Reign 1×09 ‘For King and Country’: Royal Todestrieb

Source: The CW

Well Reign, either you don’t get it, or I don’t get it.

Reign has the capacity to be an interesting show, settling somewhere in between Vampire Diaries and a straight 90s teen soap, the supernatural thriller elements bringing the soapier parts into realistic relief and the soap keeping the supernatural from seeming like a turgid slog. Whenever Reign makes a play for a purely political storyline, however, it jettisons the reason the careful romance brings and the intensity of the weird castle ghost stuff. Tonight was one of those nights. Or maybe there’s something I’m just not getting.

Historical dramas all face similar problems in that hey, they’re history. Obviously this is the CW, and we don’t need a to take everything as determinist as if this were something trying to be serious, but there are some facts we can be pretty clear on. Among them are the fact that Bash never existed and certainly never married Mary Stuart or was elevated to the throne of France. There are about 8 million other reasons this political plot was stupid, some of which I’ll deal with in the stray thoughts, but let’s deal with the plot here.

Source: The CW

Source: The CW

Mary and Bash’s flight to freedom ends quite quickly, which wouldn’t be such a problem if that weren’t the entire point of the last look we got at the show a month and a half ago. Reign seems to want us to believe that the major takeaway from that [what I naturally thought of as a life-changing] decision is that Mary will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to save Francis’ life, which is in danger, because Nostradamus (and the unfeeling march of history). To which we all say sure, Reign, why not, just give us more of baghead, please.

Anyway, with Bash in the dungeon, all the major power players come to the plate. Probably the most notable (the only notable) development is that Mary has shifted into full l’etat c’est moi mode. Mary pretty cynically uses Catherine, Henry, and Francis’ laundry list of demands to pull what is, in retrospect, a hilariously awesome power play. She basically hands Henry everything he has to pretend to want, at the expense of Catherine and Francis’ prospects (although not really, read the stray thoughts), which he seems to actually have some vested interest in.

Source: The CW

Source: The CW

There’s a really interesting thread there about Mary’s development that unfortunately get stepped on by everyone’s frankly ridiculous reactions. By punting the emotional crux of the episode from Mary’s badass ultimatum to Catherine’s now standard knee-jerk reaction of ASSASSINATE EVERYONE IMMEDIATELY, any narrative thrill or revelry in Mary’s decision is shifted instead to Henry’s decision, and his subsequent showdown with his wife.

Taking the climax off of your heroine and protagonist’s shoulders and placing it on some ancillary authority figure does double duty, as it makes both the resolution and Mary herself seem less important in contrast. Do we really want the main action happening offscreen, with a character we don’t really have (or want to have) a grasp on? This fizzled out plot isn’t helpful in an episode that also decided to complete Francis’ transformation into a boring, spineless, dutybound royal example of Todestrieb.

And don’t get me started on the end. Oh no, is Nostradamus dead? Did you kill off the only thing most people know about your show, eight years before he died in real life? Did you?

Did you?

Source: The CW

Source: The CW

Stray Thoughts:

  • What a…bucolic cottage. Thomas Kincaid would be proud. 15th century French would probably be confused.
  • Hehe, Calais! Well, that escape was shortlived.
  • Yeah, I mean, that’s a good point, but still, eat a dick, Franky boy.
  • I mean, we’re all gonna die, Catherine. Maybe start to focus on the potential heir that the two could create. You know, your potential grandson who could claim France and all of Britain. Best part is, he’s your son, so he doesn’t even have to survive that long!
  • Kenna, you latter day Jane Curtin, remember that the man who marries his mistress creates a job opening. YOU WANT TO BE THE CHIEF MISTRESS? THEN LET HIM MARRY THE CURRENT CHIEF MISTRESS!
  • Nice bit with the Italian style assassin.
  • This “let’s all confront Catherine” thing manages to be completely insane and inane.
  • I do like Henry’s tongue-in-cheek reading of Catherine’s solutions. It almost reads as a critique of the show’s take on her solutions as being all murder-centric.
  • “But she’ll spend her life in a convent?” Well yes, Anna Popplewell, that’s what happened in the time you live in.
  • Your unsolicited history lesson: While Mary’s plan is dumb, the way people react to it is even dumber. The pope had the ability to legitimize bastards and annul marriages, but that’s not how something like this would have worked. The line of French succession was a matter of French law, not of the pope’s declarations (you know whose crown was technically based on a papal declaration? The Holy Roman Emperor’s!). Bash would need to be legitimized, yes, but that doesn’t mean that Catherine’s marriage to Henry would have to be annulled. Bash’s status would be achieved independently of Henry’s marital status.
  • This leads to perhaps the dumbest part: deposing Catherine de’ Medici. As her name suggests, Catherine was a Medici. Henry’s near-constant wars in Italy required the support of Medici Florence, which is why he married Catherine in the first place. Killing or deposing her probably wouldn’t have flown back in Tuscany, and in 1558 Henry would have been preparing to return or actually there already.
John M.

works for a legal newspaper in Baltimore and lives within three blocks of Tilghman Middle, the alley where Omar and Brother Mouzone have their showdown, and Pearson’s Florists. He enjoys putting his liberal arts degree to good use by watching a lot of TV and reading a lot of internet. He occasionally blogs (about Dawson’s Creek) on tumblr.

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