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”?
AIRED ON 5/14/2015
Season 2 : Episode 22