In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy: That escalated quickly.
“Hearts And Minds” takes the momentum of last week’s tightly plotted, emotionally resonant episode and cranks the volume up to 11 in just about every capacity. Now, this kind of dramatic spike can be a welcome shot of energy, a spark that sets off a chain of increasingly breathtaking events. The reveal and immediate disposal of Tomas the Sudden Sociopath, however, is not one of those times.
It’s one thing to keep the action moving, or to have twists and turns that keep the view from going stale. It’s another thing to hurtle headlong into a storyline at such breakneck speed that we get whiplash from trying to figure out just where in the hell it came from. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not as though they needed to telegraph Tomas’ nefarious intentions. But his abrupt turn into truly psychotic behavior came out of nowhere, and so it lost any impact it might have had if the show had laid more of a foundation. There’s no reason the whispers of Tomas’ dark past that Francis discovers couldn’t have appeared in passing last week. At the very least, revealing Tomas’ true nature and immediately killing him burns through a hell of a lot of potential story. And so, in its rush to dispense with Tomas and crown Francis a white knight, Reign shortchanged a potentially fascinating storyline in favor of escalating theatrics that were more frustrating than gripping.
I would have loved, for instance, if they had allowed more time for Mary to deal with the horror of being stuck in an engagement with a true egomaniac. One of the stronger aspects of Reign is that it recognizes that Mary’s struggles with both adolescence and the crown are comparable, not to mention that as far as royals go, she is a lone Queen amongst princes and kings. Oh sure, Catherine is still lurking on the edges with her resident psychic giant, but she has not proven to be quite the puppet master foe she claimed to be in the pilot. Mary (and Adelaide Kane) has proven to be the superior political player, capable of flooring a room with a curtsey and defiant lift of her chin. Last week was the first time I really felt the magnetic power we had been hearing so much about, and I was finally excited to watch her grow into it. But it just gets no room to breathe with the appearance of Sudden Sociopath Tomas, who’s suddenly so evil that he may as well suddenly sprout a sudden mustache he can twirl as he ties Mary to whatever the Elizabethan equivalent of train tracks are.
Still, there are a couple decent things that come out of Tomas’ reveal that he’s capital “e” Evil. Francis’ jealousy continues to bring out a fire he lacked in the first couple episodes, and his killing Tomas is a potentially significant character moment if we’re to believe Bash’s comment holds weight (“Killing isn’t supposed to be easy. If your hands weren’t shaking, you’d be him.”). There’s a hilarious moment when Francis meets Mary in the woods and expresses his concern for her, saying he’ll only be okay with her marrying Tomas “as long as he realizes he’s accountable for how he treats you.” Mary then looks him up and down appreciatively, and I cracked up. How perfect is it that we’ve never seen her more turned on than when a cute boy expresses how much he respects her?
Then there’s the return of Clarissa. Mary comes to see her as a guardian angel of sorts after Clarissa steers her towards realizing Tomas was the one behind the ambush that wounded Bash and forced her into this engagement in the first place. Francis may be willing to defend Mary to his mother (and more importantly, to make out with her in the woods), but she’s still hesitant to trust him completely. In fact, with the exception of Catherine, Mary deliberately places her trust in the women that surround her. She not only consults her ladies-in-waiting on how to deal with her psychotic fiancé, but on what it might mean for foreign policy. When she stands up to King Henry in front of court, Greer stands at her right hand. So maybe it’s instinct for her to trust Clarissa, even though she’s never seen her; after all, Clarissa’s the only one who’s consistently been there for her. All that being said, Mary might feel a tad differently if she knew the extent to which Clarissa’s been there. That final shot of Clarissa under Mary’s bed, blinking through a burlap hood, raised just about every hair on the back of my neck. After such an aggressively swashbuckling episode, that image was an incredibly creepy shock to the system — and it was by far the best part of the episode. More of that, less of whipping boys, please.
- That Ford Fiesta fashion shoot commercial was hilarious if only because the Reign-inspired vintage dresses are about as historically accurate as the ones on the show.
- But anyway, Anachronism of the Week: just about every man’s hairstyle. Look, I wasn’t bothered when Greer’s servant boy took off his mask when he was supposed to be discreet because, you know, his face, but he has the hair of a Dalton Academy Warbler.
- I continue to have no idea what to think of Kenna and Henry. Someone in the comments pointed out last week that if court is high school, their relationship is the equivalent of a student sleeping with her teacher. This is all well and good, except — well, he’s her king, which means their power dynamic is intrinsically and totally screwed up. Also, he rejected her offer to be his mistress because he already has a mistress, so, that’s not great.
- Also: am I wrong in thinking the King’s ambiguous hand offscreen as Kenna breathes heavily was far racier than her flirtation with public masturbation?
- This Bash/Lola development is brand spankin’ new, right? I’m not opposed, especially if it means no down-the-middle love triangle with Mary and his brother.
- Mary: “I know the bow is your favorite weapon.” Sudden Sociopath Tomas: “Second favorite, but thank you.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN. His fists, I guess?
- Simon chained to a throne.
- This week in, “I see what you did there, Reign”: “The matter will be forgotten by all of us… and history, no doubt.”
- “She’s a prostitute, but a very brave woman.”