For all the nonsense surrounding this show, it's oddly watchable. A cross between a pagan LARP and a bodice-thumping high school play, it contains within it the seeds of true cheeseball greatness, and has carried that promise through the first season, through wandering subplots, some surprising acting, stretch lace bodices, thematic slow burns, and some of the most leaden dialogue to cross the airwaves since the last CW show you watched.
This week, it all came together, in an episode that had three hours of plot in a glorious, surprising forty-four minute jug. And I got to sub in again at The AV Club, which was the icing on the cake for a show I'd watch every week just to look at Megan Follows and her amazing face.
(After reviewing The Hobbit, I said on Twitter I'd like to see her face off against Lee Pace's Thranduil; I maybe can't stop thinking about how that would go. There are so many options. All of them are fabulous.)
Here's what happens, just in this episode. Mary and Francis have sex, get engaged, AND break up; Diane's plan to legitimize Bash crashes and burns, Kenna discovers it, Catherine discovers it, Catherine devises a plan, and Diane defies her AND escapes; there's prophecy and potential poison and a prophecy about poison and some ACTUAL poison that doesn't even have time to work before they're shoved down the stairs; Nostradamus reintroduces the girl in the walls; Bash parts ways with his mother AND becomes Mary's companion as she gets the hell out of town; and Queen Elizabeth suddenly becomes the invisible fifth character in the room full of royals, which is legitimately the most exciting scene this show has ever had, followed by the scene in which Catherine and Nostradamus have a married-people fight.
The best costume of the week went to this guy by a very narrow margin. Apparently after Sarah and her pearl headdress they're not wasting any more of the good stuff on servants' clothes.
That's because they were saving the good stuff for Catherine, in her most historically-inaccurate yet fabulous ensemble yet, while she advocates on the side of history and tells everyone not to even think about pulling any bullshit with Elizabeth because Elizabeth will just end you.
(This was such a fun scene; until Mary's actually declared Queen of England this is still a secret history rather than an alternate history, and it's been one of my major questions about the show's plans in the long term; to have Elizabeth as the clear and present danger no one can predict was a delicious surprise. Oh, we're engaging with history? Reign, you do the most unexpected things!)
She knows she looks good. Also, that cape is fuckin' attached to that Pre-Raphaelite dress superhero-style, you guys. She's ready for what.EVER.
King PringleCollar is not thrilled.
Get your own cape, sir.
The other Best Supporting Draped Garment is this Virgin Mary ensemble, which somehow leads this worldly man of the cloth to assume that Kenna is Diane, mother of Bash, based on this cunning disguise that keeps him from seeing who's really under those impenetrable layers of mystery.
The handmaids this week brought out their very best in general, hosting an unwitting goodbye party for one of their own:
You might ask, "Were turquoise faux-fur cap-sleeve boleros a thing at the French court at this time?" You would be new here. (I do, oddly, sort of admire the way the eighteen throw curtains mingle with their upholstery skirts and create a miasma of iffy chiffon and 8,000 watt lighting.)
But that pales in comparison to the sheer comedy gold of the twelve-year-old klepto opening her purse and handing everyone jewels sent by her parents for the royal wedding, which obviously you'd wad up in a purse to hand out absently.
The wealth of all Scotland, hailed amid the whirl of youth, the clatter of plastic!
Millibraids Klepto dies from poison and stairs at the end of the episode. I, like Catherine, wish it had been Kenna; I laughed for real when Catherine points out to Diane that Kenna exhibits both "betrayal and stupidity" – is that a thing? Megan Follows makes it a thing – and she just honestly can't even have that around her right now so won't someone please just poison her already because dear God, here, she will give you the poison, here, just take it and poison Kenna; anyway, nice seeing you.
While in mourning for the death of the twelve-year-old handmaid who admittedly was very sweet despite being given hardly anything to do in preparation for her impending removal from the cast, the people of the French court aim for funereal attire: subdued, full of dignity, a show of respect.
Nailed it. (The King's cowl sweater is my favorite, probably; Francis's collection of knitwear doesn't fall far from this tree.)
But really, the costume this week that made me happiest was this practical poisonmaker's apron, because it meant Nostradamus was back. After several weeks of practicing his invisibility spells while Cathy had to handle everything herself, the Proph is in fine fettle again; here, he and Cathy have an enormous argument that's technically about whether she can risk her soul by poisoning Mary, but actually looks like he's giving her a super intense holiday present.
The Proph made this poison especially for you, Cathy! Handmade gifts are the best.
The show's on holiday hiatus now, which is sad for me, but it definitely went out with a bang; there aren't many hanging plot threads left, because this show just burned through nine episodes of plot in a single episode, leaving only the afterimage of a turquoise faux-fur cap-sleeve bolero in its wake. See you soon, Reign.