‘Reign’ Review: Mary Is King for a Day in the Compelling ‘Reversal of Fortune’
Recap and review of Reign – Season 2 Episode 18 – Reversal of Fortune:
Reign is coming down to the wire on Season 2, and while the story seems to only get more complicated, with all the love triangles and prophecies and threats of death, it actually is beginning to even out. “Reversal of Fortune” is gradually bringing disparate plot threads together, in a way that suggests that the missteps of this season haven’t been for nothing.
Mary (Adelaide Kane) has consummated her relationship with Condé (Sean Teale), but there’s an underlying guilt poisoning her newfound happiness. Namely, the sicker Francis (Toby Regbo) gets, the worse she feels. And Catherine (Megan Follows) makes sure to pile on the guilt. “I never imagined you would kill him by breaking his heart,” Catherine says, which only really makes sense if Catherine is a superstitious woman. But considering her season-long arc with ghosts and strange visions, and recalling her unwavering trust in Nostradamus, it’s easy to understand how she might see Mary’s relationship with Condé as the cause of all this. Of course, Francis’s illness causes new complications for Mary, beyond just making it difficult for her to run away with Condé. For one, Protestant rebels are attacking Scotland, and they don’t have the troops to fend off the attack. Mary could send French troops, but this will weaken France’s protection. However, if she sends no one, and Francis ends up dying, she won’t have the authority to send any French troops at all. This is where having Condé on her side comes in handy, as the Prince reveals that Narcisse (Craig Parker) commands his own private army, which Mary could order him to rally. And this is exactly what she does, essentially telling the defiant Narcisse that she’s the king now, as long as Francis is incapacitated. Naturally, Narcisse takes this information to Catherine, and it feels as though whatever bond was being built between Catherine and Mary is being torn asunder by all this political maneuvering. But it’s among the more interesting storylines of the season, since it gets down to the brass tacks of what it takes to lead a country. Mary’s job has never been easy, as her loyalties are divided between her homeland, and the country she’s called home for years now. Mary is a queen of both Scotland and France, and yet, her power is so tenuous that she might as well be queen of neither. Mary is someone constantly attempting to prove her authority, and I love that Adelaide Kane plays Mary as someone with a chip on her should. It makes sense, after all, since Mary does have everything to prove, and everything to lose if she doesn’t.
But the Francis illness also has other repercussions that echo throughout the episode. Perhaps most interestingly are the complications with Bash (Torrance Coombs). He realizes that by having Delphine use magic to save his life, he may have condemned his brother to death. And so he goes about attempting to rectify his failings. Surprisingly, Bash finds a figure from the past about to be hanged in the village square: Clarissa, Catherine’s firstborn daughter. Bash bails her out and takes her to Delphine’s cottage, where it appears she’ll be safe. That is, until Bash apparently realizes that he can save Francis by fulfilling the prophecy of Catherine’s firstborn dying. In what is essentially the character’s darkest moment ever, Bash poisons Clarissa and leaves her to die in Delphine’s cottage, satisfying the demands of the prophecy, and apparently bringing Francis back from the brink of death in the process. You could make the argument for just about every character in the series occupying a moral grey area, but Bash has frequently been one of the few, if only, characters who represents absolute goodness. He’s someone who’s always tried to do the right thing, even at the cost of his own happiness and well-being. By committing an act of such moral reciprocity, even if for the sake of saving his own brother, Bash turns over a new leaf as a character. I’m not necessarily saying that he’s going to be a darker character from here on out, but we now know that Bash is capable of such acts. And it makes him a more formidable person, because we can see that he’s no longer a man with morally-imposed limits. Frankly, I think it makes him far more fascinating, though I understand if there are those out there who think this takes him too far over the edge.
Naturally, by episode’s end, things mostly manage to work out: Francis awakens and sends 2,000 French troops to Scotland on Mary’s behalf. This compounds her guilt over her relationship with Condé, since Francis is continuing to be pretty cool despite their mutual attempts at infidelity (although, unlike Mary and Condé, Francis failed in his attempts to get with Lola). But while Condé still wants to bail for Scotland, Mary isn’t so certain anymore. It’s less out of romantic feelings for Francis, and more out of a desire not to weaken him further. But I could almost see where Condé would think that’s simply a lie Mary is telling herself. It seems clear her heart is still pulled towards Francis, in some regard. And while her feelings for Condé have only amplified in the time they’ve spent together, this is still very much a love triangle, no matter how firm Mary has been in stating she chooses Condé. It’s an interesting development because it’s cloaked in the larger context of politics. Mary abandoning Francis has the potential to cripple France, and leave the nation looking weak without a Queen (or worse, give the world the appearance that Francis is a King who can’t keep his Queen). No matter how she feels, she can’t bring herself to do that to him. At least not yet. Not while he’s like this. And I think that gives the character of Mary more integrity as a ruler. She foregoes her own happiness for the good of the realm, and that should count for something.
The ancillary storylines this week are less interesting, however. Leith (Jonathan Keltz) is being blackmailed by a Cardinal into rounding up money from villagers, in exchange for granting Greer (Celina Sinden) an annulment. This, despite Greer essentially opening up her own brothel, becoming a madam to make ends meet. I’m not crazy about it, mostly because I’m not really sure what the endgame is here. Ditto the business with Kenna (Caitlin Stasey), who seems somewhat rudderless as she spends the episode searching for Bash, flirting with a General named Renaude, and reporting back to Mary. Stasey is too talented to be doing so little, and I worry that the show might not have a whole lot left for her to do this season. Hopefully, the business with Bash comes to a head. Perhaps Bash hooks up with Delphine, causing a further rift? Or maybe his contact with Delphine makes him realize how much he actually loves Kenna? I’m not sure, but it seems strange that there’s such vagueness, this close to the end of the season. It’s exhilarating but also kind of worrying. Still, I have faith that the show can tie everything together, since Reign has been doing a good job of bringing the disparate plot threads to a head.
Ultimately, “Reversal of Fortune” wasn’t the most riveting episode of the season, but it was unmistakably compelling, all the same. From Bash walking down a dark path, to Mary’s feelings being further complicated by her circumstances, this is exactly the kind of Reign I’ve wanted all season: a show whose emotional stories are rooted in the conflicts of leadership. It’s very taxing to be a ruler, much less a good one. And we’re really seeing now just what Francis and Mary are made of, as leaders of their respective nations, even if we’re not seeing them as a partnership, at the moment. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Reign, as we head into the final four episodes of the season.
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