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

Mary gets engaged (again) as Reign plays its zero-sum game

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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.

  • This episode is centered on one of Reign’s strongest themes: At some point, power games make trust impossible. There’s no reason to think Elizabeth was lying about her intentions, but that doesn’t change the fact that an estate that works as a fortress works as a prison. Mary can’t trust Elizabeth’s promises to Scotland. Elizabeth can’t trust Mary not to make a move on the throne she’s laid claim to. The subplots can feel like cannon fodder, but so far this season has done some solid setup the zero-sum game its queens are playing. We know the outcome, but still.
  • That said, Mary having to convince people “I gave up my throne to follow my heart” because no one would believe it otherwise is honestly so close to alternate history it might count as an actual shift in the timeline.
  • Lady Lennox’s horrified “But what will become of you?” speech was weirdly resonant. Reign has been fairly clear that a woman with power is a target, and a woman without power is doomed.
  • “My spies tell me…” I recognize that spies on this show are mostly a plot device with preternatural speed and rate of return, but they could still have a little more drag on the plot. Given that Gideon is the only spy of Elizabeth’s we’ve ever gotten a real sense of, are those other spies giving her dirt on Gideon? Shouldn’t he be a little more invested in all this?
  • Related: “She should, because I love her.” He admitted to some feelings for Mary in the season premiere as part of an angle for diplomacy, but this feels like it will be hard to walk back. At the end of last season Mary asked him to Get Close to Elizabeth; is this one of those things the show’s forgotten, or are we looking at a flirtation with Elizabeth three episodes from now after everyone’s agreed to ignore this almost-marriage?
  • Actually, maybe Gideon’s a sub-par spymaster because he spends so much time setting up elaborate picnics in romantically remote locations.
  • I wish I found Gideon as open suitor as interesting as I find Gideon the emotionally-compromised spymaster trying and failing to play all sides against the middle. Still, it’s nice to see Mary can let him go without fear he’s going to turn on her; that in itself is a luxury at this point.
  • Narcisse making Visit-to-the-In-Laws eyes and smacking clergy hands away from Catherine’s womb region amid Valois squabbling is weirdly comforting. Welcome back to the B-plot, buddy.
  • “Oh, some friend of his was roasted alive.” This show’s greatest tragedy was its inability to leverage Queen Catherine into a must-watch. She has all the components of an American Horror Story-style sound byte machine. But convincing people to watch yearning young people for the one malicious adult was probably always going to be a hard sell; so many people will never know the thrill of watching Catherine de’Medici openly disdaining her daughter for thinking she’d keep her poisons in her perfume cabinet like some kind of amateur.
  • Speaking of amateur, I don’t know where Catherine’s finding her poisoners, but she needs to do it herself or get better at delegating.
  • “You were so dreary and dull that once you had gone they never even spoke of you!” What a brutal retcon of Leeza The Previously Undiscussed.
  • Goth Charles is aggravating but more interesting than regular Charles. Possibly A Serial Killer Charles is less fun; plot opacity isn’t doing him any favors. I’d say the finger bone was a tipping point, but honestly if Bianca’s still alive the finger bone is in the memento-mori continuum and it’s fine.
  • Holding out a sliver of hope Bianca isn’t dead. It can be hard to get believable earnestness from minor characters on this show, but Sofia Banzhaf committed!
  • “You heard of Diane de Poitiers? Mistresses of the king can be very esteemed, Bianca.” Right up until Catherine brains them to death with her own hands, sure!
  • The actual feelings between James and Mrs. Knox aren’t interesting yet (background relationships on this show are hit or miss). The fact that Mary is routinely pulling him out of the ring to give him water and tell him to spy harder, however, is kind of hilarious.
  • The return of Prince Magnus! I will take any long-term continuity this show can provide.
  • Dress of the week: I masochistically spent time looking up the pineapple as a motif in textiles of the sixteenth century to gauge the likelihood the pattern would have caught on in Scotland by then. But honestly, why? Mary’s 1986 palm-tree special is clearly meant to echo nothing except 2017 and highlight Mary’s own fashion-forwardness in wearing such a pattern for such a spotlight event. The entire court is dressed in a harmonious color scheme to show that Mary is, in this moment, accepted by her people. The show has gotten exactly what it needs from this dress, and I have hurt no one but myself.
  • That baby was very rude to Megan Follows and frankly I’m not going to stand for it.