Reign "Royal Blood" Review: Adventures in Babysitting

By Lily Sparks

Feb 28, 2014

Reign S01E12: "Royal Blood"

It was a long, cold, hard Winter Olympics but at last all the athletes packed up their skis and bobsleds and furs and precious metal medals and went home and now we can watch Reign again! And wow, what an episode to return with. I was sorely tempted to screen grab almost every single frame that flashed before my eyes, because every moment of “Royal Blood” was completely, gloriously nuts. It was a feast of lavishly sinister, eerily beautiful images, from Clarissa’s crazy face mask to Catherine’s fake-out suicide, to Francis’s scruffy return at a Parisienne bordello to— I could go on and on. But let me go on and on in order.

Mary decided that what with their parents separating, their brother running off, and the impending death of their mother, the young princes Henry and Charles were really due a day out. Like a trip to the Frost Fair! Presumably the Disneyland of its day or at least the California Adventureland. 

However Mary’s attempt to take them to a local Frost Fair was impeded by murderous Medici haters. Infanticide is one of those cards that teen dramas very rarely play but wow, everyone was out for the boys’ blood, from random countryside hikers to their own tunnel-dwelling mole-person half-sister Clarissa to “Wink Wink Nudge Nudge Just Saying Maybe Kill Those Princes” Hugo. Despite the security that infanticide would lend to his still-pending claim on the throne, Bash wanted to whisk the kiddos out of the country for their safety. Mary felt they’d be safer at home, Bash and Mary had a little bicker about their soon-to-be adoptive children like they were already married, and all the Mashers were like “Even when they fight it’s perfect.”

Meanwhile, Lola, the skankiest Scot whoever scooted around was scuttling through Paris whorehouses, presumably looking for an internship. Also look at Paris!!!

This establishing CGI shot is kind of a masterpiece. Look how painterly and awesome and amazing. The interior of the Parisienne sex n' gamblin’ hall was vaguely slutty and clubbish and then Lola walked in, presumably looking for the slap I promised her a while back and also her brother, who had become indebted to someone who was apparently a really big fan of Indecent Proposal. He would only cancel Lola’s brother’s debt if she would yield to him her rich girl body! Quel creepster.

Meanwhile, back in Fronce, Bash surprised Mary and his baby brothers with a beautiful gesture: He’d spent all day spraying fake snow in the forest so they could host a private Frost Fair AT COURT! Seriously though, for a one-off location the Frost Fair was extensively gorgeous and curated and it felt wintry. All the sweaters and caps and eerie masks and snowflakes: delightful. 

Unfortunately Bash and Mary were so swept up in the delicate romance of the scene that they foolishly left the princes in charge of her basic, basic waiting ladies who, like immediately, like practically instantaneously, lost the kids.

Then this scene happened:

Come on, I was can't be the only one who had Nicholas Cage Wickerman flashbacks when the kids started taking off their cute little animal masks in a scene underscored by, like, horror movie strings. Aside from this reference the moment was fantastically creepy and, like so many shots in this episode, SUBLIME in the archaic sense of the word: a confusing rush of terror and overwhelming beauty at the same time.

That’s when Bash pulled Mary aside and revealed he’d actually arranged for Charles and Henry to be taken during the Frost Fest, and they were at that very moment being smuggled out of the country. Unfortunately what he didn’t know was that Clarissa was at that very moment clinging to the bottom axels of the princes' escape wagon, Cape Fear-style.

Then this happened:

I don’t think even Revenge has been ballsy enough to attempt a fake-out suicide of this magnitude. Queen Catherine hanging from a rope in her dungeon cell?! Of course as soon as Nostradamus started hustling her out of there it became obvious this was a scheme of theirs: He’d secreted (lol sorry I love that word) some kind of a harness into the spine of the Bible he left with her, and she was now free to escape. Unfortunately he kind of sort of mentioned her sons had been kidnapped. And Catherine refused to flee until she knew they were safe.

Is there anything more endearing and confusing than a villain you care about? Catherine’s ferocious maternal instinct makes it impossible to dislike her, even when she’s being outrageously murderous and traitorous and brewing up poisons like Sheila G bakes Brownie Brittle. Such was the strength of Catherine’s love that she went into full-on Die Hard mode and traveled through the castle-wall tunnels into Mary’s room, where she and Mary sleuthed out that Clarissa had taken the boys before they reached the “checkpoint” station. CLASSIC Mary/Catherine cahootin'.

Meanwhile in Paris, a mysterious champion had risen to free Lola from her uncomfortable situation: FRANCIS WAS BACK! And he was lookin’ quite a way, gambling like there was no tomorrow and side note: What were you even doing there, Francis? Francis, you're in a dark place right now, aren’t you, Francis? Francis bet a comical amount of money that he would draw a higher card than ole’ Robert Dreadford and won Lola her freedom.

This led to a drunk conversation where Francis appeared very sad and Lola appeared very oblivious to the simple logic that tells us to not get involved with a close friend’s ex, especially when that close friend is also our all-powerful boss and overlord. Whatever, everyone breaks that rule (especially teenagers), and I’m sure tons of people are going to be heartbroken about this latest wrinkle in Francis and Mary’s ever-more-complicated relationship. But y’all, when you get on the TV roller coaster you don’t complain about the dips. You can’t have the highs without the lows when you root for a couple. And keep in mind: As soon as the pair you want to be together gets together you will—oh yes, you will—lose interest. We live for the tension. We seek the impossible. We reach for stars. So APPRECIATE the angst. It’s what you're supposed to feel. If you have “Frary” carved into every tree in your mental landscape, don’t clear the forest, because Francis had a sad sex sesh (complete with morning breath) with Lola. If his night with Olivia was any indication he was probably imagining someone else the whole time anyhoo.

So if you weren’t completely numb from Lola forfeiting all right to look Mary in the eye ever again via genitals, your emotions were about to take a sharp rock to the back of the head. Clarissa, who had begun the boys' Nightmare Babysitting Experience by leading them into the dark woods while wearing half a wooden face, now instructed the little boys to fill their pockets with rocks, Virginia Woolf-style, as Bash led Catherine and Mary to confront her.

A standoff ensued with Clarissa wearing her seriously poorly sized mask and holding a knife to her half-brother’s throat while Mary and Catherine tried to talk her down. In a delightfully weird line, Catherine said it was at this moment that she recognized her as her daughter: ready to do murder to get what she wanted. Then a bunch of terrible names just like, fell out of her mouth about Clarissa, and despite the tension of the scene it was kind of hilarious.

Mary saved the day by stealthily moving out of the frame and clobbering Clarissa with a rock. What was incredible about Adelaide Kane’s work in this scene was the absolute regret she emoted. After all, Clarissa has been a sort of guardian angel to Mary all this time, and while Clarissa has proved beyond a doubt that she’s guided by arbitrary motives and no ethical code whatsoever, it seemed quite clear that Mary felt a real gratitude toward her. Maybe because Clarissa was consistently a way better friend than any of the braidies. I mean, who would you rather have covering your back: Clarissa or Lola? And Adelaide really gave the moment a gravity.

Also touching was that Catherine admitted she now owed the lives of all her sons (but not her daughter obviously) to Mary. These two are soooo secretly BFFs. Their mutual respect is one of the best things about this show.

Even though Clarissa was subsequently thrown down a hill and left to the wolves, I think we can all agree she is alive and well. And when she inevitably slips back into the castle she will be quite the wild card and a legit Lady Phantom. Exciting!

So finally, Mary rounded off the worst weekend ever by proposing to Bash, and Bash reacted by proposing right back—but Francis is on his way back to the castle! NEXT WEEK IS GOING TO BE EXTREME. Will next week’s episode, titled “The Consummation,” be the consummation of our fears? Our hopes? Bash and Mary in the honorable bed of matrimony? Catherine saved from judicial murder? I can’t wait to see. But bros, tell me how you’re dealing with the shakes and quakes of “Royal Blood.” Are you mad at Francis? Is Lola taking her sweet time finding the hole that leads all the way to hell that she needs to fall into? Let’s hold court.


... Francis and Lola: an abomination, your new OTP, or file it under “sometimes friends make messy decisions”?

... Why was Clarissa’s mask so plus-sized?

... What is your favorite activity at the Frost Fair?

... Mary proposing to Bash: another unselfish act to secure the safety of the young princes, or mounting evidence that Bash is pulling ahead in her queenly affections?

... Can you think of a drama series where a couple got together and just stayed together and you were like “YESSSS MORE STABLE RELATIONSHIP I LOVE THIS”?

  • Comments (194)
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  • Aeidail Oct 11, 2014

    So ok, the thing with the guards. Why would you chuck a body down a hill when there's a perfectly good lake right there? Those people need to work on their disposal skills.

  • saizen33 Mar 13, 2014

    I also loved how Bash gets along so well with Charles and little Henry. In episode 1.2, Charles asks if Bash can come along (when Charles meets his fiancé). In this episode, after Bash, Mary, and Catherine find Clarissa, you'd think that little Henry would run to his mother, but, no, he runs to Bash. Bash has obviously spent a lot of time with the kids over the years. So cool!!

  • ableitz Mar 04, 2014

    Love your reviews - I think im starting to look forward to reading them almost more than watching the show. I actually just went back and read them from the beginning and it made me realize that there have been a lot of plot holes since the pilot...

    1. what happened to mary's dog?
    2. what happened to Charles' fiance from Spain?
    3. what happened to Olivia?
    4. what happened to Francis' first mistress from the pilot?
    5. does anyone else feel like the vibe of the show has totally changed? I agree with an earlier comment that it felt like there was something missing after the midseason finale. they spent so much of the first part of the season showing Mary fight for Bash. You would think that she would mourn him a little, but i dont really think we have seen any of that.
    6. I agree that we have been missing the story line of the other characters. What happened to Diane? It seems like they completely wrote off her, Francis and Henry. Are Kenna and Henry no longer a thing?
    7. And I totally agree...Lola WTF...that just didnt make any sense.

  • saizen33 Mar 12, 2014

    2. I think Charles is about 10 years old, I think the intent was to just meet each other, and then when the kids turn 14-15 years old, then they would get married. I believe that she returned to Spain.

    3. In next week's episode (Futon Critic), Bash encounters Olivia in the woods, "an escaped victim of the terrors of the woods." So, evidentially she somehow made it out of the castle.

    6. I think it ended between Kenna and Henry after "Left Behind," When Henry told Kenna if he had to choose between Diane and Kenna, he would always choose Diane.

  • LilyRoRoSparks Mar 05, 2014

    Great Scot...what DID happen to Mary's dog?!
    Olivia is somewhere in the walls,either eating rats or feeding them (macabre!)
    Mary shifting from Francis to Bash was quite abrupt, and her reasoning- fear of a prediction by Nostradamus- it's hard to imagine that overriding a conviction that someone is your true love- not to mention they'd consummated their relationship & she might have been pregnant.

  • Rileyyy Mar 04, 2014

    3. I read somewhere the other day that an Olivia scene was deleted, probably from Left Behind. I think she's supposed to have left the castle & headed to town but she'll be back!
    4. Natalia was a lady in waiting to Francis' sister who get married in the first episode so I think she went with his sister to Spain with all her ladies.
    5. Pretty sure you meant Mary fighting for Francis and I agree!
    6. Diane left the castle because Catherine threatened to tell the King about her plot to get Bash legitimized but I'm sure she'll be back. And we'll see the King and Francis back at Court this week.

  • ableitz Mar 06, 2014

    interesting about the deleted Olivia scene...thanks for filling me in!

  • LilyRoRoSparks Mar 05, 2014

    Yeah good catch on #4

  • elizabethperalta1238 Mar 05, 2014

    Nice observation I did not know natalia was LIW to his sister!

  • elizabethperalta1238 Mar 04, 2014

    Kind of a rant: even though this show is taking many artistic liberties it is still a historical drama/fiction.

    Let us not forget that this is unlike other "love triangles", this is more political than love based [at times]. There are high risks at stake for all involved. So its not just oh francis how could he sleep with lola..., or OMG how did Mary move on so quickly. These characters are Royal, everything is different when you have a country to answer to and protect. Your choices affect many others, not just you and the other person involved. I am getting annoyed with people complaining about how quickly Mary is moving on [also shame on those putting Mary down and calling her derogatory names]. Do you think Elizabeth and Philip actually had the type of time that Francis and Mary had to get to know each other before they got married and he whisked her off to Spain? All Royal marriages were alliances and Mary just happens to live at the court where she is still trying to finalize that alliance [and her only shot to still get France is marry bash and force the legitimization if she has to by using her leverage as "rightful heir" to the English throne]. Look at the context this story is developing, dont just think its silly teenagers doing their thing. Yes I understand it is frustrating but its not just them being dumb there are reasons why things have occurred in this manner.

    I have rewatched the season up to this point and looking back I see Francis differently now. I disliked him very much in the beginning but I came to realize that he is just like Mary, he too will put his whole heart into something he sets out to do.

    He stated several times in the beginning that he did not want to allow himself to fall in love with her because things could change. Alliances can break [especially because Scotland has its weaknesses and an absent ruler and England is constantly a threat]. Princes and princesses/queens are pawns in a political game and in that time England was a powerhouse, especially due to their navy. So having to constantly defend Scotland might not always be in he best interest of France. Francis was thinking like a ruler as he was taught to do so. I think Mary was somewhat Naive when she first got to court because she had been raised by the nuns for so long [since she was 6] and I am sure that it made the notion more romantic and less political for her. It might have been different if she too grew up in the royal court of her home. She would know that the alliance is temporary and would only really be secured once they married.

    As we see them both progress in their feelings for each other, and Francis finally realizes how much he loves her despite the risks [Its not like now that if you break up with someone you might get back together, for them once they are married off to other people that is it, they will most likely NEVER see each other again] you see him really go on OVERDRIVE with the feels lol.

    I dont think Mary ever forgot about Francis [during her time getting to know bash], she mentions his name every episode pretty much since he left. Even without him physically being present, I still think he holds a lot of presence in her personal thoughts.

    I feel like Mary has significantly matured throughout each episode and she has been more Regal and more of a queen than when she first came to court. Initially I think due to all the other Royals and all of the plots against her life she was more vulnerable but letting go of Francis [yes I know based just on superstition] was a very mature/bold move for such a young [I think she is supposed to be 16] woman.

    Bash is just a pawn in all of this, it just so happens that it works out well for him. But he isnt stupid either. He knows, I am sure he is quite aware that Mary has gone through all this trouble because of her love for Francis. Obviously she is going to try her best to try to love Bash. I think you can love two people differently. Clearly she is IN love with Francis, I think she loves Bash but its not the same.

    I dont understand why people think her wanting to marry bash is a romantic notion, she wants it done for the ALLIANCE, her mother and her advisors in scotland expect it to be done especially because now they want her to claim England. Mary knows that she HAS to deliver when it comes to making sure scotland will be safe in time to come. Aside from the personal risk of going after England she needs to make sure that France will back her up if needed, because the English wont give up without a fight.

    Anyways my thoughts lol, can you tell how much I adore this show? :D

  • jennacrothers3 Mar 05, 2014

    You adore The show or Francis? whichever is fine but we'll see in the next couple of episodes that unlike Mary he has not changed at all. Speaking of alliances, that is the only reason Mary loved Francis in the first place, a childhood dream of having your husband love you, that it won't be about Scotland and Frounce but that's all it is a bouns she would have to deal with any of her husbands shit , remember Thomas. Here's what's going to happen, Mary will marry Francis because it's right for her country, happy wedding, after the honeymoon? Finding out about him and Lola? They'll get into another fight and he'll going bang someone else because that's who he is, how he behaves and that won't change

  • elizabethperalta1238 Mar 06, 2014

    I'm down with whatever makes Marry happy. She is the show. To me its not just about frary or mash. But seriously the one aspect of history they are sticking to is her marrying francis everyone knows that already.

  • winterbmine Mar 03, 2014

    While I enjoyed this episode and am so happy it's back on, I was disappointed in Mary's decision to just marry Bash. Not for any Frary Mash reasons, but because what I so admired about Mary's character was how she put her country first, and left nothing to fate. And now here she is leaving it to fate--like Bash said, she could end up married to a landless bastard. Whom she loves, yes, but would mean very bad things for her kingdom.
    Still. Happy it's back and I'm excited for Francis to return to court.

  • melissaky Mar 03, 2014

    Mary's response to Bash in "Royal Blood" when he tells her she could be stuck with a "landless bastard for a husband" in my opinion answers the question about the motive behind her proposal and that motive is great feelings, if not love, for Bash. The work "risk" is the key and Bash & Mary clearly addressed how risk is defined as well as the deeper meaning behind it in "Inquisition".

    In Inequisition, Bash tells Mary "the risks Catherine talked about are real. You could marry me & I could be pulled down from the thrown". He then tells her he doesn't want to withdraw from their engagement because he is committed and wants her to commit also. He refers to "RISK" and explains that she has committed politically but the political reward versus risk is not his motivator because it is not enough for him (translation - it's not the crown or country, it's Mary) and he doesn't think [the political reward] is enough for her either.

    In Royal Blood, we see Mary revisiting his words and comments about "RISK". After Bash tells her marrying without the Pope legitimizing Bash could leave her "stuck with a landless bastard for a husband", Mary tells him without hesitation "I'm willing to take that risk".

    Translation? Mary is willing to take that risk, being stuck with a landless bastard for a husband who was pulled down for the thrown, not because of the political reward because that isn't enough but her feelings for him are.

  • elizabethperalta1238 Mar 03, 2014

    I still feel like everything she has ever said to bash is due to her need to protect Francis at all and any costs to her own happiness. I am both a Mash and Frary fan, but what drew me to this show is the Frary chemistry, it is undeniable how much pull there is there. You just cant compare to Mary and Bash scenes as cute as they are.
    Remember marry is a Queen and she HAS to marry, it is her duty. If she wasn't being forced to marry anyone due to the impending death of the Queen of England I do not think she would be so rushed. Also her family would never allow her to marry someone that would in no way benefit Scotland. Her move was political, she clearly stated that she wants to force the pope to legitimize bash, the risk of him possibly not being legitimized is something she is willing to deal with because the option of Bash is all she has at this point to both save Francis and do what is best for Scotland in terms of the French alliance. She has never once at this point expressed that she loves Bash.
    When it comes to love and politics, especially for a royal in those times. Politics wins, and Mary/Bash situation is a crystal clear example of a Queen trying to save an alliance with a country she needs for the safety of her people, and now more than ever because despite the fact personally she does not want to go after England she will be forced to by Henry and her family. So Elizabeth and her supporters are coming after her regardless. Ultimately in order for Mary to lead she has to have strong political alliances and support. Mary's probably very concerned about her own well being much more so than love at this point.

  • kayladollar Mar 03, 2014

    i love watching this show all the time at my house when i have nothing else to do at my house i like to stay home instand of going out with friends

  • megijen Mar 03, 2014

    "Can you think of a drama series where a couple got together and just stayed together and you were like “YESSSS MORE STABLE RELATIONSHIP I LOVE THIS”?"

    Only one, Lily. One Tree Hill. Nathan and Haley.

    PS Love your reviews.

  • Scrabble Mar 03, 2014

    Agreed. Nathan and Haley together ended up being the backbone of that show. When OTH created random obstacles to try and add 'drama' it often didn't work.

    I'd also add Leo and Piper in Charmed. They got together relatively early in the show (considering how many seasons it ran for) and had their share of drama but they always felt like a unit. And once they were together, I found their building a family just as interesting (if not more so) than the early days.

  • Super_Dooper Mar 03, 2014

    Yeah that's true, whenever Haley and Nathan were fighting it was awful. They are like, one of Drama's cutest couples.

  • meerkatlove Mar 02, 2014

    I do believe this is going to get nastier "down the road" I the only one that remembers "Bash" shoving a peasant (who was in the dungeons for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving child) off the cliff because he admitted to knowing who Bash was (& that Diana was his mother) ...Don't expect much brotherly love to have survived all this & Mary with all good intentions is sure making a muck of things....I expect (hope) more to come...
    I do like both Francis & Bash wished they would have concentrated on them working together fighting court intrigue, the pagans, the English, the headless horseman but it was not to be....

  • ruxiavram5 Mar 02, 2014

    Wow! So Francis is a V-card collector. Olivia, Mary, now Lola... Who's next?

  • Super_Dooper Mar 03, 2014

    Nah, Lola was with that guy who tried to rape Mary (pretty sure they were engaged?) She even said that to Francis "Don't worry I've known a man before."

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