After that stretch of entirely confusing episodes, I feel pretty good about getting an episode that’s half boring retreads and half sexy intrigue.
To deal with the unpleasantries first, let’s start with the Mary and Conde saga. Though the episode opens with a promising action sequence, any momentum it has immediately goes away when Mary steps off a horse in the snow and runs back into Conde’s arms. This rendezvous apparently takes place weeks after the last episode, during which time Conde’s been off by himself “thinking” or some such nonsense. “These last few weeks without you,” Mary breathes up at a grim Conde through shining eyes, “I felt like I was dying.” It’s all very romantic, but it would have been nice to see something of those few weeks. It could have been cool to understand more why they’re trying to sell this Mary and Conde relationship so hard by seeing what their apparent devastation was like when they were forced apart, instead of immediately throwing them back together to sporadically make out in the woods. Seems like those few weeks after Francis came out of his coma, discovered Mary’s plan to skip town with her Bourbon lover, and sent troops to Scotland might have been pretty critical, or at least would have paid off this season-long entanglement. Instead, we get scene after scene of Mary telling Conde she will protect him, Conde blinking hard, both of them staring wetly at each other, only to cut to Francis furiously reminding Mary how much she sucks.
To be fair, Francis did just come out of a coma only to discover Mary’s plan to skip town with her Bourbon lover, and if you’re wondering why I just repeated the exact same sentence I said before, it’s because this episode does exactly that, over and over. Even though “Abandoned” leaps forward several weeks, the conflict feels as stalled as it might have the day after Francis woke up. We already saw the “previously on Reign” section; we don’t need Francis to catch us up every time he gets annoyed with Mary. Though again, to be fair, Francis does have reason to be annoyed with Mary. There’s the aforementioned fact that he just came out of a coma only to discover Mary’s plan to skip town with her Bourbon lover, but also that he sent troops to Scotland to help Mary and she’s still keeping secrets and playing favorites. Then, Mary cuts it off with Conde, who then agrees to marry Elizabeth via proxy, only to find out that all evidence of his surrogate marriage have been destroyed and/or killed.
Finding out about this understandably devastates Mary, who has been trying to balance her feelings for Conde against her practical side, which knows the relationship is unsustainable. Even Lola and Kenna invite her for some tea and real talk to gently suggest she might be “confusing gratitude and love,” which, ouch. But the time has come for Mary to realize that what might have been right for her after her rape is no longer sustainable for her position of power, and so she shuts it down. Her final scene with Francis, where he tells her about Conde marrying Elizabeth and lays his disappointment out in no uncertain terms, is great. Toby Regbo and Adelaide Kane have been stuck in this dreary cycle for months now, but there’s no denying that they can deliver some serious monologues and blink rapidly in the face of swelling music with the best of them. Oh sure, there’s some stuff about the Protestant uprising, and growing tensions, and some altar boy hostage situation that frankly seems too small potatoes for a king to devote so much energy to, but it’s all playing second string to the romantic drama even as it sputters to an end. So I don’t know if this is the end for Conde, but I do know that his relationship with Mary doesn’t deserve the pomp and circumstance “Abandoned” gives it, and that I hope the season can move somewhere more interesting with these two, fast.
Elsewhere, though, Reign is looking up! Catherine and Narcisse have spent the missing few weeks ravishing each other all over the castle—but only in between setting their own nefarious plans into motion, whatever those are. These two are so hot for each other that I can’t help but love them, especially since Kenna’s sex diary discovery confirmed that Narcisse is pretty good at what he does and Catherine deserves that. The pairing, as even they realize, just makes sense. Narcisse thinks Catherine’s ruthless ambition is incredibly sexy, and she relishes the idea of having a lover with whom she can also play sexy mind games. I reject the idea that Catherine is Narcisse’s “match,” since Catherine far outstrips Narcisse in the mysterious machinations department, but it’s undeniably fun to watch Megan Follows spar with Craig Parker like this. Too bad, then, that one of Catherine’s spies sees Narcisse flirting with Lola outside Greer’s brothel. It’s impossible to tell if Catherine’s fantasizing about ending Narcisse, Lola, or both, but it should be fun to watch it play out.
Speaking of Greer’s brothel: it is amazing. Seriously, I’ve talked about how much I love Greer as a madam before, and this episode continues to make my case. The break in between episodes has given Greer enough time to make quite the name for herself, and her lavish brothel proves it. Kenna and Lola, convinced they’re doing their poor friend a solid by dropping by with some cash, are floored when they see Greer in her new element. Greer is truly thriving. She’s finally “in charge of [her[ own life for the first time” (not to mention those of her girls), her job demands the constant presence of champagne, her hair looks amazing, she gets all the best castle gossip for nothing, and real power players like Narcisse and General Renaud are all up in her business’s business. There was a time when I figured the best thing for Greer (and the very winning Celina Sinden) would be to leave the show, but above all odds, her new fate has made her one of the most intriguing and powerful people on the show. With all the Mary/Francis/Conde drama and Bash investigations clogging up the castle, Greer’s brothel could be the perfect meeting place of sordid fun and real intrigue going forward.
While Lola is hesitating to accept Greer’s new place in the world, especially since Narcisse points out that her reputation really doesn’t need the extra hit, Kenna has a blast at the brothel. She’s always been the most curious and restless lady-in-waiting, and she does love a good party, so her fascination with the brothel makes perfect sense. And since her marriage with Bash looks to be in a downward spiral thanks to her husband brooding away for no real good reason. So Kenna’s in the market for distractions, whether in the form of General Renaud or Greer’s new lifestyle. If the show decides to spend more time with Greer and the “great equalizers” of “death and perversions,” I think both Kenna and I will be set.
- Does Bash know anything that’s been happening between Mary and Francis? Torrance Coobs looks legitimately surprised when they fight—again—and summarize—again—how Mary was going to leave for Scotland with Conde.
- Not sure why, but I laughed pretty hard when Bash and Francis waited to talk shit about Conde until Mary and Catherine have safely drifted away to stare pensively into the fire.
- I know I said I’m cool with Narcisse and Catherine, but I literally squeaked “ew” at Narcisse’s, “Won’t be long unil I am slipping into your warm…royal…bed.”
- Narcisse: “Is this how’s it going to be from now on? One of us constantly wondering what the other one is up to?”
Catherine:“This is terrible news, but there’s something marvelous in that, isn’t there?” (Yes, Catherine. Yes there is.)
- “Does this ‘friend’ have a name? Breasts? A vagina?” Kenna, making a case for line of the night until:
- “We’re all basically fallen women…to hell with what people think.”