Reign Season 1 Finale Review: To Splinter in My Lady's Sight

By Lily Sparks

May 16, 2014

Reign S01E22: "Slaughter of Innocence"

The king is dead, long live the king! Oh man, I am going to miss King Henry so much. Alan Van Sprang’s infinitely entertaining king never stopped being likable, no matter how busy his fingers or sinister his plans, and his moments of partnership with Catherine were some of the series’ best. We saw a range of kingly emotions, from lust to rage to tender dad-ness, and I’m going to seriously miss both the character and the actor.

Although, insofar as the plot goes, talk about someone dying right on time. Scary as the vaguely death metal episode title “Slaughter of Innocence” sounded, it was the epic finale our bold new series deserved, closing out Reign’s stellar freshman season with a one-two punch of much-needed resolution for some ongoing storylines plus a flourish of cliffhangers to keep us twirling our side-braids until next fall.

The finale started with what felt like the last scene in a classic English country-house murder mystery: everyone in their pajamas as King Henry promised he was about to deduce who had tried to kill him in the previous episode. But he got bored and just stabbed Travis, and then told everyone to put on their party clothes.

Francis was like, “Yo my guys, Henry is not getting any better I guess.” But it was too late to try another assassination attempt; their best bet was to wrest power with a coup. 

Before Francis could go convince several generals to back him in a possible civil war against his father, he thoughtfully gave Leith some lands and houses and deeds, as promised. Very swag! Leith was off like a shot to tell Greer that now they could be married, but Greer took one look at the pile of papers Francis had given Leith and was like, “Eh, I don’t know... these holdings aren’t great. Orchards? Hmmm.” Her financial acumen deserves some applause here. I wish my mental math was that quick. 

Greer was basically like, “Girl I walked half-dead off a battlefield with you AND didn’t flirt with a cute redhead down the hall, and this is how I’m repaid. Eff this, I’ve got a mock battle to participate in.”

Henry was celebrating the capture of Calais by having the recently returned soldiers reenact a fake naval battle. Already this sounded like the most hellish experience imaginable for participants, but then poor Mary had the added indignity of King Henry sitting next to her, fawning over her, and actually reaching up under her fur throw to see how excited she was about the battle, all with Catherine giving them the side-eye. It was major Stranger Danger.

Also filed under Stranger Danger: Pascal and Kenna had their house broken into by the Darkness (the pagan man, not the band), and Kenna had to turn a pantry into a panic room, which she managed quite handily while the Darkness encouraged Pascal to spill her blood. 

Meanwhile, Bash and Nostradamus were off serving as unofficial ministers of Interior Affairs, because while Fronce was super eager to get its rule on in England, it hadn't figured out how to keep Pagans from butchering whole villages within its own borders. Bash and Nosty happened upon a whole village full of crime scenes with crude drawings on the walls that predicted a coming plague. 

Of course, predicting plague in the 16th century is kind of like predicting summer blockbusters in our current time. They popped up with regularity, is what I’m saying. 

But that naval battle! It turned into a legitimate nightmare when one of the ships got 100 percent blown up with a cannon.

Henry had insisted that his veterans reenact a battle with real cannons, sending a tide of bloody bodies up the shore, where Francis literally stumbled across them. After learning of both the mass-murdering bent his father’s mania had taken and the orders for 3,000 soldiers to despatch to Calais, Francis was like, “ENOUGH starring Jennifer Lopez I am SHUTTING THIS DOWN.” 

Back at the castle, Catherine and Mary called a Queen’s Qlub emergency meeting to discuss Henry’s pawing and his recent request that Catherine annul their marriage. The moment they both realized at the same time that this added up to the certain murder of Francis by his own father, I literally felt chills. 

In the castle square, a shaken Greer was going around peeking at the bodies pulled in from the disastrous mock battle and looking for Leith. She was just going around like it was NBD peering at the dead guys, and this knight came up to her like, “I have a list of the wounded and dead if that’s helpful," and she was like, “No no I’m actually kind of enjoying playing peekaboo with these horribly mutila—" and Leith was like, “I’m ALIVE!” and they embraced. It was genuinely delightful.

Still, even after experiencing the heartbreak of believing that Leith had died, and realizing how deeply she loved him, Greer was still not ready to take the plunge and elope. She had to think of her family’s debts, her sister’s happiness, her 401k options. Leith was incredibly frustrated that she was throwing away what they had, all, “What if I guarantee you that in 400 years none of this stuff—money, titles—none of it will make a difference!” and Greer was like, “Oh please Leith, socioeconomic hierarchies will always exist no matter how they’re defined, even in a future progressive society where democracy is the ideal there would still be a monied class monopolizing jobs and resources and functioning as de facto royalty but without any of the obligations to charity our current nobles are bound to via theocratic monarchy.” And then Leith pulled himself up to his full height and told her that for her jaded, cynical attitude, he was going to become the Great Gatsby.

I actually found his speech to Leith rather touching, it put me in mind of this one Wyatt poem I adore, and I’m already slavering to see this storyline unfold.

And what of Lola? She had gone into labor next to the most unwelcoming household in all of Fronce. The baby had decided to arrive and the only shelter around was a sincerely dirty hovel and Lola was like, “This. This is the place. Put down some newspaper, this is happening.” The very alarmed woman living in the hovel was like, “Open your eyes, this place is an infection waiting to happen, are you crazy?” But Lola had already scrambled into the back room and heaped up some old rags to have her baby on. As she writhed with birthing pains, she dictated a letter to Mary, to be sent to the castle POST HASTE.

Mary had put her head together with good ol' Uncle De Guise and he proved to be something of a life coach. He pointed out that if King Henry was toppled in a coup, Francis would also be tainted by association, and so Uncle De Guise encouraged Mary to make some bold moves and position herself as the figurehead of any revolutionary-type action. Mary reacted by whipping up a statement dress at the Royal Joust.

A couple things here: 

First, I have seen feature-length movies that did not stage as convincing of a joust set-up as Reign did. The stands, the riders, the concourse—it was phenomenal. The show must've tucked away some extra budget for this finale sequence, and every penny was onscreen. Just fantastic. 

Second, Mary’s entrance in the English-themed dress and the crowd cheering at her political audacity was as dramatic as it needed to be, although considering some of the gems she’s catwalked across the court in the past, this sort of thing should have happened a lot sooner.

Her moxie was so moving that she inspired Henry to try to steal the spotlight by getting in on the next joust. And then Francis, in disguise, broke a lance on his dad’s face, murdering his father.

He was like, “SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE starring Diane Keaton.” And after Henry and Catherine shared a tearful goodbye, Henry revealed that he’d killed his own brother to take the throne, and warned Francis that killing someone you love is the worst—the WORST—thing you can do, even worse than blowing up a boatload of men who just returned from fighting in your name. Henry died without Francis understanding that his father had plotted to kill him, and perhaps that’s better—to feel like a loved villain, rather than to know your own father had plotted against you. It's hard to say which perspective is worse, really.

Bash, meanwhile, had somehow managed to break into his house, and he and the suddenly badass Nostradamus EASILY handled the Darkness. For a faceless legendary entity, the Darkness went down like a cup of berries in a blender. He explained to Bash that he was only doing what the gods demanded by killing children and dressing like a monster, to keep nature in balance. “It’s the Circle of Life,” he argued, but Bash wasn’t having it.

He put an ax in the dude’s head, which is one definite way to end a conversation, and he and Kenna went back to court, presumably, which is when we got to see this beautiful moment:

Perfect. Genuine chills. Shown not told, this scene was perfect.

Mary and Francis had a moment to unpack the major life events they had both encountered, Mary mentioned how she was kind of turning into a calculating badass and Francis was like, “We’ll work on it.” And then they had an opportunity to do so almost immediately with a letter from Lola. Mary revealed that the baby was Francis’s and begged him to go to Lola’s side, in case she didn’t survive the birth. Toby Regbo’s reaction was completely fantastic, Adelaide Kane did a good job of seeming both contrite and urgent, and really this whole scene was fabulous.

And then the twist: The plague had struck! If Francis left the castle, sure, he’d see his firstborn but he might also get the plague and die. At the very least, he could not return to the castle until the plague was over, lest he contaminate the whole royal family. This is very accurate; all of King Henry VIII’s court would move castles when the plague descended, folks did not joke around with the plague. Francis told Mary he had to go to Lola’s side, and she ordered for the portcullis to be lowered, signaling that while he was following his heart, she was determined to be the queen she had to be. DRAMA!

It’s thematically a beautiful ending to Mary’s transformation and the choices she’s had to make between her emotions and her rational mind. Plot-wise it’s incredibly compelling, and I can’t wait to see how Lola and Francis do with their baby now that they're cut off from the castle. It’s both closure and suspense, and snaps to that for real. ALL THE SNAPS TO THEE, OH REIGN!


... So is Greer going to end up being Leith’s mother in law or... ? 

... What should Francis have done? Was he foolish to leave the castle, or did he have an obligation to Lola and the baby?

... Is there any possible way to bring King Henry back, or his he officially history?

... Will Mary ultimately deny Francis a return to the castle?

... Lola’s baby: boy, girl, name, royal bastard, what will happen?

... What moment gave you the biggest chill?

What'd you think of the finale? What do you think lies in store for Season 2?

  • Comments (157)
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  • Chocolatier Jun 05, 2014

    Leith is so annoying now. It's like a 360 degree character reversal. I don't understand how such a kind and compassionate character, suddenly now with land titles could actually be so inconsiderate. Greer is giving up so much because she understands that her sisters are relying on her, and while yes it sucks for her, the Leith that was a servant would be understanding of this. Disliking swagger Leith so much. But Greers fiances daugher is hot! Stay away from Leith missy, he's trouble.

    The hug between Bash and Francis was amazing!!!! So so so good. Also I love a good plague, so I can't wait for it to fully hit. Can't wait for next season. Also I agree Lily, I would stand up and cheer every time Mary walked into a room because her dresses are always stunning....or I'd cry because I really want every costume the girls have worn. Cannot wait for next season!

  • Cuttlefish Nov 14, 2014

    Yes, this! I know this is old, but I only just watched this episode.
    Leith might have a point if it wasn't the freaking 1500's where women were literally property and marrying a super rich man who not only respects you, but has given both you and your sisters as much autonomy as a woman could ever hope to get in those days is not something you'd just throw away. Besides, maybe because I'm old and not as hopelessly romantic, but marrying the kind, gentle Castleroy would be the better long-term prospect happiness wise. Sure she has passion with Leith, but when that burns out, what does she have? Better to be with the guy you may not be wildly in love with, but that you have a solid friendship and mutual respect with.

  • MaryRegina May 22, 2014

    Thanks Lily for your review! For your questions:
    1) I still think that Greer will marry Castleroy and somehow he will die so she will inherit his money and after a lot of angst, Greer and Leith will end up together.
    2) Ok so I know that Francis going to rescue Lola and his baby is noble and all but I really wish he didn't go in the end because he is the freaking King of France, it is irresponsible to put himself in danger like that. Also, it is so obvious now that they will use the plague story to explain Francis' death.
    3) I don't think the writers will bring Henri back. I am sure that the writers have plenty of other plots of storylines in the future for us.
    4) Mary might if there is a slight chance that she believes Francis might have the plague. But on the other hand, he is the king so I don't know how that can play out.
    5) Ok this is really mean of me to say but I kinda hope there will be no baby in the end. The baby is just extra drama for frary and I just don't want it.
    6) I think I won't be original here: Francis' and Bash's hug scene.

  • kiss93 May 22, 2014

    The Francis and Bash hugs was the best moment of the finale, perhaps of the whole season!
    As we know the show can do anything they want but in reality neither Mary or Catherine, or anyone else for that matter, would be able to keep Francis from coming back to the castle and bringing whoever he wants with him. After all Francis is the King now and Mary is only Queen Consort until a coronation is held and she is crowned.
    While do not want Reign to lose its' "Reigness" in season two, I would like it I they could slow the pace down just a little and let us savor more of the important moments.
    I have love, love loved the whole season but there have been a few times, like the wedding episode, where I have kind of felt cheated out of the greatest of the event. And while I loved the finale I did once again feel like I was being rushed through some very important moments.
    I am hoping that next season the can give a really grand and lavish royal episode, maybe a great coronation episode, to make up for giving only partial episodes to some of the most important events of season one.
    I will not even begin to predict what will happen in season two because part of the reason I love this show is it is not always predictable.

  • cvh May 21, 2014

    Ah the clothes! That's all I have to say. The show is fine but I mostly watch it for the blunders of costume from Mary and her ladies. It gets more and more ridiculous. Empire hemlines, cut-off arms, peep-holes, mesh backs, sweetheart necklines. Ridiculous!! Love!

  • Chocolatier Jun 05, 2014

    I think you mean it gets more and more stunning ;) I'd be so annoyed if they dressed them with historical accuracy, then I wouldn't get my weekly fix of beautiful gowns!

  • cvh Jun 12, 2014

    If I chose not to laugh the entire show off as CW's writers exploding at the opportunity to be farcical then I would be pissed off. But as it is I am a cross between pleasantly amused and bewildered. A happy medium.

  • jillybean1220 May 20, 2014

    -Bash and Francis embracing was just too much. I loudly "awwwwed" at that one. They've come so far from the squabbling brothers involved in a love triangle (which I kinda miss if I'm being honest). Come to think of it though, Francis is on the loose looking for his baby's mama and now Mary is quarantined with Bash and Kenna. A new love triangle perhaps?

    -Leith's speech was amazing, but I see Greer's point. She needs to think about more than just her heart. I hope he goes all Great Gatsby, with the red head to boot.

    -I'm over the pagan/Darkness story line. Just doesn't do enough to hold my interest.

  • googlehoop May 19, 2014

    It was a great season finale, as the writers managed to pull out a few surprises. I think they've demonstrated they're not afraid to kill off a major character (RIP King Henry). That doesn't bode well for Francis, and I agree that the writers are following history (at least loosely). I only hope that they will allow Francis to live longer, and that this plague will not be the cause of his death. I do enjoy his relationship with Mary, and also that of Kenna and Bash. The subplots of Greer/Leith/Castleroy and Lola/the baby are also entertaining and well-written. All in all, much to look forward to next season!

  • dcher10349 May 19, 2014

    This stupid computer keeps submittg before I finish. As I was saying'Julian said he doesn't want children and he drops Greer for kissing Leith. In the next moment he falls for Lola who tells him she is pregnant. Talk about completely turning around. I did like him as a character and wish they didn't write him out. Maybe he'll come back.

  • ReignorShine May 19, 2014

    Always look forward to your reviews, Lily - a highlight of my week. I thought the season finale was beautifully written and acted. So many loose ends tied up but so many things left unresolved. I love the ethical questions the show sets up: Should Bash have been so quick to kill the Darkness when he knew about the plague prophecy? Should Catherine keep the death-bed promise she made to Henry about Diane? Should Greer hurt her sweet Castleroy and her sisters by following her heart and marrying Leith? Should Francis risk all to help Lola and see his new child? I will miss Alan van Sprang - so sexy and dynamic. I loved the tender moment between Francis and Bash, the joust, and the scene at the end where the portcullis separates Mary and Francis not only physically but also symbolically - enough to see through to each other, but a formidable barrier. This is one of the most original shows to come along on the CW. It mixes history and fiction, the old and the new, and is funny, quirky and dark all at the same time.

  • valkyrie06 May 19, 2014

    I am in mourning for King Henry. Next season he should run around the castle as a ghost - like the ghost king in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Just to keep him on the show even though he's dead

  • valkyrie06 May 19, 2014

    Based on Nostradamus' earlier vision of Olivia dead, I predict the castle is going to get infected by the plague whether Mary lets Francis back in or not. And I'm hoping Lola has a girl, otherwise things are going to be real hard for Frary next season.

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