Reign 2×10: “Mercy” review

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I think we were all waiting to see how the Reign writers would follow up last week’s episode—specifically, if the rape plotline would be addressed with proper sensitivity or abruptly dropped once the shock value and dramatic impact had run its course. Granted, one episode—and a preview, as we’ll soon see—makes it still a little soon to tell, but so far, the writers’ method wasn’t entirely satisfactory (at least as far as I am concerned).

I expressed my misgivings about the rape plotline in a previous post, and this episode brilliantly illustrates one of the major ones—how jarring and discordant such a plotline is on a show that, for the most part, is a historical crackfic. So many things went balls-to-the-walls crazy in this episode, and the tonal shift between that and the scenes of Mary’s recovery made me feel like I was watching two different shows. It messed with my mind, and I am not watching Reign to have my mind messed with. I have JJ Abrams’ oeuvre for that, thank you very much.

A lot of Reign fans, myself included, were worried that the writers would make the aftermath of Mary’s rape all about Francis, which I was relieved to see wasn’t entirely the case. He did spend a lot of this episode being a damn mess, as he is wont to do, but it was Mary who, with the help of her faithful lapdog Louis, faced her rapist and ended up burning him alive in a scene that was pretty damn badass, on par with Kate from Lost blowing up her abuser and cruising off on a motorcycle.

I guess a motorcycle was too anachronistic even for this show.

I guess a motorcycle was too anachronistic even for this show.

It was all a bit slasher B-movie revenge fantasy for me, but to their credit, the writers addressed this issue in Mary’s admission to Louis and later Francis that facing her rapist and killing him did little to bring her the peace she sought. In all other respects, Mary’s trauma has been portrayed realistically and believably, which is a quite a feat considering what show we’re talking about here. The one sour note we hit was Mary’s confession that she blames Francis for what happened to her, albeit with her acknowledgement that she’s being irrational. I’m not really sure what this accomplishes other than driving even more of a gulf between her and Francis, and there’s plenty of reasons for that already. Mary and Francis’s marriage is Ichabod-and-Katrina levels of unhealthy right now (come to think of it, Francis and Katrina would really suit each other well—talk about a match made in incompetence heaven) and some time apart feels more like a mercy killing than the heartstring-tugger I suspect it was meant to be.

In fact, at this point the rape plotline is giving off the icky feeling that it was primarily meant to drive Francis and Mary apart while simultaneously driving Louis and Mary closer together—particularly since Louis eventually figures out what happened to Mary. Later in the episode, Louis’s brother shows up, and the shoe finally drops—I knew something was up with Louis beyond him just randomly showing up at the French court and becoming a Bash stand-in. Turns out his brother, the king of Navarre, had dispatched Louis on a sort of spying mission. The brother figures out that Louis has fallen for Mary, and warns him of where his loyalties must lie. Meanwhile, Mary finds a letter from Louis that the latter had presumed was lost during the assassination attempt. In the letter, Louis spills his guts about his feelings for Mary. Hey, show? If you’re going to have your main character undergo a tragic event that will make intimacy an issue for her, maybe you’d best lay off on the love triangles.

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In other news, Francis was a damn mess, but we know this already. I have this theory that he and Finn on the 100 are actually the same character. I mean, we got two formerly-good guys meant to be a foil for the morally grey third prong of their respective love triangles, but end up moral event horizon-ing in a bid to right wrongs against their lady loves. Finn guns down innocent grounder women and children, while Francis summarily rounds up and tortures/executes Protestants suspected of being in on the assassination plot (to be fair, he’s also in panic mode over his impotence thus far as a ruler). With Lola’s help, he apprehends Narcisse with plans to make him his bitch (no, not in that way). Like Finn, Francis is far more entertaining once he goes dark, and like Finn, he’s totally going to die soon (history spoilers! And no, this is not a spoiler for the 100, just my speculation. But you know Finn’s totally a goner). Shit, Francis even goes all black pleather emo-boy just to drive the point home.

But how is Francis with choreography?

But how is Francis with choreography?

Even the hapless Castleroy is temporarily imprisoned on Francis’s orders, until Leith calls in his favor (remember him saving Francis’s life in battle last season and then Francis giving away his lands to appease Narcisse?) and has Castleroy set free. On Leith’s advice, Castleroy flees the court, although Greer stays behind in order to protect him. It’s pretty obvious the show is chugging full steam ahead toward endgame Greer and Leith, but my delulu love of Castleroy leads me to imagine he returns someday when the Leith/Greer ship has long since sailed and is rounding Tierra del Fuego. Dammit, why is it always the doomed pairings that get me?

He may not have the abs, but he’s totally the Jacob Black of this triangle.

He may not have the abs, but he’s totally the Jacob Black of this triangle.

Meanwhile Queen C spends most of the episode being tormented by dead twin babies who are now dead twin 8-year-olds. This ghost drama ultimately culminates in her possibly poisoning Claude, supposedly to prevent the dead ghost babies from killing her first? I don’t even know at this point. Queen C also ends up sexing ghost!Henry, which was admittedly pretty hot, but also bizarre. I have no idea where the writers are going with this plot, but I’m really not interested in Queen C being caught up in a crazy ghost world rather than interacting with actual living characters. I love her interactions with Mary, and also enjoyed her scene with Bash when they talk about Claude. I was really looking forward to more interaction between the two, particularly since Bash, like Queen C, is a morally grey character with a connection to the supernatural. But I guess now that Nostradamus has flown the coop Queen C is going to need a new partner in crime, and the writers couldn’t be arsed to find one that’s actually alive.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the preview for the next episode, which really is not promising in terms of the rape plotline fallout. The preview seems more interested in playing up the salacious details of a possible Mary/Louis romance, with the only acknowledgement of Mary’s rape being this vague quote from her: “I feel like I’m sleepwalking and don’t know how to wake up.” Next, we’ve got tense glances between Mary and Louis, a voiceover of Louis’s brother asking Louis to seduce the queen of France, and a brief image of an unidentified couple getting it on.

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(Also, gotta love that the man is clearly unzipping the woman’s gown. Oh, show, you truly give no fucks). In other news, Claude is seen alive and well and announcing to Kenna that she and Bash were brother and sister in the Game of Thrones sense. So much for the cliffhanger re: Catherine poisoning her.

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There’s more Catherine/ghost!Henry sexytimes, which I’m not particularly interested in, because I find her far more enjoyable when nefariously plotting, poisoning people, or just plain looking down her nose at these fools. Or better yet, sexytimes and nefarious plotting.

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