Reign 1×12 ‘Royal Blood’: Sangreal

Source: The CW

So we’re back to courtly intrigue Reign, which is fine, I guess, if we have to. It’s no Mary and Bash making out while covered in horse blood, but you take what you can get. Besides, There’s Catherine vamping around and Lola being hilarious and Mary basically running the country, so at least there’s stuff to distract us. Francis even got interesting! He is so much better when he’s playing the Bash/Jess from Gilmore Girls role, and the way Lola is basically condescending to him but still into him makes it miles more interesting than Bash and Mary at this point.

Oh, and Clarissa is dead, I guess, but does anyone really believe that? We’re like three episodes out from Clarissa stabbing Nostradamus in the neck, which not only failed to kill him, but Nostradamus managed to completely forget about it. It would be a pretty great reveal if this was a universe where no one could die, but honestly I just don’t see Mary’s rock, as hilarious as it was, as being what takes out one of Reign‘s most consistently shocking characters.

Source: The CW

Source: The CW

The main plot here concerns the young princes (Francis’ younger brothers), who are apparently unsafe at court, for some unknown reason. The presumption, I guess, is that Henry and Bash (is that gonna be his regnal name? King Bash I?) have been a little too successful in inflaming the populace against Catherine and her Medici background, which, whatever, so the episode starts with some peasants violently rocking a cart the princes are riding in. Eventually, during a winter festival that seems directly lifted from a terrible Dickens imitator’s King Wenceslas remix (complete with creepily realistic animal masks), they are abducted, or wander off, the episode doesn’t seem too concerned with which.

The “abductor” turns out to be Clarissa, who’s been kinda mercenary before, but her reasoning this week dovetails along the “Mommy never loved me” line, which normally ends in a Psycho type situation but child murder also seems appropriate. This brings out the maternal instincts in Catherine, which is the one spot on the wheel of Catherine we didn’t hit last episode, and she teams up with Mary to track down the little pukes instead of taking Nostradamus’ get out of jail free card, which is a disappointment mainly because it’s a complete waste of his leather pants.

Source: The CW

Source: The CW

Oh, and Kenna basically has no plot, and hunky baker boy isn’t around so Greer doesn’t have a goddamn thing to do. But that brings us to the best part of the episode (not that it was really competing with anything), which is…

THE B PLOT!!!! featuring Lola in her most wry damsel-in-distress and the newly minted rambling, gambling Francis, is hilarious. It’s stolen, beats and all, almost directly from other teen shows (oh no, a brother with a gambling problem!), and that hasn’t always been the show’s strongest suit, but Reign really brought it here. Anna Popplewell always the air of being much smarter than everything going on around her, and that kind of self-aware snark-eye kept the plot fun.

It also brings us to Paris, which seems a little belated. In town to clear her brother’s(?) gambling debt, Lola suddenly…well, loses her sexual autonomy to the pit boss, which now that I think about it is little weird, no? Like, almost immediately people are vying to be able to gamble for…her. That’s kinda…but it’s okay, because Francis comes to the rescue to play rounds of high card with the pit boss, because I guess Reign doesn’t think the average CW viewer knows any card games.

Francis is doing the grand tour since he’s left court, which in his case just means bumming around Paris, demonstrating one of the immortal truths of narrative: it is way easier and far more rewarding for an actor to play anything on the bad boy spectrum. Francis is actually fun here, and markedly different than dour and devil may care Bash was when he was doing the same thing. Regbo brings the requisite sadness and recklessness to the role, practically swashbuckling through the casino. Sure, he also looks like well trained 8 year old could beat him up, but in my opinion that’s part of the charm of Franky boy.

Source: The CW

Source: The CW

Lola, bless her, takes just about everything that happens in stride, gamely dealing with the gambler in what she quickly recognizes is not a great situation. When Francis shows up, there’s an interesting kind of relief in her eyes. I don’t want to use any terminology about letting down her guard (since they, you know, hook up), but Popplewell plays the scene with Francis with a light and relaxed touch. So many of her scenes feel like a performance, even with Mary, that there’s interesting ground in trying to figure out just what Lola thinks about her world. Francis isn’t it for her, probably, but putting the two on the same level is clearly fertile territory.

 

Stray Thoughts:

      • Hmmm, they switched up the credits.
      • The previously-ons had a couple very obvious “Tony Regbo’s coming back!” moments.
      • Nice mask, Clarissa. Tres Phantom of the Opera.
      • “Don’t worry, I’ve known a man before. Just one though.”
      • Oh hey Lola.
      • Clarissa trying to trick the princes into DROWNING THEMSELVES WITH ROCKS is hilarious.
      • Mary, it’s nice that Catherine’s love for her children gives you the feels, but she did try to murder suicide you last week.
      • Once again: the pope doesn’t want a strong France.
      • Oh Bash, you romantic patriarchal idiot.
      • The monied interests of Paris loved the Medicis, by the way. What gamblers don’t love an influx of money.
      • Unsolicited History Lesson of the Week: The kids are obviously meant to evoke the princes of the tower, the young Lancaster princes murdered by agents of Richard III in the Tower of London during the Wars of the Roses. It’s unclear who’s interested in killing the princes but not under Bash and Henry’s control, and Reign seems to suggest it’s the peasants. While child regicide wasn’t uncommon in European history, it was almost always carried out by agents of particular royal interest. Peasants generally didn’t care, especially in the northeast of France, where they were basically Germans. With borders as fluid as they were in the 16th century, and far north of Florentine influence, it’s hard to imagine the populace caring about the Medicis absent some kind of famine, which Reign hasn’t alluded to. Blaming the peasants is, as always, a dick move.

 

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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