In which Megan Follows continues to be a treasure, and the writers really let her rip in this episode (which I think was the best of the season to date). Canada, I thank you for her.
Anyway, this episode opens, AS DOES EVERY EPISODE OF REIGN, with TERRIBLE DISASTER:
In this case — I am just going to cut to the chase — there are two actors impersonating Mary and Francis parading about the countryside extorting money from peasants and burning down their farms as punishment if they don’t kowtow. This ends badly for a NUMBER of people, including the random (to me; was this dude featured last season?) king’s guard who is running the entire scheme on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I, and who is killed when Mary stabs his horse with a hatpin and it tramples him. I did not make any of that up.
ANYWAY, before Mary murders yet another person (in fairness, this time it was completely in self-defense), she and Francis have a whole awkward chat about how disappointed he is in her Inability to Give Him an Heir, and how she knows she asked for that truth, but it’s hard to hear and she won’t pretend otherwise. You can tell their relationship is on the rocks given all the Back Turned, Head Bowed body language here. Even the Candelabra are tiny and small:
What Francis thinks but does not say is, “well, I’m actually not THAT worried about it but I had to tell you something and I couldn’t say, ‘I’m an idiot who Lord Narcisse tricked into believing his dead father was occasionally inhabiting the body of a nursemaid in order to secure some reaaaaaallllly good blackmail material.'”
Meanwhile, Catherine — my one true love, who is MAGNIFICENT and laugh out loud funny in this episode — is helpfully showing us all her Mostly Period Appropriate Clothes as she packs to take a trip somewhere:
A trip that Mary finagles her way into, because the place she thinks Catherine is going boasts a doctor who is supposed to be skilled at what she calls “women’s troubles,” AKA The Question of Why Francis’s Seed Can Find No Purchase In Her Womb Despite The Amount of Time They Spend Boning (AKA A Lot). This plan falls apart, though, because Catherine is actually going to a TOTALLY other town to give a speech to the peasants. “I may not care about peasants INDIVIDUALLY,” Catherine tells Mary, “but IN GENERAL I care a great deal and so should you.” Mary sneers that also, if something goes wrong, Catherine can oh-so-conveniently escape to one of these towns that loves her and said peasants will help her escape the country and NO SHIT MARY. That’s actually SMART. “If you were wise, you’d develop a few boltholes yourself, my dear,” Catherine says. “You have plenty of enemies.” And THAT’S why Catherine de’ Medici lived to be 70 years old in an age when that might as well have been 120 and someone else in this scene ended up with her head on a pike. If I remember correctly. Right? Lack of boltholes was a big part of Mary’s downfall…? Maybe not. But still! A bolthole is ALWAYS a good idea, and also it’s a wonderful word.
ANYWAY, then their carriage is beset by…thieves? Zombies? I dunno…and Mary and Catherine have to crawl out the escape hatch at the bottom of the carriage (Mary naturally wants to try to reason with the zombies first) and flee through the woods, taking off their jewelry (except they both forget to take off their earrings and Catherine keeps on this GIANT ring) and turning their capes inside out, and pretending to be ladies maids so as not to be robbed as they try to get back home. See?
Francis and the Candelabra are VERY unhappy when they find out both Catherine and Mary are missing, via Bash, who has two lines in this episode and literally NOTHING to do. Do the writers just not know what to do with this character now that there’s no love triangle for him? Torrance Coombs has two movies coming out this year, was he off filming them? It seems weird that he has been completely sidelined.
Literally, Candelabra has better blocking in this scene than Bash does. It looks ready to burst into a chorus of “Be Our Guest.”
So Catherine and Mary trample through the woods for hours and eventually come across this village, where the pub owner — not knowing their true identities — allows them to eat and drink after Mary puts in some time as a serving wench. It’s actually all really very entertaining. In particular, the way that Megan Follows digs into this chicken (and then completes the remainder of this scene with chicken all over his face) is honestly brilliant. Can we all just take a moment and reflect upon how lucky we all were that SHE was cast as Anne Shirley? That movie could have gone so utterly wrong — I fear if it were made today, we’d get Bella Thorne — but she is so perfectly feisty. She also gives Mary a lot of rather kind and sympathetic if extremely pragmatic advice about being married to a king which is probably good realistically speaking (namely, “sometimes if you’re married to the king, you need to keep your own counsel and not show him every single feeling that is in your heart, and it would also be good if you had some work of your own that fulfills you”) but none of which is very romantic. She also reminds Mary that she was in agony trying to produce an heir for TEN YEARS so she knows what Mary is going through. Catherine is a crazy scheming murderer, but she’s got chicken on her face and she cares and I love her.
They’re waiting for Francis to show up and rescue them — Catherine wants to buy some “sway-backed nag” to take them home, but Mary points out that showing their jewels will get them murdered DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY’RE BOTH WEARING EARRINGS STILL — when Fake Francis and Fake Mary show up and it’s all fairly amusing until we find out that Fake Francis is full-on evil. Don’t get too attached to either of them. Neither of them make it out of this episode alive because Reign is nothing if not a brutal unending bloodbath.
Until the MURDERS AND ABUSE, though, it’s fairly amusing. The peasants ask “Mary” if it’s true that Catherine once “threw an entire family of hatmakers into the dungeon” for cheating her, and “Mary” really waxes poetic about it. Catherine grouses, “it was one man. And I only stretched him a little.” The actual Mary gives her a dirty look, and Catherine mutters, “first, you should know he was a terrible terrible hat maker,” and Megan Follows’s line delivery there was basically perfection.
Oh, right. This plot:
Lurking there in the background, Candelabra is like, “WHAT YEAR IS THIS?!” (Kenna looks like she just piloted in from a show adapted from a Bertrice Small romance novel, where the young feisty English lass is accidentally sold into a harem and likes it.) Once again, Lola and Kenna are given a variety of Educational Monologues Reminding Us of the Financial Plight of Women in The Olden Times and yada yada yada Lola has been cut off by her family FOREVER for giving birth to the king’s son, and she wants her dowry back. (Which is patently absurd. For one thing, that dowry was her family’s money, not hers, to begin with, even if it was FOR her — she’s the object exchanged in this scenario, and as gross as that is, it doesn’t mean the money belongs to HER. For another, she did marry the dude to whose family the dowry was paid, as far as anyone knows [right?] and then she had someone else’s kid, so all the more reason they should at least get the cash.) Anyway, my objections aside, Lola DOES get her dowry money (and with it, a measure of independence) back from the bank thanks to the efforts of Lord Narcisse, who is pressing his suit to get into her knickers quite smoothly:
Teaching her archery, giving her tea, making a deal with her that he’ll get her dowry back if she only allows him to watch her take a bath (it’s not quite as creepy as it sounds but only because Craig Parker is REALLY good in this part, which is also written with more layers than anyone else than Catherine and maybe Lola and Greer, and because these two have good chemistry and their scenes are pretty diverting. I am way more interested in THIS plot than I am in whether or not Mary will get knocked up and I basically am totally on board for this romance, which might be very appealingly angsty and disastrous).
While they’re exchanging entendre over weaponry,, Francis is still out looking for Mary and Catherine. I have no idea how much time has passed — hours? Days? Who knows? I think NOT days, because Lola is in the same (fairly accurate-ish) dress the entire time. I’m really only showing you this because the shot is well done and the scenery is pretty and the old peasant lady there places ANOTHER curse on Francis. What else is new?
While she’s cursing him, somewhere else in France Catherine does this. It, as Heather would say, doesn’t matter why. (You should also know that Megan Follows almost adopts a Cockney accent whilst pretending to be a commoner and while there’s something weird about a Cockney accent being used as a class signifier in a show when the actual characters wouldn’t have ANY British accent AT ALL, it’s still really funny.)
She also has this, the better to stab people with, which comes in handy when she and Mary and Fake Mary are all being hauled off to be murdered by one of their own men, who’s a turncoat acting on the orders of QEI (basically. Don’t worry. It doesn’t happen. YET. QEI will get you EVENTUALLY, Mary). “Is that POISONED?” Mary asks. “I DON’T CARRY POISON EVERYWHERE,” Catherine notes. “I might accidentally kill myself.” But luckily, it’s stabby enough that when Mary (feisty herself for once!) jabs it into the neck of a horse, said horse — as I already told you! — tramples their would-be murderer, and then Francis shows up and everyone’s happy except for the like SEVEN PEOPLE WHO WERE MURDERED in this course of this episode.
Back at the castle:
Sorry that screengrab is so dark. Essentially, Lola tricked Lord Narcisse into thinking he was watching her have a bath, but it was really her servant girl (who was, Lola makes quite clear, super okay with it), and he’s all, “WELL PLAYED and also I got your dowry money back for you already so I would have given it to you even if you’d drowned me in this tub. Also, here are a bunch of words that are sympathetic to your financial plight as a woman in these shocking sexist times” and sincerely, just do it already, you two!
Speaking of doing it, Francis VERY emotionally tells Mary that he didn’t mean what he said about the whole disappointment over His Seed Ne’er Finding Purchase In Her Womb, and apologizes for withholding information from her (though he still doesn’t tell her what’s happening) and swears he’ll fix this, and never betray her, etc etc, and she and her wine cardigan hug him and pretend everything is okay with them:
But over his shoulder, and she and Candalabra exchange a sad look that says, “it’s time to keep our own secrets, indeed, and though I promised Francis we will never be like Catherine and Henry, things have changed between us, perhaps forever.” CUE SAD FLUTE MUSIC.