Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Everyone on Reign makes a futile grab for victory under “Hanging Swords”

Illustration for article titled Everyone on Reign makes a futile grab for victory under “Hanging Swords”

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.

  • So much of history is made up of nearlys and almosts that I appreciate the show taking a moment to explore the ambiguity of trying to make a decision based on how competent you imagine the opposition is. Mary and Darnley seem like a done deal while Elizabeth looks on them from afar, their strategy focused and their aims clear. Elizabeth’s gamble of statecraft gains some weight from her uncertainty.
  • Speaking of uncertainty: Mary losing the sense of long-term strategy in the hopes of achieving true love, slowly building her own tragic ending one woodland glade and well-meaning misstep at a time, is always as historically accurate as it is emotionally exhausting. (Watching Mary become aware of the impossibility of happiness is even better/worse.)
  • Case in point: James. “Nothing that has been done was meant to harm you personally” is one of the least helpful things Mary could have said given the slights she’s accidentally piling up on James, her only real ally at court and someone with increasing incentive to turn traitor. If it weren’t for their accidental inappropriate tension I assume he’d already be thinking about it.
  • I’m sure the mystery of this letter-sending snoop is meant to be duly mystifying, and I understand that someone telling you the truth isn’t the same as someone looking out for your best interests, and we could be looking at a traitor using the truth to weaken Mary’s position—honestly, using the truth is the best way to weaken her position at the moment. But after the pagans and the Red Knights and all, I’m sort of worn out on curiosity about plot-point intrigue from the outside, and just wait for these things to reveal themselves. Could be Bash. Could be Gideon. Could be Bothwell. Could be James’ horse. We’ll find out.
  • Catherine and Narcisse are always great together, but those two schemers taking an old-marrieds trip to the countryside to envy/judge the happy peasant family around them was so good it almost made up for Charles not being a vampire.
  • I do, however, fully appreciate everyone treating Charles’ Protestantism as worse than vampirism.
  • Megan Follows spearheading a potential civil war between two of her own sons is the kind of thing this show was made for. I assume it won’t go well.
  • “It wasn’t easy. I paid a fortune.” The established dowagers on this show are admirably unflappable.
  • So is Nicole, for that matter. She caught on to the balance of power in that castle faster than any monarch on this show since Catherine. I desperately hope that whatever relationship Narcisse maintains with her isn’t used as a fulcrum for jealousy with Catherine; they’ve been there before and it wasn’t nearly as good as the two smartest people in France putting their heads together on something.
  • Okay, I appreciate the growing friendship between Gideon and Elizabeth as far as it goes, but while Agatha’s death is sad for Gideon, she was so painfully winsome that I’m not sure we gained much from a subplot of Ye Olde Make-A-Wish Foundation. (Also, while I know it’s absolutely useless to nitpick this show from a historical perspective, it’s operating on a Victorian perception of childhood rather than an Elizabethan one; she transcends time, she’s that winsome.)
  • Just when you thought this season couldn’t be busier: Bothwell. Did I think this show could make someone more instantly a problem for Mary than Darnley? I didn’t. Was I wrong? I was.
  • Greer is treading water harder here than she was last season, and that’s saying something. Her endgame subplot this season had better be incredible.
  • Character via hair: Mary’s braids get increasingly intense this episode until she gets so mad they fall out.
  • Dress of the week: A tie between Mary’s black and gold lace looking starkly ill at ease in a tavern, and Catherine’s brocade even more ill at ease as she eats pigeon soup at a peasant table outdoors and watches a rando disciplining her son more effectively than any of his blood family ever did.