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Reign’s three queens have some suspiciously relevant problems

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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.

  • This episode had an impressive number of wink-wink undercurrents. Heads of state discussing sensitive intel in front of bystanders whose loyalty is uncertain? Check. (Though frankly, Narcisse was delivering the most hostile tea sips I’ve ever seen, so that one’s on them for not knowing.) John Knox delivering oppressively oily, Bible-based misogyny and still confident he can leave with his head attached because he knows he can strike with impunity where embattled women can’t? Check. The danger of foreign agents operating in government? Check. At one point Charles wheedles, “I’m sick of people asking things of me,” and Catherine answers, with all the weariness 2017 could imagine: “You are a king. That is the job.” Turns out the fictionalized political destabilization in sixteenth-century Europe is an uncanny valley of political quagmires.
  • “I’m aware you’re married, Leeza. You don’t have to keep saying it.” Megan Follows is a gift and I miss her already.
  • It’s fascinating to me how much Reign has begun to push the cynical edges of Mary’s youthful quest to be a more moral ruler; the Mary of this season would laugh at the girl in the pilot. Ruling alone, it takes her about ten seconds to turn into Catherine, including endangering James’ relationship with Knox so James is trapped and in need of her protection. When James says she uses people, it’s not wrong; it’s just necessary, and she’s past caring about anything else. She learned from the best.
  • Dress of the week: Catherine’s hyper-Catholic overgown in Spanish colors is the most passive-aggressive diplomacy-via-wardrobe Reign has given us in a while.
  • It’s really interesting to watch a show that’s been on for a few seasons try to separate actual escalating stakes from leaning on its own inevitable shorthand. Elizabeth has fifty treasonous nobles killed during a commercial break and doesn’t spare a thought about it; she can’t afford to alert anyone to their numbers or their cause, end of story. The only pang of regret comes when she realizes she played that hand too early. Mary used to agonize about whether she could bring herself to pull the trigger, and even Catherine had a moment of self-loathing about those prostitutes she killed in a raid that one time. Is the difference that Elizabeth never hesitates to pull the trigger, or that after everything that’s come before, the show assumes private turmoil and just wants to keep moving?
  • “Elizabeth couldn’t hold him.” Boy, the Detective Sergeant’s gonna be pissed when he hears that. This precinct has been letting a lot of anti-monarchist firebrands go lately for lack of evidence. If only there was some kind of government position—some kind of hereditary monarch with enormous extralegal powers, maybe—which would make it possible to hang on to someone who admits to her face that he wants her dead.
  • We might as well start tracking the season’s wins and losses for our parallel queens. Mary had a net win this time (she even found her traitor), though she had to practically propose marriage to her half-brother to get him to agree to be loyal, and it’s clear that won’t last. Elizabeth rid herself of fifty traitors, which is necessary in the short term—that’s reaching a critical mass she couldn’t risk—but means she lost her chance to catch Knox, and looks fairly questionable to her subjects. (Plus, Narcisse is her enemy again, as the show yanks Darnley away from the perilous edge of an alternate universe.) And Catherine did nothing but lose. Her daughter’s putting Spanish toadies in the French cabinet, nobody will help her get Narcisse back, and she doesn’t even notice that her son has Suspicious Wrongitis.
  • Elizabeth blatantly kicking bocce balls aside to claim a win is one of the most in-character beats this show has ever given us for anyone.
  • Catherine sent Mary dresses! (I know it’s just exposition, but it’s nice.)
  • Related: They finally got a Fashion Week. As soon as it started, I realized it was something the show must have always wanted. I’m happy for them.
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