After a season of false starts, horrific assaults, muddled politics, and Greer’s magnificent ascent to France’s premiere madam, Reign’s second season has finally stumbled to an end. The show took risks, the biggest of which was having a Protestant invader rape Mary midway through the season. That assault colored everything that came after—as well it should have—but Reign buckled under the weight of what it did to its main character. Mary’s character got lost under the guise of trauma, and everyone around her followed that lead. Much of this finale follows suit, making it yet another messy episode. Still, there’s a palpable sense that it’s trying to recalibrate and get closer to those exhilarating and totally bizarre highs of the first season.

For one, “Burn” does away with Conde’s silly coup much more quickly and more creatively than anticipated. As Conde and I suspected, Mary was tricking him when she burst into his tent all starry-eyed and anxious, insisting that she’s pregnant, Louis, for God’s sake, help her! But no. Mary isn’t pregnant, and she isn’t there to run away with him. Instead, she enlists Greer and her brothel to distract Conde’s men, and even throws in a fake plague scare to make sure they scatter. It’s exactly the kind of reckless but somehow effective move Mary used to pull, and while I don’t need her to make stellar decisions every time, I’m glad to see evidence that the show hasn’t completely forgotten the character they created. Granted, the only reason Francis realizes what’s going on is because Mary asked Bash to get something urgent to Greer, but he didn’t share this information with his brother because he “didn’t think it was relevant” until all hell actually broke loose. But still!

It all culminates in the moment when Conde turns to look at his frazzled men, only to turn around and get a knife in the stomach, courtesy of Mary herself. This starts yet another round of Mary and Conde’s favorite wordplay game, which consists of Conde and/or Mary exclaiming, “but you said you love me!” while the other tears up and insists that they do. It’s all very exhausting, and I can’t say I wasn’t rooting for that knife to do its job and end Conde and this storyline. Alas, Reign is apparently very committed to keeping Conde around, since he not only recovers from this stab wound, but is last seen speeding away from the castle—but more on that later.

Even in an episode that spends a substantial chunk of time investigating pagan blood rituals, the real shit goes down when someone tells Francis that Conde’s men botched an attempt to kidnap Lola and their son—and that the baby didn’t make it. However much grief I give Francis as a character, Toby Regbo sells the hell out of whatever he’s given. His furious grief takes him to the cell where Conde and Mary are sharing their latest angst, but he has no time for them. He just grits his teeth and yells about how Conde’s men killed his heir, his son. While he had wanted to end the coup with some savvy diplomacy, this is too much for Francis to bear, and so he insists that Conde will pay with his head—just as Catherine had always advised. Conde insists he doesn’t know anything about whoever ordered the kidnapping, which I immediately believed, because Conde doesn’t know anything. He never has. Conde was very good at sleeping with married women, full stop. He was never convincing as the leader of a coup or as Elizabeth’s conduit for chaos, and the show insisting otherwise became exhausting. So again, I was ready for Conde’s life to end in that cell so we could all move on, but he ends up getting out because “someone killed the executioner!” We can only assume it was Elizabeth, since she’s been so insistent that he’s a good match, and because after hearing her name whispered and screamed for forty some odd episodes now, we finally get to meet her.

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And it’s Catherine de Medici that makes it happen.

Narcisse realizing that Catherine faked baby John’s death to make sure Conde got executed is a little convenient, but I can’t be mad at it if only because it lets the terrifying and wonderful Catherine I knew and loved come roaring back. Megan Follows has never let a single line go without relishing it completely, and so it’s no surprise that she obliterates Catherine’s confrontation with Mary. In a huff of self-righteousness, Mary comes stomping into Catherine’s chambers and demands to know how she could do such a thing to her devastated son, and Catherine just lets go of propriety and lets this upstart have it. She once again insists that foraying into dubious moral ground is “part of the job,” but then goes further when she locks eyes with Mary and growls, “Ruling requires that your hands be drenched in blood.” Francis’ subsequent decision to exile his mother has been a long time coming, and since Follows has been stranded in some of the season’s most lackluster plotlines (Bible madness, anyone?), I’m all for making Catherine one of the main antagonists again. This holds especially true because the alternatives right now seems to be the zombie man Claude saw in the passageways and/or Delphine’s soul entwining blood rituals, and neither are very appealing.

There’s a point towards the end of tonight’s finale where it becomes clear not just how much has happened this season, but just how scattered everything got. It even alludes to it when Mary and her ladies sit in a window seat like they used to when they first came to France as giddy teenagers. “This is how I want to remember you,” Kenna says, and you can feel the nostalgia in both her voice and the show’s. So everyone ends this season in different but still familiar places. Mary and Francis are a team again. Catherine is in England with Elizabeth, but she’s back to wanting Mary dead. Kenna is pregnant, but back on the prowl for some royal attention to secure her standing. Lola’s rocking a kid to sleep, Bash is tied up in more supernatural nonsense, and hey, everyone’s favorite medieval Charlie Brown is back! That’s right: Nostradamus has returned to help Francis, because as it turns out, he never quite bounced back from that collapse (despite fighting in several physically demanding battles since), and is quite sure he’s dying after all. Even kings can’t escape their fate.

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Stray observations:

  • Thank you all for reading along with me this season! I’ll tell you from the bottom of my heart, it has been a truly confusing ride.
  • Rachel Skarsten as Elizabeth doesn’t make much of an impression yet. But the prospect of her working with Catherine against Mary is delicious, so I hope she embraces this show’s absurdity as much as Follows. Frankly, even half of Follows’ fire would be impressive.
  • Pretty thrilled to have called Kenna’s pregnancy, even if it’s going to be a stone cold bummer.
  • “There is one thing worse than being hated by Catherine de Medici – being loved.” Okay, Narcisse. Go chase a teenage girl about it, why don’t you?
  • Catherine, laying down some truth on Mary and Francis: “You’re not better than me, either of one of you—and I’m sick to death of you pretending otherwise.”

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