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.
- The pacing of this show has hit a baffling, time-warping suspension. It’s a pace that makes you laugh out loud during lines like, “I assure you I’m not the same man I was a few months ago,” which was one episode ago, in a story treated with such persistent and abiding forward motion that it long ago outpaced the ability to get us invested in any of what’s happening. It doesn’t matter if Darnley has changed, offscreen, just in time to be of use in this subplot; he’ll change any time the plot needs him to keep things moving (and if he’s not supposed to a duplicitous shitheel any more than it’s time for him to, I dunno, see ghosts or whatever), and the show will pretend there was buildup no matter what, and throw beats of dread left and right for plot points that we know will just get swallowed again. When it’s being handled well, the speed of this show is soap-opera greatness; when it’s not, Queen Catherine has to cast an eye around the throne room and remind everyone that the issue of marriage has to be settled “before one of my sons kills the other.” And this ongoing attempt to give the present a sense of dread ends up so overclocked that any dropped subplot immediately feels as if the show’s forgotten it. (Is Jane still openly spying on Elizabeth? If so, who’s getting her intelligence?)
- It’s not just Darnley, either; several characters bear particular marks of this scattershot approach to plot. At this point, Claude is nothing but a set of conflicting, milquetoast impulses wrapped in pink tulle, and in this episode Narcisse takes such a hard left from French-court stepdad that he practically barrel rolls into violent vigilantism (offscreen, of course, why would you bother showing character development on screen like some sort of molasses show?).
- That said, a cheap use of the element of surprise is still a surprise: I genuinely was not expecting Gideon’s death by poisoning. Is that because usually someone poisoned over the long term has more foreshadowing than this? Yes. Does this show care any more? Nope.
- I also wasn’t expecting the castration.
- Given all that pacing, it’s a little surprising that “I need to be free of this marriage” hasn’t already resulted in Darnley’s murder. There’s only two episodes left, and the way things are going we could either get all the way to Mary’s execution or still be caught in a plot eddy, wondering what Charles is going to do next. They will be treated with the same amount of narrative weight.
- Elizabeth’s treadmilling with the Archduke was tiring even before this episode, but I genuinely enjoy whenever Elizabeth gets to ditch the discomfort of these romantic subplots and be an asshole. When he demands to know if Gideon’s in love with her, her mostly-sincere answer: “I don’t know! Many are!” (Dirtbag Queen Elizabeth is a lot more fun than most of her other iterations, including and especially Talking About Feelings Elizabeth.)
- Dress of the week: Honestly, I was too bombarded with plot to tell, but we’ll pick Catherine’s red and gold Spanish reception gown; perfectly chosen to honor/suck up to the guest of honor while still making sure she looks better than anyone else.
- If you’re missing Bash in all this, I understand, but don’t worry—Torrance Coombs has found a new show that will furnish him with all the fancy doublets his heart could desire.