it didn’t take Nostradamus to see that the Count was about to hold the castle and the 14 people in it for ransom as retribution for the loss of his son.
Since we’ve brought him up, this was a lot of egg on the face for so-called seer Nostradamus: you see everything but this?! The whole castle’s lives being endangered? I don’t know man, I don’t know. Catherine had a great solution for the Count’s problems: kidnap Mary, take her away, marry her maybe. Just take her and go. Should they maybe box her up in a large chest with some gift wrap? However, Francis courageously offered to leave with the Count in Mary’s place as the ransomed party, essentially trading his life for hers. If you were still mad at Francis for sexing Olivia this is where all that anger may have gone out the window. Just truly a ton of redemption for Francis this episode.
Meanwhile, Bash’s mom was telling him about the new fad of bastard royal sons becoming legitimate Princes via Papal legate and he was having NONE of it. Whether this was a genuine loyalty to lil’ bro Francis, or a fear that conspiracy would land both him and his mother on the literal chopping block, or just a super-mature rejection of noblesse oblige, that was what Bash was doing all episode: restraining himself.
While Catherine and Francis struggled to figure out which royal person to offer the count, Mary was already thinking outside the box, barging into her bestie Clarissa’s living room (a dark dripping stone hallway) and asking her to help with a rescue mission. Obviously Clarissa totally came through. Honestly, Clarissa and Mary are becoming my OTP on this show.
Mary and Catherine also joined forces to brainstorm up a scheme on how to get everyone out of the castle in another brilliant moment of bitches setting aside issues to get shit done, but then made the critical mistake of having Olivia be the lynchpin of their plan. Mary asked Olivia to stand behind a panel that concealed a secret passage and open it first for Francis and the two little Princes and then herself and her many braid-y ladies. Olivia was like “Do I really have to open the panel for you though? It will involve moving my arm out of this delicious Bear Fur Snuggie and really, haven’t I been through enough?”
Even Mary’s waiting ladies were loathe to play their part in the scheme. Lola, showing her general sense of decorum, started screeching at Her Royal Majesty the Queen of France that French court was full of back-stabbing ne’er-do-wells and at least the men holding them captive had the honesty to threaten them openly. In response Megan Follows unleashed on us a scene of such poignancy and fervor that her agent better have gone out and bought her a bottle of champagne. Describing her own besieged upbringing and triumphant rescue from a captured castle by a Pope Himself, Catherine rallied the girls and told them she would be their bodyguard, she would be their long lost pal, she would call them betty they could call her al etc. Essentially she promised she would get them all out of the Evil Italian dinner party hymens intact, except of course for Kenna whose maidenhead was now nothing more than a troublesome stain Leith had treated the week before.
Speaking of kitchen staff, how adorable were Greer and Leith? Omelet flipping? A plainclothes date hiking up to the hot springs? I kind of thought Greer looked even more gorgeous in her Cinderella get-up than in her lacy gowns. (Good thing one in exactly her size was just lying around? Sure it was.) And just the moment I thought Francis’ determination to put himself at the mercy of the Count to protect Mary was the most romantic gesture I’d see all episode, Leith did something even more profoundly generous: when Greer hit an Italian ruffian upside the head with a cast-iron skillet, Leith slit his throat so she wouldn’t feel responsible for killing someone. Two things about this: I don’t know that I’ve seen this device before, and it was both gory and seriously touching. I like that the show continues to emphasize murder never being okay and always being this horrible burden to the people that commit it. Also I love that the moments Francis seems most attracted to Mary is when she displays powerful leadership.
So the game was afoot: the Scottish ladies and Catherine would entertain the Italians with a trunk of gold coins and their best knock-knock jokes while the French royals fled, then Mary and her ladies would follow when the moment allowed. And keep in mind all of this cloak and dagger scheming was contingent on: the trail-blazing skills of a ghost and the loyalty of a hussy.
How heart-wringing was it that Francis instructed his brothers not to look when he killed a guard? How painterly were the scenes where the Royals were escaping and Catherine and the Italians were feasting? Mary pulled a very smooth move with her old “Yikes GTG need to slip out of this corset routine” but, as all of us kind of already knew, Olivia was NOT at the panel to help her escape from the castle. Olivia and her Bear Fur Snuggie were too busy looking after Numero Uno and I think were shortly thereafter eaten by Clarissa.
When Mary returned to the room looking glum, Catherine saw a wrench had been thrown in the works and decided no time like the present to convince the Italians to rape all the Scots and their Queen.
I was openly screaming at my television, but we would realize later she was frantically stalling for time until her poison worked it’s effect. EVEN SO: this choice kind of totally turned around Catherine’s brief shining moment as a maternal figure to the Braidies. I mean, was it really necessary to prod the guys into accosting Mary and her waiting besties for the remaining 3 minutes before the poison kicked in? She couldn’t think of a quick shadow puppet routine? She couldn’t while away a few moments with a quick rendition of “Is You or Is You Ain’t My Baby” to confuse them?
Luckily before things got any more emotionally disturbing or sexually explicit, the poison kicked in. Catherine de Medici had poisoned the trunk of gold she’d offered the men! Poisoned gold, diabolical! Since the Italian Count had not grabbed a handful, Mary stabbed him with a fork before he could lunge at Catherine!
So Mary managed to be suave, soft, seductive and also stab this guy with a protean fork. I love it. And then Francis ran in and all the girls were okay, and once Kenna had been taken to the infirmary (aka Nostradamus getting high in the basement and a cot) Mary very sensitively deduced Catherine’s tale of miraculously surviving her own seige during childhood had been fabricated as part of a pep talk. Catherine had actually survived some seriously dark stuff. Does this make it more problematic that she put the girls at risk the way she did? As she confessed herself, she had no guarantee the poison would work. Still, if we’re going to agree Catherine is officially the worst, the dove-tailing fact is that Megan Follows is the best, and how awesome are characters who live in that duality.
The super sexy, love-makin’ heart-shakin’ thaaaang that went down this episode though was that Mary and Francis celebrated being alive by deciding to go go go al the way-ay-ay. Nevermind the intricacies of their royal persons being inextricably bound to matters of state: it was time for celebratory boots to knock. Were you dumb founded? Were you overjoyed? Did Mary forgive Francis too easily? Or would anyone who’d been through such a life-threatening ordeal act the same way?
By Lily Sparks
And THAT is how you do a mid-season finale, folks. So many shows try to manufacture suspense for pre-hiatus episodes by putting one character in sorta peril or delivering up a macguffin, but Reign sent a major character to her death in a halo of blood, set off a dazzling chain of dramatic events like a world-class pyrotechnics display, and burned down its fairy-tale love story before sending its lead running off into the unknown with her heart breaking and a hot new guy by her side. "Fated" blew the roof off the barn and left a trail of fire in its wake. Talk about making the most of an audience’s anticipation! If I could make a single wish right now, I’d want a boxed set of the next six seasons of Reign on DVD(but being a responsible adult, I’d instead ask for World Peace, of course). This mid-season finale paid off every aspect of the Reignpilot’s premise in one fiery episode, letting viewers know this is a show not afraid to move forward. Oh, Reign has stories to tell you, children, come gather round.
The show picked up right where we all wanted it to, with young Mary and Francis blissfully canoodling in bed, tracing their fingers up and down each other’s bodies. Francis even dropped the atomic bomb of post-sex pillow-talk lines, “I hope you’re pregnant”—which, you know, considering this was Mary’s first time, WHAT A GHOULISH NIGHTMARE that would be—but also: Frances, clearly, is no longer afraid of committing to the Queen of Scots. Our princely dreamboat started talking forever with Mary in a way that made Edward Cullen look like a toot-it-and-boot-it manwhore by comparison.
These adorable touch-monkeys' cuddlin’ sesh was then interrupted by no less a personage than the Holy See, who apparently walked right past the gym sock dangilng from the French castle’s drawbridge—the international sign for ”Banging in Progress”—in his haste to share some very important news: Mary Tudor of England is dying and the Catholic faithful consider Mary, Queen of Scots to be the true heir to the English throne! Yes there is also that Elizabeth Tudor person but she is invisible in the eyes of the Lord as an illegitimate daughter. This was fantastic news for King Henry, but first he had to break some bad news to Kenna: He had given her herpes was not leaving Diane and making Kenna his exclusive mistress, no matter what the tiles on their bedroom floor said.
His personal drama thus sorted, King Henry was looking forward to using Mary as a way to bring England under the control of France, via Francis marrying her—and since they’d already started practicing for the big “consummating this thang in front of viziers” moment, it was good timing for Francis and Mary. The news was not so great for Diane, because steamrolling Elizabeth’s claim to the throne based on her bastardy (lol yes these were once legal terms) meant Diane’s pet project of making sure Bash became a legitimate French Prince was now basically impossible. Diane, stirring the pot as always, apologized for getting Bash’s hopes up, reminded him to keep them way down and not to mention her legitimization scheme to anyone ever, and then told him he was playing it like a straight-up thirsty bitch when it came to Mary.
Kenna—who had wrapped her head in an afghan that your Great Aunt Frances knitted in order to conceal her herpes—was then stopped in her tracks by an Italian priest who confused her with Diane. Despite the fact that Kenna was visibly completely confused by everything he said, he kind of recapped their entire correspondence to her, revealing Diane’s treasonous plot to get Bash made legitimate.
Meanwhile Francis continued to make every pair of panties in the contiguous United States and Canada drop by promising Mary that he didn’t care whether she became the Queen of England or not. “I’ll pressure you, and listen to you, and argue with you, and love you until the day I die. Together we’ll decide what is right, as husband and wife. Marry me. Say yes.” Five years from now you’re going to be hearing those lines pop up in a lot of wedding vows, mark my words, because they are basically what Mr. Darcy says when you plan you your wedding with him like I know you do. Look at these two!!
You know, if this were a corny-ass show this is where the episode would have ended, but Reign is not about stretching its plot thin, it had an entire half-season's worth of great ideas to pack into the next forty minutes. After this ideal moment, things slid faster than a fat kid on a crocodile mile coated in Vaseline toward a completely bone-shaking, world-rattling conclusion. This chain of events kicked off with Kenna deciding there was no time like the present to scheme with Catherine about how best to oust Diane so that Kenna could take full possession of Catherine’s husband’s loins. At first Catherine, awesomely, was like “My husband’s junk is like Burger King: your way right away and below my payscale.” But then Kenna spilled the beans about Diane’s plot to legitimize Catherine, and obviously plots and schemes are Catherine’s thing, so this was a clear violation of the Queen-Mistress/Brains-Booty treaty.
Catherine also charmingly confessed to Nostradamus that she completely shipped Frary but she even moreso ships Francis with “Being Alive and Well.” Once again this is perhaps my favorite thing about this series: Catherine’s motivation is not ill-considered or even selfish. It’s completely plausible (for its time) and relatable. But I was not prepared for the awesome writing choice of Catherine appealing to Mary’s better nature and laying all the cards on the table that their marriage could cost Francis his life. I really thought the show as going to do a multiple-season Victoria Grayson/Emily Thorne dance of deception around this issue, but building off the character development last week, Catherine now was certain that Mary would do anything to preserve Francis’s life, and she gave Mary some new pertinent information. YO OTHER SHOWS CURRENTLY ON TV: THIS IS WHAT ORGANIC CONFLICT LOOKS LIKE!!! THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE WHEN LARGER-THAN-LIFE CHOICES ARE PRESENTED BY AN EMOTIONALLY GROUNDED NARRATIVE IN A WAY THAT FEELS NOT JUST NATURAL BUT INEVITABLE!!!! HELLO ONCE UPON A TIME, ARE YOU WATCHING?!?!
Phew, sorry, I just really loved Catherine (and to be fair Nostradamus) giving Mary this kind of agency. And Mary was seriously shook and went directly to the source and earnestly tried to investigate whether there was anything to Nostradamus’s predictions, cutting short her cozy wedding-planning session to do so. Gosh that girl-talkin’ looked fun. Even Clarissa sort of got in on it.
But yeah, she traded this for Nostradamus assuring her one of her best friends would die before the frost melted. Creepy! Meanwhile, Henry was making sweet love to a woman who was completely clear of the Herpes Simplex virus to some highly erotic music. Across America moms watching this with their daughters started giggling wildly and those same daughters cringed and went “Moooom” and the Catherine came in and stopped all the embarrassment in its tracks by throwing more shade than a beach umbrella during a time lapse video of a sunset.
She told Diane thanks for having nasty sex with my gross husband you have been the dirty gym sock that’s saved me a lot of sleepless nights (BURN) oh yeah also some priest confused the herpes-scarred, exhausted-looking Kenna for a hotter version of you (BURN) and that also my son is officially his daddy’s favorite now(BURN). Then she topped things off with the worst deal imaginable: skedaddle the hell out of court by cover of night and kill a bitch on your way out. Diane could be forgiven for feeling rather miffed at Kenna in the circumstances, however we would learn later she ultimately smashed the poison against the wall in a very Scarlett O’Hara “Fiddle dee-dee I’ll kill who I damn well want to!” gesture.
Knowing Diane had been instructed to poison Kenna with a fragrant liquid, we smash cut to the next scene where Kenna was surrounded by all the braidies who were handing a fragrant cup of very sketch herbs. And then we watched in abject horror as Peaseblossom was chased by CLARISSA—our dear, wonderful Clarissa!!!—down a staircase to her doom!!
So reasons the way this happened was brilliant: I was genuinely confused for a moment if Clarissa or the poison killed Peaseblossom, ultimately it was Clarissa (who used a poison to slow Peaseblossom down) that killed her to fulfill Nostradamus’ prophecy so that Mary would refuse to wed Francis and thus be saved from Catherine’s poison. Once again: twisted criminal logic, but with a basis in something kind of earnest and sad. Clarissa is always trying to protect Mary, and while it was solid writing it is unfortunate that we won't have Jenessa Grant’s glowing presence in the show. She continually had the best side braids and was the least bitchy to Mary, and for that she shall be missed.
It’s also another way to keep Nostradamus’s powers somewhat ambiguous: His prophesy was fulfilled but by mortal means. (Also: Is Clarissa perhaps the illegitimate child of Nostradamus? He did say specifically that she was “nothing” and that she’d killed a “Child of God.” Considering the breakdown we got earlier in the episode about how the Church viewed bastard children, this seemed particularly significant.) However, to Mary Peaseblossom's death was just jarring proof that Nostradamus could be right about her marriage dooming Francis to an early demise, and she decided to pack up and get the heck out of there. Needless to say her loyal waiting women did not help her in any way, shape, or form.
Determined to protect Francis at any cost, Mary announced that she would not seek the English throne so that King Henry would not pursue the alliance. She then gave a brilliant speech to Francis that was all double talk about protecting her country, but actually she was talking about protecting him and feels were had by all.
Then she and Bash ran into each other in the stables and realized they were headed the same way: the hell out of there.
And so we came to one of the most dramatic images in the series so far: Francis watching the love of his life running away alongside his illegitimate brother (who he was already super jealous of) and falling to his knees in despair.
Mary, of course, is basically dying inside, but those of us who are all about Mash were turning cartwheels in our living rooms. I honestly do not know where we’re going to pick up when the season returns in January with “For King and Country.” Obviously the royal house is in disarray, the brothers are torn apart, the lovers are torn apart, and Mary and Bash are barreling into entirely new territory. This felt like a season finale, and that’s seriously the best kind of mid-season finale you can ask for.
Reign "For King and Country" Review: And Wilt Thou Leave Me Thus?
I think many of you may agree with me when I say that this brilliant, fast-paced, and extremely dramatic episode of Reign, “For King and Country,” brought strongly to mind Thomas Wyatt’s poem, “And Wilt Thou Leave Me Thus?":
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay, for shame,
To save thee from the blame
Of all my grief and grame;
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay!
Because, come on: Mary, are you really going to leave Frances like thus? Stripping away his title, crown, birthright, MOM, and long lusty life by your side... to protect him/make sweet, sweet love with his brother? Because a prophecy?! Good grief, that would fill any man with grame.
"For King and Country" opened precisely where the mid-season finale closed, Bash and Mary flying on horseback from the castle pursued by the castle guards, until they had no choice but to fling themselves off a cliff and drift downriver hand-in-hand for roughly a week—an INCREDIBLY bounding experience. Oh yes, it’s no coincidence that every other date on The Bachelor involves helmets, GoPros and bungee cords: adrenaline bonds couples, that’s a scientific fact.
Whereas some shows might have dragged out Bash and Mary being on the run for several episodes, bedding down in hay lofts, sharing stolen loaves of bread, giving each other baths (...doesn’t sound half bad, really), within the next quarter hour they’d be caught, dragged back to Fronce and Mary would be demanding that this entire prophecy foolishness be revealed to Frances, who wanted some closure after their years-long betrothal.
Queen Catherine was adamant that they not tell Frances about Sexy Nostradamus’s very unsexy prophecy that Frances will die shortly after marrying Mary, because Catherine knows her son would try to undermine mystical prophesy with rationality, logic, and facts, three things that have gotten us absolutely nowhere as a society. While it is actually very accurate to the period for royals to be so obsessed with prophesy, Mary kind of struck me as a character on the side of logic/applied science herself, and I was a little sad to see her so easily swayed by a bearded pessimist with a thick accent. I mean, considering how many bodies drop in each episode, the odds of someone in her train of ladies dying had to be at least 50-50. Mary hadn’t even questioned Aylee’s conveniently prophecy-fulfilling death, a point brought up by Mary’s own ladies (who in her absence had really let their dress code slip and were parading around this week like a passel of strumpets—and looking good doing it!).
Despite the sartorial heat, it was a dark day for our waiting ladies: Not only was Mary having to ferret out the truth of their dear friend’s double murder, but now Scotland was officially going to join with Fronce to make a play for the English throne, all of their families were facing war, possibly death, and also Kenna had boy troubles.
Kenna revealed she had known all along that Aylee had been poisoned and hadn’t mentioned it because she was busy. What!?! She’s busy!! I did think it was very telling that none of the Ladies seemed surprised that Kenna had failed to mention such a critical piece of information (like Aylee being poisoned) when she regularly interrupts discussions to update everybody on her sex life like it's Nightly News. Bitch’s mind is made of sex and mirrors! Mine too.
Unfortunately, despite learning that Aylee had been “gifted with some poison,” Mary was still 98.9 percent sure that Nostradamus could see the future and therefore she could not in good conscience marry Frances without feeling like she was murdering him. But King Henry had promised he would kill Bash if she didn’t marry Frances!! Hilariously, she still refused. This must have been an ultimate mindf-ck moment for Frances: In less than two weeks his girlfriend had gone from wanting to spend the rest of her life with him to preferring that their mutual bestie Bash be brutally slain by his own father. Although to be fair, that is kind of just how fast things move in teenaged relationships.
Fortunately now there was simply too much crazy going on for her to conceal her deep New Age beliefs from Frances a moment longer.
Much as Queen Catherine had warned, Frances tried to counter the unalterable truth of Nostradamus’s daydreams with all that “logic” bullshit, and argued that his mother was using fear to manipulate Mary. At this Mary totally stood up for Catherine in a sort of beautiful moment and told him that all his mother’s wicked workings against her had been for his benefit and he had a really great mom who loved him very much. But just when it seemed like these two Queens were headed for the greatest spectacle of onscreen female solidarity since Thelma & Louise tried to olly a mustang over the Grand Canyon, Mary revealed her new plan: to de-throne Catherine for her son’s sake.
Yes, the only way to protect Frances from “mmmmaybe kinda dying?” [—Nostradamus] was to have him and his beloved brothers illegitimized and removed from Fronce’s line of succession.... in addition to annulling Catherine’s marriage of several decades and making Diane the new Queen of Fronce! Bash would then be the legitimized Prince of Fronce and make tons of beautiful babies with Mary. (Sorry, but am I the only one who finds it maddeningly delightful that while the entire court speaks with an English accent, they always correctly pronounce "France" as French-speakers should? For the glory of FRONCE!)
Basically, under Mary’s new plan, Frances will now live an upside-down nightmare life... for his own protection. This is like if you joined Witness Protection and they decided that to protect you from being stabbed by gangsters, they’d get you a new identity where you worked in a knife factory catching knife blades with incredibly greased-up hands as they came at your face out of a pitching machine. It’s like, "You love me that much, huh?"
But perhaps Mary is more attracted to Bash than she realizes. Perhaps this is not an obvious and upsetting case of self-sabotage, but a woman who cannot deny the crystalline eyes and rough ingratitude of an underdog. Things got awfully steamy in their little one-cell inn, with Bash looking and looking at her bare shoulders EVEN AFTER SHE ASKED HIM NOT TO, before those clog-wearing guards pulled the old “Innkeeper!” gag to get Bash to open the door.
Of course, Catherine was not one to take quietly the de-throning and bastardization of her children. So she had Nostradamus take a break from shouting himself hoarse at our dear, poor Clarissa to help her hatch one of her trademark nefarious plans.
Speaking of Clarissa, over the holidays I almost forgot about that whole layer of crazy with Clarissa and the secret tunnels. It’s like another show I love inside of the show I also love! King Henry apparently is as familiar with damp crawlspaces as Clarissa, he handily thwarted Catherine’s dual assassination attempt by rounding up Mary and Bash into a secret oubliette to draw up the terms for their impending nuptials and try his Pinot Noir ’95.
Still, doesn’t it seem even WORSE for Frances that he knows Mary is doing all of this because of a prophecy? And yet he still managed to turn on his one friend in this world, his mama, when she was at her most vulnerable. Kids. But thank God they didn’t let Catherine leave the castle. I really got worried for a moment, but no, our stash of Vitamin Follows will not be cut off. Instead we got a grand, dramatic goodbye FAKE OUT, with Catherine sweeping tragically through a galley in a fur cape to deliver one of her cutting speeches, and then King Henry came along and was like “PSYCH you are everybody’s favorite character, where do you think you’re going? We need to lock you in a room in some picturesque shift so you can speechify furiously to rats and mmmaybe Hecate and then cook up your grandest scheme ever!! To regain your true place as Queen of Fronce!! It’s going to be great!!!!"
Unfortunately, we lost perhaps everyone’s second favorite character, Sexy Nostradamus. Shivved by a ragamuffin!
Funny he didn’t see that coming! (It had to be said.) Perhaps his untimely and unpredicted end will rattle Mary’s resolve to run her life according to auguries? But for now our lady has inverted not just the show’s premise but that of History Herself: Instead of Mary being engaged to Frances as a way to protect her country from England, Mary is about to wage war on England at the side of the passionate royal (and fictitious) bastard Bash! (...doesn’t sound half bad.)
Between the panicked pagan prayers, extremely gushy blood sound effects and the epic kiss between Mary and Bash(OVER A GRAVE!), I hereby dub "Sacrifice" the most Bashionate episode of Reign in World history. The show’s central love triangle is positioning itself to tear my heart in two like a spent roller coaster ticket by setting up Bash as a sensitive, loyal, and figuratively AND literally noble-ass dreamboat with progressive ideas about religious tolerance. Yes, Bash's character was crystallized after weeks and weeks of Reign painting Francis as the Most Eligible Prince Ever, and now I don't know who I'm rooting for. Are you conflicted? Are you staring at two T-shirts right now, one emblazoned with “Team Bash” the other ”Team Francis” and dissolving into sobs? Me too. It’s partly the Puffy Paint fumes. Let’s process this.
The “All ‘Bout Bash” episode started with an extremely Games of Thrones-y swordplay lesson, and Torrance Coombs was clearly loving life (I mean, who doesn’t love having swordplay as part of their day job) until Mary showed up and reminded him he should be sitting on a throne looking bored. Bash got sort of annoyed because, you know, all these EXPECTATIONS just because he's going to be King and stuff... No, 'tis bewildering that Bash is still ANNOYED at being promoted to future King status because hello, ALL people did back in the day was try to become King. But then we quickly became sympathetic to Bash’s distaste for the whole noblesse oblige thing when we learned that a huge part of playing substitute to King Henry is presiding over 4H club debates.
All the fun was interrupted by the appearance of a tween with a beach ball shoved under her dress who gave the “What’s up” nod to Bash. Lola was like “SIDE BITCH.”
Then my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Meznick showed up, called Bash a “handsome bastard,” and barreled toward, him with a Taxi Driver concealed blade up her sleeve. Thank goodness, because this meant Mary got to have a scene across from Catherine and let’s be real those are the best.
Catherine had transformed her house arrest into an excuse to redecorate. Mary demanded that all of Catherine's comfort foods, floral arrangements, etc. be removed from her cell at once, and Catherine was like “WAIT NOT MY EYE CREAM” which made me laugh out loud, because as I’ve said before Megan Follows has basically managed to not age since Green Gables, I don’t know if it's science or witchcraft or what, but all I could think was “What kind of eye cream, boo? Let’s get specific.” In terms of product placement, if they’d tucked some antiquated brand name in (“Not my Huiles d’Olay Code de Youth!”), that shizz would have gotten boughten.
Anyway. Despite Lola trying to stir the pot and create drama and drag everyone into her personal vortex of tragic nightmare relationships (I still see you Lola! I do NOT forgive you for defending your RAPIST BOYFRIEND, Lola!)Isobel turned out to actually not be Bash's lover, but his half-cousin. Isobel had been falsely accused and dragged into court to reveal his connection to her father—a former TRAITOR! Obviously the half-nephew of a dead traitor could never be King! Their connection must be suppressed, and Isobel must flee the castle to have her baby in total seclusion! Mary was like, this sounds like a great excuse for a makeover.
Mary is secretly a budding stylist, yeah? Aside from her own mind-meltingly beautiful clothes, remember how she picked out that hot blue number for Olivia? Anyway, she went needlessly nuts on Isobel (wigs!) in preparation for their daring escape from the castle, popped on the most beautiful golden cape these eyes have ever seen, and left her ladies in charge of finding the evidence that would tie Catherine to the attempt on Bash’s life (and honor!) Yes, it's an assignment that seems incredibly difficult to accomplish in the age before DNA identification, fingerprinting, microscopes, policework etc. but really what else do they have to do? Make yourselves useful, ladies.
The Waiting Braidies attempted to interrogate Catherine, which led to Catherine lining THEM up against a wall and giving them free readings like Miss Cleo has only ever dreamed of. She took down Kenna and Greer like mice under a lawnmower and she came for Lola, but, you know, it’s Lola: can’t shame the shameless. (LOLA I still see you for supporting your fiancee SEXUALLY ASSAULTING YOUR BEST FRIEND & QUEEN!! #NotForgivenNotForgotten!!) Anyway I really enjoyed Catherine's snaps.
Meanwhile Bash and Mary were enjoying the most delicious golden woods a brocade cape ever matched, with Bash ready to unbosom the fact that he’s been in love with Mary since the pilot, obviously, but then Bash heard the snap of a twig under a squirrel’s foot as it ran away from a guard’s horse three miles away... and they had to flee to The Blood Wood!
There is nothing I love more than the Blood Wood. It is where we go for the very scariest and craziest parts of Reign, so OF COURSE the second they stopped in The Blood Wood, Isobel had to go into labor. It’s like the baby smelled all that conflict and was like “This will be a great plot point. Time to be born.”
Since Isobel couldn’t travel during delivery, Alec, Bash and Mary set up a rather elaborate and impressive roundhouse tent in approximately ten minutes and Isobel went very messily into labor. Mary stepped out for a breath of fresh air in the midst of the delivery and noticed a giant Blair Witch Mannikin hanging from a tree. And then she heard the frantic yammering of Witchy Pagan Rambling. They were all surrounded by chanting pagans! And then, the greatest horror of all: Bash, Alec, and Ysobel started CHANTING ALONG with the Witchy Pagan Prayer!! The call was coming from inside the house/the pagan prayer was coming from inside the roundhouse!
It never stops delighting me that Bash is so neck deep in crazy. And when Mary basically swooned at the extremely spooky heresy, Bash was like “#Tolerance & #respect” and Mary was like “THE PAGANS JUST CHOPPED A HEAD OFF A HORSE!!!!” Because while Mary’s New Age beliefs have expanded to embrace prophesy, she knows firsthand what it feels like to be menaced by pagans, and I think we can all agree horses are seriously special creatures and this animal in particular seemed like an innocent bystander.
But then a baby was born, and there was so much placenta. I don’t know if this was a subtle way to ensure that every teenage viewer will go out this weekend to buy a jumbo box of condoms, but this was by far the most graphic placentary I have seen on The CW. And it like snapped and gushed and blooshed and spurted! How much is birth like the movie Alien? You know what, don’t answer that.
Meanwhile Kenna was trying to get some reading done while Catherine basically played the dozens on her. Guys what do you think she was reading? Sex and the Single Girl or The Rules?
However, Catherine’s nonstop taunting apparently reminded Kenna of something: They were living in an age without DNA identification, fingerprinting, microscopes, or police work. They didn’t need to find any evidence implicating Catherine, they could just make some shit up! They could straight-up forge some letters, borrow Catherine’s seal, and it would be an airtight case because that was the level of forensic science during the 16th century. Never stop being grateful for the present day, kids, never stop being grateful.
So Lola presented Catherine with the forged letters, a.k.a. a morally gray but utterly unimpeachable piece of planted evidence. Catherine was like “What is your deal?!” and Lola was like “I just don’t want someone corrupt in power I am basically a revolutionary this will rehabilitate my image a very little bit with some TV recappers maybe?” and I was like “NICE TRY LOLA BUT WE ALL KNOW WHAT YOU DID!!!”
Meanwhile, ACTUAL evidence was mounting that Mary might actually not know that much about delivering babies. I mean, when she lifted the blanket off a very white Isobel’s nether regions, it looked like she’d gotten that baby out using a cheese grater. And the blood wound foley sound effects that accompanied the sight... I mean, the sound of Mary lifting the blanket off Isobel sounded like someone trying to pull a Whoopie Cushion out of a mud flat. It was sort of unsettling. Bash was like “Isobel no worries you’ll be okay” and Mary was like “on opposite day” and Bash watched his half-cousin die right in front of his eyes—after she made him promise to look out for the Lil’est Pagan Baby.
First of all Torrance Coombs did some subtle reaction work here, kudos, it was heartfelt without being gratuitous. Second, the writing for this Bash-centric episode repeatedly enforced Bash as being protective of family and too passionate to lie smoothly. This is consistent with what we know of his character, very endearing, and it obviously makes him a great foil for Francis, who basically hates his parents and is a smooth operator. It's also interesting that some of Mary's largest insights into both suitors were communicated to Mary via close females—exes (Olivia), or in Bash's case, his sort-of sister.
When Bash had to lay the body of his beloved sister-esque half-cousin before the Weaselly Dude in Cahoots With Queen Catherine, his struggle between personal integrity was shown, not told: Bash was clearly having a hard time concealing his feelings and “confessing” to Isobel’s murder. But it must be said that WOW that is a crazy thing to admit to. Basically Bash’s story was “This extremely small young lady resisted arrest so I killed her. Apparently by yanking out her uterus. J/K she had just given birth. Before I killed her. Whoops!” I mean damn, that's less damaging to your reputation as a King than being slightly related to a pagan traitor? And then Cahoots was like “Well done, hopefully the baby will be eaten by wolves!” and it was just so ridiculously evil that I had no choice but to cackle out loud. I am sorry if any of you readers have lost loved ones to ravenous Fronch wolves, it just made me smile. Luckily the baby was alive, though branded by Isobel with a sacred pagan rune on her foot, I’m guessing either this symbol:
So Bash is still techncially in danger of being revealed as the half-cousin of a notorious traitor? Still, neither looming danger nor a fresh grave could stop these two lovebirds from closing in on a big old wet n' juicy kiss. Mary brought an incredible flower arrangement to Isobel’s grave but Bash was like “Pagans prefer to cut themselves and bleed rather than do something grisly like let flowers wilt, 'kay?” Sure Bash. I just hope the cut on his palm from when he took Francis to the Blood Wood had healed. Or maybe he sliced the other hand? I’m betting Bash does not play a lot of piano. But then Mary also cut her hand and joined him in a pagan rite!
And then they kissed over a grave and it was like AHHH it’s no longer just an arranged marriage!! And also NOOOO poor Francis but also Yo Ho Ho Bash this is all you’ve ever wanted/needed!! I can get behind these two. And now that I’m sort of thinking about how genuine Bash is, how supportive of Mary he is, how he's all about “I would do this just for you we’d be family”— whereas Francis to start with was all “We must think about our countries first and foremost”—I am equally convinced that Bash would be worse for Frahnnce and better for Mary. Whatever our emotional leanings, history/Wikapedia tells us that Mary will end up with Francis. While I don’t see a History Channel logo in the corner of the screen, this ain’t a documentary and so far the show has not let historical accuracy hamstring its efforts to entertain us silly. Still, I am fairly confident she will end up married to Francis; whether or not he’s the one she loves is currently open for debate.