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Reign S01E04: "Hearts and Minds"

One of the most heartbreaking lessons of adulthood is that the world is not a meritocracy. TV will tell you otherwise, but offscreen, “fair” is just simply not written into the physical laws of our world. Awesome talents go ignored until it’s far too late. The bad guys are sometimes the ones who get to put up the battle monuments. And fantastic shows go unseen and get canceled. Reign is trying to do something rare and right-hearted and weird and ambitious. It's not talking down to its audience and it's painting a forthright and original heroine. Although fewer and fewer viewers appear to be attending court, the show and its actors have incredible merit, and the show is on the right side—if not the accurate side—of history. 

Oh and BTW, my bad for not mentioning this before, but did you recognize Queen Catherine as ANNE OF F-CKING GREEN GABLES?!?! It didn't sink in for me until this episode. Megan Follows just straight up doesn’t look old enough to have starred as our beloved Anne of Avonlea all those years ago in far-off Canada. She is lookin’ GOOD, is what I’m trying to say, though truly that’s none of my business. Weirdly, though, the costume department has not yet featured her in a gown with puffed sleeves.

Our angsty royal teen soap opera opened this week with a tournament betwixt JUST Tomas, the Portuguese semi-Prince, and Frances, taking shots at a target that looked inexplicably like the “castle ghost.” Tomas handily won and handed off his favor, a decidedly phallic pink rose, to Mary.

Mary was stressed enough about Peaseblossom’s sidebraids slowly enveloping her entire head, poised to weave themselves into her nose and mouth, but then the tournament got super serious when Simon the Bitchy English Envoy was arrested for ambushing the French troops last week and sending Bash to Nostradamus’s studio for doctoring!

Nostradamus, in addition to being a vizier and paint-huffer, apparently also did a little medieval first aid, also known as grave-digging. Haha but seriously, what a terrible time to be sick and/or a human being. People died for want of Neosporin, basically. Bash was on death’s door, and Lola checked in on him, bewailing that he was going to leave this mortal coil “so soon.” So soon indeed! We're only on Episode 4! When Bash asked if she had the heart to stay with him and nurse him, she answered that she had nursed two brothers into the grave. So, fair warning: Lola is apparently a TERRIBLE TERRIBLE NURSE. Bash, perhaps deciding she shouldn’t handle any bandages, asked her to read him a coloring book.

Meanwhile things were NOT looking great for Simon: A hussy (or as Frances delicately whispered to Mary, “She’s a prostitute”) testified she had seen Simon apparently bragging about ambushing France in a French pub? Geez, this guy has cojones. Mary agreed to sign the prostitute’s evidence, magically making it true, and King Henry decreed the man would be beheaded as part of their Michaelmas celebrations. I am glad we no longer celebrate Michaelmas, is all I can say about that.

Mary and her four willowy maids would be hauling ass to Portugal directly after Michaelmas: They intended to leave in two days' time! Mary generously told her maids they didn’t have to go with her, they could stay in the French Court if they wanted to, and presumably become hussies to earn their keep. All the ladies were like, “Boo, we don’t want to be homeless, we can learn Portugese, 'hola' or something” but Kenna got that twinkle in her eye. Being a hussy suddenly seemed like a savvy lateral career move.

Mary and Frances were, perhaps now that they were no longer officially engaged, seriously feelin’ it with each other and up on all over each other if you get my drift. You don't know what you got 'til it's gone when it comes to smokin' hot royal fiancees. They were stealing little kisses between every sentence, and Mary even suggested they meet out of sight of the castle to make out on a blanket. This was a very cute scene where we learned that because of a fumbled childhood portrait, all of Europe believed Frances was a sickly dwarf! Haha, all of Europe believed his half-brother the better man, hoho! Once Mary started needling him on his insecurities and really negging him out, Frances was putty in her hands. Sexual putty.

Kenna, meanwhile, was pleading her case to the King: “Why remain loyal to your wife and/or the mother of your son, who’ve stood by you for for decades, when I’m horny NOW? Make me your mistress instead.” Almost zero guys ever have been able to resist this line of logical reasoning, but Henry actually told her that he had to be loyal and true to both of the women he was committed to. Wife, Mistress, and Honor: the code of chivalry. 

Tomas, meanwhile, had found out about Mary and Frances’ blanket diddle session, though we did not see how—every time two Portuguese people got together and started talking the scene cut away, making me think no one on the set knew a word of Portuguese. So Tomas mercilessly whipped one of his servants to intimidate Mary and get her to submit to her “betters,” a group of which he considered himself a part. It was around this time that Mary started thinking maaaaybe Tomas was not nearly as romantic as the pink roses and chests of costume jewelry might have led her to believe, a suspicion rapidly confirmed as Tomas continued shouting at her that he would rule Scotland like she didn’t even exist. But obviously if she didn’t marry him there’d be no Scotland anyway, moot point. Mary was really between a rock and an angry sociopath on this one, but luckily Frances and Bash had a plan.

Or at least, Frances and Bash had a gossip session that was immediately interrupted by Tomas, who was like, “Why can’t you talk shit to my face?!” He snapped on Frances pretty hard about how many ships he had access to (harsh), and was basically like, “Yeah Mary is mine, if I want to hold her upside-down and mop the floor with her pretty pretty hair, that’s my beeze.” Bash, showing that passion (or shall we call it "Bashion") for which he is apparently known all across Europe, was like, “Yeah, we gotta kill him.”

The ghost, proving even more useful than two royal brothers, put a chest full of Portuguese secrets in Mary’s room. Mary was like “I love you, ghost. And I miss hanging out.”

The girls, meanwhile, were determined to enjoy their last masque at Court by finding really sexy costumes for Michaelmas, which was going to involve a masquerade in addition to the big beheading! Again, super glad we no longer celebrate this jacked-up psycho holiday. Masques, in general, were like the Halloween of the 16th century: social permission to dress as sexy as humanly possible. And dress sexy they did... all except Lola, who apparently went to the 16th century version of a Rite Aid for her costume. 

Mary’s dress, however, was one of the best things that could ever happen to eyeballs.

So at the ball (THREE BALLS IN FOUR EPISODES THIS IS WHY THIS SHOW IS EVERYTHING), Simon was chained to a chair, like you do on Michaelmas, and Mary stopped by and started making smalltalk about what color the rose on his seal was. For a man minutes from the grim spectre of death, Simon was surprisingly witty and composed. After Mary was done chatting up the Condemned, her fiancée came across the room and squeezed her publicly. A public squeezing!

Despite that loathsome contact, Mary knew she now had the perfect intel with which to confront and interrogate that tramp whose evidence she'd co-signed. Mary gathered from the trollop's hot new shawl, cool new hoopty (okay, a vegetable cart), and the bitchin' mass of bruises on her neck that her testimony had been both bought AND coerced by Tomas. The hussy was hiding something about the true party that ambushed the French!! Guys I need a Cliff Notes for this teen drama!

Tomas was in the middle of dispatching the only other witness to his treachery with an arrow (Whipping Boy Miguel, or FML Miguel, as he's also known) when he was interrupted by rapscallion royal Hardy Boys Bash and Frances. Even though there were three guys fighting one angry dude, this fight was a pretty close call, and for the third time in two episodes, Bash was almost killed! But eventually Frances skewered Tomas like a corn dog, totally bumming himself out. In a moment of transcendent, basshionate bromance, Bash told Frances it was GOOD he was freaked out by killing someone. We are not supposed to be okay with killing people. How is it that I have almost NEVER HEARD this sentiment on TV before? Especially on The CW, where necks are snapped as casually as a Doritos bag might be opened. I appreciate u Bash. I APPRECIATE U REIGN!

Meanwhile at the ball Kenna was begging the King to hold off on killing the Envoy because any minute, witnesses would refute the testimony that convicted him. Henry was like, “I do as I please,” and then I was like, “Wait, where are your boobs?” In a shocking turn of events, Kenna was wearing a baggy shirt and for once he looked at her face and listened to her words instead of merely planning their next fingerblastin’ session. 

Kenna eloquently pleaded for the English envoy and Henry could not get enough of it. He told her that her confessing her feelings was so brave that he had no choice but to abandon his mistress and mother of Bash for her. Good job, Kenna! You successfully got a much older guy to agree to have sex with you and abandon not one but two families! You are a winner... until you, like, get older and some young up-and-comer does the same thing to you.

So all was well that ended well: Simon the Bitchy English Envoy will still be snipin’ around court causing Mary trouble, yet now he'll have some respect for her Angela Lansbury steeze. Mary is no longer engaged to Tomas, whose murder has been brushed under the rug, with Frances announcing he was gutted by a stag’s horn, and Frances and Mary’s engagement is to resume—with Mary negotiating her own terms!

Of all the many graces Mary possessed, perhaps none impressed Frances more than her business acumen in this affair. As he later praised her, she was a Queen any King would kill for.  BUT DIE FOR!? DUN DUN DUN Nostradamus wink.

After Frances and Mary were done chastely holding hands and talking about how they were committed to taking it slow, Mary then crept to the secret mouldering passage and basically told her Ghost, Clarissa that she was the greatest and she loved her always. It was genuinely touching how cool and appreciative Mary is with this creature everyone else is terrified by. Then the show was like HORROR STING CLARISSA UNDER THE BED! AHHH HUMANS CAN LICK TOO! No seriously are we really scared by this? Clarissa is the best and if I were Mary I’d even invite her to curl up by my feetsies.

So technically, the fourth episode leaves us exactly where we were the first episode: Mary and Frances are engaged, but negotiating the terms with no set date, Kenna and the King are having intense physical good times, a ghost is somehow the most in the know, Bash is... Bash, and Queen Catherine is most displeased about everything. However, now we’re confident that Frances and Mary are very much in love, and we’ve seen Mary be willing to sacrifice everything for her country but also stand up for herself. She’s a postmodern hero, she’s a semi-accurate sketch of a 16th century princess (but with better clothes). The CW keeps promoting this series as a hit, and I sincerely hope it is. I hope this show reigns over my Thursday nights for many seasons to come.


... Is Kenner going to get it from Bash’s mom?

... Tomas: too sexy to be a sociopath in your opinion, or just in mine?

... Which of Mary’s insanely gorgeous gowns was your favorite this week?

... Lola and Bash: awful pairing/should be destroyed?

... Will you take any steps this week to raise Reign awareness?

... How long do you think Reign will last? 

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