Reign 1×10 ‘Sacrifice’: And it begins

Source: The CW

 

 

Yes. This is Reign firing on all cylinders. Ridiculous rituals and familial politics with the wood/blood/murder-pagans, Mary unconvincingly protecting Catholicism, Catherine being blindsided, and most importantly, Lola, Anna Popplewell herself, awesomely taking the reins and proving herself to be the one actual historically accurate renaissance politician in the whole bunch.

And the best part? This was basically a necessary and procedural episode. It brings us a little deeper into the Bash’s world, which gets expanded in a very Lost or Buffy way, where it seems like we learned a lot without actually getting noticeably closer to any answers.It introduces a new bad count or duke or whatever, Hugo, who based on his hair and his incompetent sneer is clearly very bad indeed. And it brings, through probably the best marriage of exposition, plot, and crazy Catherine monologue this show has ever done, a decent accounting of what makes the various ladies in waiting unique. And hell, also: the rise of Lola, boss bitch.

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Source: The CW

The A plot brings Catherine into conflict with Bash through proxies, in what augers to be the primary scope of the arc of the foreseeable future. With Henry down in Rome because pope reasons (…read the stray thoughts), Bash is running things as the regent. Catherine, from her lonely tower, in quick succession plots to kill him, and then expose his relationship with Diane’s secret brother, a noted rebel and secret woods/blood/murder-pagan. This is accomplished by arresting his daughter, Isabel, whose pregnancy isn’t strictly speaking necessary but does provide a nice ticking clock and dramatic moment to the festivities.

Bash and Mary running away to help Isabel is kinda boilerplate for any drama, but especially for this show. Either Mary has a one-track-mind, or the writers do. I don’t mind though, because it allowed us to spend some time with the woods/blood/murder pagans, who, Bash helpfully tells us, are actually separate groups. Isabel, Diane, and Bash all descend from and are themselves woods pagans (who are sometimes blood pagans, or at least woods pagans with a blood focus), and the folks who hang out in the dark forest and practice human sacrifice are the murder pagans, albeit also with a heavy blood focus.

Either way, Bash can make them go away and only sacrifice, like, a horse. But the episode ends +1 baby and -1 Isabel, so like, I’d put some good odds on that baby showing up again. At the breakneck pace we’re going through Bash’s family members, we almost have to.

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Source: The CW

But whatever that Mary Stuart ran away because guys! Lola! Anna Popplewell always seemed to good to be wasted in such a zero note, thankless (thank-undeserving) role. For maximal irony, Lola only really steps into the role of ringleader when Catherine, like the evil genius she is, reads off a list of Mary’s ladies and lists their strengths. And while Kenna is a seductress (read: she can read people) and Greer is a forger (read: class-hero opportunist), Lola is the brains. And in a world where literally everyone behaves like a cross between pie-in-the-sky medieval models of kingship and conniving post-machiavellian post-realpolitik, Lola comes the closest to being a period appropriate operator.

If you’ve read any Umberto Eco (go read some if you haven’t), you’ll notice that he tends to focus on forgers. Baudolino, Island of the Day Before, The Prague Cemetery, and Foucault’s Pendulum all have at their hearts this idea about how the open work changes its meaning as it shapes reality. In past times, with references so hard to come by and barrier to entry into cultural conversation so high, the role of the forger was almost nomothetical: he could speak the truth into existence. Both Baudolino and Prague Cemetery (the two most explicitly featuring forgers) feature marvelous tangents where the forger convinces himself not that the document he was to create should exist, but rather that it just must have existed at one point but was unfortunately destroyed. Thus, the forger is setting the world right. Not creating, but copying.

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Source: The CW

And Lola has almost the same thought process, only we see it through dialog with her enemy. She takes the putative high road, holding the forgery over Catherine’s head as a means to control her until Lola can retrieve the evidence that must obviously exist. But at the same time, she shows complete awareness and, more importantly, no shame about what she’s doing. Lola knows she’s blackmailing with a forged document, and she knows that she’s keeping Catherine quiet. But at the same time, there’s that older impulse in her, born of an age when documents on paper were precious because they were on paper. Lola didn’t just arrive, she arrived well, and she arrived smart.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Did France even have a privy council in the 16th century?
  • This is a very archaic view of the business of a king. Sitting court is for lords or, you know, courts. Kings have evolved a bit since Solomon.
  • Mary is still very bad at thinking like a queen, if that’s something Reign is even concerned about anymore.
  • So…has Kenna realized that her job is pretty secure?
  • Separating the murder pagans from the woods pagans make the woods pagans less absurd at the expense of the utter absurdity of the murder pagans.
  • I love Lola right now I’d be fine if she became the protagonists.
  • “You found her at the castle door.” Wow Mary, really? Is your mind that ruled by cliches?
  • Your unsolicited history lesson: Oh, Henry is in Italy in order to get Bash legitimized? I guess they had to do that, but I don’t understand why they’re whitewashing Henry, seeing as they already have him biting off a large chunk of Europe. But since we all know (SPOILERS!!!!) King Henry II of France died while in Italy, we almost have to assume that will happen before he returns. Idle speculation and critical thinking indicates that show-Henry will die likewise, probably by the last or second to last episode of the year, before Bash is legitimized.
  • Well, Reign is taking off for the Olympics and so am I. Go USA. Sorry if you’re from a hot weather country that doesn’t compete in the winter games, go watch soccer or something.

 

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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