Mother Knows Best
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Catherine was right, she always has been. Ruling is a difficult thing to do, the appearances of unlimited power a mere mirage. Once the veil of finery is lifted, there are more confines within the realms of power than out. That doesn’t necessarily mean that being a peasant is preferable, of course, far from it in fact. After all, despite all of the confines, there is a comfort within the walls of a castle that rarely exists outside. Unless you’re Francis, that is. My explicit statement last week that Francis is an inexplicable idiot (especially considering his parents) remains valid this week. It’s not a commentary on Toby Regbo’s performance, which remains stellar, but it is one of the strongest indictment of primogeniture I have ever seen. The idea that the eldest child should always inherit everything is moronic, especially if that child is as politically dim-witted as Francis is in a position of power. Yes, he put himself in a position of vulnerability after killing his father, but that is a secret that you never, ever reveal. You take it to the grave, understanding that your desire and necessity for unburdening your conscience is supremely secondary to your jobs of protecting your family and ruling one of the largest kingdoms in Europe.
The edict that Francis signed last week has the obvious effect of unleashing a torrent of bloodshed in the streets of France. The cold open with an accused Protestant pleading not guilty losing his lips instead was horrifying, but in tune with what those religious wars wrecked upon Europe. The continent is only about a century away from the horrific Thirty Years’ War that would destroy Europe. But for now, the sequences of the Papal Inquisitors committing their bloody purges is graphic enough for this show and a sharp reminder of how much influence the Papal States had over the Catholic monarchs of the day. Francis has, in his monumental stupidity, opened the floodgates and indeed blood will flow. Radical Protestants killed their own minister, hanging his bloody body as if he himself were an upside down cross. The martyr, despite the best efforts of Mary, Louis, and Bash, has been born. This is easily the best story thread of this season and I’m loving the Christian civil war spilling all over French soil as a result of Francis’s loose grasp of power.
Reign has always played loose and fact with actual history, but the on thing this show cannot escape from is the reality that Mary and Francis’s marriage is nearing its end, perhaps at the end of this season. Historically, the sickly Francis lost to his ill health and they did allude to that last week. But given his complicity in this religious violence, I have a feeling that the show writers are taking this dark turn of events and Narcisse to end Francis’s life. A physical sickness has been replaced with a psychological one, if you will. As it is, the show has done more than enough work to display the cracks in their relationship, with Mary’s frustration with her husband growing every single week, reaching a near breaking point at the end of the previous episode. She’s most befuddled by Francis’s bemusing handling of power, going from the man who promised to serve France with her to a man inciting Protestant versus Catholic violence. And only so often can Mary attempt to save Francis before giving up on the mad fool entirely. Her absolute viciousness towards him this week was completely warranted, especially when she stares on in horror at the minister’s bloody body being hoisted for a macabre public display.
Perhaps the most disappointing storyline this week relates to Lola and Narcisse. I earnestly had expected this narrative streak to continue for a good chunk of time, so color me disappointed when Lola chose Francis. I can understand her anger towards Narcisse threatening her child. No mother would ever stand for her child becoming a pawn who could be killed at a moment’s notice. I don’t begrudge that to Lola, but the way that scene of confrontation was handled was a remarkably anticlimactic way to end something that had been teased for so long and been built up so well. Lola’s points are all valid, but the writing her doesn’t give her the shrewd solution out of the entire mess and she had earned it by this point.
What doesn’t work this week at all is the whole Claude storyline. An absolute an annoyance ever since her introduction last week, I was excited that she was going to be rid of once and for all. But no, apparently not. Apparently we as the valiant audience are going to have to suffer for more of her nonsensical behavior, made all the more appalling by the revelation that as a young child she strangled her two younger siblings to death. To make a note, I don’t mind her open sexuality (it’s refreshing to see female characters espouse their sexuality), but the way she flaunts it about the castle simply doesn’t make sense for the time period. For heaven’s sake, she doesn’t have a single beast of understanding when it comes to the court. The Bavarian marriage perhaps wasn’t to her liking and I applaud her not wanting to become someone else’s property. But was sitting in Narcisse’s lap the best way to get that point across? No, it wasn’t. For heaven’s sake, Claude, you have to be smarter than that.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Megan Follows is a gift
+Bash and Catherine got a good scene
+“Of Claude? She’s studying scripture at the moment.”
+“I didn’t hear from you about my offer, though attempting to frame me for treason should be reason enough.”
+“Ahhh. Rise and shine, Claude. The only people in bed past noon are drunks and reprobates.”
+“I may have given up on trying to understand you, but I will not give up on France.”
+“You did this to us, to France. For all that you claim you’re trying to protect us, I have lost all faith in you and the man I thought you were.”
+The virtue of Claude sequence was the one redeeming scene in the entire episode, a stark reminder of how stupid the concept of virgin virtue truly is
+“Well, the rack it is then.”
+“But Mary, he’s a fool to shut you out.”
+Good torture sequences
+Charles Binamé’s direction of the gorgeous vistas of the show was fantastic
Title: Terror of the Faithful
Written By: Adele Lim & Melody Fox
Directed By: Charles Binamé
Image Courtesy: Spoilers Guide