“The Prince of the Blood” is more of Reign at its weird best. Francis finally tells someone about Henry and Narcisse’s blackmail, Mary finally gets fed up and Conde is thisclose to making his Mary thirst apparent. The episode manages to balance its respective plot points, even the ones that are less stellar, like Lola and Narcisse. The political/religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics is still chugging along, reaching something close to a head. But it’s still got all its usual pitfalls, the exposition that informs huge plot points that we never get to see, characters keeping secrets just because (but all in the name of protecting not-so-defenseless loved ones).
Narcisse brings a law to Francis that will require all the French to publicly swear their loyalty and their faith to their king. The ones who lie will be executed if the crown finds out, and the ones who tell the truth will be harassed and likely killed by Catholics. Though we don’t see Castleroy this episode (which is weird) Greer returns from their honeymoon early and injured, attacked by Catholics, and the danger she’s now in as the wife of a Protestant forces makes Mary even more eager to keep Francis from signing the law.
Mary and Francis are on terribly shaky ground right now, and even when there seems to be some hope for them it all gets trashed by the episode’s end. Mary does her part to buy Francis time, enlisting Conde in a plot to slow things down by weeding out Protestant nobles and getting them to come forward. The fact that the episode includes the line (from Mary to Conde) “Unfortunately my husband isn’t giving me what I want. So I’ve come to you instead” is just highly wonderful. With Francis being as floppy as he’s being, Mary’s investment in their relationship continues to lessen. Then you have Conde, who has a thing for married women (especially Mary), willing to work at her side for the greater good. As unlikely as it is that Mary will cheat on Francis with anyone, the possibility is there.
Mary’s in love with Francis, but that love gets harder and harder to deal with with every passing episode. Just when Francis and Mary seem to be on the same page, with Francis telling her that he won’t sign the law at all because he knows it’s wrong, he’s once again outmaneuvered (more on that later) by Narcisse and goes back on his word. The resulting argument has Mary frustrated and disappointed, looking at Francis with new eyes. She knows he’s lying to her but he claims to be telling the truth about seeing the benefits of keeping the nobles in line, and that’s not great either. It makes Francis appear cowardly and too much like his father while his queen is out there fighting the good fight. Mary actually has a line, when Conde compliments her on her daring: “I feel that I have to be. Until others find it within themselves to be the same.” Mary’s far from cowardly, and she’ll risk everything in the name of defending what’s right. So looking at her husband, a man she thought she shared this trait with, and seeing something different is as jarring as it is disgusting to her.
Mary’s always been queenly and she becomes more so every passing day while Francis seems to be playing at it more than anything. He’s not a ruler, he’s a puppet, bowing to Narcisse’s every whim. And while he knows this isn’t what a good king is, his hands are tied as long he wants to see Mary protected. It’s a relief when he announces that he’s done doing what Narcisse demands, making plans to spirit Mary out of the country if Narcisse goes through with his threat. This hasn’t been going on long, but it’s already boring to see Francis bending over backward to appease Narcisse, but of course things don’t go as planned and we’re right back where we started.
But why? Narcisse announces that he knows about the assassination attempt Mary and Catherine made on Henry, and when he also exposes that one Catherine and Mary will be executed as well. Sure it’s a pretty damning threat, but why is Francis handling it on his own when he’s obviously in over his head? Mary and Catherine should know that Narcisse has information that could get them both killed, and both have proven themselves much better at playing this game than Francis is. They could surely put their heads together and come up with a better solution than simply doing whatever Narcisse says.
Even Lola’s shaping up to be a better gameplayer, albeit one that’s playing for the wrong side. Francis enlists her in planting evidence of Narcisse being an English spy (though he doesn’t tell her what she’s placing). Lola and Narcisse are a sore spot, since it’s more uncomfortable than titillating to see Narcisse entice Lola into bathing in front of him (again). Lola’s more drawn to Narcisse for his honesty about being such a terrible person, a strange reason to find someone desirable if you ask me, but Francis’ continued dishonesty is only getting him in trouble with all the women in his life, who go on not knowing just how much danger they’re all wading into.
It’s unfortunate that we have to watch Lola continue this awkward flirtation with Narcisse when Kenna and Greer are doing next to nothing. Greer comes up to show off a scratch on her wrist while Kenna spends the episode fawning over a newly returned Princess Claude. With her return o France, the episode hits its soapy quota with Claude’s (Rose Williams) arrival. Why she’s been away so long is confusing, and we never get much of an answer to it other than that she blames Catherine for her long absence. Now that she’s back she sets her sights on Bash, suspiciously questioning everyone about how he and Kenna got together, the result of residual jealousy because of a hookup she and Bash had once. It’s Reign so they’re obviously not above incest on this show, but it’s painfully out of the blue. And it doesn’t even look like it’s going to amount to much with Catherine sending Claude away again.
And here “Prince of the Blood” checks supernatural off its episodic to-do list. The two girls haunting Catherine just get creepier and creepier, appearing to her at inconvenient times. They seem to be sisters and call Claude their sister as well, leading Catherine to her bedroom where one of them pulls her braid so hard that she breaks her neck. It’s not real, but it’s certainly disturbing. It’s still unclear who they actually are or what they blame Catherine for, if she’s their mother or if Henry was their father or what. But they are certainly not benevolent which is all we need to know right now.
- Catherine, after walking in on Claude and the priest: “I don’t need this. Not today.”
- So Conde is the prince of the blood the title refers to? I have no idea what this could mean other than that he may end up challenging Francis for the throne if he remains so disappointed in his methods of ruling? It would at least give Conde something to do, not that I don’t appreciate him mooning over Mary most of the time.
- So sorry this is late. I thought I put it up on Saturday but I apparently never hit the submit button.
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