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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Darnley’s losing bigly on a very political Reign

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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • In the waning days of the season, Reign‘s plot has thickened to a grainy paste as it tries to touch on something bigger than itself while keeping up narrative momentum on three fronts. Occasionally, however, it leans on the politics as hard as it can, since some parallels are almost inevitable. The outcome of this in “Coup De Grace” is some fairly pointed political winking, particularly amid the episode’s history-adjacent set piece, the murder of Rizzio. The Scottish nobles make plans to seize control unjustly, and cover their flat greed with false accusations. When hearing that the council has turned against his bid to put Darnley on the throne, John Knox seethes, “That was our last chance at a peaceful transfer of power!” And Darnley is an easily-led, power-hungry dope who’s being flattered and used by the smarter members of the court so they can move into positions of power and then dispatch him. (After Mary convinces him how over his head he is, he flees; since he tries to make amends first, we’ll consider this a supernatural narrative element.)
  • Elsewhere, Gideon and Narcisse try to negotiate their way out of war with weapons of mass destruction, and for a taste of something different, Henry threatens and extorts the English living on French soil for daring to leave the homeland. It overcrowds the episode, but honestly, they might as well be going for broke on this; greedy chaos is kind of timeless.
  • The relationships might be, too. Mary is still a woman trapped in her own time, and unless they pull a major alternate history, her circumstances are all downhill from here. But this aspect of her plot has its own parallels: the ups and downs of this wretched marriage has echoes of a lot of dirtbag boyfriends on the scale of Teen Feelings; the power struggles, the division among the friend group, knowing some people have it out for you when others say you’re overreacting. See also Elizabeth, who finds out that the Archduke used her letters to trick her into consenting to sex because he thought he’d be so good at that she’d definitely want to be with him after, and who doesn’t even understand why Elizabeth is upset by his subterfuge—in fact, he’d like it if she never laid eyes on Gideon ever again, because that’s just how it is when you’re dating a man who is definitely better than being single and powerless. (Maybe, Reign posits with each new episode, every boyfriend is a dirtbag boyfriend.)
  • Luckily, dirtbag is kind of what Catherine is into, and she manages a brief moment of happiness in between rounds of pleading for common sense or hexing people. Not only is it a touching reunion of the closest thing Reign has to a nuclear family, making Narcisse’s sorta-girfriend and one of Catherine’s sons have to watch Narcisse and Catherine’s sexual rapprochement is one of the most fitting punishments imaginable for a teen schemer on this show.
  • Congratulations to Jonathan Goad for drawing the writers’-room long straw and getting to say “Carnal lusting”; you made it count.
  • Honestly, maybe there are enough things going on that everyone’s references can double up. “Isn’t it enough that your brother already butchered the man that owned this ship?” “It is not.” Sure, the man’s a budding tyrant, but he says what he means, and the French people are tired of career monarchs on the throne, you know?
  • Don’t bring Lola’s name into this now; the trade-off for dying is getting to be free of all you people. Your frantic subplots can’t hurt her any more.
  • Dress of the week: Catherine, less for the aesthetics of the actual garment than for having the foresight to wear a dress that can be dramatically unlaced from the front.