A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Clocking it at an extremely lean forty minutes, Mercy certainly is a rush hour of events, even though one can’t help but feel that so many resolutions were garnered so damn quickly. And a good chunk of it just feels like an undignified sort of mess. No one expected the writers to completely keep themselves in contact with every single storyline throughout the season and their attempts to do leave largely a muddled mid-season finale. As a result, Mercy feels less like an exciting chapter in the series and more of a trepidation as to where this series could ultimately break apart. The trauma of Mary’s rape last week is largely handled well, with one supremely glaring flaw that would have benefited from significantly more screen time. There’s the supernatural thing, which the show just should just stop handling. And we have a mess of a cliffhanger that tops off the weakest episode of the entire season.
The supernatural elements of this show have long been its absolute weakness. There’s whispers around the real Catherine de Medici and her relationship to supernatural events, but they’re whispers, not solidified facts. Reign has made a habit out of taking whispers and putting them into the show as reality to add suspense and that’s totally fine. But Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, was not known for seeing ghosts of her dead children. She was known for her wit, cunning, and perseverance. When the show focuses on that, the entire series is stronger for how keenly Megan Follows taps into that energy. But Catherine seeing her dead daughters, becoming increasingly irrational towards Claude without explaining her reasoning, and then on top of that waking up to a “real ghost” Henry that she is making out with. What? What the hell? It’s this continuing storyline that gives me great pause as to where exactly the show is going with her. This direction isn’t necessarily promising.
Francis receives some decent amount of character development this episode. As an ironic consequence of murdering his mad father, Francis is slowly becoming him. That terrifying change is signaled rather ominously when he orders an entire contingent of Protestants be strung up. It’s a stark change but it’s a welcome one from “I must lie to you in order to protect you” Francis anyhow. His bringing down Narcisse was one of the absolute highlights of the episode, Toby Regbo immediately selling how an individual who has nothing to lose can become so unhinged and so quickly at that. “You’ll find soon that there are fates worse than death,” he says chillingly, a solid reversal from the dynamic that has been so prevalent throughout the season so far. What this Francis is becoming capable of is as fascinating as it is terrifying, his words “Hang them all” echoing far beyond the scene where he first uttered them. In less positive developments, he confesses his regicide to Mary, who is shocked but doesn’t immediately blame Francis for everything that happened. That quick reversal at the end where she does end up doing so is thusly jarring and inadequately dealt with.
As I noted last week, rape is seldom handled with the maturity and consequential narrative strokes largely brush it over. For the most part, the writers this week treat Mary’s trauma with care, with one glaring flaw. Mary keeps herself calm when she confesses to her handmaidens about the truth of what happened that night. Her rage is righteous and her desire to hunt down her rapists and kill them is understandable. What’s truly admirable about Mary is how she, even in such terrifying moments, manages to keep some semblance of clarity about her. “People in pain will say anything,” she says quietly, noting how ineffective torture would be in finding her culprits (the meta timing of this episode is remarkable, with the leak of the CIA report this week). Nor does she blame herself for her rape, which is so often the case with rape victims as society constantly questions them and not the perpetrators of the rape in the first place. “I’m not ashamed of what happened to me,” she declares solemnly.
Her captors are found and Mary strikes the first blow, crippling them as Conde finishes off the job. Her rapist is unapologetic, claiming disgustingly that God would forgive him for the despicable deed he committed. Mary has him and his coconspirators burnt alive, but that is far from the end of everything. Adelaide Kane has grown with Mary and she’s never been better in the role than in the scene where she breaks down, confessing that the death of her captors did little to assuage the pain and hurt that continued to torment her. It’s a powerful scene, nearly undone by her immediate confession that she does ultimately blame Francis for her assault. In a way, she has a point but it contradicts Francis’s confession scene from earlier. It horribly shifts the storyline from being about Mary to being about Francis and it doesn’t work. To add insult to injury, suddenly Conde declares his love for her (which may be logical, but for now it just comes off across as being inopportune). I’m not sure what the writers were thinking of placing this scene right after Mary declares that the relationship between her and Francis is platonic, much more like Henry and Catherine than either of them had ever intended. We’ll see where all of this goes, but I can’t help but feel trepidation about where some of the narrative strokes are going. But as long as Catherine stops seeing ghosts and goes back to poisoning people, we ought to be back in better hands.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Catherine’s line about Mary searching for her rapist her whole life was well done
+Mary was absolutely chilling in her confrontation with her accusers. Her line of being remembered by history while they would be forgotten was downright chilling
+“How drunk are you?”
+Lola schooling Francis
+Louis: “Mary, you’re not even armed… Good lord”
+Leith using his favor to save Castleroy
+Narcisse as the puppet
+So Conde’s a double agent for the kingdom of Navarre? Hmm…
Written By: Wendy Riss Gatsiounis & Drew Lindo
Directed By: Rich Newey
Image Courtesy: Life is Caps @ LiveJournal