Hear Me Roar
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Reign arrives with a fairly packed third season opener, throwing so much plot at the viewers that certain threads understandably get lost in the shuffle, primarily threads relating to the English court. By the end of the hour, however, only two things will remain at the forefront of every viewer’s mind: Francis’s impending death and Catherine’s capture by the French. Reign is a historical fiction drama, not a historical documentary and while the show’s taken several liberties, some things are too set in stone to gloss over. By its very nature, historical dramas are in a tough spot. The production design may be impeccable, the costuming may be lavish, but one could easily be spoiled by going to Wikipedia and hoping that the information on it hasn’t been edited incorrectly by someone with too much time on their hands. To remedy this situation, historical dramas will craft individual characters who are new but fit into the civilization being depicted on screen, such as with the HBO drama Rome. This gives the show new storylines and characters to work with while keeping the historical framework intact. Reign has been much more flexible with historical accuracy or lack thereof in comparison to Rome, such as the death of Diane de Poitiers and the brushing aside of the Ambroise Conspiracy. But the death of Francis that leaves Mary in a far more precarious position could not be evaded for long.
Showrunner Laurie McCarthy revealed that Francis will meet his maker this season and the seeds for this were planted way back in the pilot episode. In historically accurate terms, the young Francis was quite sickly and it isn’t even known whether or not he had actually consummated his marriage to Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland. He died at the young age of fifteen, after which Mary returned to Scotland and Charles became the King of France with Catherine as his regent. The show altered historical realities a bit, beginning with a youthful, more manly Francis to make his marriage and romance with Mary more dramatically satisfying for modern audiences. The death of his father Henry was also altered from an accident to a more dramatic murder and Francis’s impending death looks to be suitably altered as well, if the premiere is any indication. Charles has already arrived, his demeanor significantly different from the measured one of Francis, suggesting a far less able monarch, perhaps one that will skew more closely to reality (certainly the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre could provide a heavy storyline to the show if it went there).
As Francis is dying, trying to make sure that his legacy and Mary’s power are protected, Catherine is unaware of her precious son’s condition and instead is plotting with Elizabeth, whose body language has improved significantly from her previous appearance. The scene between Elizabeth and her Privy Council is a fascinating one, showcasing the power dynamics of a struggling, lone queen with. Elizabeth, for all of her power, is still held back on account of the patriarchal structure that holds her gender against her. She is reminded constantly of the necessity that she have an heir or at the very least have the appearance of an inevitable heir to shore up the Tudor Dynasty, otherwise her opponents would readily smell blood and pounce on her. Many a dynasty have fallen because of the lack of a viable heir, she’s reminded harshly. The English dynamics of this episode unfortunately are otherwise weak and not just because the delicious pairing between Catherine and Elizabeth is put to an end by the end of the hour. The council scene, while illuminating, is far too short to grasp its full potential and Elizabeth’s romance with Lord Dudley just appears and is wormed into the narrative in a semi-contrived fashion. His wife’s romance is even more so, a simply baffling moment that you could blink and miss. In hindsight it makes more sense since Dudley is clearly terrible at the “oh, the queen only needs our support non-sexually” charade, but it seems like a scene that could have been given more room to breathe.
Catherine’s two-tiered plan was an interesting one, if one that seemed like a bit of a stretch as it was. On one hand, Mary’s bastions of support do rely heavily upon the Catholic nobility who would love for nothing more than Elizabeth’s downfall. That would rob England of its Protestant champion and Mary could theoretically unite the two countries with France. That would give Catholicism an incredible amount of power and surely the Vatican would be utterly ecstatic at anything resembling that occurring. If Mary’s name was to be besmirched however, with the appropriate amount of witnesses, than the Vatican might be reluctant to openly back an adulterer. Mary wouldn’t have to die and she would be removed from power quite swiftly. The second portion would have Elizabeth be betrothed to Prince Charles. If she married an Englishmen, she would inherently be marrying beneath her station. A prince of France would be a suitable candidate for marriage and the best part was that he was still a child, so the immediacy of a wedding would be unnecessary. It would give Elizabeth the appearance of an incoming heir, she would be free to pursue her lover and Catherine meanwhile would garner the downfall of Mary and a peace pact with England. It all goes south, however, and Catherine, in the greatest of moments, finds herself locked in a cage attached to that of a tiger. There’s no place like home.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Bad day on the job, my dear?”
+“Men don’t like speaking to women, let alone taking orders from them.”
+“And to kill a monarch, that’s not a precedent I’d like to set.”
+“I’m careful in all things.”
+“It’s always dire, Greer.”
+“I am a virgin queen.”
“Of course you are.”
+The shot of Mary praying was gorgeous, with the light filtering in and out an especially nice touch
+“It’s time to deal with her directly.”
+“How do you know these things?” Because, Lola. Seriously, she’s the smartest person on the show besides Catherine, I’m assuming.
+Catherine’s decoy having sex with a monk was hilarious, but it quickly became dark comedy. An unworking mill was very much operable and a blade fell and nearly severed the monk’s penis off. He bled to death from his wounds and Catherine’s decoy committed suicide out of guilt. Well, as far as well-laid plans go… (pun intended).
-The England title card is really quite hideous
Episode Title: Three Queens, Two Tigers
Written by: Laurie McCarthy
Directed by: Holly Dale
Image Courtesy: Spoiler TV