‘Reign’ Review: ‘The Siege’ Delivers Clashes, Cliffhangers and Tension Galore
Recap and review of Reign – Season 2 Episode 21 – The Siege:
I suppose it would be straightforward enough for this season to have built to a clash between Francis (Toby Regbo) and, say, someone like Narcisse (Craig Parker). But Reign has opted to go in the opposite direction, taking a character who seemed good at first, and placing him in a position where he could potentially be responsible for the deaths of a whole lot of people we like. “The Siege” is a nervous episode, an hour of foreboding, doom, and borderline hopelessness. And it’s all the more exciting for it.
Condé (Sean Teale) is in a position to potentially take the throne of France by force and, in the process, wed Mary (Adelaide Kane). At one point in tonight’s episode, he states this as his intention, even though this runs completely contrary to the alliance he’s forged with Queen Elizabeth. I can’t imagine Queen Elizabeth would take too kindly to Condé having used all of her resources to take the French throne on the premise that he would marry her once he did, only for him to then turn around and marry her cousin, and hated enemy, Mary. But regardless of what Condé is planning to do once he gets the throne, the show has taken great pains to make him a far more ruthless character than he was before. This is a Condé who’s had it with being in constant danger, powerless to control his future. This Condé is taking the fight directly to Francis. He knows he’s got leverage, and he knows Francis is outnumbered: not only is he able to blackmail General Renaude and his men into switching sides, he also intercepts messengers attempting to contact Philip of Spain for additional troops. To make matters worse, Francis is now paying the price for committing so many troops to helping Mary’s forces in Scotland, since recalling those men won’t make a difference. They’d return far too late to be of any use, and even if they could return in time, Francis has no way of putting out the message if Condé’s men are intercepting every messenger. The narrative is thick with a pervasive sense of hopelessness, as Francis and Condé have a face-to-face meeting in which the King is given an ultimatum: surrender or everyone dies. It’s to the point that even Francis seems ready to give up, noting that they’ll be dead in a matter of days unless some kind of miracle bails them out. And this happens to be where Mary begins her redemptive arc, depending on whether or not you want to believe she’s playing the game of thrones with Condé…
In short, the episode ends on a cliffhanger in which Mary rides out to Condé’s camp to visit him, revealing that Francis plans to have her killed since there is now evidence of she and Condé’s affair. Yes, Mary is pregnant, and she pleads with Condé to save her by taking the crown of France and making her his wife. It’s a hell of a tease for the season finale, but I see absolutely no way this isn’t some kind of ruse on Mary’s part. Maybe she is pregnant, maybe she’s not, but I don’t buy for a second that she really wants Condé to kill Francis, as it would mean the ruin of more than just Francis, a man she clearly does still love in some fashion. In one of the more poignant scenes of the episode, Mary tearfully tells Francis that this wasn’t the end she ever envisioned for them, and I really can’t see Mary being that candid with Francis if she simply plans on betraying him to Condé once the going gets tough. This episode, and this storyline, feels like a course correction for Mary after last week’s blunder. She put her feelings for Condé ahead of the safety of France, so she’s correcting her mistake by utilizing those feelings against Condé. By inventing a pregnancy and coming to Condé with a desperate plea for protection from Francis, she feeds Condé’s self-driven narrative that he’s the real hero in all this. I’m not exactly sure what Mary’s endgame with this plan is, whether she’s giving herself up so Condé will leave France alone, or if she’s attempting to bring down his army from the inside, but regardless of the end result, I think her plan is an attempt at reclaiming her authority as Queen. The only way Mary can resume legitimacy is by getting France out of this crummy situation she got them into in the first place. I could see Princess Claude (Rose Williams) acting as an audience surrogate when she tells Mary, “This is all your fault. Everyone is thinking it.” This accusation, coupled with Francis’s despair at the likely end of his reign, galvanize Mary into action, and it could result in Mary’s most heroic moment, provided this plan actually works out….and provided it’s even a plan at all. I mean, if she really is pregnant, I’m really not sure how this all gets ironed out in just one episode. At this rate, I’m guessing next week’s finale will have even heavier cliffhangers than this week.
Case in point, it’s looking like the relationship between Kenna (Caitlin Stasey) and General Renaude is pretty much over before it started. Although Renaude has been blackmailed into serving Condé after his son is taken captive, he’s still imprisoned by Francis after his men attack the castle. Kenna pleads his case, but I’m guessing it’s going to mostly fall on deaf ears. On the subject of the titular siege, I was actually really impressed with the fight choreography, particularly the battle royale that is intermingled with Bash’s fight against Renaude, as they spend as much time fighting the people around them as each other. Bash (Torrance Coombs) has been woefully underserviced as a character these past few weeks, but it’s finally feeling like he’s coming into his own, finding storylines that exist independent of his relationship with Kenna. I mean, I’d still prefer for Bash and Kenna to still be together, but I’m interested in Bash’s burgeoning relationship with Delphine, which shows how he is handling — or not handling — his separation. Similarly, I’m really liking the blossoming connection between Leith (Jonathan Keltz) and Claude, as the breakup with Greer (Celina Sinden) has left Leith in need of a friend. It’s more of a friendship than a romance, but I still think Keltz and Williams have a certain spark that makes this relationship compelling to watch, particularly considering how down-to-Earth Claude has been around Leith, contrasted with how wild and unruly she was without him. It’s a connection I appreciate, and I find it at least as compelling as the relationship between Narcisse and Lola (Anna Popplewell). Narcisse is still bumping up against his villain status, but I was strangely moved by his declaration of love to Lola, saying that although he must say goodbye to her, he wants her to remember him as the man who would have always cherished her, if she’d given him the chance. Of course, they go one step too far by kissing in front of a servant in Catherine’s employ. The end result? Catherine (Megan Follows) kills and cooks Narcisse’s prized horse, because this is apparently what happens when you cross Catherine de’ Medici. Honestly, I could have done without the Fatal Attraction psycho-reaction from Catherine, but I suppose this is as good a way as any at showing how hell hath no fury like a Queen scorned.
“The Siege” sets us up for a huge season finale next week, as this final conflict between Condé and Francis could end up representing the farthest Reign has ever gotten from history. (No spoilers, of course, but they’re already off the history rails by a pretty significant margin) That alone has me amped up for next week, even if I have my worries over whether or not the show can stick the landing.
But what did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!
And for future reviews of Reign, follow me on Twitter: @NickRomanTV