Why didn’t you guys tell me this show is laugh-out-loud funny?! Even when it’s about the plague! Oh, yeah, the plague is in town. See? Look at all these dead people!
When that priest turns around, by the way, his face is all Bubonic McPlaguey, which I have spared you, because it was kind of a gross way to kick off our coverage of this fine, seriously historically-inaccurate show.
On that note: We did not cover this last season because I feared the costumes and the INCREDIBLY INACCURATE HAIR and the NAMES — NO ONE IN THE SOCIAL POSITION TO BE A LADY-IN-WAITING (OR ANYTHING!) IN THE FRENCH COURT IN THIS TIME PERIOD WAS NAMED LOLA COME ON — might drive me to capsy insanity, and you know what? It probably still will, but honestly, that’s part of the fun. I love highly-fictionalized historical shenanigans. And to that point, I am totally going to miss stuff that I should have known from last season, so I asked that you bear with me as I get up to speed, and feel free to explain and gently correct in the comments (I read the Wikipedia, but….it’s confusing. There’s a mystical blood-sucking creature in the woods called The Darkness? I don’t know that I totally think that’s based in fact). THAT SAID: I have read a lot of Phillipa Gregory, so I am, at least, confident that I have the plague part of this season LOCKED DOWN. There is NO historical fiction in this time period that doesn’t fall sway to the dramatic appeal of the plague. And why not? It’s a great way to conveniently 86 a character you can’t figure out how to get out of the way. I also wrote a 12 page paper on the plague in 10th grade, so obviously I am basically an expert in contagious diseases.
ANYWAY, the plague is town and apparently King Francis has scampered (ALONE I AM SO SURE YOU GUYS HE’S THE FREAKING KING) out of the safety of the castle walls (not THAT safe, honestly, what with everyone breathing their plague breath all over everyone) to check on the ABSURDLY NAMED LOLA who is apparently having his baby off in a cottage in the woods somewhere (but not before taking a moment in the midst of the child-birth to pen a letter and find someone to deliver it to Mary to let her know that she is having said baby and it’s probably going to kill her). (It doesn’t.) Meanwhile, everyone else at the castle is being told that the plague is in town and they’re probably all going to die. As I am, because this outfit on Kenna (ALSO HISTORICALLY INACCURATE OF NAME) is SOME HISTORICAL BULLSHIT:
That’s like a goddamned DVF wrap dress and she’s not even wearing a bra. And no, NO ONE wore bras then but that’s because they had on like SEVENTY OTHER COMPLICATED PIECES OF UNDERPINNING REQUIRING FORTY-FIVE MINUTES AND LIKE SEVEN PEOPLE TO UNDRESS YOU. (Or, given that this is fiction, one really hot dude, but whatever.)
Look, I get what the costumers are doing here — for one thing, it would be prohibitively expensive, I suspect, to costume this many characters in really good historically accurate garb for this many episodes a season. (And the quasi-accurate stuff that’s on tertiary players doesn’t look that great, so I suspect the costume folks are doing the best they can with that anyway.) But my feeling is that you have to make an executive decision and make EVERYONE stylized, if you’re going that direction, because otherwise the message is a little muddled.
PS: I can’t wait until the series finale of this show when they SUPER fast-forward and Elizabeth I shoves poor Mary’s neck under a sharp object. Is that terrible of me?
AS I WAS SAYING:
This poor child with the terrible wig is going to get poisoned before the night is out, so let’s not worry about her too much. I will say that one of the things I enjoy about this show is how much MURDER there is, already. It’s also probably not a good sign that whenever I watch these sorts of shows — The Tudors, Game of Thrones — my first impulse when someone is presented with a problem is, “god, just MURDER him already.” I perhaps would not have been a merciful queen.
Speaking of non-merciful queens, I do love Megan Follows — OBVIOUSLY. IT’S ANNE OF GREEN GABLES — and as someone who has watched but one episode of this show, I will tell you that I enjoy that SHE TOO is generally like, “tell me more about this murder plan you have. Let’s think about this.” I mean, this is not a surprise from a Medici, but you know. It’s entertaining. Who doesn’t love a schemer? Also, we need to talk about a fact I’d forgotten until someone used his name and I burst out laughing: Namely, that the slubby doofus standing there behind Queens Catherine and Mary is NOSTRADAMUS. Who, of course, WAS a favorite of Catherine de’Medici, so why not throw him in there, honestly, if you’ve already got a Lola:
So the plan is for them all to lock themselves in the castle and wait for the plague to pass, and there are a TON of extras gasping and screaming things like, “NOT YE OLDE BLACK DEATH,” or whatever, and there’s a moment where Mary notes that there are “early signs” of said Black Death in an educational tone, and the way she gives up the floor to Nostradamus so he can go all Web MD on everyone, I seriously think someone is going to bring out a ginormous parchment and go through a primitive PowerPoint. (It’s really just so that the audience will know to gasp when a whore pops up with a giant pustule on the back of her head, although frankly I like to think that the viewing public is smart enough to know that Giant Pustules on sex workers NEVER work out well.) The upshot is: You don’t want the plague. No kidding. Mary thinks everyone is going to be fine and swears no one on castle grounds has been infected, and Catherine is like “DUDE. NO. WE ARE SCREWED,” because she is alive in the world. (I can’t tell if Mary is putting on a brave face or is actually sort of naive.) Nostradamus is like, “did I mention that I’m immune to the plague? I am. IT’S CONVENIENT, YOU GUYS.”
After the We’re Probably all Going To Die, Totally Don’t Even Worry About It Though speech, two of Mary’s ladies-in-waiting come after her to get the real scoop, and, real talk: This hair is really, really not accurate. All three of these woman are married and ought to be wearing some kind of headpiece (I vote for the ones with the horns [look, it’s ALREADY INACCURATE]) and while I totally get why The CW kiboshed that, they AT LEAST ought to have their hair up. AT LEAST TRY A LOW BUN. Also, that dress on the also enragingly named Greer — a WONDERFUL name…FOR THE 20TH CENTURY — looks like it’s growing on her:
Mary basically tells her ladies-in-waiting here that she has to take her Queenly self off to isolation so none of their plague germs kill her, and they have a halting and emotional beat of exposition where she recaps that she didn’t want Francis to go off to Lola’s bedside for the birth of his illegitimate child but blah blah blah duty. I fear this version of Mary is too noble to be interesting, but I am also only five minutes into this thing.
PS: The plague is totally inside the castle walls. See?
This development leads to a whole lot of people sequestering themselves, and there’s a lot of blah blah about whether they’re going to run out of supplies while they wait for the disease to burn itself out and a splash of “we could ALL DIE TOMORROW LET’S GET IT ON,” but the truth is that the last thing you ought to do whilst the plague is running amok is to get it on, and a variety of people (Kenna) are sort of whiny about how this entire plague thing is EXTREMELY INCONVENIENT.
Meanwhile, Lola has given birth to the king’s son and everyone lives though that…EXCEPT basically all these people in this cottage, because of course they have the plague ALSO:
So Francis (still totally alone with nary a guard nor a groom!) sticks Lola and The Baby into a carriage — I assume it’s the carriage Lola took to This Random Cottage (aren’t you supposed to take thyself to a convent in another country to have your secret baby? Also, if she’s trying to, as she claims, pass this baby off as her dead husband’s, why did she leave the castle in the first place? I’m confused by the logistics but maybe this was in the season finale I didn’t see) — and they get the hell out of there. There’s a whole LOT of yadda about how Lola is going to flee the country/get on a boat full of other mistresses and sail to Norway or some shit (!!)/ but in the end OBVIOUSLY Francis holds his baby in the woods and decides she can’t take his son away from him. I assume this show is going to part ways with history and NOT have Francis die any year now, right? (THAT creative decision actually doesn’t bother me. Sometimes you have have to play a little fast and loose with things in the name of fiction.)
Meanwhile, back at the Palace: Greer and this possibly good/potentially crazy dress tells her ex-lover Leith (whose name I believed to be LACE for, like, the entire episode) that he can’t date Soon To Be Dead Redhead because Redhead is — oh, this is complicated. Basically, Greer still loves Leith/Lace and wants to bone him and she can’t trust herself not to do so whenever she’s in his presence. (He’s a servant she’s in love with, right? Girlfriend, if you’re not going to bang him because he’s not high class enough for you, you can’t get mad when he moves on, and also there is a grand history in historical fiction of people getting it on with their servants. Although it usually ends very badly.)
Leith/Lace IS cute, though, so I can’t totally blame her. Also, her telling him to keep his junk in his breeches probably saves him from getting killed too, so….
Out on the run from the Black Death, Francis and Lola run into this hot dude — one of Francis’s distant cousins — who imparts a lot of Wisdom to Francis about how, as king, he probably shouldn’t trust everyone and it’s super important to know who is really on his team, which is good advice, I guess, but also duh. I’ve only known him for twenty-five minutes, but is Francis dumb? Or just part of the grand tradition of Heroic Male Protagonists Who Are Admirably Noble But Sometimes Irritatingly Naive? At LEAST bring a friend who can back you up if you accidentally ride into a duel, next time, okay?
Back at the castle:
Queen Catherine looks correct-ish and this dress on Mary is actually…vaguely correct and kind of good, although I still find her hair to be frustratingly wrong. They’re in a mess because “Lord Edward” (??) — the dude behind them — is somehow the person at the castle in charge of arranging their shipments of grain (this…also feels wrong. Even if they’re getting all their grain from ONE totally random dude at court, there is NO WAY both of them are wholly ignorant of who was in charge of their food, or at least who was in charge of the person who was in charge of it, as this whole scene implies, and also this plot line presupposes that the French court has no stocks of food which is also probably not true at all after merely LIKE TWO DAYS OF LOCKDOWN) and he’s blackmailing them with the threat of starvation if they don’t let him take one of his rivals and toss him in with the Plague Havers to quietly, you know, MURDER HIM. And Mary is obviously like, “this seems unethical,” while Catherine is like, “I dunno, it doesn’t seem like such a terrible idea to me in exchange for not starving to death, and also, it’s REALLY JUICY gossip, right? PS: this is kinda how things work around here.”
And I was like, “you dumbasses, OBVIOUSLY when a nobleman tries to BLACKMAIL YOU, the QUEEN, with the threat of starvation, YOU get rid of HIM. Have you never read ANY BOOKS?” Mary tells Lord Edward that she won’t let him murder anyone, but he just goes ahead and does it anyway, which is another reason this dude is dumb. Don’t ask permission for your murder! There’s plague in the castle. IT’S TOTALLY EASY TO KILL SOMEONE WHEN THERE’S PLAGUE IN THE PALACE WITHOUT ANYONE NOTICING. EVERYONE ELSE IS DEAD! Just poison the dude and go about your business! You’re terrible at murder! And when Mary finds out Lord Edward poisoned a bunch of people against her say so, she locks HIM up with the plague-y plague-havers, hoisting him on his own buboes, if you will. If you’d DISPOSED OF HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE, you would have saved that entire family he poisoned, sister!
Keena has a ward who is a terrible child actor and the production realizes the best way to solve that problem is to give him the plague. Kenna somehow gets locked in with him, although SHE does not have the plague, and she cries and cries when he dies, but despite being locked in a room with a bunch of plague germs, she does not — at least in this episode — catch it. Perhaps like Nostradamus, she is immune. Her dress isn’t bad, though. Too bad it will need to be burned. (In the interest of fairness, I have to say that Caitlin Stasey was good in this scene and — judging from one episode — seems to be a competent actor despite the fact that they’re dressing her like Cordelia Chase on Halloween the whole time.)
Speaking of Nostradamus, he pops in to tell Mary and Catherine that it’s totally possible that Lola and Francis are dead, both because of the plague and also because the cottage in which they were huddling is currently on fire. He literally says something along the lines of, “if they didn’t get the plague, they’re probably on fire.” Catherine uses this opportunity to point out that Mary better HOPE Francis is alive, or else her power dwindles to about nil. And she makes a big speech about how she better take control of things, given how Mary is “very naive,” and I have to say, this is not inaccurate. (Shouldn’t Mary have some clutch of hoary old men from Scotland with crazy eyebrows advising her? Every book I’ve ever read about young queens in olden times, they have advisors. I mean, sometimes the advisors are evil/trying to sleep with them/in thrall to the devil, but still.)
Anyway, prompted by this slightly murder-y (as usual, I assume) speech from Queen Catherine, Nostradamus and Mary give Catherine a potion to make her THINK she’s got the plague, so that she’ll repent but mostly so that she’ll be too out of it to give in and agree to murder the people Lord Edward wants to murder. JUST ANOTHER TUESDAY IN THE FRENCH COURT:
In her fake-plague-death-bed, Catherine also gives Mary some decent advice that boils down to: You are SUPER LUCKY to be married to a king who loves you, so appreciate it, and also you need to pull yourself together and act like a queen for god’s sake DO I NEED TO DO EVERYTHING.
Apologies to those of you who are super into Francis’s illegitimate brother Bash — he mostly is walking around worried about the plague this week, trying to keep people from giving it to other people, and deciding he has caught it himself and then passing out with his face against a wall:
Don’t worry, he lives. It’s unclear whether he really DOES have the plague and, like, recovers with his face shoved into stone or just thinks he MIGHT have it and…goes into a brief illustrative coma, because he does have a vision — or a visit? — from a dead child who informs him that shit is about to GET REAL, and now the castle is full of ghosts, so brace yourself. You know, more or less. It’s all very The Shining: Period Piece.
I am glad Mary dressed mostly appropriately for this season’s inaugural murder (by her hand. Lots of people got stabbed earlier, although mostly just to keep them from feverishly spreading their germs all over everyone else/put them out of their plague-y misery). I’d argue that tossing Lord Edward into the Plague Hole to kill him is actually sort of dastardly. Shouldn’t a murderer who ADMITTED he was a murderer actually be brought to trial and, if found guilty, publicly executed by the Crown? (I mean, in The Olden Times and All.) I’m not going to argue against dastardliness in general, but as satisfying as locking that dude in a hole was, it also wasn’t exactly By The Book. So watch out for High Horses, Mary, is what I am saying.
Kenna and Bash are pretty happy to rub their plague germs all over each other once he rescues her from having to sit in a room with a bunch of dead people.
Obviously, once Francis has held his baby in a forest he wants to bring him back to court with him, so that’s going to be awkward for everyone. REIGN!