Reign‘s “The Darkness” is a Pointless Hour

For an episode  titled “The Darkness”, tonight’s installment didn’t very much deal with that suspicious entity lurking in the woods and feeding on young women. Hopping between the happenings of court, Bash’s attempts at heroism and bravery with Rowan, and Olivia’s recovery with Nostradamus, it was clear what the episode cared most about, and it wasn’t The Darkness. Instead it was Henry’s new habit of killing women when he has sex with them and Mary’s attempts to marry Lola off, and even those things fell flat.

Pointless stuff first, shall we?

With Olivia’s return, it seemed like she may be slightly more interesting this time around, but apparently that was just wishful thinking. She and her weird accent could have stayed lost in the tunnels for all of what Reign‘s trying to do with her, which may just be formulating some kind of awkward crush on Nostradamus who ended up giving Olivia a snowy baptism to convince her that the Darkness didn’t make her evil. Whatever, Reign. If Olivia’s not evil, then what’s the point? She and her accent aren’t exactly engaging when she’s not stabbing priests to death.

There’s a chance it’s not all Olivia’s fault that her story is boring since the Darkness is pretty boring. For a show that’s done its fair share of tiptoeing into paganism and blood rituals and the like, this new blood-drinking entity feels especially out of place. Is there a vampire wandering the woods of France or what? Reign has usually had mixed results when balancing court intrigue with its forays into the supernatural, but “The Darkness” was its biggest flop yet. Even if the show couldn’t make room for Bash at court in the wake of the whole scandal surely they could have found something for him that wasn’t chasing after Dracula alongside boring hunters no one cares about.

Things at Court weren’t much better really, but they seemed to try a bit harder there.  A lot of the difficultly I’m having with Reign can be laid in its characterization of Mary who’s been significantly whittled down since the saga of her maybe marriage to Bash came to an end. She has no power as a character or even apparently as queen. She’s stuck reacting to everything that’s happening, forced to only work within the confines of another’s story without doing anything on her own, and all the beats being hit between her and Lola come close to retreads of conversations they’ve already had.

With the courting tradition of First Light underway, Mary hooked Lola up with Philip Nardine, a Count she and Francis met on their honeymoon. Considering it’s Lola pushing the hiding her pregnancy, her initial reluctance to take part in the tradition didn’t make sense, but that was eventually ironed out as she found Phillip to be perfectly acceptable even if he only wanted to marry her to appease his father and secure his inheritance. It was only once Lola learned Phillip was gay that she had second thoughts.

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t see how Lola’s potential husband being gay changed their circumstances at all. It’s not as if Lola plans on being in love with her husband, or him even being in love with her – not at this point. Though Mary’s outburst where she told Lola she had to fix her mistake however necessary came from a place of insecurity (because she’s not yet pregnant) and concern (about lingering feelings on the part of Francis and Lola) she was right. If Lola doesn’t want Francis to know about the pregnancy, and she’s ruled out the scary medieval abortion, she doesn’t have many options but to marry someone and pass off said baby as theirs. It’s certainly not a romantic option, but Lola’s clean out of those, and her understanding of that seems to go in and out depending on what the plot requires.

Mainly this whole storyline suffers from a lack of focus. I can’t tell what anyone’s motivations are. I don’t know if Mary wants Lola and her kid to go away so she can make sure her relationship with Francis is safe or if she wants Lola to stay at court so they can try to be friends. But she also wants to tell Francis the truth because…he deserves to know? Maybe? Lola may want to go away herself, but she doesn’t want to go away with someone who won’t love her? But she also wants to get married right away? Or maybe all of the above? Just when it looked like Mary and Lola  figured out exactly what each of them were trying to accomplish, there was a commercial break, and they changed their minds. It probably doesn’t matter since Francis will inevitably find out about the whole thing, and we’ll be treated to whatever the show’s come up with in that regard so it’s likely this is all a waste anyway.

Also on the sloppy scale was Henry who’s got Catherine and Kenna disturbed by his weird behavior. Whatever sickness Henry has is poorly conceived, if only because the show’s hardly presenting it as an illness aside from some throwaway comments about Henry not sleeping and peeing black, so it’s hard to take it seriously. Henry’s always been weird and annoying, and that one time really eager to execute Catherine, but turning him into a homicidal misogynist is quite the leap. Since this is looking a lot like a device to kill Henry off and allow Francis to claim the crown (and thereby give the show access to even more royal drama), I guess the suddenness of it makes sense. But that doesn’t mean it’s all that interesting to watch aside from wondering if the show’s found a purpose for Kenna and that’s in killing her off at Henry’s hands.

Every show’s allowed some bad episodes here and there, and this is definitely one for Reign, but hopefully they dig themselves out of this hole and find the excellence they’d reached not too long ago. Even if I ignore the worst parts of “The Darkness”, namely The Darkness, this episode still felt like an awkward stepping stone on the way to a narrative climax the show’s trying to reach.

Stray Observations

  • Greer’s Pepper Person returned to woo her and failed. Anyway she has a new suitor coming to court.
  • Catherine may be having the same character issues as Mary. Since the show’s apparently over her being a murderous foil to all of Mary’s plans, they seem to have forgotten that about her. Now she pops up to clean up Henry’s messes (and their tension-riddled interactions this week were nowhere near the fun of last week’s) and give Mary babymaking advice.
  • What was the point in revealing Clarissa to be alive two episodes ago if things were going to proceed with everyone acting like she was dead anyway? If her being alive and apparently out for revenge is supposed to be distressing, Reign‘s dropping the ball since the one person who knows about her isn’t very concerned.
  • Apparently Nostradamus doesn’t believe in combs since both young women we’ve seen in his care have had terrible hair. Olivia’s didn’t look decent until it was wet. In the first shot of her she looked like Aslan.
  • I don’t want Kenna to be killed off. I just want her to go away, and come back next season with some kind of consistent characterization.

Leave your thoughts in the comments.


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