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Reign S01E16: "Monsters"

First off, let’s give Alan Van Sprang a big round of applause. From introducing himself to a young lady via unbuckling his pants to pouring hot candle wax in the ear of a snippy noble, Van Sprang turned “Monsters” into his Scarface. He seemed to genuinely relish every villainous flourish, which made even the most disturbing parts of the episode wildly entertaining. But while Van Sprang stole the spotlight, in terms of plot, “Monsters” was a pivotal episode for the braidies-in-waiting and Bash. Greer lost her Leith and her reputation! Kenna is now Mary’s sister-in-law! Lola only fits into the 16th-century equivalent of yoga pants! And let’s not forget black-swan braidy Olivia, who got a filed-down human tooth pulled out of a festering wound in her back. So that’s what that smell was.

"Monsters" also gifted us with the conceit of the “Bean Queen,” which sounds like it should be a euphemism for something but actually isn’t. Reign’s “Bean Queen” could be rooted in the Mardi Gras tradition of the King’s Cake, which traditionally contains a figurine or a bean and whoever finds the tiny inedible trinket gets customary privileges, though nothing as dramatic as being the literal queen of a country for a day. It also seems extraordinarily generous that the Fronch court would make a cake the size of a bodybuilder out of refined sugar (known around the 16th century as “white gold”) to be eaten exclusively by servants, but as both a visual element and a plot device it was tasty as hell. It was also a golden opportunity for Catherine to sneak some knockout drops past Henry’s seven food tasters before he could go full-on Body of Evidence, wilding out and combining hot wax/sex/death/Madonna with another unfortunate noble.

Penelope seemed totally game to enter into cahoots with Catherine at first, but by the end of the episode it was clear that Bean Queen Penelope had her own agenda. With a wisp of Cockney swagger, a Natalie Dormer-esque smirk, and a dominatrix flair, Penelope quickly won Nutty Henry’s fevered loyalty. Considering Henry himself said that what triggered his insanity was a domineering woman, you’d think, logically, that submission would be the LAST sex game that would appeal to him, but hey, I don’t know that life, that 16th Century Syphilitic Mad King life. 

I also loved that later—when Penelope double-crossed Catherine by putting the Knockout Windex in Catherine’s own goblet of “my husband is craaazy and that B just sat in my throne” wine—Mary was there to catch her bestie mom-in-law when she conked out. Within moments, Mary had Nostradamus at Catherine’s side and was handling it. Just queens helping queens as only queens can. 

“Monsters” also went for the throat with Greer and Leith’s relationship and expanded a B-story plot into a A+ payoff. Greer’s ill-timed kiss with Leith cost her a handsome Hungarian husband-to-be and got Leith clapped into manacles. Later, Greer pointed out to Kenna and Lola how following their hearts had led them terribly astray. Kenna was but a scorned royal mistress! Greer herself was but a kitchen servant’s squeeze! And then hilariously, Greer was like, “Except for you, Lola,” and Mary shot Lola the most white-hot side-eye a camera has ever captured.

Greer’s Hungarian fiance is apparently going to trade in a lady who kissed another guy a few times for a wife who's secretly carrying the king’s baby. Upgrade? It’s sort of an upgrade? Politically, it could be handy. It was fascinating to consider a courtship playing out according to 16th century standards: The Hungarian guy (named Lord Julian? Reign has such a steady influx of hunks week to week it’s hard to keep up) didn’t particularly care about Greer making out with a peasant since he had just met her, but he wouldn’t stand for a breath of scandal around his wife, even if that scandal was only a confirmed kiss. That’s exactly how that would play out, give or take a few refunded dowries. Lord Julian does get points for being nice enough to leave behind the carefully wrapped box of Isotoner Slippers he had purchased for Greer despite the compulsory shunning. 

Ultimately, Greer’s kiss meant more than fumbling a proposal straight into Lola’s graspy little hands, it meant Leith losing his important Spice Internship (seasonings were like the Apple Computers of their day guys) and Greer having no choice but to accept Castlerod a.k.a. Pepperpot a.k.a. Peppercorn’s proposal. Peppers is legitimately the nicest guy on the show, and let me tell you young whippersnappers something when considering your own longterm partners: Kindness lasts. Floppy blonde wedge cuts fall out and fortunes can fail overnight, but a kind heart only improves with time. TRUST. So yeah, obviously it was excruciating to see Leith go off to the army (and look back one final time!), but props to Reign for making me care exponentially about this pair with this one tragic turn. How heartbreaking that they defended each other! How soon ’til Leith is back, guys? Are you going to make a Leith/Greer playlist in their honor? Will it include Blouse’s "Videotapes"? Just me?

Perhaps most importantly, BASH came back this week, bringing all those ambiguous feelings of protection and affection that Mary can ill but conceal. Francis told her not to get close to Bash, and in the next scene, she was striding into his cell. Mary claims she feels nothing but concern for Bash, but she was immediately offended that Bash had had a girlfriend (albeit a slightly chewed one). If you're rooting for Bash, this scene was huge, and let’s be real—Francis can be forgiven for taking Bash's manhunt as a thin pretext to see Mary again. Bash, you could've been on the shores of Spain with a Yardgarita instead of chasing a demonic 16th century Leatherface through the snow. Is your arm sore from that giant torch you’re carrying, Bash?

Bash did also bring news that Francis’s ex was in the castle as well, and Mary hilariously did not leave Francis’s side when they went down to interrogate Olivia, whose hair was STILL looking a way. No I actually love the way Reign's writers have developed Olivia. She went from being the archetypal Threatening Other Woman to being this struggling survivor with greater empathy for those around her. Thank you, Reign, for your track record of depicting women (even ones who sleep with guys who aren't their boyfriends) as whole people. Mary can still be wary, though.

Confident that the Darkness was neither demon nor rock band but mere man (albeit a super creepy one with a cult of followers and the inclination to both file down a tooth and leave it in a girl’s back), Bash and Francis decided to go catch the varmint. Of course, each guy not trusting that the other WASN’T trying to kill him made things awkward until Francis pulled an “Amy” (Little Women reference for everyone who's not 87) and fell through the ice. The trail to the disembodied hand was great enough, but holy cow that shot of Francis hilariously floating past Bash, like “Whooop gotta go!”

I couldn't've loved the amazing underwater shots with Bash rescuing Francis more. Just an amazing image, and it must've been SO hard to film. Well done, Reign, pulling off another ambitious visual. Story-wise, it was the fastest way to cement a peace between Bash and Francis. See, you guys shouldn’t be so quick to assume that your own brother is plotting to kill you. Maybe the real problem here is the sex fiend who's banging every woman with or without a pulse and running around a stone castle barefoot. Yes, Henry ordered the hit on Bash! And he had even more nefarious plans for his once-favorite son.

Kenna was somehow furious about this arrangement, as Henry had promised her a titled suitor, but hey: At least you don’t have to go through anymore 50 Shades of Syphilitic Sadism, Kenna. You’re free of your Faustian deal to please Henry until he finds you a hubby, AND it's Bash, he's a sweetie. The wedding was a shockingly abrupt turn for such a major character as Bash that caught me completely off guard, and as Kenna tearfully pointed out, a marriage can’t be undone. Benna wasn't betrothed, they were full-on wed, and now Mary and Bash and Francis are gong to be having hella awkward moments sitting at the same feast table in the castle cafeteria. 


... Mary seemed tres jalouse about Katniss, non?

... Olivia and Nostradamus: adorable, or technically a case of psychological transference?

... What are the chances Lola will get married without Francis finding out about the baby first: zero percent or 0.1 percent?

... Darkness: creepier that it's a psycho, yeah?

... If King Henry comes out of his Crazy Fugue, will he regret this forced marriage? Tangentially, WILL he come out of his Crazy Fugue before Catherine gets ahold of his porridge?

... Kenna and Bash?! Will theirs be A) a loveless marriage, B) a friendly power coupling that leaves them both free to do their thang, C) an unlikely but unstoppable romance?

What'd you think of "Monsters"?

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