Reign / Screen

Reign: “Blood for Blood”

Reign‘s always been kind of bad at the supernatural thing. They seem intent on including it, but last season attempted to do so with The Darkness, and we all know how lamely that resolved itself. The promise of a reckoning, as the dead return to get revenge on the people who wronged them, is still up in the air. But aside from a few ghostly visions about the castle it hasn’t risen to anything substantial just yet. There are, of course, Francis’ many encounters with nursemaid Caroline, seemingly possessed by Henry’s wrathful spirit. “Blood for Blood” still plays with this, though it resolves it in an interesting way, tying it with the relatively mundane struggle between Catholics and Protestants.Sometimes Reign remembering its place in history actually works in its favor. “Blood For Blood” weaves an attack on a Protestant church service and a subsequent murder well with Francis’ and Mary’s rule while also finding a way to work it into Greer’s impending nuptials. The latter is a fairly minute portion of the episode, though Greer’s approaching wedding makes for a fun background to an otherwise dreary episode. Her splashing through a fountain with Kenna and Lola is the kind of teenage girl fun that’s been missing as the show moves further and further into more dramatic storylines.

Greer’s marriage to Castleroy is more adult, particularly in the last few episodes as Greer’s maturity has given way to a lot of more pragmatic decisions on her part. When Castleroy confesses to being a Protestant and gives Greer the option of abandoning their marriage because of it, it looks as if she’ll end up doing just that. If Greer’s after safety and security, marrying a secret Protestant (in a time where Protestants are being murdered all over the place) is not the way to go. It would be cheap to have them split after last episode made a point of them reuniting last week, but Reign is familiar with cheap plotlines so it wouldn’t be unexpected. Her instead deciding that she admires Castleroy sticking by his convictions is more interesting, as is Leith’s happy face turning sour when Greer walks down the aisle and his abrupt exit from the wedding.

I’m not sure when Greer became one of my favorites, but she has. The other ladies don’t have as much to do as her at this point. Kenna’s role now is to be in love with Bash (here’s hoping she gets something more soon), but she introduces Lola to a sex journal floating around the castle that details an encounter with the best lover at court. This goofy search for this dreamy man gives the episode some levity. That is, until later when this too gets tied into the season’s ongoing storylines.

The young man murdered for attending the Protestant service is Conde’s nephew (and Francis’ cousin) sent to France because they are more “tolerant” (LOL). Conde’s sure to challenge Francis in every episode not to be so lame a king, which is turning out to be much harder than anyone thinks. Conde’s only ally in this is Mary who agrees with him about the Catholics responsible for the boy’s murder being held responsible. They question the men together, and it’s so good cop/bad cop it’s kind of hilarious. Conde threatens to have them hanged for lying to the crown while Mary gently reminds them of the painful deaths that they’ll get if they don’t confess now.

Conde and Mary’s partnership is in stark contrast to hers and Francis’ at the moment. There’s still a large secret between them about Francis killing his father, not to mention the tension that comes with Francis’ son  and Mary being yet unable to bear a child. Conde’s more Mary’s speed at this point, available when Francis is not, and Mary’s privy to his secrets including that he’s been marked by the three riders of the last episode. With this, it’s clearly not the actual devil cursing these people, just angry Catholics making a point by hiring these riders to terrorize their targets.

Francis, too has his own brushes with the supernatural quickly dashed. When Caroline leaves the lance taken from Henry’s eye (gross) on Francis’ pillow, he becomes more concerned that people are going to realize what he’s done. She claims that she’s lost more time, waking up in places with no memory of getting there. When she climbs into the throne and announces that it “still fits” Francis drags her away to speak,  finally admitting that he killed Henry which of course Narcisse overhears.

Narcisse is a master manipulator, and it’s difficult to see how Francis, with his experience with Narcisse only having been negative thus far, thought that this situation was going to go any differently than it did. Narcisse pretends to swear his loyalty to Francis, if only to preserve his own place and avoid Francis killing him right there, and of course this is all a lie. What else was Narcisse going to do? Narcisse having fabricated the entire thing, hiring Caroline to pretend to be possessed (give that woman a raise!) and even roping the rider accused of Henry’s murder into it, is so obvious when Narcisse walks into that barn that Francis not seeing it only leaves me shaking my head.

As silly as the logic behind Francis not suspecting treachery on Narcisse’s end, the supernatural being cut out of this particular storyline works. It builds on the political intrigue as Francis concedes to Narcisse’s demands to release the Catholics who murdered that boy and to go on following Narcisse’s leads from here on out. And it’s even better when these things directly threaten Mary and Francis.

Giving the two of them more grown-up challenges than the typical CW fare has always benefited the show well, and this time is no different. Mary wants equal justice for all, which means punishing both the Catholics and the Protestants for their violence against each other. It’s a stance Francis agrees with, but when he backs out to satisfy Narcisse, Mary demands answers that Francis can’t give. So he compensates by telling her that he’s simply disappointed in her failure to give him a son which is perhaps the cruelest thing he could have said to her.

In the aftermath of her miscarriage, Mary can’t even look at Greer’s stepchildren without getting misty-eyed, and Francis lies to her about going to visit his son to protect her feelings. Mary’s doing her best, of course, to remain hopeful about their chances of having a kid, but with Francis seemingly writing her off it’s hard to see how she’s going to maintain that kind of optimism.

Stray Observations

  • We didn’t lose the opening credits after all. I can’t tell if these are better or worse than the ones we had last season.
  • What the hell is Castleroy’s first name?
  • Catherine: “You may go Marie. And please, your hair.”
  • I feel so bad for Lola actually. Her one attempt at flirting with a man ends badly when Narcisse reveals that she’s the mother of the king’s son. It’s only Narcisse who shows some interest, which isn’t all that cute considering you know, everything. And just because he’s good at sex doesn’t mean that he’s not the worst person alive, which he is.

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