I don’t know what it is, but this episode doesn’t feel like anything. Reign ended in a place of narrative upheaval, with Mary’s rape and her decision to effectively separate from Francis. So you’d expect the return “Getaway” to at least reach the momentum offered by that last one. Instead it feels weak, and by the time it was over I could hardly remember anything that happened. It feels insignificant, maybe because it made the its largest component going into the hiatus nothing much. I’ve doubted Reign‘s ability to portray Mary’s rape without making it all about Francis, and where it’s wobbled before it held steady in giving Mary’s feelings precedence, but now it seems to be going the direction no one wanted it to: focusing on Francis.
Mary sets out to leave the castle, to get some space from it and Francis, who continues to nudge his way into Mary’s orbit even though she’s determined they’re not going to be together. The first season had a problem with keeping Mary at the same level as Francis, at least narratively. Mary’s arc was determined by Francis’, and she was reactive, compared to Francis getting active storylines. This wasn’t a dig at Mary’s character necessarily, as she’s always been a strong one, but Reign‘s had difficulty really selling that. It’s the same here. Mary’s the one who was raped in her home and is now coping with the aftermath, but Francis’ feelings of guilt are moving to the forefront, leaving Mary’s We only hear Mary reflect on her pain once before she decides that she’s been selfish in wallowing in it for so long, while Francis is feeling bad.
This wouldn’t be so bad if what Francis says later, about caring for someone’s suffering more than your own meaning you love them, wasn’t so…stupid. It’s supposed to justify to the audience Mary deciding it’s time she let go of her sadness and anger (because other people, namely Francis, are suffering too). Once again we have a female character setting her feelings and trauma aside because a man is feeling manpainy about it. It would be better if Francis did actually care about Mary’s trauma more than his guilt. I’m sure the show thinks they’re showing that he is, but how can be when he’s saying the same things Mary is saying about himself? That it’s his fault and he feels bad? Francis’ feelings, though they don’t have to be nonexistent and unportrayed, shouldn’t be treated as superior to Mary’s.
Francis does try to prove himself in Mary’s absence, deciding to go against the Vatican’s hunt for people with the brand of the three riders. I totally forgot about this plot point, and to this day I have no idea what it meant and I can’t remember if they ever told us. The product of some monster something in the wilderness? Dudes branding themselves and others for kicks? Whatever the reason, the Vatican decides it must be the mark of religious traitors (aka Protestants) and starts rounding them all up, and when one of Conde’s conquests reveals that he’s been branded, the Vatican tries to grab him.
Enter Mary, to spirit him away to his brother’s house. There they’re treated to an awkward sex party that made me nostalgic for early Reign, when we were all so excited to see women enjoying themselves sexually and masturbating in hallways, but this was just…blah. It didn’t feel fun or sexy or anything else. I suppose we were supposed to be all kinds of excited, wondering if Conde and Mary would get paired together (and I suppose on a smaller, more boring scale Greer and Leith), but it all just feels lackluster. And next to Mary’s ongoing struggle adjusting to her world after her rape, it feels even inappropriate, like when Conde’s partner blindfolds him and tells him to pretend she’s Mary. I’m as big a Conde/Mary shipper as anyone, but is someone supposed to be invested in the beginnings of this triangle when Mary dealing with her rape is still a factor?
Mary at least seems to have more sense than the show does, not responding much to Conde’s letter. She’s read it and she knows, but she’s not going to act on it, and there’s no real indication that she feels more than friendship for him. ANd she takes his advice about Francis with a very large grain of salt because of those feelings. That’s not to say Conde’s wrong or that he’s definitively right. Mary knows Francis much better than Conde does or ever will so she can speak with some authority on him while Conde can’t, but Conde also knows the Francis that’s been out and about recently, and that isn’t a Francis that there’s a lot of reason to put some faith in.
So Conde’s putting all of his in Mary when she suggests the burn his brand off and return to France. By the time they get there, there’s no more need since Francis and Bash have succeeded in having it called off through an elaborate ruse that involved branding the Cardinal’s lover and compelling the Cardinal to withdraw his evaluation of the brand as the mark of a traitor. Even this was boring. I’m not sure Francis and Bash thought it through all that well, even though things ended up fine, and for some reason it begins this whole moral quandary for Bash who tells Kenna about his lying and killing. I don’t mind the morals, but why are they just now coming up? The show officially forgot about that guy Bash shoved off a cliff that one time, and neither Bash nor Francis has blinked at doing whatever else they have to do so them coming up now just feels like it’s there because the show needed something to do.
I suppose this will bring the beginning of more Bash, which is apparently a goal of the remainder of the season. And hopefully Bash will take Kenna along for the ride. Kenna picks up on something between Claude and Bash (what I don’t know since Bash and Claude have negative chemistry together), finding herself inexplicably jealous. When she figures out that Catherine’s poisoning Claude, she gets confirmation of Bash and Claude’s incestuous past. As much as I’ve wanted Kenna to have something to do, I’m not sure I meant this. I’m not even sure where Kenna falls in all this since none of the storylines are really about her. She’s still just a random extra in everyone else’s drama, though her and Bash are at the moment the most interesting couple this show has going for itself. Hers and Bash’s sex scene opens the episode and is more titilating than the sex party Mary ends up at, and
Once Kenna’s told Claude about Catherine’s poisoning, she quickly drops out of the storyline. Catherine’s usually a pretty big plus for the show, Megan Follows always committing to Catherine’s snark and charm, but with this round of hallucinations she’s lost some of what made her so interesting. It’s the lack of direction the storyline seems to have. Are there really ghosts in the castle or what? And if there are then why are they so convinced Claude killed her sisters when she says she definitely didn’t? And why is there a ghost Henry around to hiss in Catherine’s ear about loving to watch her mix her poisons? Catherine’s quickness to accept these ghostly specters came on so fast, and just as quickly she’s let them go. She keeps Claude from killing herself, siding with Claude against her other children and watching the twins and Henry fade away together because of it.
In the beginning of the season, the ghosts coming back for vengeance was compelling, but the show’s whittled it down to nothing. Henry’s “ghost” was proven to be a ruse and Catherine’s twins have lost whatever charm they once had. I’d rather see Catherine doing what she does best, working at court intrigue or even helping Mary, who comments on Catherine being the only other noblewoman she knows who’s coped with this very thing. Beside the fact that Catherine’s too imbalanced now to be any help to her, it feels like another misstep on the part of the show, not as concerned with Mary’s suffering as it should be.
- Kenna’s face when Bash said “Half-sister” after she told him she knew the truth was priceless. I’m not sure how Kenna became the voice of reason on this show, but I am somewhat enjoying it.
- Greer and Leith are so boring these days I just don’t know what to do.