My main complaints about last week’s “For King and Country” were that people couldn’t stop summarizing everything at each other and that the Bash-and-Mary road trip was cut off at the knees. This week, “Sacrifice” sets the plot off at a blistering gallop and sends Bash and Mary off into the Blood Wood to deliver a secret baby while bloodthirsty pagans splatter animal guts on their tent.
In other words: “Sacrifice” is awesome.
Granted, it does feel at times like Mary/Bash (Mash? Bary? Mashy Queen of Bastard?) fan fiction. Francis, still smarting from that whole thing where Mary dumped him to marry his brother on the condition that said brother takes his future crown, has disappeared for the time being. His absence is awfully convenient. But while it might have made more sense if Francis had to stick it out at the castle and deal with his lowered status, it also would have been a drag, so I can’t get too mad about the obvious contrivance. More importantly, getting rid of Francis for a while means giving Mary and Bash the time they needed last week to convince us that there might be something there. (This is also is the first episode we see anything substantial of Bash’s chest, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.)
Bash’s chest hair aside (now there’s a transition), it’s all business at first. Bash has to put on his brother’s gilded castaways and experience what it might be like to be king. Much to his chagrin and my delight, being the new regent mostly consists of listening to The Great Unwashed gripe about their suspiciously dry goats. Torrance Coombs shows a spark of good humor in this scene, which is especially noticeable since he’s largely been stuck with light brooding and furrowed glares in the background of Francis and Mary’s teenage dream romance. More of this Bash, please.
Anyway, it only takes a few minutes of Bash blowing off his royal duty for Catherine’s guards to march in on his pregnant cousin Isabel. They’ve framed her for theft in the hopes that searching her heretic house will reveal her connection to Bash—and in turn, Bash’s connection to paganism. If that feels like too much story for me to put in two sentences or for the show to put in one scene… well, it is. But it’s all in service of getting Mary and Bash on that road trip we were denied in “For King And Country,” so I am all for it.
Elsewhere in the castle, Catherine is getting squirrelly under house arrest. The situation gets especially dire once Mary visits Catherine in her tower and promptly orders all of Catherine’s lackeys and luxuries out, so as to make it more of a prison-like atmosphere. Mary’s never been more confident in her own skin as a queen; Catherine’s never hated her more. Happily for us all, though, a confined Catherine proves no less ambitious than a roaming Catherine, and she only gets more devious when she’s bored. She’s hardly threatened when Mary sends her ladies to keep an eye on her. After all, she almost managed to assassinate Bash without stepping a foot outside her tower. But it’s a pleasant surprise when the ladies rise to the challenge of babysitting her. This holds especially true for Anna Popplewell’s Lola, whose scheming finally frees her from the whole lot of nothing she had been doing. I have a feeling her forged letter plan won’t manage to blackmail Catherine for long, but it at least manages to contain her. For now.
If it’s any consolation, Catherine still has all the best one-liners by a mile. I couldn’t actually type fast enough to catch them all this time, so I just ended up with sentence fragments surrounded by hearts like I was doodling about a middle school crush (e.g. <3 “longer I have to wait, the more creative I’ll be with MY RETRIBUTION!” <3). Catherine’s wicked bite in a sea of soap opera gazes actually reminds me of my other favorite CW queen: Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf. I’ve always been convinced that Blair’s noticeably sharper lines came from her own personal writer. It’s a mark of how much I respect the Queen of France’s commitment to fabulous theatrics that I’ve now expanded the One Writer, One Bad Bitch theory to include Catherine, too.
But back to Mary and Bash. As they try to get his cousin over the river and through the woods to safety, it’s clear the episode is steering us toward some kind of grand romantic gesture to complicate things good and proper. But “Sacrifice” avoids the expected long gazes and loose hair tucking for – what else? – a truly horrific animal sacrifice. As Bash’s cousin goes into labor, the shadows of the Blood Wood pagans circle their tent like vultures, Bash and his bodyguard chant to keep them at bay, and Mary stares at Bash like he’s not only sprouted horns but become the actual devil, and it’s all so weird and beautiful and weird again. The pagans chop off their animal’s head, it splatters all over the tent, and Mary is too grossed out for words. Isabel dies. Bash is beside himself. Reign’s supernatural soap status is thus cemented in stone, and I couldn’t be happier.
Even though the actual sacrifice part of “Sacrifice” is about as off-the-wall as I could have hoped for, it’s ultimately Bash and Mary’s first real kiss that makes this episode something special. Last week, I said and believed that Bash and Mary only barely made sense. But such is the power of a good road trip to Blood Wood. Mary sees a side of Bash she’d rather not, but Bash doesn’t back down like Francis might; he stands up for himself and chides Mary’s “ignorant cruelty.” He’s sheepish about his pagan descendants, but doesn’t shy away from celebrating Isabel’s life the way she would want to, even if it goes against his own beliefs. By the time he cuts his hand open to drip blood on her grave, Mary’s seen his compassion, and respects his defiance. And so she reaches for his knife, cuts her own hand open, and their blood drips down, together. It’s a macabre, beautiful moment… and then they make out with each other’s bloody faces.
It’s like I said: “Sacrifice” is awesome.
- Clarissa and Nostradamus are conspicuously absent this episode. On a related note: is that Nostradamus doing the opening voiceover? I can’t tell if it’s so obvious that I seem nuts, or if it’s just wishful thinking on my part. Please advise.
- Catherine Appreciation Corner: It’s so mean, but Catherine’s outright disdain for Kenna’s intelligence gives me such joy (“Come back here! I’m not done abusing you yet!”). I also am in love with her blood red crown.
- I might have outright cackled when Catherine flew to the bars on her door and cried, “Run little girls! Run away!” (My notes: “Catherine = Wicked Witch of the West? Discuss.”)
- When Lola said Greer is especially good at copying people’s handwriting, did anyone else immediately start writing Reign/Heathers crossover fic? No? Just me? Cool.
- “No worse than you, you gussied-up fop of a future king.” I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but you could’ve done better there, Isabel.
- “Yes, but the Queen—” “—is terrifying, yes.”