The Price of Justice
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
This might be Reign’s best episode yet. There are a couple quirks to it which prevent it from getting a perfect score but this is the most self-assured, mature storytelling this show has ever done. The first season of Reign didn’t have too many consequences for its actions, at least for the first half. But with the advent of Mary closing the gates on her husband riding out into the plague infested villages at the end of Slaughter of Innocents, the show signaled that it was done with any notion of no consequences. We cheered when Mary locked Narcisse’s son into the plague ridden room but that has come to bite Mary in the arse this week and there is a price to pay. Becoming Queen of France is one thing. Realizing the limitations of your power once the crown actually sits on your head and the maneuvering you must go through is another one, entirely. And Reign looks like it is more than capable of achieving the narrative feat of addressing those complexities perfectly.
Adelaide Kane is at her absolute best in this episode, relishing the opportunities to go darker and decisive. But this hour she has to face the realities of what she set in motion by killing one of the most powerful French noble’s son last week. Well, not killing exactly, but she basically sent him to an agonizing, painful death. This week his father arrives, a truly nasty piece of work who is more than happy to oblige the opportunity to seize the lands of those affected by the Black Death. He also has the unfortunate position of having tremendous sway over the crown from Mary’s point of view. Narcisse reminds Mary of a crucial fact that she perhaps hasn’t had time to wrap her head around yet. In all fairness, she just became queen, her husband just returned with his bastard child from her best friend while escaping a plague that is decimating her castle. She’s been a bit busy. A castle like the one in which Mary rules is formidable against many attacks. But as ironclad and fastidious the fortitude of the castle may seem, there is an equal and uncomfortable truth that comes along with it. Mary lives in the castle and the castle may be protected, but it is surrounded by thousands of nobles who all want their power and prestige intact – nobles with farms and armies.
The plague itself is dealt with remarkably well. The opening shots of the bodies lying on the ground to those dead inside the castle are frightening. But as Francis is reminded, at least the nobility have the privilege of burying their dead with some sense of dignity. The poor just get massive graves where they just dump the bodies in. The element of fear, while not as pervasive as in the season opener, permeates through every fiber of the castle. There’s dread awaiting at every corner, just waiting to strike. Within the plague itself, the show (which shows more commitment to historical accuracy this season) ties in the tumult between Protestants and Catholics, a slow build up to the eventual Thirty Years’ War that would engulf the European continent in 1618. I’m quite looking forward to this religious fracture becoming more heavily ingrained within this season.
It doesn’t take long for Narcisse to arrive at the conclusion that his son was murdered, thanks to a hungry, immune man who spilled the beans on Mary. He makes it known that Mary and the court will answer for what they’ve done, that the true power does lie in the hands of the nobility. “We are the outside world and we surround you,” he hisses. Indeed. Nostradamus and the other guards are quickly imprisoned. Mary’s push to investigate the matter further leads to the revelations that Narcisse was involved with siphoning money away from the Vatican and that his son’s intended victim was his former co-conspirator who had a guilty conscience. And even Cardinal Morrisini had to go. Mary and Francis manage to play an ingenious trick with that revelation that leads to Nostradamus’s survival and escape with Mary’s help and saves the other guards. But within that instance of victory is the real awakening of a real foe and an incredible threat to Mary.
Lola and Francis arrive safely at the castle, with Mary’s expression being wiped clean when Lola mentions that her child is a son. Mary is naturally upset and the thought of that child’s existence giving birth to her Diane de Poitiers in the form of Lola (that beautiful pep talk from Catherine) is troubling to her. But going through an incredibly rough hour of screentime, she gives Francis the permission to legitimize his bastard child to allow that distress to escape everyone’s lives. “The world is cruelest to the weak,” she notes. Leith continues to be an arse, but then he gets his lands revoked in a deal Francis made with Narcisse, so you have to feel a little sorry for the guy. Catherine switching from lemonade to whiskey in front of Narcisse was golden, as basically anything that Megan Follows does is. Bash is now officially the King’s Deputy, which should yield fantastic stuff down the road. And the superstition elements return, with Clarissa being name-dropped and Francis feeling his father’s ghost. “Usurper,” he hears and his entire body is filled with chills. So is mine, everything is being handled fantastically, even the spirits.
Title: Drawn and Quartered
Written By: Wendy Riss Gatsiounis & Drew Lindo
Director: Fred Gerber
Image Courtesy: Recently Heard