Hello, Fug Nation, and apologies for the tardiness of this recap. I got run over by a deadline and a turkey, in that order. Luckily, not that much happened in this episode — I’ve come to the realization that this show is very good at making it SEEM like all kinds of action is afoot, but when I come here to write about it, I realize it’s fairly easily boiled down. To wit: Shit is getting REAL between the Catholics and the Protestants (I believe this is how Mrs Cole, my AP European history teacher, also summarized it), and Francis’s tenuous grasp on the nation is now basically the equivalent of him dangling over a cliff, hanging on with only his fingertips whilst angry French people stamp on his hands.
You can tell things are extra bad because the Extremely Terrible Thing That Happens In the Opening Scene is the appearance of this dude:
…who then cuts off a man’s lips to punish him for being a Protestant (although the man denies this). This is where I’d make a ham-handed Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition joke, except we’re not technically in Spain. This Terrifying Dude is terrorizing people on behalf of the Pope, who has very little faith in Francis’s ability to get his citizens to fall in religious line. And while I am not on the side of Religious Intolerance, obviously, the Pope isn’t WRONG as far as that goes. Francis is a TERRIBLE KING who does no governing at all and apparently barely leaves the house. He’s kind of the President Fitzgerald Grant of France in terms of his governing ability (although he is a nicer husband, generally, and his fidelity is far more sterling. They are also both, however, murderers). Anyway, there’s a lot of torture and angst in this episode over The Question of Heresy (I honestly think “The Question of Heresy” is what this chapter in my Euro textbook was called) but the upshot for you, CW Viewer, is that everyone hates everyone, violence begets more violence, Francis is a terrible king, and he and Mary argue a lot about how to deal with this (she has not yet left France, which he keeps trying to get her to to do, for her own safety, though he won’t tell her that’s his reasoning), and she basically hates him right now and he’s full of Sadness and Despair. She also wears a knitted shoulder cozie:
I really wish this show would sometimes cut to England, to a shot of Elizabeth I reading a letter from one of her spies detailing how terrible a ruler Francis is, followed by a moment where she fluffs her wig and calls Robert Dudley into the room to bring her some figs. (Also, I would be so much better at recapping a show set in England because it turns out I know about 500% more British history than I do French. Sorry, France. I could swing it if you’d be willing to time-travel this show until it was set during (a) the French revolution, (b) the second act of Les Miserables, or (c) World War II. I apparently read very little historical fiction about People Having Romantical Troubles In the French Vicinity of Mary, Queen of Scots.)
I am, however, sort of interested in poor Princess Claude, who Catherine is trying to marry off to someone whose station is WAYYYYY beneath Claude’s — primarily because Catherine has decided Claude has been cursed by the ghosts of her Catherine’s dead twins and therefore she needs to get out of the castle as soon as possible. We can’t WHOLLY blame the Twin Ghosts for being pissed, though, because we learn in flashbacks that it’s entirely possible that Claude kinda murdered them, and also that she was once Kira from Orphan Black and Kira is kind of annoying.
In fact, while I suspect that she is one of those characters that a lot of regular viewers hated on sight, Princess Claude kind of cracks me up. She’s so terrible and spoiled:
And I can’t blame her for not wanting to marry this wanker:
He’s not nearly posh enough for A PRINCESS, first of all — he’s just a son of a Bavarian count and that is TRADING DOWN when your brother is the King of France — and look at his hair!
And because the rumors of her having banged a priest have gotten out (the priest must have talked), she also has to undergo this VERY HUMILIATING and TERRIBLE examination to determine whether or not she’s a virgin and ergo fit to marry said Wanker:
First of all, this Bavarian Count ought to be DELIGHTED that his son is making such an excellent match that I should think he’d leap at the change to seal the deal, regardless of whether or not Claude has, er, broken her seal. Catherine DOES seem to feel bad about this terrible terrible test (for which Claude apparently has also been forced to dress like a virgin bride on her wedding night), and I spent about forty-five minutes pondering which mysterious poultice was applied to Claude’s vagina so that she could pass it before I realized that Catherine in fact paid off the Corrupt Catholics Conveniently In Town To Cut People’s Faces Off who performed said test. (I love the weird herbal poultices used in every historical novel ever when a woman needs to approximate virginity/prevent pregnancy, all of which are generally given to her by her wise/sassy lady’s maid, who eventually will find happiness with a kind yeoman’s guard and/or be murdered.)
Despite going through this entire terrible ordeal to prove her maidenhood, Claude decides to throw the game by wandering into the salon and acting the wanton in front of Bavaria with Lord Narcisse, grinding on his lap and purring much scandalous innuendo:
The candelabra are scandalized, but Lord N is sort of into it, because things with Lola have taken a bad turn for him. Lord Narcisse is ALSO the character who proves that Standards and Practices took off early for Thanksgiving, because in this scene he asks Claude to hand him his cloak when she gets up to leave, presumably to conceal his boner from all of the court, and earlier he had a conversation with Lola in which he, as some sort of 31 Shades of Grey seduction technique, tells her that one of his dead wives used to use the pommel on her saddle to masturbate:
I am not a complete prude, but I was sort of surprised they let that one pass. ANYWAY, I don’t blame Lola for being peevish with Narcisse because he sort of kidnaps her here — I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s wearing a red cloak and wandering the forest when this happens, because surely Narcisse IS a bit of a wolf — and then later Francis explains that he wants to frame Narcisse as a spy because Narcisse threatened the life of their son. When confronted, Narcisse tells Lola — and he’s right, by the way — that HE wasn’t threatening the child, he was mostly pointing out that because Francis is such a weak and shitty king, it’s highly likely that people gunning for the crown will be tempted to get rid of his heirs. And that’s a bad move on her part to reject the safety that would come with his friendship. All of which I think is probably accurate. Then he storms out in an angry and sexy flurry.
Lola does a LOT of asking people what their damage is this week, because she’s the best, which means that she also calls Francis out on (a) killing his father and (b) being such a shitty liar, especially to Mary, and (c) using her to do his biding without giving her the entire story vis a vis their child, and she does so in this very pretty dress:
You know how some actors just look natural in period pieces — Kate Winslet, for one — and others (say, Jennifer Lawrence) do not? (I suppose American Hustle was a period piece, and J Law was great in that, but you feel me: I have my doubts that she would look right in a six-part miniseries about the War of the Roses or something, despite being a tremendous actor). Anna Popplewell has a face for period pieces, which means that I think she often looks the closest to correct in her wardrobe, even if it’s not technically accurate.
Rose Williams also has a Period Piece Face, although the period piece she is starring in seems to be set amongst the robber barons circa 1911:
In other Dress News, Catherine looks awesome in this, despite the fact that she’s got to save one child from a curse and she’s possibly hallucinating two other children:
The only person who seems to notice that Catherine is behaving in a squirrelly fashion is Bash, who — it’s noteworthy — has ALSO seen the twin ghosts (right? He’s seen ghosts GENERALLY, but I think the ones he saw were the twins, yes? They are, I suppose, his half-sisters as well). He wants Catherine to be nicer to Claude, and Catherine naturally smirks something about his perhaps inappropriate closeness with her. I feel like no one is sufficiently grossed out by the fact that Bash and his half-sister got it on, especially Bash (I admit I haven’t got to spend much time with this character, but he SEEMS like a person who would have some guilt about that).
I also LOVED this dress on Lola:
I mean, it’s wrong, but it’s fantastic — you can’t tell from this photo, but there’s some great beading around the top of the neckline. Basically, this entire show is Anna Popplewell auditioning for a variety of other period pieces.
On the opposite tact, at some point during the We Have Problems Because You’re a Shitty King And Haven’t Told Me The Truth And France Is a Total Mess Right Now back and forth with Francis and Mary (which I think is also serving to perhaps drive Mary into Openly Protestant But Also Upstanding and Hot Lord Conde’s arms), Mary wears this outfit that makes her look like she’s playing a doomed angel in a pantomime set-piece that was cut from Atonement:
Even if they HATE EACH OTHER now and everything is, as Francis tells Lola, a total freaking disaster for him on all counts. Happy holidays, French court!