Reign Report: "King and Country"
In this episode, the show confounded my modest expectations that Mary and Bash would be on the run for an episode, running up against curious innkeepers, pretending to be married, and then discovering in the true storytelling tradition that this hotel room only has one bed. I mean, the episode still had all that, but it happened in the first five minutes; then it was back to court. I'd say it was a mistake – you finally have a chance to let Mary and Bash get to know each other while Bash gets to buy into his image of himself as gallant rake instead of in-denial sociopath, you MILK THAT CHANCE – but then I realized why we had to get back to the castle as soon as possible:
Because Queen Catherine is literally rubbing her hands together waiting to be the most amazing regent on television, and who is this show to deny her?
She's wearing a blue dress from the Mother of the Bride collection at David's; the woman next to her is in 15th-century Italian; the King's in a cowlneck swear and fur tunic vest, though in this episode he begins to have his suspicions that he's not entirely appropriately dressed:
The gent on the left is trying to play it cool, but he's getting beheaded later for outdressing the King, and he knows it.
Plotwise, Mary, Cathy, and the King all struggling over their respective wishes; Mary not to kill Francis in marriage or to lay claim to England; Cathy not to let Mary marry Francis or really even be here any more, just get her out; and the King, who wants her to be the next Queen of France and England, because he's a power-hungry dink and that's how royalty works. Eventually Mary stumps everybody by declaring she'll be happy to marry the King of France...if it's Bash. Absolutely nobody is happy about this, including Bash.
But super double not happy is Francis, who hashes it out with Mary while she's in something that teenagers will be wearing to prom this year.
Francis is so upset he put on his peplum vest under a tailcoat, which we all know is a fashion no-no. (Also, no, this is not an off-axis screencap; Toby Regbo, who in other respects is a perfectly serviceable actor for a show like this and might even be serviceable elsewhere, has a very strange tendency to lean forward when he's supposed to be upset, as if the argument is quite literally drawing him in.)
The handmaidens are mostly useless, but they show up to the closest thing this episode has to a party, where Queen Catherine's almost sent to a nunnery but then stopped from going because it is fucking unthinkable that she not be on this show for even one episode, okay, how dare you.
The hiatus was not so long that I was entirely unprepared for these silhouettes to quietly pummel all our ideas of historical dress to death; it was just long enough that I thought "Something awful's happened to Greer's hair" for a flat second before I remembered that she's just how she accessorizes. (I do enjoy Lola' and Mary's brief time travel to the early 1800s, where both of them would have looked delightful, and been almost impossible to see at rooms at night thanks to the expense of candles.)
But of course, there's only one reason we're here, and Cathy is it. (The Proph is like half a reason.) She spends the episode alternating between bursts of painful truth and bursts of withering sarcasm, both of which are sublime, but I feel like she's been quietly waiting all season for the moment in this episode when she confronts Nostradamus about how she plans to handle Mary now she's challenged succession. She's going to forge a goodbye note from Mary to her ladies, frame a jailor and kill him, kill Bash and Mary, and "take the bodies to the forest and bury them deep, so that when the rains come and the animals dig, their skulls are not found."
It's too amazing.
Note how she doesn't break eye contact even to dismiss her guard. Cathy is not fucking around with you right now, Proph. She's even going to take a different door than she came in from, just so the camera will have to swivel around your astonished expression as the music goes strumtastic. (His face in the last picture is a man who's been slapped in the face with the fish of love. We have all been struck with that fish.)
And as per usual at the end of every episode of Reign, we've advanced 500 subplots we didn't know existed 45 minutes ago, and everything's still a mess. Welcome back, Reign. I missed you.