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Illustration for article titled iReign/i: “Tempting Fate”
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This second season has been more of a slow burn versus last season’s hurtling train, but the past couple episodes have signaled building momentum towards…well, something dramatic. If Reign decides to go along with history, the climax will be Francis’ death; if it doesn’t, it will be Mary reclaiming Scotland. In the meantime, everyone’s respective plots are spinning out into multi-pronged monsters that are getting increasingly hard to understand.

One of the more nonsensical aspects of Reign right now is the rapid dissolution of Bash and Kenna’s marriage. While Caitlin Stasey has had some real character-driven conflict to chew on with Kenna’s frustration, poor Torrance Coombs has had a hell of a time trying to keep up with Bash’s constantly changing motivation. When Bash isn’t busy interrogating the Common Folk about vaguely mysterious happenings in town, he is sulking. Every so often, he’ll gaze upon Kenna with something approaching sympathy and sigh that he knows he can’t make her happy, but it’s okay, unless it’s not. It’s hardly surprising that Kenna would finally concede the point after weeks of trying to convince him otherwise (or however long six or so episodes takes in Reign’s timeline, it really is unclear). Still, it’s pretty bold of Bash to declare that the marriage is over in a huff of self-righteousness before he turns back with that same semi-sympathy we’ve seen from him so many times, sighs, and declares that she probably shouldn’t try for an annulment just because the marriage is over. Bash has been so frustrating this season—adrift in a sea of new characters without much of a purpose—that it’s almost a relief when he gets stabbed by a disgruntled Common Folk. Nothing against Coombs, who is doing the best with what he has got, but would Reign seriously change all that much if Bash weren’t around anymore?


His worries looks especially small next to all the other unfolding drama at court, namely Mary’s ongoing affair with Conde and plot to secure Scotland for herself. I knew the other shoe was going to drop once Mary found out about Conde meeting with Elizabeth’s envoy, though I have to say I didn’t anticipate Conde defending himself with as much of a pained expression as he does. After all, the last time we saw him talking to the Brits, he was relaxed and ready to talk to Elizabeth. He almost seems surprised when Mary furiously tells him that talking to the British envoys is a betrayal. At the very least, we get a lovely scene when Lola emerges from the nursery just long enough to pep talk Mary into looking inward to recover her strength, and then another fantastic moment when Mary tells Conde that she has learned to trust herself. Maybe that’s why the final scene in which Mary allows herself to get intimate with Conde leaves me cold; if this episode is about Mary finding her own strength again, I don’t need it to end with Mary convincing herself as much with a man.

This brings us to Catherine and Narcisse—a pairing I thought I would love, but in practice has what I believe is called, “the ick factor.” Craig Parker’s Narcisse is an oily, opportunistic wheeler and dealer in the French court, which should make him a natural ally for Catherine. Ever since Narcisse lost just about any political power he had, though, he has backslid into a caricature of the lothario in that sex book Kenna found (ah, the sex book). His attempts to broach a connection with Catherine have never seemed like anything more than his usual sexual advances, which is a shame; again, an alliance between Catherine and the Narcisse who blackmailed a king could be incredibly interesting. Instead, Catherine gives in to Narcisse’s pro-offered comfort when Francis collapses and she starts spiraling into a deep panic. I wasn’t opposed to Narcisse’s obvious sexual interest in Catherine—she is a foxy lady—but it’s disappointing and kind of gross that they only come together once Catherine is in a vulnerable place.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why Reign has lost steam this season, and it was only with Greer and Leith’s storyline that I figured something out. It’s not that I hate their story—just the part where Leith ignores Greer’s request to stop trying to marry her. I’ve actually found Greer’s new life with her loyal prostitutes to be a bright spot in an increasingly serious show. In the attempt to have more heft, both historical and personal, Reign has forgotten that it’s a show about teenagers. Yes, these teenagers are navigating circumstances far beyond their years, as was typical and necessary when the life expectancy barely cracked forty. Reign’s unabashed commitment to silliness and outlandish soap twists made it stand out amongst the many, many period dramas that plod through history with serious furrowed brows. It might be more realistic to have King Francis stare solemnly at maps and adhere to his duty, but man is it so much more boring. Where are the poison bath salts when you need them?

Stray observations:

  • Leith getting assigned to Claude duty is hilarious. I can’t think of any more random pairing, except that they were the only two regulars who didn’t have much of anything to do.
  • All griping about historical adherence aside, I would honestly be impressed if Reign killed off Francis as history demands.
  • I giggled a lot when Bash got dragged away from his own blood. I don’t know if that was because his groan was all slow and blurry, or if I’m just a monster. Discuss!

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