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Talking about Reign these days feels like talking about two separate shows, so to speed things along, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

First, there’s The Mary Queen of Scots show. This is a drama that follows a young queen’s trying to retain power, keep her dignity, and juggle the men competing for her heart. Mary has always struggled between wanting to take full advantage of her rank and knowing that every decision she makes has strings attached. Trying to work through the traumatic aftermath of a rape only complicates things, especially when she can’t trust that anyone around her is showing compassion out of concern or self-interest. The return of Mary’s mother (Amy Brenneman, still rocking an incomprehensible accent) underlines the realities of being a royal woman in a particularly harsh way, asking if Mary’s pregnant the second her daughter reveals that she was raped. Otherwise, it’s actually stunning how much “Forbidden” features people giving Mary advice they have previously warned her against—especially the men.

Francis has both agreed to give Mary space to deal with her trauma and given impassioned speeches about how they can’t afford the luxury of living separate lives. One of Francis’ best moment in this back half of the season—and maybe ever—was when he told Mary as frankly as he dared that women just don’t have the same level of freedom men do, and it is almost even more complicated if they’re royal and need to produce heirs. This week, Mary says she wants to try and produce an heir and he balks, bristling at the idea that she’s proposing sex “based on international policy.” It’s fine if he is concerned about her well-being, but it’s a confusing message when set against some of what he’s already said. At the very least, the scene with Francis and Mary trying to have sex is a deeply effective one; both Toby Regbo and Adelaide Kane let the awkwardness and heavy regret sit when they kiss, or Francis grabs Mary’s wrist in a moment of passion. Still, I was relieved when they finally had the fight where Mary admitted she had feelings for Conde and Francis forbid it, if only because it was sure to speed things along. Everyone knows that something becomes a thousand times more appealing the second it’s forbidden.

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Speaking of: Conde can’t decide whether he’d rather sulk about Mary not deigning to have an affair with him or play the role of supportive boyfriend. He’s getting in a bad habit of telling Mary to be patient with herself while at the same time saying that he can’t sit around and wait forever. I thought Sean Teale and Kane had a spark when Conde was first around, but this push and pull of contrary emotions has been exhausting. I was so relieved when Mary says she wants Conde to go with her to Scotland, because at least it meant that we’d be moving on from Conde’s unflattering unrequited pining phase.

But then Antoine swooped in to tell his little brother that Elizabeth is interested in marrying him, and I fully threw my head back and cackled like a Disney stepmother. Not only do we get a crucial piece of information from some shadowy transaction offscreen, again, but because Conde only just escaped a potential love triangle between Mary and Lola only to end up in a rather more high stakes one between Mary and her power-hungry British cousin. Also, this development is a laughable act of convenience in terms of the actual and larger historical story, though the attention to historical detail went out the window long before Francis refused to die and Catherine de Medici smashed Diane de Poitiers head in with a fireplace shovel. (Has anyone noticed that yet, by the way? Maybe Detective Bash will figure out what happened to his mother as soon as he’s done learning next to nothing from a downtown healer. Maybe.)

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Meanwhile, there’s The Ladies-In-Waiting show. This light dramedy features the antics of a single mother looking for a good time once in a while, an aspiring party planner, and an accidental madam. All three of these plots let the ladies have more fun than they have in a while, though perhaps less so for Greer. It’s lovely to see Kenna happy again, though I wish it wasn’t just because Antoine gave her unlimited funds to “go shopping” and make a party perfect. I do appreciate, though, that Kenna very firmly shut Antoine down at all possible corners—until he dangled the possibility of her marrying him and becoming a Queen of sorts. After several episodes that tried to manufacture conflict between Bash and Kenna, Antoine’s proposal is the first moment in which I’m at all convinced that there should be some trouble for this married couple.

Elsewhere, Lola spends much of the episode rolling on medieval molly, which results in her insulting the Hapsburgs crooked baby, telling Francis he’s a great kisser, showing Narcisse that she’s a great kisser, and appreciating the smaller, more shimmery things in life. It’s all very fun, especially because Anna Popplewell lets loose with such giddy abandon. And speaking of giddy abandon, Greer is living according to the very opposite principle. Her situation is becoming desperate—as evidenced by the messier state of her hair—but she lands on a solution when the prostitute she befriended proposes a new business model. Greer will suggest the fancy upper-crust parties the prostitutes can go to, and she’ll get a cut of their earnings. It’s not the future she imagined for herself, but as Reign has made clear, the future is never quite what you expect it to be, after all.

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Stray observations:

  • Seriously, has no one even found Diane’s body? Because at this point that’s the only explanation that would excuse everyone magically deciding not to notice she’s gone.
  • Catherine had very little to do this week, but at least she managed to throw shade at a funeral.
  • “It was you who put yourself in a position to be tricked.” Oh, gross, Bash.
  • Amy Brenneman’s Marie is still all over the place, but her tearing Lola apart was bitingly mean, and pretty spectacular.
  • That said, Anna Popplewell is the clear MVP this week, for gleeful deliveries of he following: “Well, you’ve met Mary’s mother. She’s terrifying.” “Have you ever noticed how many soft and shimmering things there are in the world?” “Could sex with you be simple?…Or is there something unimaginably dirty or wrong involved?” “She smells of ointment.” “He didn’t even offer me a bath, and he always offers me a bath.”

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