Reign / Screen

Reign: “Three Queens”

“Three Queens” is one of Reign‘s best episodes to date. It doesn’t seem to fit the style of earlier episodes, all set in their seriousness. There are no power struggles between the crown and Narcisse, no plague, no restless spirits. Compared to the rest of the season, this episode is relatively light while still playing on the season’s overarching narrative of Mary and Francis being caught in a moment of royal upheaval. Unlike previous episodes, this one isn’t especially serialized. It can easily be classified as filler, but it’s a good filler, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it. 

Putting Mary and Catherine together is a clear win for any episode, as these two have the best interactions out of anyone in the cast. Their conflict only seeks to further emphasize their similarities and Mary’s own anxiety about her life becoming more Catherine’s than one she envisioned for herself. Like usual Catherine and Mary’s interactions are full of harsh teaching moments from Catherine who hears of Mary’s attempts at seeing a doctor about her fertility issues and has plenty to say on the matter. She tells Mary, as she has many times before, to think less like a normal girl seeking love and more like a queen holding onto a crown. Even if it’s all in act, it’s one Mary’s going to have to play. Like the imposter queen, like Catherine and Mary as ladiesmaids and con artists, it’s all going to be a part she has to play. While Mary’s always been able to brush off Catherine’s advice as not fitting hers and Francis’ relationship, the new strain of Francis announcing his disappointment in her, has her weighing it more heavily.

Catherine hasn’t been as much fun this season, as most of her politicking seems to be happening in the background. Without being queen of France, Catherine’s lacking a lot of the screentime she got last season. She pops up occasionally to offer alternately sage and hilarious wisdom and to poke and prod at everyone, but “Three Queens” is the first time we see Catherine back in her element. While Mary relies on compassion and practicality, Catherine’s not a fan of ever relinquishing her power. She looks for it wherever she can and often finds it. Even when faced with the imposter king and queen ruining Francis’ and Mary’s reputations throughout the region, Catherine’s both offended and amused by the whole enterprise though not so tickled by her and Mary being treated as peasants. Where Mary took the lead in the beginning, getting them food by exchanging help in the inn, Catherine’s the one who earns the trust of the “queen” by spinning her a story about them too being con artists.

Catherine being who she is and who she has been in the past, makes everyone doubt what she has to say. Understandably so. But Catherine hasn’t made it this far by being stupid, and she has plenty of experience with royal men. But so soon after giving Mary hard-to-swallow advice, she’s telling Francis to change his attitude toward Mary or else he’ll end up pushing her away, to the extent that she simply plays a role as dutiful wife but loves him no longer. It’s notable that Mary has no idea that this happened, that Catherine spoke on her behalf. They already spend an entire episode together, relying on one another for help, and naturally that doesn’t seem likely to continue back at court. But just as there’s a lot of Catherine in Mary, there’s plenty of Mary in Catherine. Mary’s idealistic look at her world isn’t so far from what Catherine hopes for, and while Catherine doesn’t doubt that Mary will be crushed beneath the weight of reality, she’s not exactly relishing in that inevitability.

Mary is such a determined fighter that Catherine can’t help but be impressed. Catherine’s always appreciated a fine ally, and even a fine adversary, and Mary makes for both. The two of them really get their partnership on when their murders appear inevitable, and they pull out their respective pointy objects, prepared to fight for their lives (Catherine demonstrating a perfect kill strike on Mary has got to be one of the top 10 Reign moments ever). They pose as mother and daughter on the road, which isn’t so far off, and though Francis ignores Catherine’s advice to confide in Mary, it’s Mary finding something worthwhile in Catherine’s insight. It’s not a feel-good ending to the episode by any means, Mary assuring Francis that they’ll never be his parents, while knowing that they are quickly moving in that direction.

While Catherine’s giving Mary all sorts of advice, back in the castle it’s weirdly Kenna who’s moved into a place of wisdom. Apparently a happy marriage and good sex has really done wonders for Kenna who advises Lola against pursuing the weird relationship brewing between her and Narcisse. She does advise Lola to find some way to ensure hers and her son’s security in case something should happen to Francis (because bad things are likely to happen to kings, you know). The entire episode seems to be about this: a woman’s search for security. Catherine’s on the road to maintain relationships among commoners who could later be helpful to her, Mary’s looking for help conceiving a baby that will repair hers and Francis’ relationship and solidify her rule as queen, and Lola’s looking for money that will be hers and hers alone. Even the third queen, as in over her head as she is, is looking for a better life.

Lola and Narcisse aren’t at all compelling, another Reign pairing that produces little in the way of sparks. It’s especially confusing after we saw Catherine and Narcisse getting their flirt on that nothing’s come of that, but I suppose Lola needs something to do. Though it’s cute that Kenna’s trying to help her not go the same route as she did with Henry, Lola still manages to do a lot better in the gameplaying than Kenna did last season. Lola manages to get what she wants without offering up much to Narcisse. His creepy request to watch her bathe is answered by a servant girl, and Lola still gets her dowry to use how she sees fit. It’s not exactly titillating, but Lola playing the game (“The beginning is often promising. The trick is to go on that way”) is way better than her wandering the castle in a perpetual state of sadness over her entrapment. She needs something more to do, and I guess Narcisse will soon be it.

Stray Observations

  • Catherine always gets the best lines. Tonight she had,”I may not care about peasants individually, but in general I care a great deal”, “I assume you mean fertility because other than that no man has an inkling about women’s problems” to taking her crown from the dead third queen and answering Mary and Francis’ disgusted looks with a casual “My dear, never give up a crown to anybody.”
  • And she and Mary were so much fun. From Mary giving her a pat on the knee listening to the imposter queen’s crappy stories to remarking on Catherine’s hairpin “Poisoned?” and Catherine’s response:  “You say that so hopefully now.”
  • I’m disappointed that we didn’t see what Bash was up to at the castle. Not that it would have been all that interesting, but it seems like quite a big deal to leave Bash behind as regent, especially with some important visitor there and never go back to it.

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