Oh, show. What are you doing?
On paper, “Fugitive” is a capital G Game-changer of an episode. It pushes Kenna into infidelity and on the road to divorce, sets up an ultimatum between the perpetually doomed couple of Leith and Greer, forces Narcisse to declare his loyalty one way or another and, most crucially, reveals Conde’s purpose beyond seducing married women. The pieces are all moving around and forward, but after a season of misguided stops and starts, it’s still very hard to get invested.
First and foremost, this episode deals with Mary’s very poor decision-making skills. While Conde was so instrumental in helping Mary heal after she was raped, their love story since has felt less like the epic sweeping arch the show hopes it is rather than a long, tortured march to…well, nothing interesting. Teary rendezvous in the woods, I guess. One of the problems here is that when Mary insists on pulling out all the stops to save him and Conde just says he’s finished, the feeling it evokes isn’t despair over his possible leaving for good, but relief. The push and pull between Conde and Mary has been a tired cycle almost since it started, and while I have no ill will towards Sean Teale, writing Conde off at this point just made sense. Clearly that will not be happening any time soon, seeing how Elizabeth’s envoy convinces him to use his Bourbon army to make a play for Francis’s throne, but oh man, do I feel Conde’s exhaustion here. Just put the man out of his misery, Reign.
The second problem here is that this plotline plays up a Mary who prizes her emotions above her common sense—“the personal above the political,” as Francis says. Francis has never been more in the right than in this episode as he continually explodes over Mary’s bad judgment. The final scene where she asks him to forgive her for her part in helping Conde get away is a strong one just because he doesn’t back down. The weight of what she did, of what she possibly did to France, is too much to forgive, because it really was monumentally stupid. While Mary’s shaky ruling skills are more historically accurate than most things on this show, Reign sells them as a direct consequence of her trauma, which makes for an incredibly frustrating storyline. The strongest part of it is—incredibly—Mary’s conversation with Bash. No, I’m not talking about him sliding in the fact that he relates to Conde, which was gross, but rather Mary’s admission that she’s heartbroken over the fact that being queen means being above a real relationship. Her position is “poison,” she says bitterly. To his credit, Bash knows he can’t lie and say otherwise, and so he just says, “I’m sorry.”
Elsewhere in “men lecturing women on how dumb they’re being,” we have Leith. Oh, Leith. What are you doing?! Leith’s rapid turn into that odious fake Nice Guy territory last season was a bummer, and so I kept holding out hope that he’d grow out of it. No such luck! He’s still terrible! After weeks of trying to prod Greer to admit she’d just be happy if she could be his stay-at-home wife and running shifty errands for the Church, Leith finally scrounges up enough cash to very possibly maybe secure an annulment. (Though this only happens with an assist from Princesse Claude, who emerges out of obscurity this week to have her heart broken, get a lecture on love from Leith, and hand him a pair of diamond earrings.)
Leith is sure Greer will be thrilled to leave behind the business she has been raving so much about, and is genuinely shocked when she says otherwise. After all, he’s offering her something respectable and stable, probably. Greer secures her place as a First Lady of my heart when she gently but firmly shuts this down, pointing out that “probably” isn’t enough when she’s already lost so much. The ability to make her own choices is huge for her. It’s all she’s ever wanted. It’s even the entire reason why she fell for Castleroy; he promised she would be as independent as possible, always. Now that she has that independence, she’s not going to give it up just because Leith thinks he knows best. Her turning down his ultimatum—“the brothel or me”—is played as a very sad and serious moment, but I just can’t see it as anything other than triumphant.
Less triumphant is Lola’s confrontation with Narcisse. After Catherine challenges him to “do something unforgivable” to prove his loyalty (after, it must be said, a brutally hot post-coital scene), Narcisse circulates a drawing of Lola naked in the bath. Yes—Narcisse actually leaks a naked picture. Lola, furious, confronts him about it, only for Narcisse to reel off the Bad Boy script we all know so well, featuring hits like, “it was your mistake for trusting me,” and “I’m Narcisse! I [insert list of terrible things here]!” It’s a hard scene, but it’s not the one that made me hate this storyline. No—that honor is reserved for the one where Narcisse confronts Catherine about why she asked him to do that in the first place. “I need to know I can trust you,” she says, which makes perfect sense. Then, Narcisse counters with an impassioned speech on how that’s bullshit, and how all Catherine wants is to prove that she’s lovable. The show seems to think this is a very good and insightful point, one that proves how well Narcisse knows her, but as with so much this season, the show in no way earned that moment.
- Also: Kenna has sexy dreams about General Renaud and decides to sleep with him, since she believes she’s as good as divorced. Good luck with that Kenna (/good luck with the baby, probably)!
- Seriously, how glorious did Megan Follows’ hair look in that post-coital scene?!
- Hey, remember when Bash killed Clarissa? That was weird.