Here’s the thing: “The Siege” isn’t a bad episode all on its own. There’s consistent tension and release thereof, the stakes are through the roof, and the cast en masse chews the hell out of every piece of scenery available. The problem with “The Siege,” though, is that it yet again has all the trappings of a Momentous Episode that’s the culmination of several season-long story arcs, but so much of it still manages to come out of nowhere. It’s big, it’s bold, and it just makes very little sense. Part of the problem comes from the fact that this episode—once again—takes place “a few weeks” after the previous one. This is a handy trick to pull every now and then, but Reign’s pulled it so many times this season it’s become an expected frustration. Time jumps accelerate the action, but when shows rely on them too much, the eventual twists and emotional scenes they try to sell come off as cheap.
So let’s dive in, shall we?
First up: Kenna and Renaud. When we last saw them, they were hooking up to test their possible compatibility as a couple. “A few weeks” later, Renaud is dying to commit himself to building a life with Kenna, they’re madly in love, everything’s coming up Kennaud (Renna? No, Kennaud)! Their quick connection is supposed to play off Bash’s growing obsession with Delphine the Pagan, which in turn is supposed to make Renaud turning to Conde’s side more dramatic, which in turn is supposed to amp up Renaud’s sword battle with Bash, which in turn is supposed to feed into Renaud trusting Kenna to deliver his last message to Francis, etcetera and so on. But since it’s super hard to care about Renaud’s love for Kenna when it’s so sudden, it’s super hard to care about or buy any of the rest of it.
This holds doubly true for Bash and Delphine, who have appeared so rarely that their intimate scenes in this episode made me sure I’d missed a few episodes, but no. One minute Bash was eyeing her warily after coming back to life, and “a few weeks later,” they’re making out in the woods, he’s promising her Nostradamus’s old spot as court seer (since that ended so well for him), and she’s performing blood rituals with Bash’s old blouse and unwitting servant boys. I’d love to be on board with all this—mostly because it’s all old-school Reign levels of bananas—but I just don’t care about Delphine. Not even close. Not a little bit. Not even at all.
Meanwhile, Conde continues to have the weirdest arc of anyone on this show, which once included a disfigured secret princess wandering in the walls and spending her spare time killing people. One day he’s sleeping with married nobles, the next he’s Mary’s One True Love, and the next he’s heading up armies in the name of England. Again, Conde’s storyline here makes it feel like several secret episodes aired without us knowing anything about it, not to mention the fact that several people are very stupid so Conde can be very successful. For one, it’s pretty convenient that General Renaud decides to scout the woods solo, which is an idiot move for a general. Renaud promptly gets caught, blackmailed with the possible death of his son, and turned into Conde’s puppet soldier.
This is where I should talk about the actual titular siege, and I feel like it’s important to get this out of the way: the CW does not have huge budgets, and it’s very unfair to expect a big splashy battle scene that can compete with the likes of Game Of Thrones. It is not, however, unfair to expect something resembling logic here. When Renaud and his forces get found out, Bash and Francis rush into the fray. The last time I checked, Francis is the King of France, and the entire point of Conde’s coup is to kill Francis, so maybe he should sit this battle out. Also, Kenna and Mary perch on a balcony and watch the entire thing from mere feet above the whole thing. Mary is still the Queen of France, right? And a good portion of this episode was devoted to how the royals should be scattering and hiding to save themselves, right? Cool, just checking.
The Conde versus Francis conflict peaks when Conde calls an in-person meeting to discuss ominous things on horseback in the pitch dark. He demands that Francis surrender the castle and Mary, so she can convert and marry Conde and fix everything, or something. Francis is understandably confused, since this entire thing is happening because Conde’s supposed to be marrying Elizabeth, but Conde is just as convinced of the aforementioned One True Love with Mary as the show is, so he stands firm. He even throws down a severed head from Francis’ Spanish ally to prove that he means business. I think Francis is supposed to look worried here, but he just looks confused—which makes more sense, really.
This actually brings me to a larger point about why these stories have been so weak. As Mary tried to heal from her rape and got more involved with Conde, she got…well, stupid. Very, very dumb. On the flip side, Francis became a skilled statesman that always has righteous fury on his side. Like I said last week, Mary’s muddled ruling style is historically accurate, but having it come out of her assault is a pretty horrifying way to get there. Mary speaks up a few times in this episode, but it’s weak, and when Claude spits, “it’s all your fault,” there’s just no counter. When she says she understands that Francis is upset about that thing where she helped her lover get away and raise an unholy army to bring down France, but if he just looked past it, she could see how sorry she is, it’s a wonder that Francis doesn’t laugh in her face.
As always, the one true bright spot in “The Siege” is the Queen Mother of the realm and my heart, Catherine de Medici. She was holding out hope that Narcisse could be her literal partner in crime for life, gifting him with a white horse he’s never mentioned before but apparently always wanted. Instead, he freaks out at the impending siege and rushes to Lola’s side. He swears that he really always loved her, and that if he dies he hopes she remembers him not as the creep who leaked a naked picture of her, but “the man who would have cherished [her] if he had the chance.” Lola, who wouldn’t be at all out of bounds to slap him in his smug face, makes out with it instead.
But Catherine isn’t a fool. Her minion maid sees the whole thing and reports back, leading to a truly ridiculous and spectacular scene that reminds me why I loved this show in the first place. She invites Narcisse to dinner, glares in his general direction while wearing fabulous black silks, and smirks when she hisses that she hopes he enjoyed his dinner, the kitchen staff were quite overwhelmed at having to cook last minute horse. As Narcisse spits and gags and sputters about how evil Catherine is, I clapped and smiled and marveled at her ruthlessness. Again, this is the same ruthlessness Narcisse loved as recently as an episode ago, but I’ll take whatever victory I can get from Reign these days. This holds especially true since “The Siege” ends with Mary stealing away to Conde’s camp, declaring her undying love, and begging him to marry her because—dun dun dun—she’s pregnant. I’m not sure what there is to say about that at present, except that when Conde sputtered that it must be a trick, I really hoped he was right.
- Leith and Claude are in this episode, too! Leith is still very sulky about Greer turning down his proposal, since she would rather “be alone than with a man who could never make her feel safe.” Claude, who I love but really has no reason to be on this show, says she would be lucky to have Leith. I disagree. These are the days of our lives.
- When Narcisse gapes at his new equine toy, Megan Follows does the most delightful little giggle. Like, a literal “hee hee.”
- Caitlin Stasey is also on point this episode, especially when she meets space cadet Delphine and smiles through her polite but amused, “oh…”
- “There are some things even a princess has no claim to.” Leith, misunderstanding the entire premise of being a princess.
- Delphine’s Beautiful Servant Plaything: “Is this because we’re all gonna die?”
- Delphine to her Beautiful Servant Plaything: “You’re speaking Pagan.” Oh….okay.
- “I should have poisoned him when I had the chance!” Catherine on Conde, speaking for us all.