Synopsis of 2×10: Mary and Francis hunt down Mary’s rapists, and strain their relationship further in the process. Meanwhile, Catherine’s hallucinations are getting worse, Protestant/Catholic tensions are worse than ever, and Conde (finally) admits his feelings for Mary, even though his political allegiances lay elsewhere.
I won’t try to hide it. I was disappointed by this week’s episode, especially for a mid-season finale. Reign does really well because it deals in escapism, and when that fails, it trades on the strength of its characters and the goodwill they have with their audience. So what happens when that fails?
Answer: This week’s episode.
This episode fails on both counts because 1. We’re in the middle of a Protestant/Catholic war in France, and no one wants be caught up in the middle of that tension, and 2. Mary and Francis’ characters have undergone fairly ugly transformations.
On the second count, Mary’s transformation is completely warranted: after her rape, she sets out to capture and kill her rapists. It’s a new, vengeful side to the queen we haven’t yet seen, but I don’t find the transformation believable. Honestly, when Mary’s main character strength has been built on mercy for two seasons, after her assault, everything we know about the character suggests her conversion from devastation to rage should take longer than a day.
It’s not believable, and it’s not in character.
More so than that, after last week’s emotionally resonant performance, this week’s felt empty. That might be a purposeful choice, but if so, I don’t think it was done very well.
Francis, on the other hand, is now a complete black-hearted villain. He’s out for revenge, and he’s willing to bring in every French Protestant citizen to have them tortured and hanged in a show of force against the religious uprising. Again, the motivation is there, but the performance felt flat. It was a complete 180 degree turn from the Francis we’ve come to know, who makes difficult decisions in morally ambiguous situations. Instead, we get a Francis who shouts, “Screw the consequences!” before he hangs a mass of innocent people and leaves a good portion of the rest to freeze to death without a second thought.
Anyway, Mary enlists Conde’s help to find her rapists – the two team up and do just that. Mary sets one of them on fire before she burns the entire house to the ground with all the men in it. Unfortunately, killing her attackers doesn’t leave her with any peace. She’s told her ladies and her husband about the assault, and she adds Conde to the list – but no one can bring her peace.
In the meantime, Lola tells Francis where Narcisse is hiding, and Francis captures him for future use as his personal puppet. Francis also tells Mary that Narcisse has been blackmailing him – and after Mary slaughters her rapists, she tells Francis that they cannot be together as a couple like they once were. Mary blames Francis for her rape, acknowledging however irrational that may be, and tells her husband that they need to spend time apart.
As if that wasn’t enough, in other news, Catherine is homicidally hallucinating all over the castle. She’s still seeing her dead twin daughters, who insist that Catherine kill Claude the same way they were murdered, otherwise they’ll do it themselves. After protesting for a bit, Catherine finally poisons Claude, who presumably will die in the next half of the season. Then, the Late Insane King Henry comes back to have weird ghost sex with Catherine and absolve her of her guilt over Claude. It’s too much Denny Duquette Grey’s Anatomy for me, but hey. I don’t blame Catherine for taking it where she can get it what with the Protestant/Catholic shitshow going on in the background.
Greer and Castleroy part ways amicably after Castleroy gets taken in for questioning as a practicing Protestant and Leith negotiates his release.
Oh, and it looks like Conde is a spy for his Bourbon brother. Fortunately for Francis, Louis can no longer stomach reporting back to his family because *surprise* he’s in love with Mary.
He leaves the castle after writing a letter to Mary telling her about his feelings. So at least we have that pairing to look forward to in the next half of the season!