I see what you did there, Reign. Not only does “Consummation” actually include a historically accurate, horrifically voyeuristic royal consummation, but it also marks the consummation of the season’s oldest thread—the love triangle between Mary, Francis, and Bash. Now, if we’re going by history, Mary always going to marry Francis. But since the first few episodes so laboriously laid the historical pipe, Reign has shown that it has way more fun playing around in the superstitious aspects rather than the realities of the French court. Mary’s wedding was therefore a test of the show’s intentions. If she married Francis, that would mean the show’s at least somewhat trying to follow history. If she married Bash, the bastard brother who by all accounts didn’t actually exist, they would be launching full-force into fictionalization. Having established a weird and spooky world beyond the usual confines of court, Reign could make either path work. The problem with all this, though, is that this love triangle is by far one of the least interesting aspects of Reign as we have come to know and love it. That’s not to say that love triangles are inherently boring, because they’re not. Storytelling goes back to that well time and time again because triangles can create layers of complications that can unfold in unpredictable and beautiful ways.
Mary having to choose between Francis and Bash, however, has never had the tension and chemistry that good love triangles should have. At the risk of sparking Tumblr outrage, there was just no doubt that Mary would pick Francis based on what we’ve seen to this point. The entire rigmarole with legitimizing Bash only started because Mary loved Francis so much she threw away their wedding to save his life. Yes, she was growing to love Bash, but the reason Mary wanted to marry him was always going to be because she loved Francis too much. (I knew their reconciliation would be cheesy, but when Mary cried, “it’s you, it’s always been you!” I actually groaned—and then it cut to Toby Regbo smiling and nodding all, “Cool story, Mary. Now let’s bone.” Beautiful.) Adelaide Kane and Terrence Coombs have thrown themselves into Mary and Bash’s tentative romance with as much muster as we could ask of them, but once Nostradamus goes back on his prophecy, Bash just comes off as grasping at straws. “Nothing has to change!” he pants when Francis tells him that everything has, in fact, changed. “We can still be wed!” Aw. Honey. She’s a queen, he’s a prince, and you’re a bastard. You really can’t still be wed. Now be a good boy and watch your brother screw the love of your life.
King Henry has a weird sense of humor, you guys.
Anyway! Let’s get that delightful image out of our heads (though The CW is apparently putting an “uncensored” version of the consummation scene online if you’d rather not) and talk about this prophecy reversal. On the one hand, it creates a whole new level of tension and distrust that throws the cast into reinvigorated disarray. Coombs and Toby Regbo get to actually play their brotherly rivalry rather than brood about it in separate castles, and their fury at each other boils over in spectacularly typical fashion. From The Vampire Diaries’ Salvatores to Gossip Girl’s Nate and Chuck to Dawson’s Creek’s titular mope and best friend Pacey, it is a truth universally acknowledged that no teen drama worth anything has gone too long without a fistfight between bros. I may or may not have been keeping a countdown to the first punch thrown between Bash and Francis (spoiler: I was), and it was a thrill when it happened in a graveyard. What a perfectly macabre setting for a perfectly silly fight.
Elsewhere, Megan Follows nails Catherine’s wild mood swings as she processes the news. Her initial horror at the things she’s done in the name of this prophecy quickly gives way to fury, and then to sheer desperation. Kane matches Follows beat for beat when Mary finally storms into Catherine’s quarters to get the full story. Mary and Catherine have seen each other at their absolute worst (and let's not forget that Catherine tried to straight-up murder Mary a couple weeks ago). But in the face of all these shifting prophecies, they are both scared out of their minds. That fear is why Catherine slices open her wrists to convince Mary she’s serious, and it’s the same fear that causes Mary to save her life. What if they were wrong? What if all this was for nothing? What if they lost their chance?
On the other hand, doesn’t this prophecy reversal paired with the second reversal that puts everything right back at square one confirm that Nostradamus is a hilariously unreliable seer? Much of the season has been built on Nostradamus’ visions, and if they can’t be trusted enough to last through even just an episode, there’s just no trusting him. If we can’t believe that he could be right, there’s just not much more drama to be had from his prophecies. Okay, he saw Francis’ ear bleeding and apparent death. So what? He went back on two visions in about twenty minutes. Sure, this last prophecy about Francis’ death is historically accurate, but “just kidding!” is a tricky device to lean on, and having two in the same episode seriously undercuts any future revelations from this guy. It’s also unclear why the visions would have stopped before he realizes Clarissa is alive (which, told you). Do his visions depend on his own knowledge? Did Clarissa have something to do with the visions? Has this entire season been taking place in Nostradamus’ head as he dangles from a ceiling somewhere?! Much of the fun with Reign has come from its willingness to embrace absurdity, but at a certain point, it also needs to pay attention to clarity.
Still, “Consummation” sets up all the pieces for what could be a hell of a back nine. It forces all the major players into new situations that should bring out parts of their personalities and resolves that we haven’t gotten to see yet. Mary’s made her choice, Catherine’s let go of her no-holds barred vendetta against the young queen, Francis has leapt into a position of great power, and Bash stabbed his way out into the wilderness from whence he came. Prophecy or no, it’s hard to say what’s coming next for anyone, which is as good a reason as any to stay tuned.
· I just realized while filing this review that I forgot to mention Mary’s mother (Amy Brenneman), which is telling. She was a disappointment. I appreciated her pre-Internet death hoax, but she never quite connected to the action…and let’s talk about Brenneman’s wandering accent, because whoa.
· Kenna bribing the King to get her a husband could be interesting, but doing so immediately after the news from England? I don’t actually think you’re dumb, but that is some weird timing to ask for a favor, girl.
· Francis really doesn’t give a shit about prophecies: “My mother's let it go, for reasons she can explain."
· Mary’s mother lays on quite the guilt trip for missing Mary’s dance recitals/baseball games/other cliché childhood moments: "I came to the convent for your eleventh birthday. Half the ship's crew died, but I was there!"
· This week’s Catherine Appreciation Corner is brought to you by this legendary shade-throwing at Mary’s mother: "Mary may be Scotland's queen, but I am its king." "Has Scotland noticed its king has overexposed breasts?"
· But when Mary’s mom is right, she’s right: "Marry Francis. Not some bastard who someday might be king." "His name is Sebastian." "Eh. Has the same ring to it."