A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Tempting Fate is a sort of mess, a good mess but a mess nevertheless. Certain aspects of this episode find themselves at the threshold of scintillating drama but then become undone a scene later. There’s an inherently odd dynamic at play here that has been emblematic of this season as a whole. While the Protestant and Catholic dynamic had found itself boiling excitingly towards a thrilling climax with the Plague in the mix, that tension petered out about midway through the season. The geopolitical complexity was just sort of lost in a series of middling episodes as the show instead focused on the personal lives of its characters. That inherently isn’t a bad thing, just to be clear, and the show did an admirable job of handling Mary’s rape and not just having it serve the purpose of a plot point as so often is the case. But there is an inherent truth that the show for a bit has had no idea what to do with its characters other than fashion them towards a particular narrative because they primarily need to get somewhere, not necessary because that is the most organic place to go. Within that is an inevitable lack of logic between episodes, which can become increasingly irritating as time goes on. That is certainly the case here, with Mary and Condé’s love affair coming alive again after it had so promisingly broken apart last week. But I guess it leads somewhere.
The episode begins with a beautifully shot scene at Le Havre, where Mary’s messenger was killed by an English diplomat named Lord Burgess, which is inherently problematic as he was carrying official documentation from Mary signifying her moves to take Scotland. Surprisingly, Condé comes clean when Mary begins to investigate the diplomat and while I’m glad this revelation wasn’t dragged out, I frankly don’t understand why Louis is all of a sudden surprised that Mary isn’t taking the news of his double dealing well. Character inconsistency aside, this at least gets somewhere when Lola (who once again proves that she’s the smartest person in this show) sits down with Mary and imbues her with the words that only a true best friend can say at that moment. It’s not preachy in any way, but just a quiet sentiment on what Mary needs to do to find herself a way out of this dilemma. Her self-confidence begins to ebb back and she wastes no time in hatching a plan with Condé to test his final loyalties. There was no turning back and the plan works superbly, with the absolute highlight of it all being her dark, stern demeanor that dominated the sequence. Here’s to her righteous bloodlust not going away anytime soon.
Speaking of lusts of different sorts, the sex scenes in this episode are largely awkward and fairly unnecessary. Narcisse sleeping with Claude was seemingly thrown in for good measure, Leith sleeping with Greer or at least getting to that point before being interrupted by one of Greer’s fellow prostitutes is to be expected, and the one between Mary and Condé was another ridiculous attempt to make anyone believe that there is something resembling romantic chemistry between the two. The one that bothered me the most was between Catherine and Narcisse. Those two together are one of my absolute favorite pairings on television, and it is fairly annoying when the episode takes the turn that it does. Do I necessarily object to Catherine and Narcisse having sex? No, not really, as long as they don’t stop their devious planning for which they’ve become well-known. It’s the timing that made me severely uncomfortable. Catherine is understandably in a traumatic state as her young son is dying and just the way Narcisse’s “comforting” is framed, it’s easy to make anyone nauseous. And in all perfect honesty, it just didn’t make sense for the characters to go right there in that moment.
Reign has always taken liberties with history, which is perfectly fine since the show has never sold itself as being the nonfiction equivalent of the Wikipedia page on Mary, Queen of Scots. But there are nevertheless certain things the show cannot skip past for a long amount of time, and those are the historical markers that this show can’t quite ignore. Henry’s death last season was one of those and I appreciated the accuracy given there in the terms of the exact manner in how he perished. Francis historically was a sickly being, even as an adult and the show acknowledged that several episodes back with Catherine recalling worrying that he was such a sickly child that they worried about whether or not he would survive to adulthood. While his collapse after hearing about Mary’s planning is resoundingly ludicrous in my opinion, Francis’s death is written in history and the time for the show to snatch away his lifeline is rapidly approaching. How this turmoil will be played out is anyone’s guess, but Mary’s plans for Scotland with Elizabeth not rushing to seize the country will certainly be hit with a massive roadblock.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The misogyny the English nobility held about Elizabeth was a nice touch
+Greer and Leith at least provide some semblance of solace
+“I’m amazed at your resilience, Greer.”
+Bash’s feminist manifesto
+“I will respond to any threat to my sovereignty with swift and brutal measures.”
+“I will spill blood to defend what’s mine. In that regard, I meant every word.”
+“You must first trust yourself.”
+/- The Bash and Kenna stuff was … I don’t know
+/- I’m not sure where the whole Bash got stabbed thing is going
-Leith as personal bodyguard for Claude
*Thank you for patience, dear readers. I’ll be back to scheduled reviews from this Sunday on until further notice.
Title: Tempting Fate
Written By: Lisa Randolph
Directed By: Sudz Sutherland
Image Courtesy: Spoilers Guide