This whole season is shaping up to be a real mess, and it’s not even fun. At this point it’s looking like Reign‘s writers put the season together by drawing random plot ideas out of a hat and threw them together to see what would happen. The beginning of the season is long ago and far away, and I can’t even tell how we got here or if I want to bother going to the end. Reign did this once before, last season, when all its fun and soapyness wandered away into the meandering and not-at-all fun, which is what this season is now doing.
First things first. Bash is officially a waste. There’s no rhyme or reason to what we’re getting for him at this point. He and Kenna are in a fight, and he’s off investigating the dead seemingly rising. And just to make us all tired, we have to start caring about something that happened offscreen and long ago, Bash maybe being the killer of Antoine and Conde’s brother Marcus. If he is, this makes things all the more complicated for jst about everyone going forth, but it adds a ridiculous level of hypocrisy to Bash and Kenna’s ongoing fight. Bash only stops giving Kenna the cold shoulder after he realizes, after seeing a man murdered for maybe being undead, that he’s not looking at the big picture. Not because he’s murdered people for his own safety and sanity, or even for less. Since we’ve known Bash (especially recently) he’s been willing to do anything, kill anyone in the name of protecting his family’s crown, but he feels he’s in the right when it comes to judging Kenna for similar decisions she made? The show will go on and on (and rightly so) about the oppression of its female characters by men and the society in the narrative, but stops short of not doing that itself.
It’s most clear with Mary, who spends another episode trying to explain to Francis why she’s not ready to get back to business as usual following her rape. Mary’s arc is the more satisfying one this time around (though that’s a tenuous hold it has on that title). It’s hard to tell if the back and forth is just the writing not having any idea what it wants to do or the preferable and more attractive option of just tracing Mary’s journey. For my sanity we’ll pretend the latter. She lets Francis back into her bed to sleep, which is positively infuriating, just further proof neither the writing nor Francis (likely both) really cares at all what Mary may need. She lets him back in before she’s ready because he’s been there, quietly pushing her to get over her trauma and realize that she’s going to be okay.
This is only saved by Mary deciding later that nothing’s changed, that she still can’t be with Francis without remembering her rape and resolving to continue their separate lives pact. Which is fitting considering none of Mary’s growth has been on her own terms, its been with Francis leaning on her and urging her to just get there already. She can’t sleep with Francis breathing next to her and gets up, but when Francis wants her to hug him she gets up to do it because that makes sense (no it doesn’t). All of her healing has been because Francis wants it, not because Mary’s actually there. I’d like to think the show will let this lie, allowing Mary to come to terms with what she wants in her own time, but this all (including Mary’s declaration that she still looks at Francis and recalls her rape) just feels like an elaborate way to prove that Mary’s okay just not with Francis. Which of course leaves her open to a romance with Conde, which becomes less and less appealing everyday.
I adore Mary, quite a bit, and it’s so hard to tell if the show shares that sentiment. It favors her so sporadically, only sometimes allowing her the time and space necessary to allow her character to grow on its own. Reign can’t have a single conversation about Mary that doesn’t become about Francis or Conde or Bash or whatever other man is onscreen with some problem or another. it’s not a new problem for the show, but it’s one that’s become so severe that the show is almost unwatchable when it glosses over her so frequently.
“Sins of the Past” also marks the return of Reign‘s sloppy exposition. I’ve talked about Reign‘s limited scope, confined to the castle, which makes even the most promising of storylines bow underneath its inability to carry them. Naricisse brings Francis and Mary information about Navarre’s Protestant refugee problem and whatever else they need answers to (returning to Reign‘s oft-utilized issue of evil England), but we never see how Narcisse gets it. He just has it, and is here to pass it along. And who knows what really happened with Bash and Conde and Antoine’s brother? On one hand this lack of certainty allows for some wiggle room for the show to use to its advantage, creating more questions and heightening the ambiguity. But instead of ratcheting up tension, it undercuts it completely.
When Narcisse isn’t producing reams of information, he’s working to seduce people and whatnot. There’s Claude, who he hopes will return him to the station he once held (via a pregnancy that Claude’s not going to let happen), and then there’s Lola who he’s actually into. I’m not sure why Lola’s into him now, why we’re suddenly over Narcisse’s host of transgressions which included (but were not limited to) blackmailing Francis to the extent that his rule became so tenuous Protestants stormed the castle and threatening the life of Francis and Lola’s son. There’s absolutely no reason why Lola, who’s been fiercely loyal recently (I’m ignoring that one time she had sex with her bestie’s ex) would suddenly forgive Narcisse and consider taking up with him again, only put off when she finds him hooking up with Claude.
What does make sense is Narcisse and Catherine, which may become a thing sooner or later. The two cross paths during Catherine’s syphilis treatments, and Narcisse is the one to point out that it may not be a final gift from Henry driving Catherine mad but poison. And he’s right of course, the two discovering that someone poisoned Henry’s bible. So who was it? Was it Narcisse? England? Someone risen from the dead? Who cares? Catherine’s hilarious and her and Narcisse really should be making out, but this just feels like retreading old ground. Now we’re going to get all this time about Henry’s madness not being his fault, about Francis essentially killing him for no reason, etc. And there’s no reason to be looking forward to that.
There’s no reason to look forward to anything anymore. Reign‘s become a chore to watch, and I simply don’t have time to hate watch things. It’s what made this review so hard to write, because I could barely figure out how to articulate my feelings besides “bleh”. So this will be my last review of the show, though I may come around to reviewing the remainder of the season in the summer.
Thank you for reading!
- No sign of Greer. I suppose she’s managing somehow, someway.
- I used to love Conde and Mary, and slowly the show is killing them for me. I fear they’re going to push this weird thing about Conde being deserving of Mary in some way, and this episode just barely avoided becoming very Nice Guy with him. It’s very fair of him to call Mary out for using her affections to her advantage, though I doubt she does so intentionally.