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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Reign decides to torment just its old guard in “Highland Games”

Illustration for article titled Reign decides to torment just its old guard in “Highland Games”
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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • At this point, there’s a certain sense of familiarity about Reign. We know the brisk rhythm of scenes, the cadence of political back-and-forth, the mandated gesture for people who are about to have a Serious Talk: sitting down slowly beside the person in need of counsel, with one hand ever-so-gently outstretched. ”Highland Games” leans on that familiarity, focusing on core characters (no Leeza, no Elizabeth) in some same-old situations, and even though the episode isn’t very good, it still feels like home.
  • This is an episode about relationships poisoned by doubt, like the flask of a highland bro who wants to fight you behind the bleachers, and they pay off in inverse proportion to how well they’re set up. Nowhere is this more obvious than Mary and Darnley. It’s no surprise Mary would worry Darnley isn’t the most honorable fellow ever to be engaged to her, given that he started a potentially-fatal fire for the glory, and the prickly distrust is almost enough to give Darnley a real character. It’s even more interesting to make her face the reality of convincing her own nobles to support her marriage to a man who’s already a handful. It’s almost a shame to resolve it. That he’s innocent of the poisoning is kind of too bad, considering how much more interesting their mutual animosity makes him. That Mary assuages her guilt by helping him cheat is perfectly historically accurate for her, in that it’s compromised her greatly for no real payoff and will probably backfire. That they end the episode with a romantic display and cheers practically dares you not to pity poor, doomed Mary.
  • By comparison, it’s business as usual that Catherine and Narcisse are starting up their foreplay/power play revolving door in the wake of the power vacuum Charles leaves behind. They’re both nebulously in his corner (Narcisse’s Disapproving Stepdad pose is perfect), but also each preparing to do necessary dirty work. None of this needs resolving now; given that these two will likely be changing allegiances several times in the coming episodes as per usual, so there’s no rush.
  • The pissy face-off with Luke, Claude, and Leith during the morning-morning after was enjoyable only for its “Maybe a threesome would solve this?” vibes. Largely, it serves to make Claude and Leith look even more like the wind socks of star-crossed romance. (That marriage discussion looked so much like the beginning of a three-way relationship that I’m still not convinced we won’t get it. Luke’s definitely in, Leith’s tentatively in, Claude is still insisting she run away with somebody and live as a peasant this instant and will take a little while to catch up.)
  • Castleroy pulling away from Greer because the script insists (he has the Tudor equivalent of a Canadian girlfriend, and even Michael Therriault tacks an invisible “…I guess?” onto every line). But if they had to split, I appreciate that in true Reign fashion, it was dealt with at speed, and they parted as they got together—the show’s most rational and communicative relationship.
  • Charles’ big secret was very anticlimactic for a show that used to have at least one cult every season and occasionally had people who were sad because they kept getting caught out-of-body by a serial killer and it was kind of a lot; by comparison, Charles is really reaching. Honestly, though, anything short of “Charles is absolutely a vampire” was going to be a disappointment.
  • This is a minor note this episode because each of them had bigger fish to fry, but James constantly looks as if he can’t decide whether he wants to turn his back on Mary for good or propose to her himself, and since at some point we presume he has to do one or the other and this show is still rated Teen-ish, treason it is.
  • “Once it’s announced, it will be difficult to turn back.” …I mean, will it? Didn’t we try that with Gideon? That turned back so painlessly the characters all forgot.
  • The portentous “dun dun” that followed the first mention of Leith’s name is exactly how I feel about Leith.
  • Mary’s forensic detection skills have somehow climbed to Catherine heights this season; I laughed out loud at her line about the wax seal from her secret adviser. She’s one advantageous poisoning away from making Mom-In-Law proud.
  • Mary falls prey to one of the most baffling TV conventions: I’d Like To Be Alone With This Person While I Ask Them To Admit To Something That’s Definitely Terrible and Probably Illegal, Please. Will Kemp’s made Darnely so palpably untrustworthy that he might as well be carrying a Please Have Me Surveilled At All times sign, and if she chooses to ignore that…well, that’s probably what the real Mary did, so.
  • Into every CW drama a fisticuffs training montage must fall. This was just Reign‘s turn.
  • I have a strange fondness for the fact that this ensemble’s so entangled that everybody takes the weirdness with little more than a sigh. Sure, Narcisse drops by the newlyweds’ quarters to wish his son and his ex-girlfriend/occasional-informal-stepdaughter a good morning; why not?
  • Leaving Catherine in the woods as a cliffhanger is going to come back to haunt Charles. If anyone could befriend the leftover bears in the forest using false compliments and occasional plays on their insecurity, and eventually manipulate them into storming the castle and eating him as revenge for their dead brother, it’s her.
  • Dress of the week: Are those thistles on Mary’s gown at the Highland Games? Sold! Secondary consideration to Mary’s black-and-yellow during the boxing match, as if her morally-upstanding gold has soured a little from prolonged contact with Darnley. (Honorable mention to Luke’s powder-blue brocade doublet, which must have been issued to him by someone who realized he was the Faramir of the French court.)