I feel like both a geography and an anatomy major after the extremely steamy/educational “Toy Soldiers.” This delightful sour candy of an episode volleyed between extremely wrought, bitter moments between Mary and Frances and truly sweet stuff happening everywhere else. We had Catherine making peace with the Bean Queen and recognizing her considerable savvy talents, we had Peppercorn being every girl’s dream suitor, and we had an apparently 16-hour lovemaking session betwixt Bash and Kenna. I mean, they started undressing sometime around noon and aside from Bash getting some water and presumably Power Bars at one point, I think they were steady sexing until brunch time the next day! Maybe I’m getting old, but doesn’t a nonstop 24 hours of sex sound sort of like a death sentence? But perhaps no moment was more adorable than the slow motion snowball fight in which each lady’s cape was more beautiful than the last.
It was nice to see a moment’s relief and establish that Mary had had a month to deal with Frances pulling rank on her. The girls also got a chance to reflect on the crazy twists of fate that had befallen them since they all sat around talking about their first kisses at the top of the season.
However, more troubles were on the horizon for Mary and Frances, as a page who may have been one of Macklemore’s ancestors approached with, you guessed it, bad news. Catholic Queen Mary de Guise was at the mercy of Protestants, and at that time obviously Protestants felt about Catholics the way, say, that people today who are really into organic food might feel about a MacDonald’s franchise owned and operated by Satan. With her mother’s life and therefore her reign in Scotland once again in a sketchy place, Mary appealed to Frances for a solution.
But Mary had no time to wait for Catherine to cut a check, she decided instead to contact her warmongering Uncle, Christian de Guise, known far and wide for being the most ambitious and tannest man in Fronce. I mean, look at that beautiful sun-kissed color on Gil Darnell!
But more importantly he was a ruthless throne-snatcher and power-grasper or whatever people in charge call their opponents when those opponents are both ambitious and effective. Basically Frances did not want Christian de Guise anywhere near his court, but Mary was starving for Scottish justice, and when you are truly starving you throw caution to the wind and just order Domino’s and mad-dog the pizza tracker ’til it shows up.
Catherine was all vexed, like, “You have let the devil in this house! Or should I say another devil because between my crazy husband and your scheming braidy-ladies we might as well just drape a giant flirty tanktop over the castle reading ’99% ANGEL,’ am I right?”
Nooo, that wasn’t a line but Catherine was cracking up every time she came on scene. Megan Follows’ dry, superior deliveries really pop with the withering dialogue she’s been delightfully doling out each episode, and Queen Catherine as a character just keeps getting better and better. Maybe my favorite B-story was her dealing with Penelope, the Disgraced Former Bean Queen who was trying to pregnancy-scare her way back into King Henry’s favor. Catherine gave her a harsh but necessary reality check by having her briefly thrown in the tower, but by the end of the episode Penelope was recruited into Catherine’s elite honeytrap agent circle, the Hoez who Knowz, a.k.a. the Flying Squad.
It’s another facet of Queen Catherine’s infinite lovability that she is definitely not a hater. She will crush you if you get in her way, but ultimately she finds the good in people and puts it to excellent use.
Meanwhile, Greer’s dad showed up and got straight to the business of publicly shaming her, I guess because he had not yet learned she was engaged to Santa Claus.
Lord Castleroy was throwing around 100,000-franc fortunes like so much confetti and lavishing Greer with praise right in front of her disapproving dad, and like, he enriched her whole family? And then he made it a condition of their marriage that she get final approval on her sister’s betrothal and her own (awww), causing them to have a genuine super sweet little kiss and RED ALERT DANGER CASTLEROY DANGER IS NIGH.
Everything would ONLY go this awesome between him and Greer if some truly terrible fate is about to befall their courtship. Either Greer is going to risk locking lips with Leith again, or Castleroy’s going to get a rare spice-related form of ebola or I don’t even know. I just feel deep in my bones that this “Things Couldn’t Be Going Any Better” motif = disaster for these two. No escaping it! This episode is like a Pizza Tracker of Doom, Greer and Castleroy. Of course, Reign has subverted my expectations before, so perhaps I’m wrong. I’d PREFER to be wrong. I just want my little Pepperpot to be okay.
Before Frances could secure a Western Union cash wire from his mom, King Henry literally rattled a saber and declared a war on England via the recapture of Calais. It is no secret that Mad King Henry is becoming one of the most entertaining elements of the series, his feisty loud-n-proud mania providing an elegant balance to Catherine’s restrained, self-possessed psychopathic tendencies.
Catherine reassured Frances that she’d already gone ahead and usurped the allegiance of the king’s generals, but amidst all this “Don’t Look at the Man Behind the Curtain I am the Great and Powerful Wizard of Valois” scrambling, Mary’s Scottish interests were getting pushed to the back burner—not to mention that Crazy King Henry snapped into coherence long enough to tell Mary off, like in the last act of 8 Mile. So Frances made a selfless bargain with the sun-kissed de Guise: He promised Mary’s uncle a place in his cabinet when he was king if de Guise would help protect HIS OWN SISTER in Scotland. Frances even insisted he would come along for the little ol’ war. Mary was massively grateful.
But that was before Frances realized that King Henry had actually managed to send a few pigeons out the window/somehow actually dispatch troops to Calais, regardless of his inability to keep pants on, and Fronce would need reinforcements simply to forestall a full-blown war with England. “Mary will just have to understand,” Frances said, convincing nobody, least of all himself, that Mary would understand. Rather than understanding, Mary gave perhaps the most damning speech of the series, bewailing her choice to marry Frances and bitterly regretting that her love for her husband had compromised her sagacity as a ruler. Adelaide Kane was incredible in this moment, and Toby Regbo projected genuine hurt. Plus, like, more money more problems. I mean, look at Kenna and Bash, not a penny in the world, not a responsibility, litearlly nothing to do except have sex for an entire episode! My lord that looked uncomfortable, one shouldn’t break in one’s loved one’s genitals like a new baseball glove, is what I believe, but different strokes for different folks. There HAVE to have been 16th-century Red Bulls just out of frame. All I’m saying on that point.
So now that Mary has recommitted herself to being more a queen than a wife, I suspect this will come to a head as we move toward the season finale. But first, some questions...
... Lord Castleroy: Uh-oh, what’s going to happen with him and Greer?!
... A 24-hour bout of sex: Is this a case of the crime also being the punishment?
... Pregnancy scare for Mary in the cards?
... Will Kenna ever completely win Bash over, or is his heart still singing “I’m a Slave 4 U” to Mary secretly?
AIRED ON 12/11/2014
Season 2 : Episode 10