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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Reign refuses to make King Charles a vampire; have some extortion instead

Illustration for article titled Reign refuses to make King Charles a vampire; have some extortion instead
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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.

  • As we near the end of the season (and the series), Reign‘s plotting has started to churn so fast it’s hard to get a sense of individual stakes. And there’s a certain inertia in the particulars; the financial shenanigans were way too predetermined to carry much tension, even if I cannot believe this show’s fancy parties finally became a textual budget problem. But in the broad strokes, it’s interesting to watch the vise tighten for Mary. Stories about historical figures who more or less triumphed over their circumstances get to carry a certain undercurrent of satisfaction even in the worst of times; horrible setbacks or gigantic mistakes are merely tests of their character. Mary’s story from here on out is a downward spiral as she makes a series of wrong Choose Your Own Adventure decisions and eventually runs out of options, and the ambient pressure of that is really beginning to set in.
  • Meanwhile, Elizabeth is out here in a love-nest getaway clocking servants over the head and plotting their death, and her only problem is that she’s about to get punished for showing any mercy. (She must not have been warned about the episode title. And while the show presents decent reasoning for this Elizabeth to show a little mercy, honestly, I can’t bring myself to think that the real Elizabeth would have agonized nearly that much over the death of an inconvenient servant if the alternative was a genuine risk to the throne. Elizabeth Tudor would have commissioned an embroidered pillow with “If you have to think about killing them, just kill them” in Latin and kept it propped on the throne as a warning.)
  • And while it wouldn’t be Reign without introducing a plot-thickening slow-burn double-cross with only a handful of episodes left, we’re beginning to feel the strain of trying to build all this secret history into Elizabeth’s arc. (Also, what a pointed lesson to make of Elizabeth’s mercy. It’s almost like a monarch can never win!)
  • “How can you call yourself a man of God when you would use the suffering of others to further your political agenda?” :looks around awkwardly:
  • Will Kemp is leaning into Sleazebag Darnley so hard it’s a wonder he can even stand up long enough to be a walking PSA for never combining your marital finances, but he manages.
  • Despite a return to campy fantasy excuses for bad governance, and some genuinely interesting opposing forces, France gets so easily bogged down that Catherine is pretty much the only thing holding any given angle together at this point. Pacing issues have turned a slow burn into fits-and-starts, even with a Leeza-free Catherine at the center of the intrigue. However, none of that fault lies with Megan Follows. Her unimaginably expressive hand gesture followed by the world’s most exhausted “Since when?” is the episode’s high point.
  • One of my favorite character arcs of the back half of this season is Luke Narcisse’s commitment to looming awkwardly in the background as the French-court plot goes repeatedly off the rails. He even manages to loom awkwardly in the background of scenes that are explicitly about him.
  • You don’t show up smeared in blood for half a season and suffer a hastily-burned occult effigy just to end up some kind of regular mortal. Today was not that day, but if I have one hope for the rest of this season, it’s that Catherine’s backfiring black magic finally gives us the vampire Charles we deserve.
  • Dress of the week: I appreciate that Mary’s banquet dress is cleverly engineered to make her look suitably pregnant. But it’s not nearly as amazing as John Knox’s plotting-treason-in-the-woods brocade coat, which soars past everybody else and lands just short of Disney Villain.