‘Reign’ Review: A Revolution is Sparked in ‘Fugitive’
Recap and review of Reign – Season 2 Episode 20 – Fugitive:
Reign is a show of difficult, virtually impossible choices, because it’s a show that centers on the clash between politics of the court and the politics of the heart. “Fugitive” sees several characters making impulsive, gut decisions that they might even realize are bad in the moment they make those choices, but sometimes, you just have to go with your gut, wherever it may lead you.
I feel the one thing this affair between Mary (Adelaide Kane) and Condé (Sean Teale) has accomplished is illustrate the decline of Mary’s better instincts as a ruler. If the entire season has been an exploration into how Mary and Francis (Toby Regbo) have developed as monarchs, it’s also necessarily been an exploration into how they’ve failed in those roles as well. Here, Mary makes the positively insane decision to help Condé escape from France, forging official documents to make him appear to be a simple tanner. He’s inevitably caught, and Francis plans to have him executed for treason, but before that can happen, Condé is rescued by Queen Elizabeth’s envoy and his men. And now, the terms of the marriage with Elizabeth have changed: she can no longer marry a Prince or Lord, she must have a king. If Condé wants to become King of England, he’ll have to become King of France first. It seems like a daunting proposition at first, considering he’s on enemy soil, but Elizabeth’s envoy promises to deliver Condé’s troops to him, in addition to a host of Protestant sympathizers. In short, this could mean the downfall of Francis and the entire kingdom. That includes Mary. Seriously, it’s not as if Condé would just be able to wed Mary after deposing Francis, since he’ll have presumably used Queen Elizabeth’s men to secure that position, meaning he’ll need to pay back that show of good faith with a marriage alliance. What Condé is doing could mean Mary’s head, if he’s successful in taking over. It’s unlikely Queen Elizabeth would suffer Mary to live, at this point, as all potential claimants to the throne must be eliminated. Put bluntly, a revolution is sparked, and it’s mostly Mary’s fault for putting her emotions over her better judgment as Queen.
Of course, I could see why she did it. We’re not meant to hate Mary for what she’s done, even as Francis is tearing into her for thinking with her heart instead of her head. He knows things are essentially over with Mary: even with Condé gone, he recognizes Mary’s love will be with him regardless. Yet, even with this knowledge, both Mary and Francis understand the finality of what’s transpired. Much like Queen Elizabeth, Mary comes to the realization that only a King could survive her love, never anyone below her station. It’s a conclusion she comes to during a poignant scene with Bash (Torrance Coombs), in which Bash reveals that he’s been in Condé’s place before as a man beneath Mary’s station who, blinded by love, is drawn into a web of politics and deceit for which he’s not prepared. Mary is aghast upon realizing that her station is “poison,” since being Queen means she can never truly follow her heart without condemning the men she loves to misery or death. And so she decides that while she may not have the same love for him as before, Francis is basically the only person she can realistically be with right now. And it’s with that knowledge that she confronts him, saying they need to put this unpleasantness behind them and present a unified front as King and Queen. It’s all very powerful, well-acted material, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little choked up when Mary rests her head on Bash’s shoulder (“I’m sorry. Brave Mary, I’m sorry.”). But so much of the storyline is predicated on overlooking Mary’s questionable decision-making.
In fact, I would be pretty down on this episode if I didn’t think we were supposed to see Mary’s actions as foolhardy. In previous episodes, Mary has been impulsive, sure, but she’s been governed by a greater sense of duty, both to her kingdom in Scotland, and to the French people. Here, she decides to do something selfish for herself, something that could have repercussions that result in France being plunged into war. Yes, it was technically Queen Elizabeth’s men who rescued Condé, but Mary’s little tanner ploy bought Condé the time he needed for Elizabeth’s men to reach him. Without Mary, he’d have been jailed and awaiting execution long before the cavalry could arrive. Instead, Condé escapes and a revolution is birthed, with a war now brewing in the distance. Lives will be lost, simply because Mary couldn’t stomach seeing Condé executed. But then, that’s kind of the point of what’s happening with Mary’s character. Time and time again, she’s put aside her own feelings for the greater good of her kingdom, and it hasn’t really done her any good. She doesn’t get any greater respect from anyone (how many times has she had to remind people “I am the Queen!” in this season alone?), it doesn’t bring her any nearer to Francis, who ends up having a baby with Lola (Anna Popplewell), and it did nothing to prevent her from getting raped. With that in mind, it makes sense why Mary would decide to do something for herself for once, to allow the man she loves to get away and live his life, even if that life is without her. One of the few times she puts her own desires ahead of the kingdom, and it results in the potential for open warfare. So while I thought Mary’s decisions were crazy, I thought the episode was bold for exploring what happens when a monarch (more potently, a queen) tries to behave like a regular person would. The lesson for Mary, however unfair, is that she simply doesn’t have that luxury. She is, after all, a Queen.
The rest of the episode does feature similarly trenchant explorations into difficult decisions. For example, Catherine (Megan Follows) forces Narcisse (Craig Parker) to prove his commitment to her by breaking off his flirtation/friendship/possible romance with Lola. She wants him to do this by committing an unforgivable act, and while Narcisse is reluctant, he eventually does go through with it. A crude drawing of Lola is circulated by Narcisse, depicting her nude in his bathtub. When Lola confronts him about it, Narcisse plays the villain, letting her know how wrong she was to ever trust him. It’s a twist on the usual “Being a jerk to protect you, but I really do still care” trope. I’m sure Narcisse does still care about Lola, but he’s not really doing this to protect her, he’s doing it to protect himself, since he’ll never win Catherine’s trust without breaking it off with Lola. And yet, Narcisse still comes across as mildly sympathetic, since it’s clear that he doesn’t really want to have to do this to Lola. To his credit, Narcisse angrily tells Catherine that she needs to stop thinking that anyone who gets to know the real Catherine de Medici is incapable of loving her, but even then, it seems this relationship of convenience is a two-way street: Catherine straight-up tells Narcisse she doesn’t want his love, but rather the loyalty he commands. It could result in an interesting clash if war really does break out, since Narcisse’s private army will give him tons of leverage, should Francis need troops.
Conversely, Kenna (Caitlin Stasey) could find herself on the outs should a war break out. Not only is her relationship with Bash pretty much over, the new relationship she begins with General Renaude (Vince Nappo) could be just as doomed if he’s sent off to war before they can even be married. And don’t even get me started on Greer (Celina Sinden). On the one hand, I love that she wants to keep the brothel and remain independent, choosing to forsake romance in favor of her career. But if that’s the case, she probably should have told Leith (Jonathan Keltz) before he ended up on one knee, popping the big question. Yes, she is absolutely within her rights to reject Leith, and it is kind of unfair for him to ask her to give up the brothel when there’s no guarantee he won’t lose his station again once it’s “politically expedient,” but it still reads as though Greer has been stringing him along. She had to know he was saving to get her an annulment. And what did she think would happen once he saved enough? It just left a sour taste in my mouth. That said, at least it resulted in a poignant scene in which Claude (Rose Williams) shows a reluctant tender side by giving Leith diamond earrings to sell for the annulment money. Claude hasn’t had a whole lot to do in this half season, but I like Williams in the role, and hope she sticks around.
Ultimately, “Fugitive” is a study in difficult decision-making, as Reign brings clashes between two opposing forces to the fore, with Mary caught in the middle, and other characters drawn in from the periphery. That’s a powerful route for the story to take, because it ropes the entire ensemble into the chaos, and creates a greater sense of continuity between the disparate plot threads of this season. I thought “Fugitive” was a tremendous episode, and signals some explosive developments for the end of this season of Reign.
But what did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!
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