PICTURE IT: You’ve got a show on The CW, about intrigue at the 16th century French court, full of hot young actors possessed of various levels of skill with a British accent. You have low ratings. As you head into your second season, do you decide to pump the show full of sex and drama and blackmail and nudity and betrayal and love and angst? Or do you fill most of the first five episodes with hideous pustules, disagreements over grain, and complicated Catholic v. Protestant religious conflict? I don’t know about you, but I’d go for full-on real witchcraft, a couple of love triangles, a handful of people who love one another madly but can’t be together for Reasons, a time-traveller, and a dog who knows too much. I’d have had Mary miscarry after someone was paid to push her down the stairs, and I’d have Francis get addicted to opium. I’d make Lola a lesbian who has to hide her true feelings for her beautiful, sensitive, smart ladies’ maid, and make Bash (temporarily) paralyzed after saving a child from a fire. Why? BECAUSE NO ONE IS WATCHING THE CW FOR NUANCED DRAMA FOCUSED ON THE RISE OF PROTESTANTISM IN FRANCE.
All that said, I totally called that The Nursemaid Possessed By Henry’s Ghost was putting it on and god bless Narcisse for coming up with such a creative and dastardly way to eff with and now blackmail Francis, who is — at best — naive. Never have I seen a King and Queen more in need of some advisers, but THIS 16th century France has both of them just wandering around alone all the time, making terrible choices and pushing men into pits and then getting mad at other murderers for doing just what they did. BOTH of them need supervision. And I’m afraid my favorite characters so far are the two biggest villains.
Anyway, this week’s episode starts off like they all do. Horrible disaster:
Catholic thugs have set fire to a secret meeting of Protestants, one of whom is Greer’s betrothed, Lord Castleroy. HE IS A SECRET PROTESTANT YOU GUYS!! THE SCANDAL!! There is a TON of yadda yadda about all of this, but honestly, I thought this was a bit snooze-y in AP Euro and I find it even more snooze-y on my nighttime stories. I know it’s important — 95 Thesis, indulgences, everyone chopping off everyone else’s heads, the important of religious tolerance, etc, etc, etc — but the part I prefer to see in my shiny CW shows is the part where, say, Henry VIII starts a new arm of Christianity so he can marry a lady, and less the part where extras scream the word “HERETIC” over and over and OVER AND OVER. Heretics are the new grain: tonight, on Reign!
Mary is (quite fairly) mopey about her inability to produce an heir, but Francis and his leather pants assure her that he hasn’t lost faith in her uterus. Maybe it’s YOUR historically alleged un-descended testicles, dude!
If I were writing this show, which clearly doesn’t care about historical accuracy all that much considering how many people look like they stumbled out of an Anthro catalog, I’d have Mary turn to dark witchcraft to try to get pregnant (and then of course find herself indebted to a dark witch who kills off one of the Ladies Who Are Never Waiting For Anything for fun, and who also makes it rain blood from the sky a couple of times, and then of course the baby comes out and it’s EVIL). Instead, she mostly spends this episode pouting about a variety of things (Francis not telling her the truth about how he is actually being blackmailed by Narcisse, etc) and wearing kinda historically weird stuff, although this dress has a truly spectacular neckpiece, that I covet:
It’s the week of Greer’s wedding to Lord Castleroy. Her Ex-Lover Neckbeard Leith tries to warn Greer off of him because Neckbeard Leith discovers (and keeps secret, nicely) Castleroy’s Shocking Religious Secret, but she marries him anyway, both for his money and because she likes him and has empathy for him (he has come into Protestantism whilst trying to find truth in the universe after his wife died, which seems legit). I do think that this means Greer is perhaps slightly less pragmatic than I thought, though, because the ACTUAL Pragmatic One would make him go along to get along, religious-wise.
Speaking of Neckbeard Leith, he and Bash are riding about Investigating Religious Unrest for The King and showing off that someone taught them how to sit on a horse in leather pants and look reasonable doing it:
Bash has VERY little to do in this episode, and hasn’t had much to do all season, really, which seems odd to me, as he’s dreamy in that way where it looks like he’s got an overly heavy hand with the guyliner (but which I think is, like Nestor Carbonell before him, just his own lush lashline).
The Ladies Plot is slightly ridiculous but at least has the benefit of being lusty:
Kenna comes across these two servants (???) getting it on behind, like, a filmy curtain in the middle of the main hallway, and scolds them for being so brazen whilst also being VERY CLEAR that she has NO PROBLEMS with their lesbianism. She also confiscates a book from them, which proves to be a Sex Journal kept by an anonymous court woman about all the dudes she’s banged.Spoiler: We eventually learn that the finest of the bangs is Lord Narcisse. I knew I liked him for a reason! (We also learn that Catherine, who has disappointingly little to do in this episode, has indeed sampled those wares, as I hoped she would. We also learn that she’s sampling ALL the wares in her widowhood, and frankly, I wish this show paid more attention to Catherine’s Parade of Men and less to God.)
I am so sure that both King and Queen of France have this much time to wander lonely as clouds through the castle they never leave, chasing nursemaids who are pretending to be possessed by a recently murdered monarch. I have read a LOT of historical fiction. Everyone knows the king and queen are hardly ever alone! People literally stand next to them on the toilet! That’s why there are always scenes wherein one of them has a hissy and roughly orders like forty extras out of his bedchamber, where he then sits sadly in a window seat and looks out on his rain-drenched domain, finally truly as alone in fact as he always is in his heart. Whereas this entire show is really making it easy to believe that EITHER of these two could be easily assassinated at any moment.
Also, Mary’s boots are totally cute but obviously super scandalous. WE CAN SEE HER SHOE. WHAT A HUSSY. SURELY her hold over Francis is down to SEXUAL SORCERY, etc:
This is yet another scene FULL of religious blather — I will admit that I tolerated this in The Tudors, but that’s because it was sandwiched in between a lot of abs and lustful making out in the woods, and the acting was quite good, and all of the religious conflict was posited as human conflict on a variety of levels rather than just used as a way to weaken the strength of the main character. Honestly, I mostly just wanted you to know that Catherine is wearing a high-fashion neckbrace:
I hope it’s to hide hickeys from her army of suitors. Which she mentions here to Kenna (looking like the cutest girl in a high-budget community theatre production of Hair) and Lola, as she smirks over the sex journal and then criticizes the blonde extra below for her hair. I totally laughed at that. Winkily done, writers. I enjoy your moxie:
I just realized that I forgot to get you a screengrab of Greer’s dress, before she Goes A Merrying in a fountain and gets it all wet:
I do like Greer. I actually like the other ladies, too — it’s a shame that neither of them have any plot. Lola has a simmering something or other happening with Lord Narcisse, as of this week — he cockblocks her at Greer’s wedding reception, then basically tells her that everyone’s scared of both of them (her, because they think she’s the king’s mistress, him because he’s a scary dude who blackmails people and whose four wives have all died in rather quick succession) — and I actually could be totally into that. He’s the best actor on the show, and I don’t know if we’re supposed to have doubts about whether he’s evil or not, but he’s playing the part fairly subtly and I admit that I LOVE that he managed to make Francis believe that his dead father was actually possessing a nursemaid, and that now he has Francis’s confession that he murdered Henry, and him accordingly in the palm of his hand. He PLAYED HIM, and it was awesome. Sorry, Francis:
He also sets a fine cheese plate. The Candelabra and I are in agreement: Narcisse might be evil, but he’s interesting, and he’s hot, and Catherine said he was spectacular in the sack, and ergo, we think that Lola should investigate this further. Then, we just have to get something interesting for Kenna to do — perhaps she should try her job for once? — and we’ll be getting there.
Francis is not going to tell Mary that he’s being so squirrelly because their great enemy Lord Narcisse tricked him into admitting he killed his father, and is now blackmailing him into doing all kinds of things (including mean things to Protestants) and she doesn’t like it very much. She’s so unhappy, and so shiny:
I DO appreciate that this show, in the grand tradition of shows like Gossip Girl, The O.C., and Hart of Dixie, has a HUGE event every week where people dance and wear fancy outfits and fight and flirt. I hope that, before this show is cancelled, someone punches someone else at one of these things.
Behold the wedding finest of the court of France, which never EVER goes to Paris, for reasons that have not been explained to me:
Mary and Lola are thrilled that their DeLorean brought them back from the party at Lady Mary’s in time for this shindig. Especially because the bride wore….well. You just have to see it:
I LOVE that cape. This show would look so much more accurate if everyone was in a giant cape ALL THE TIME. This one is probably slightly off, in terms of 16th century cape styles (I feel like those wide collars didn’t happen until later, and I have watched A LOT of TV so I’m sure I’m right), but it’s still rad. And her dress is a scream:
It’s HUGE and covered in gold bits and she’s got this giant headpiece on and she’s carrying seriously an entire potted floral arrangement. It’s over the top and I do love it. It’s TOTALLY wacky for the time period (I mean, for one thing, no way would she not have the veil over her face, right? I mean, at the very least, don’t we want the DRAMA of having the veil pulled back? If I ever get married, I seriously would consider having the veil down as I traverse the aisle, just because I love the drama of the moment when it’s FLUNG BACK and my hideous visage is revealed. It may be hard to pull this off in my drive-through wedding chapel marriage to Prince Harry, but he and I will somehow manage) but it’s extremely foofy and fun, and ergo, I approve. I can overlook historical inaccuracies if the DRAMA FACTOR is sufficiently high.
I also dig Mary’s hella impractical nightgown:
Poor Mary. She harangues Francis to tell her what’s eating at him, and then asks, “is it about ME? DO YOU DOUBT MY ABILITY TO GIVE YOU A SON?” and he’s like, “um…YES. YES I DO. I DO DOUBT IT. YOU ASKED. SORRY!!!!” The candelabra is like, “dude. This is what happens when you believe a nursemaid is possessed by the soul of the dude you murdered, and then you can’t tell your wife what you did. That kind of naivety ruins marriages.” And I agree with it.