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

“Playing With Fire” proves Reign is its own high-speed chase

Illustration for article titled “Playing With Fire” proves Reign is its own high-speed chase

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.

  • Reign’s always going at a fairly fast clip, but with three countries to cover the relative velocity’s increasing; Claude barely avoids a nunnery, meets and marries Narcisse’s secret son Luke (who? Don’t worry about it, there’s no time), and unknowingly faces the return of Leith in the course of a single episode, and that was just the B-plot. On some level, this devalues the idea of guest stars and new characters to a degree that has harmed the show in the long run; on some level, this is a show that dares you to leave the room. (Plus, for longtime viewers, it’s gotten to be sort of comforting to look at new people and wonder what horrors this show will wreak upon them within the next three episodes.)
  • “Why were you up all night with a child?” It’s interesting that as the stories fractured going into the fourth season, the monarch who’s currently getting the lion’s share of characterization is Elizabeth. This season has already given us several moments of Peak Elizabeth Tudor, and this blithe dismissal of other people’s family situations (and the chaser that she later promises Gideon she’ll do everything in her power to help, like the Crown can stop germs) is great. But this is also a show whose heart is never going to be with Elizabeth, for obvious reasons, which means we get these glimpses of her with no expectation of real sympathy. The fact that this is working better as a vehicle for characterization than any of the more earnest subplots is interesting, if a little awkward for Mary and company.
  • Oh, Mary. What a fascinating position to be in when the historical record demands a certain threshold of terrible decisions, but the show’s attempts to make its protagonist something of a role model means the leading lady has to jump through such hoops. (This version likes Darnley, but not so much that she can shake off her suspicions.) And though there are frequent stumbles, the pull of Mary’s secret history against established events is one of the most interesting aspects of this show.
  • “The only monster in this castle is gossip, and we must not feed it, or it will bring us to our knees.” That second part is definitely a true statement; fear of gossip has done more to unite the Valois family against outsiders than any actual fellow-feeling ever has. The first part seems like kind of a reach coming from the lady whose ghost-family haunted her for the better part of a season while she tried to kill her daughter.
  • This show’s attempts at levity are bound to feel more forced the darker the political situation gets—the gigging dance parties of yore will never come back again, and they shouldn’t—but the blueberry-throwing scene hits a new, startling level of weirdness.
  • Bianca’s alive! Because this is Reign, she fell down a ravine as Charles chased her, but congrats on making it, I guess. (At least her nightmare is over; we still have no answers about Charles’ Mysterious Blooditis, and at this point we’ve hit a velocity of diminishing returns where no explanation is going to justify this amount of foreshadowing.)
  • I laughed out loud at James whipping his shirt off to help fight the fire.
  • I wasn’t sure how a show that had presented us with so many awful men was going to set Darnley apart, but setting fire to a house with a child inside to make sure you get praise in a crisis does the trick. (Good casting of Will Kemp, who’s got a taste for men you’re supposed to despise.)
  • For a guy who built his reputation on good protective strategy, Leith made quite the decision when he showed up alone late at night in the aftermath of Claude’s wedding to Narcisse’s son and decided to announce he was going to put a stop to it. (The intercutting of his return like a Universal monster on Claude’s wedding night was perfect, though; full marks.)
  • Narcisse was back in form this episode; casually chatting to his ex-lover Catherine about her how her daughter, another ex-lover and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, still arouses him on the same day he tries to dance romantically with the mother of the bride is is the kind of thing Craig Parker was invented for.
  • Dress of the week: Claude’s wedding dress is obviously meant to be the showstopper, though it’s here mostly because the subplot moves so fast that the dress essentially manages to be its own element of surprise.
  • By the end of this season, Catherine will have poisoned roughly a quarter of the men who ever walked into frame on this show. If only she could have reached more.