The Reign of the Children
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
A slight step down from last week’s seminal installment, The Lamb and the Slaughter nevertheless continues this stupendously strong season as it uncurls more and more layers of power while providing Narcisse some much needed character development. The supernatural elements come back into play in a massive way, tying back into the spirits left behind by the plague. They were reasonable constructions, although in all honestly I would have to see where this aspect of the show ends up before making a final sort of call on the narrative. Not as dark and murderous as the title would have suggested, the lambs set up for slaughter are the weak and innocent that fall to forces that are far beyond their control. But beyond the literal deaths that happened this week, the concept of marriage becomes more defined within the context of potential slaughter than ever before. For many lambs in Reign, the reality of marriage literally means the difference between life and death not just for themselves, but for their entire families. Ignominy in this age is never forgiving.
Queen Mary’s primary tension lies with Lola and the entire critical situation of having an heir to the throne. The anger that she had subdued for so long finally broke with a terrifying reality, the anger that her best friend gave birth to a child fathered with the man who became her husband. It was a welcome narrative move because it provided the two with a realistic characterization. Of course Mary would be angry in this situation, regardless of the technicalities of the circumstances in which Lola’s pregnancy had been conceived. The anger erupts and Mary’s ferocity takes over. Lola angrily notes that the happier Mary becomes, the less compassionate she is. Or perhaps that’s simply the price to pay for sitting on the throne. Yet for the sake of Estelle, the two had to chip away at their enmity to save an innocent life at stake. Estelle, the caged daughter from last week, is married to Narcisse, presumably at first for her land. But the dreams of her dead parents that perished in the plague epidemic consistently haunt her and at the close of the hour, news of her suicide reach court. She saw her parents at the bottom of a cliff. The escape was the final one.
Mary’s pregnancy is a revelation in this episode, putting an end to the worry that an heir would never arrive. Francis and Marry are expectedly overjoyed at the news, celebrating it as one does with a bout of celebratory sex. In the episode’s best moment, Catherine interrupts their sex session with a bit of note on how she had been spying on the both of them as naturally should be expected of her at this point. She lays out Mary’s diet, etc., etc., overjoyed at the news of an heir. But tragedy strikes and Marys miscarries. She quietly goes into her chambers with Louis’s help, refusing to tell Francis at that moment that she had indeed, miscarried. The bastard child’s official ceremony was more necessary to her. It’s a sweet moment when Francis discovers that and grieves with Mary, but there is absolutely no chance that this goodwill from Mary towards Francis’s bastard child is going to last. Resentment and political reality are not far behind, even for a character as kind and generous as that one.
This episode had plenty of moments that were less than ideal, to be perfectly honest. The whole Estelle escape felt extremely contrived and the sudden burst of King Henry II’s relics being delivered was stupid. In fact, the entire vapidity of that storyline’s execution (largely) can be summed up with Estelle’s note to the ladies in waiting with the words “Help me” written in black ink on white paper. For ****’s sake, subtlety is a virtue. This show’s better than that. But where I can give this entire storyline at least something resembling a pass is how deftly it developed Narcisse’s character. He’s a terrible, despicable man who finds his peasants to be nothing but lazy bums. But what he never was guilty of was killing his wives and he was trying to protect Estelle from her crazy phantoms, regardless of the payoffs he was receiving in return. It’s a deft move to complicate a nearly mustache-twirling villain and I welcome what he’s going to do next.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Catherine’s line about a clergyman’s eulogy
+I say this every week, but Megan Follows is a gift.
+Amazing opening shots
-I don’t care about the Leith/Greer relationship anymore. It was fine here, though.
-The music was overwrought
Title: The Lamb and the Slaughter
Written By: Laurie McCarthy & Adele Lim
Directed By: Sudz Sutherland
Image Courtesy: Nerdophiles