The Backstabbing Prince
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Reign was certainly more confident than it had been in a good chunk of time, even though some of its most irritable elements remained. A certain portion of the show’s narrative that shall not be named (Conde) is becoming nearly insufferable and while this would mean more headache for Lola, I wouldn’t mind seeing his head on a spike along with his brother’s. Because, let’s face it, they’re irritating as ****. Even the most important political development this week relating to the King of Navarre is interesting because of it’s larger implications, not because it’s executed well on any personal level. There is thankfully no ghost Henry this week, although Henry himself remains a presence that oddly enough allows for Catherine and Narcisse to bond in what I would consider to be fairly awkward fashion. At least that chapter is closed and a certain war is brewing that should spice things up considerably. The bane in tonight’s otherwise solid hour, however, is the consistent insistence by the episode to have all the exciting bits off-screen. Sure, having Narcisse as a spy for the crown is a nice little twist but having him spy off-screen and then burst in with the fairly significant news that the King of Navarre is allied with Queen Elizabeth of England is completely the opposite.
Sins of the Past consequently suffers from the lack of subtlety that had frequently plagued Reign as a whole. Antoine from his introduction has been so overwhelmingly slimy that you just expect something to go horribly wrong. Subsequently, there wasn’t as much surprise at Conde’s brother from a Catholic kingdom being allied with the Protestant Queen of England from a narrative and or historical perspective as there should have been (considering alone the English defeat of the mighty Spanish Armada, this should have been a lot juicier). It’s irritating, because that is some mighty complex geopolitical power play and Reign is at its best when it’s about politics and religion both reaching in and twisting the fates of our characters. Next week undoubtedly there will be some sort of villain-explains-his-motivations montage, but it’s simply undercut here. If Antoine had been a steadfast supporter of the crown while expressing his profound irritation at Conde becoming a Protestant to support that very crown, that would have made sense on a character and logical level. That way, when Narcisse overhears the power play being made, that slow unraveling of the truth would have shocked the audience just as much as it shocked the crown.
The Bash stuff in this episode is also fairly inexplicable because it basically comes out of nowhere. Did anyone recall anyone ever mentioning that Antoine and Conde’s brother had died in the Italian Wars, let alone that he had actually existed? The information seemingly comes out of absolutely nowhere, as does the mention of the Italian Wars itself. I, like the next history aficionado who watches the show, appreciate the bouts of historical accuracy in the show, but seriously, if we are going to be consistent about this, shouldn’t we avoid just dropping info like that out of thin air? It’s fairly irritating that the writers just assume that that piece of historical news is going to have the intended narrative effect. As it is, Bash also fought in those wars (once again, did anyone know about this?) and Antoine is under the assumption that Bash was the French soldier who cut his brother down. Without any aforementioned narrative groundwork laid for this, the episode just throws that out at you. It’s exceedingly lazy writing that only screams the desperation felt for further wrenches to be thrown in the plot because of a lack of faith that the plots already in existence can’t be executed properly.
This episode nevertheless had a lot going for it otherwise and even if I’m not a fan of how some developments came about, their potential consequences are thrilling. The marital conflict between Mary and Francis consistently remains some of the most mature storytelling about marriage on screen, especially one that has been broken by something as horrific as rape. When Reign initially aired the episode where the Protestant extremists raped her, I held significant reservations about whether or not that was the right move for the show because so often rape is used as a plot device and then just glossed over. So good on the writers for making sure that they keep that horrific event significant within each episode and not simply throwing it out after an episode or two. There really isn’t going to be a happy ending for Mary and Francis and despite all of their work together, there simply is the truth that Francis’s bowing down to Narcisse was a harbinger of the attack itself and Mary knows that. It’s testament to her fortitude that she does not hold Francis entirely accountable for the attack on her and gives their marriage a legitimate shot. The subsequent emotions and consequences are as messy as one would expect and kudos to the show for following them to their inevitable end. It’s significant that Mary accepts that she has no choice but to move on, even if the marriage for which is she sacrificing so much and can’t bear to execute traditionally is short-lived, doomed by history.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Catherine was left behind suffering from syphilis from the departed King Henry, which explains her bouts of madness recently and Henry’s before he died. I’m not sure how the timeline on this one works exactly, but thank the maker that the writers knew how vapid the Henry ghost stuff was and found a legitimately logical reasoning for it.
+Having Narcisse bond with Catherine over that illness while she’s in a barrel is just fantastic. Now can we go back to those two plotting evilly behind everyone’s back and in front because they don’t give a damn?
+Francis putting Narcisse down is nice. I still want him dead, though.
+They’ve done a number on Claude. I actually like her more and more.
Title: Sins of the Past
Written By: Doris Egan & Melody Fox
Directed By: Deborah Chow
Image Courtesy: CW Seattle