Rest in Peace
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
They did it. Reign killed off one half of its leading team and lost one of its best actors in the process. The Price and In a Clearing were both episodes that were building up to Francis dying in Mary’s arms in that forest clearing, even if the cheat with Delphine at the end of the first hour was in hindsight a bit unnecessary. Show runner Laurie McCarthy was quite clear that Francis was going to meet his maker this season and close that chapter of Mary’s life firmly so the show could inevitably take Mary to Scotland. From the vantage point, Francis’s death at this juncture isn’t that much of a surprise considering how vital his death was in the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, the first massive obstacle on her path to finding power. With Francis alive, as weak in health as he was in real life, Mary had an upper hand over Elizabeth. There was stability in a marriage to the monarch of one of the world’s greatest powers. The ever-present threat of the French military didn’t curb the English necessarily, but it did give them a lot more pause and reasoning behind their Scottish incursions. Elizabeth did not have the crown of another nation in tow, but Mary did. Now the English see no reason in France supporting Mary’s right to the throne with Catherine de Medici in charge as regent.
The journey of Mary, Queen of Scots, both in acute history and the dramatized events of Reign, was a fairly tumultuous one, as expected for a woman who was crowned the monarch of a constantly on edge nation as an infant. France gave her that power base to try and keep Scotland out of Tudor hands. Elizabeth, despite being a lot less intransigent and intelligent than history often portrays her, does understand this advantage of having a husband and the potentiality of heirs to carry on her future line. As her chief advisor keeps on telling her like a broken recorder, a mere betrothal would achieve several things. One, people would shut up about her affair with Dudley, an affair that would at last (at least in public) be put to rest (although it would appear that Elizabeth would no longer have to worry about that). Two, people would no longer hold onto the theory that Elizabeth didn’t marry because she was, in fact, a man. It’s a mark of a ludicrously patriarchal society where anyone would assume that the queen was masquerading as a man because she had the audacity to assume authority. The stupidity of a royal man in such a society pretending to be a woman is curiously never addressed.
As Elizabeth struggles with her courts, Reign travels all the way back towards one of its original pieces of imagery, whose onset with the reappearance of Nostradamus signaled that the end for Francis was nigh. Reign is always assured in its direction, but that image of the ivory flowers lying amidst that clearing of a forest is without a doubt going to become one of its most iconic. There’s a deceptively angelic aura about the tree, a drooping sort of innocence that just drifts away the closer you appear. The golden lights transcending through its very being is a key part of the symbolism and when Francis sees that beacon of death, it really hits home in all of the feels. Reign is a solid show whose flaws keep it from being as great as its potential really is, but its biggest assets by far are the actors who make the characters a lot more grounded and empathetic than they are perhaps on paper. There were many reasons throughout the run of Reign to dislike Francis. He was a bit petulant, more than a tad bit naive, and certainly had several moments where it felt like he didn’t have the basic understanding of statecraft. But Francis has grown and a decent chunk of that is due to Toby Regbo’s performance. Through strong storylines and otherwise, his Francis has always been embodied with the greatest amount of care and understanding of who this man really was and if there were tears shed at his death, Regbo’s performance was a phenomenal part of that experience.
The devastation wrought by the death of Francis could not be understated. For Catherine, the very moments the petals fell to the ground, she knew the inevitable would occur and she prepared herself as well as anyone could in those circumstances. Mary is absolutely destroyed in a much more overt fashion, which works as Mary has never been as emotionally collected as Catherine. She tears apart the banners signifying her end to the claim to the English throne to the ground, screaming in an anguish that ricochets off of all the walls of the throne room. Catherine has all the reason to hate Mary, but instead in those quietly devastating moments, she chooses to embrace her instead and get her back up on her feet. Part of her understands Nostradamus’s advice that Catherine needs Mary but part of her also realizes the simple fact that Mary loved Francis just as much as she did and their on and off enmity had no place in those circumstances. They now instead need each other more than ever before. At that juncture, the nobility are circling the two of them like hawks, ready to nab a bit at them with nary a thought to spare but for their own greed and survival in the wake of a king’s death is a battle unto itself. The very fabric of what Reign was has been completely torn apart, but that onset necessarily equate a negativity. It simply conveys the reality that that is a fairly tricky thing to navigate. But there’s plenty of signs of hope for the future, even if one has to navigate waters of a melancholia to find them.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (The Price):
+“The nobles will never except a woman ruling alone.”
+“I hope your wings are strong, you vulture. You’ll be circling for quite some time.”
+Greer as a spy is a great development
+Narcisse stole land
+The shot of Elizabeth and Don Carlos in her quarters was one of the most astoundingly gorgeous shots in Reign’s history. So simple, so elegant. The lighting was a magnificent touch.
+“No, you prefer to burn women alive.”
+“Being a king is a performance.”
-Okay, is there any research on door etiquette done here? You can be the ambassador to whatever country, but you simply can’t waltz into the presence of the Queen of France.
-By far, the biggest problem with Reign is its continued insistence on having momentous plot points not just happen offscreen, but characters informing other characters that it happened offscreen. For the sake of heaven, almost every major plot pivot in The Price occurs via characters noting to other characters that something important has happened. For fuck’s sake.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (In a Clearing):
+“I am at peace, Francis.”
+“It’s a good job for someone who’s always right, to be sure. But as it turns out, many people quite despise me.”
+“But you cannot keep me in a cage, even one built with love.”
+Lowering the English banners
+“I will never love anyone the way I love you.”
“I pray to God that you do.”
+The notions of vindictiveness and impulsive thinking as a thematic construct were used quite well
+The twist of Scottish Protestants being behind the assassination and not Elizabeth
+“I thought I wanted this back.”
+“I don’t blame you.”
+The sequence of Mary sailing by herself as an echo to when Francis was teaching her how to sail was heartbreaking but beautifully hopeful.
-Bash and Delphine, with all due respect, fuck you
Episode Title: The Price
Written by: April Blair & Robert Doty
Directed by: Nathaniel Goodman
Image Courtesy: Fanpop
Episode Title: In a Clearing
Written by: Shannon Goss
Directed by: Deborah Chow
Image Courtesy: Spoiler TV