Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Reign throws a toxic-family contest; everybody loses

Illustration for article titled Reign throws a toxic-family contest; everybody loses
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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.

  • When this show decides to hit a theme, it leaves no stone unturned. Who wants a little toxic family business? There’s the most uncomfortable possible Valois dinner (complete with warships and Chancellor Stepdad), with bonus reference to Charles’ vampire phase. There’s a burgeoning civil war spearheaded by Catherine and Narcisse on opposite sides, which has the potential to be genuinely interesting. There’s Darnley essentially holding Mary hostage over the crown matrimonial, to the point that Mary makes Greer witness their arguments because she doesn’t want to be alone with him; historically, in terms of the downward spiral of that relationship, that sounds about right. Elizabeth, once again stuck in the C-plot, is trying to feign interest in the Archduke with the help of her current under-the-table boyfriend Gideon, who’s waylaid by Mary asking him to commit some light treason for old times’ sake so Bothwell doesn’t have to murder him. Elizabeth and Mary are, of course, still trapped in their endless tail-eating power struggle. Plus Catherine is handing out a little black magic in an attempt to get one over on everybody else, though honestly she would do that for any number of reasons.
  • It’s fascinating that in a show that contains such elements of power fantasy (Mary is able to not only order a coup based on her explicit powers, but stop one via covert statecraft! Also Catherine’s occult side hobby), it’s so fatalist in its approach to romantic relationships. In particular, Mary gets the short end of the stick (of course); the moment of triumph against Darnley’s abuse that state power gives you, but damned if he doesn’t still somehow have the ability to ruin her reputation and her child’s future simply by threatening to disown the baby.
  • Nostradamus name check! Man, imagine what would happen if they brought back the pagans and pretended this continuity had always been the plan.
  • Speaking of continuity, I laughed out loud at Bothwell’s reaction when Gideon tried to be on his high horse about why they’d dare come to him with news about Mary when he’s clearly serving Elizabeth. You were engaged to her, dude. Even on this show, it’s hard to pretend that didn’t happen.
  • Having a character like Catherine is always going to be a great back-pocket option when you’re stuck for a plot twist, since there’s absolutely nothing left that’s out of character for her. Aching loyalty for her children? Ruthless political efficacy? Petty hunger for revenge? Qualmless embrace of black magic to solve a problem she’s momentarily stumped about? Yes.
  • Luke Narcisse remains too good for this entire family. That said, he really needs a basement full of corpses soon; nice people don’t last long. (Archduke Ferdinand, Austria’s own Luke Narcisse, concurs.)
  • The score this episode is dialed to about 12. That perky instrumental on Darnley’s first appearance, oddly reminiscent of The Great British Bake-Off; Catherine’s string accompaniment so high-strung it sounds like the violins are going to snap.
  • Dress of the week: Mary’s Golden Age of Hollywood embroidered-shoulder cape is pretty great. However, it’s hard to ignore that the sheer force of Catherine’s anger pushed the circumference of her skirts out by a full two feet.