REIGN: A Chill in the Air (1x5)

Cool! The Darkness begins! As forecast by an ominous crow perched on a branch and a lone pipe sounding in the distance. “How can we communicate ‘dread’ on a cheap yet instant, wordless level to our thousands of rapt viewers?” was a question the REIGN writers must’ve posed to themselves right at the start of the season when they were breaking stories. Somebody probably wrote it on a whiteboard somewhere, and then some hapless office cleaning drone wiped it off in the night, maybe while chuckling to him/herself about the lame brainstorming habits of “creatives.” And then when the script came out for “A Chill in the Air,” they realized they'd left a “T/K” in the stage directions, indicating “to come,” and at the very last minute someone hastily pencilled “forest bird / pan flute” in the margin, where it stuck forevermore. Elegant solution to a real thorny problem.

I thought I’d have so much to say about this episode, but I really don’t. Olivia crawled out of the Blood Wood and caused a lot of commotion with her crazy hair and unplaceable “not from this world where the rest of us decided to talk British” accent. I like that I finally figured out she arrived at Catherine’s behest, though, that she was operating under Catherine’s evil thumb the whole time. I like that I can still be surprised by things that happened two years ago on a series I’ve seen every episode of multiple times yet clearly pay only sporadic attention to. It’s like finding a Christmas present in August that somebody wrapped in December and hid under the bed and sadly forgot all about, yet knew on some vague level was missing. I figure I’ve missed a good 30-40% of actual REIGN plot points, just by virtue of being so disinterested in any scene that doesn’t include Catherine, and then I learn most of it involved Catherine anyway. So this is good for me to catch up. Good for my spiritual development. Not as exciting as finding a brand new bike stuffed inside some guest bedroom closet, but a sack of marbles, maybe. A box of Cranium (the game for your whole brain™). Tube socks.

Lord Castleroy also made a first appearance in this episode and immediately bored Greer ’n the rest of us right out of our Harvest Festival gourds. I might have felt differently if they'd shown him riding Li'l Sebastian up to the castle gates (hello, fan fiction mashup). I give him a pass since I know what he turns into and where all this is going, but let’s admit it’s not an auspicious entrance. He has way too much mayhem happening in his own cranial & facial region, although I appreciate that he actually looks like a peppercorn. It’s not enough to just have a personal brand nowadays, you need to literally transform your whole physiognomy into your personal brand and then speak of nothing else. Massive props for following things through to their inevitable conclusion on that front. “All hail the Pepper King!” says the Pepper King to himself. I imagine he does a lot of his own cheerleading, the Pepper King, during his down time. I mean, with chops like that you would pretty much have to, even while counting all your spice-enabled gold doubloons.

One real handicap of this show is how badly it needs us to be on Mary’s side. They force this in the worst and most blatant way possible, which is by making her a goody-goody wet noodle with a heart of gold, then by having her behave in some regretful manner whenever she does let her guard down, which she ultimately cries over and files away under "personal growth for people who have no other choice." It’s a pretty basic variation on some “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” themes, only played totally straight, with zero nuance or humor. We see her straining too hard to be noble, always, when it would be way more interesting if she wasn't. But I guess that’s where Bash comes in to save the day, with his leather flask moonshine and sly smile and wispy carefree bangs. He’s here to remind us all that it’s okay to just let go once in a while and get hammered in the middle of the day on the edge of some marshy beach, then make out with your brother’s betrothed. Such a flouter of social conventions, this one. Such a renegade.

But man, this queen with her bird. There’s a tumblr devoted to Pete Campbell called “Just Pete Campbell Things,” which includes the expected “Jiminy Christmas” and “Pete Campbell eating cereal” gifs, and a QC-related equivalent of that exercise would obviously include not only this parakeet she fondles while blackmailing Braidy but also the honey facial bath she applies to herself while blackmailing Olivia:

Multitasking mindless domestic acts with threats against blonde girls in the service of destroying Mary is something she does so effortlessly. Playing all sides against the middle, that’s Catherine’s game, and she doesn’t care at all about the damage she does in order to win. The sign of a born kneecapper. She’d be a great mogul of some international mani/pedi chain, or the owner of an NFL team.

This is my favorite scene of the episode, though, and one of my favorites of the series, where she tells Mary about her miserable marriage to Horndog and how they actually did love each other once. I think about this scene a lot, and about how she plays it, how she squares her shoulders when she’s about to say something she knows will make her seem vulnerable and how she uses eye contact and wine glasses strategically. Also, have you noticed that she's 10 times scarier when she laughs about something, or smiles? Everybody else on this show has such valuable acting lessons to learn from this Megan Follows master class scene. The whole thing is a total manipulation that, while ultimately successful vis-à-vis planting doubts about Francis in Mary’s mind, also does reveal or at least hint at the reveal of something true about herself. She can lie about a lot of things, but like she tells her old lover Richard in “Inquisition,” sometimes the truth holds more power. Also, that crown is just the best and really makes up for whatever that golden scarab thing is that's shackling her tinfoil cape together.

REIGN: Hearts and Minds (1x4)

I honestly have never once found Francis even the slightest bit attractive but he’s really growing on me in the course of this REIGN rewatch project for THANKS, TV. What a world! What sealed it for me was this “Where are my Ray-Bans” expression right at the beginning, when he’s going mano-a-mano with our nemesis Tomasz for top prize in some random Baghead Archery Tourney:

So cute! It's so "no doy, Tomasz, I know how to hit a target." Although ultimately he loses this totally insignificant match, I like a fellow who can smolder with jealousy one minute yet still woo a lady on a picnic blanket a couple of scenes later. He’s a real Renaissance man, our Francis. A real polymath royal. It occurs to me that I’m suddenly drawn to his hair these days, too, which is mildly disconcerting. As a rule this is a style I abhor on both gents and ladies (i.e., no bangs, middle part), but I guess the times are changing. Apparently all my opinions are now open for revision, so congrats from me to me on such amazing personal growth. And points to ol' Francis for acting as a Detective for Love in this episode, which is a true hallmark of the Valois Boys (dauphin & bastard alike), and one of their best fraternal qualities. They’re always so ready to go to the mat for a mystery! Uncovering Portuguese shenanigans in the midst of all your other quotidian duties is such a charming side hobby to have.

Goddamn this show is dark. Sometimes I can't read my own stupid screencaps. But oh hey, Henry’s turtlenecks! They make not one but two appearances during this episode, and props to him for making no effort to conceal himself during the whole Michaelmas banquet nonsense, where Braidy, if you hadn't noticed, is literally dressed as a court jester. Another invitation she should have RSVP'd "no thanks" to. Poor dumb Braidy. I don't begrudge her any life choices but it's like she's asking to be shoved over a balcony.

However, rewinding re: turtlenecks. What a surprising, out-of-left-field sartorial choice for a king! Henry is such a dick always, but I can see him being all gung-ho to ship his wormholey worn knitwear back to Patagonia.com for use in their recycling program. Leading by example, that’s the mark of a good ruler, and of Henry. Only wait, is Henry a good ruler? Do we know this for sure? He leads with gusto and confidence, and maybe that’s enough. Maybe “has the air of a ruler about him” is really what it comes down to, in the end. We'd like to believe otherwise but most of us are sheep who just want to be led by someone who seems to know what they’re doing. I'll cop to this on behalf of myself anyway. The rest of you are encouraged to go off and do some soul searching of your own.

And here we go finally! This scene feels like the first glimpse we get of the real Catherine I've come to know and love. And this screencap is an example of one of my favorite baller moves of hers, which is when she hears something that displeases her and goes instantly dead in the eyes, like a shark. Her whole face goes slack and she'll stare off into the abyss and check out mentally while imagining committing some heinous poisonous act or stabbing. It usually happens when someone is talking about 1) Mary Queen of Scots, 2) Scotland, or 3) love. She hates feelings so much! Right now she’s even wearing a pointy shark-tooth crown-and-matching-necklace set, in case we were missing the subtlety behind this classic Queen Catherine behavior. A little on the nose in terms of obvious danger costuming, IMO, but I’m so glad they’re finally dialing things up for her. Enough of this swimming around in the shallows waiting for a chance to feed. Get out there and stir up some chum already.

Jesus, Beezus, look at these two gorgeous golden-hour babes in the woods! As with my unexpected affinity for Francis, I am likewise seeing this couple in a new light and deciding I enjoy them together. On their own each of them is a bit of a dope, to be honest. I mean, they make terrible decisions most of the time anyway, but they're definitely more successful when working in concert, which is probably a theme of REIGN, if you're looking for themes from REIGN (spoiler: I am not.). They’re both so into being idealistic and hopeful and doing the right thing for their respective countries, not just lying around on chaises somewhere eating petit fours or whatever, which is how I picture most royals (I learned most of my biases from Marie Antoinette, obviously, and I also visited Versailles once and was completely grossed out by it). I like how they discuss his reputation around Europe as a frail and sickly weenie. Shout out to the REIGN writing crew for occasionally spinning random Wikipedia bits and pieces into dialogue so we the audience can learn an actual thing or two whilst being passively entertained. 

Here I'd just like to point out that Bash and I have almost the exact same wash-n-go haircut. A sign of real sense on both our parts. We also know how to recover from a near-fatal side wound by immediately jumping into the middle of a sword fight. Be scrappy and never say die, that's our motto. Together we're like the James Bonds of sixteenth century France.

And to close we have…ALERT ALERT! a look of great alarm. She's so fabulously bad at hiding her outrage, it just seeps right out through her posture. She never even tries to pretend otherwise. This episode is notable for featuring two of my favorite Catherine costumes (this is one), which in this day and age believe me is nothing to sneeze at.

REIGN: Kissed (1x3)

I’m sad that this summer project is starting off on such a downer note and that these early episodes are so lame, which I take as a personal affront to my investment as a fan and as a regular joe trying to pen a blog post. I'll carry on but I just have nothing meaningful to say about an hour of TV that could have so much more Megan Follows in it and consciously chooses not to take advantage of that. Especially when I see this "Written by" credit right at the beginning and am automatically psyched, since I know what kind of champ Doris Egan is and what she has in store for us as the season rolls. Here it’s a letdown in every way possible.

Fashion-wise, I’m giving this week’s prize to this Portuguese toolbox, who makes his first appearance literally dressed as a snake:

Way to mask your intentions as an evil friend to the realm. I can't bother to look up the spelling of his name, because come on, but I feel like it would have a Z at the end: “Tomasz.” Sketchy. His whole sexy (sexx-ayyy) party dance with Mary is so obvious and awkward, not "hot" as I assume it was intended to be. It’s amazing how many generically handsome jokers they throw at Mary as potential suitors and how little chemistry she has with any of them. Not that Tomasz is doing anybody any favors in that department. “They just need you to show up, weasel into your snake garb and use whatever kind of accent seems Portuguese to you,” that’s the casting note this guy got from his agent. On all those points he scores pretty high. Chemistry with his costar was just never part of the equation.

Here’s a prime example of why they don’t use more period-appropriate clothing on this show. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen, like an artist’s smock made for a very pregnant lady that for some reason they thought would be okay for a king who’s not actually Henry VIII. He looks so confused by it, like what set did I wander onto. They probably hoped his neck chain would distract from the horror, but it doesn’t. It makes everything ten times worse. And I know he isn’t getting any action from Kenna yet, but I don’t think that should divert him from his first and most important task, which is to walk around in leather pants. Horndogs should only ever dress in leather. That should be a law. Pretty good episode all around, though, for ol’ Horndog. He got to engage in sword fighting with two of his sons, take a free cruise on a floating pavilion surrounded by flaming torches, and impart some royal wisdom. Things are really moving in his direction.

This is the most appealing Francis has ever been to me, this “vulnerable early morning devastation” look he has nailed here. He’s just learned all sorts of lessons about the consequences of making reckless decisions regarding Scotland based on his burgeoning feelings for Mary (gross phrase, I know), although he’ll forget them almost immediately. Of course something stupid is afoot in Scotland, that country has so many problems! One thing this show has definitely excelled at is making me hate Scotland. I check out mentally every time somebody mentions sending troops to Scotland and then wastes a whole episode whining about it and ultimately failing to do so. I’d turn it into a drinking game but becoming an alcoholic is not on my summer agenda. Sorry. Goal for 2016 maybe.

Even with limited screen time, QC and the Bear run the best sideshow in town. They should not be the sideshow, however, as previously stated. They should be the main act always, just standing around commenting on the incompetence of others. What a full-time job that would be. I do like how Henry finally calls them out on it, their constant reconnoitering in public, and then puts him to work sealing poor Braidy’s fate. Like that was a surprise to anybody but Braidy. She should start saying no to these castle gatherings, I feel. Just hole up in her room and work out some way to braid herself back home to Scotland, Rapunzel-style.

REIGN: Snakes in the Garden (1x2)

Man, this episode is such a snore. And not a relaxed, boozy, convivial snore, but a super-sized mega snore. The Sam's Club of snores. It spends way too much time explaining and not enough time doing. Nobody sleeps with anybody and only one person is beheaded and only one person gets strung up by their ankles and only one person is poisoned by a purloined royal gown, and even that’s just a fake-out orchestrated by some lame English people at the behest of Catherine. Nice try, show, but no sale.

I miss the Nostradamus edition of the opening credits so much. I wonder if his background thesis would have been included on any network besides the CW or if they just went ahead and preemptively figured we were all dum-dums. I’ll cop to my own previous knowledge of Mary Stuart coming almost exclusively from Janet McTeer playing Mary Stuart in “Mary Stuart” on Broadway, which only tangentially mentioned her early life in France, but I had higher hopes for the rest of you smarties. Rossif (insert sound of roaring lion) Sutherland sure sells it, though. He swings for the fences and knocks it right out of the ballpark. He’s like the ’57 Yankees of opening credits narration, or whatever team would be appropriate in terms of historic victories here. Nosty would be that whole entire team.

Overall there’s so much dramatically going on in the creds but I especially love this goofy closeup of this horse eye, which I laugh at every week and then instantly forget about:

Why is there a closeup of a horse eye? In hindsight, that should have been a clue: nobody knows why anything is anything on this show. Nor do they care, nor do I care, nor does it matter. I mean why not: enormous horse eyes for all my friends. Horse eyes for everybody. Step right up and get your horse eyes.

This is Bash’s reaction to being dissed by Catherine in the giraffe scene, when she reminds little Charles that Bash isn’t a real brother, only his father’s son. What a burn! Although this is news to nobody, not even little Charles. These people all know who each other are, because they're all related. It would be like me going home at Christmas and my mother saying, "You remember your brother Todd." Unnecessary.

It’s a shame that Catherine and Bash hardly ever interact, though, because they seem like the only cast members who understand that these roles require a sense of humor and frequent eye rolling, but she’s never shy about insulting him when he’s standing right there in the room. Out of all the things I admire about Catherine, it’s her ability to say what she’s thinking at any time without giving two shits about anybody’s feelings that I admire the most. No pussyfooting around for QC, she’ll call a bastard a bastard at the drop of a hat and damn the consequences (there are never consequences).

And it’s not like Bash cares or is trying to conceal his status; he seems pretty secure with who he is as a person and in relation to his royal half family. In fact he reminds me a lot of this recent Daily Puppy, helpfully called Tracy Jordan the Mixed Breed: “Tracy Jordan, or Jordan for short, is an adorable, loving, playful mixed breed puppy. His favorite activities include snuggling, meeting new people, and exploring the neighborhood. He’s the life of the party (he loves to be around big groups of people) and is an unwavering bundle of joy. He’s a smarty—he’s learned to come, sit, stay, lie down, shake, play dead, roll over, and dance so far, and he’s eager to learn more! We are so lucky to have him in our lives!” I ask you, is that Bash or is that Bash? Isn’t Bash/Tracy Jordan/Jordan-for-short the best? We are lucky to have him in our lives!

Holy smokes. Catherine! THIS IS OFFICIALLY THE WORST COSTUME OF YOUR REIGN. It pains me to say this, because I have Catherine's back against all comers, but she looks like that animated version of Maid Marian as portrayed by a cartoon fox, only not in a good foxy way but in a way that looks like she plucked it out of a bargain bin at Filene’s Basement or found it at a garage sale for cartoon chickens. I wonder if anybody got fired over this dress, that’s how bad it is. And it’s doubly unfortunate, because this is where she’s strolling thru the fairgrounds with Henry and they seem so at ease together, and then right as she goes to say something to him some random broad catches his eye and Catherine has to turn her head away and wait for him to finish flirting. What a humiliation. Approximately 75% of her life is spent standing by his side and being ignored. And it’s heartbreaking, but to a lesser degree than it might have been thanks to her outfit. Maybe I'm too sensitive to external stimuli but this whole uggo costume really cuts the pathos off at the knees for me.

Semi-related season 2 aside: Did you see this tumblr pic the tumblr-ers posted as evidence that Adelaide Kane and Sean Teale are dating IRL? Not cool that AK’s phone was hacked but cool if it’s true, bros; go with love and peace, etc. Wear matching hotel robes in a hammock if you want to! But everybody must have known they were together already from the Instagram below that she posted in the spring: look at the proud impish look on his face at being stuck in an elevator with her! How sexy is he? (not a question; he's categorically, dictionary-definition sexy). They exhibit more chemistry in these two one-dimensional phone pictures than they did in nine whole months worth of screen time together. The tragedy of that is way worse than any crap outfit they’re putting Megan Follows in. She can still act no matter what.

And what did the fans label this skeevy twosome? Kenry? Henna? This week’s terrible secret is how much I loathe couple mashup names. It’s such a lazy played-out trope, like thinking it’s still witty to say you shop at “Tar-zhay” or “Whole Paycheck.” What a waste of imagination and creative energy to just stick two names together and tell yourself, well, my work here is done. Not everything needs a shortcut. Not everything needs to be a hashtag. J/k, nothing ever needs to be a hashtag.

I do appreciate how they negotiate over Kenna’s virginity, though. She’s savvy enough to lay out her terms instead of hopping straight into his crib, which is probably how most chicks play it with Henry. Out of Mary’s four ladies, I would dub her REIGN’s Amy March, aka keeping her eye on the prize at all times. Braidy is obviously Beth (imminent RIP), Greer is scrappy Jo, not afraid to get her hands dirty and do a job, and Lola is so dutiful, dull-as-dishwater Meg it's not even funny. I don’t think Lola even had a line this week, which should immediately move this episode into a top spot for me. But it fails to reach even that low bar.

And then this. What could it mean, Lord? QC is shockingly sloppy in terms of schematic efficiency at this point in the series and ends up having to clean up a lot of messes she herself has created. I just don’t feel like she’s giving it her all in terms of machinations and what-not. Her heart’s not quite in it. I guess she doesn't know yet there's a creeper living in the walls but that seems like the kind of thing she'd be tuned into, just on a molecular level. Also I didn’t realize until today that the true culprit behind this X and the beheading of that bozo in the opening was actually Baghead. There are a handful of episodes I’ve watched only once or twice and only pay attention to when Catherine is on the screen, and sadly this is one of them. It’s boring, as I mentioned. Or should I say snoring.

REIGN: important thoughts on the pilot

It seems lame to write an intro to this series, since I expect these posts will have a readership of one other person besides me, and I also expect her to chime in (no free rides, Tucc). As with most things I would prefer to launch into it in medias res, like some wizened old servant rambling through a Chekhov play or an important paid writer on that publishing platform "Medium." Only I’m 90% thumbs down on Medium and this of course will be "Well Done." Heh heh, although I must be the eight billionth person to think up that hilarious joke.

Anyway, time to start a new series of posts to talk about TV (because those are so hard to come by) but first & most importantly to talk about REIGN, a show that appears in my mind in all caps, always, and which I usually append to UGH, REIGN. As in, UGH, REIGN: the worst show I've ever wasted this much thinking on. How much? So much it's almost a full-time second job. Luckily it's summer now, a season of impending misery and isolation for me personally, since I have zero humidity coping mechanisms, but also a lot of time on my hands to devote to serious pursuits and napping. I'm roping in Tucc as a sidekick because she's smart and fun and has a lot to add, and sooner or later I'll get tired of talking to myself.

So let's rewind and start from the beginning (this is not a review and not a recap—we'll only cover what amuses us or what we legitimately care about. This will never include Lola. FYI.).

It takes a lot of work to put together a decent pilot, as any nutbar on the street can tell you. It has to set the scene, introduce all the characters and the relationships between them, establish the universe they’ll inhabit, and set the story in motion, and do all of this without making it seem like too much of a data dump. Some pilots succeed (West Wing, Mad Men, BSG, Friends) and others stink, or at least reveal that the writers haven’t yet nailed down the characters or tone (The Office, Parks and Rec, Happy Endings) and some are by rote time-wasters everybody clearly wants to plow through in order to start telling the real story in the weeks to come (New Girl, Happy Endings, almost everything else).

In the sense that it meets the aforementioned pilot objectives, I'll award REIGN a somewhat surprising C+. The first 10 minutes are devoted entirely to setup (what TV Tropes calls “Everyone Meets Everyone”) but not in a bad way; it propels itself forward at a steady pace, takes care of business, and is mostly expensive looking. The clothes are also plausibly period-centric, although no one’s saying which period, which is perfectly okay by me. I could not give less of a shit about whether or not the costumes suit this particular show’s timeframe. It isn't some Merchant–Ivory-type prestige affair gunning for multiple Oscar noms, it’s a soap opera on a fourth-tier broadcast network devoted to teens who maybe aren't into balloon pants and neck ruffs. Context matters. There’s a case to be made, via my good friend Bob Mondello* on this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour , that period clothing can in some cases distract the audience from the story being told. He was speaking in reference to the trend of modernizing the clothing/setting of Shakespeare plays, but surely the same applies to stupid REIGN. Also, adhering to strictly period-appropriate costumes for this entire huge cast would blow the budget in five minutes of airtime.

Anyway Pt II: my feeling is that doubling down on a ballsy, exposition-heavy 10-minute opening sequence is ultimately the right move, and they manage to pack in a lot of intrigue (including a glimpse of Baghead!) whilst laying out major narrative themes: growing up female, growing up royal, free will vs. duty, precarious marital ties, adultery, money, power, prognostications, and hair. Lots and lots of hair. Plus I’m a sucker for an underscore of impending doom announced by loud repetitive humming, strumming and pounding, as well as the hammering clop of approaching horse hooves.

It's probably not possible to take a bad photo of someone like Adelaide Kane. Gaze upon her, she is a gorgeous otherworldly beauty. As an actress, though, she seems slightly unprepared to carry a whole series. For example, this is a common look on Mary’s face regardless of circumstance or emotion. Sort of a one-size-fits-all standard expression, whether she’s watching a favorite nun and secret food taster foam at the mouth and keel over into her own oatmeal or whether she’s about to kiss a cute boy for the first time. Not a lot of nuance displayed for occasions you would think would demand it. Unless it's a deliberate strategy on somebody’s part, as we all know a queen is never supposed to follow or even reveal her true heart. In which case, way to keep it under wraps. But Mary Stuart sans makeup is about as pretty as it gets.

I didn’t realize I loved Bash until I saw Torrance Coombs speaking without an accent in the DVD extras and then started following him on Twitter. That’s how embarrassingly long it took me to appreciate Bash. At first I was like, who is this dork getting in the way of things all the time. What a fly in the ointment. Now that I’m educated I can rewind through all of season one and enjoy him hanging around or riding off heedlessly into the Blood Wood on some pagan death errand, following his own crazy star path and doing his best not to raise anyone’s ire. He’s impertinent and reckless yet seems to come by it honestly, on account of being a bastard. Who’s cooler than bastards? Nobody.

Oh no wait there is one person cooler than bastards, and guess who's the boss: well of course it's Queen Catherine. There's literally no other reason I would be watching this show or even know it existed were it not for motherfucking Megan Follows. How good is her wordless acting that this is the very first scene we see of her playing this character, and just by virtue of her giving dumb ol' Henry the side eye, we immediately know he's an idiot. Also—this just occurred to me while studying this screencap—note how she's standing in a subservient position relative to him, occupying a completely separate plane and being forced to look up at him while he's turned away from her. Just like a king who's also an idiot. I guess that’s smart stage direction, though, not something brilliant the actors just dreamed up on their own. So props to you, REIGN behind-the-scenes creatives! It's also great shorthand for us the audience into what her job as queen mostly consists of (keeping an eye on Henry while constantly being exasperated). And this whole setup is especially rich considering how far out in front of him Catherine is in just about everything but sleeping with ladies. MF'ing MF also looks especially innocent and at her Anne of Green Gables-est here, doesn't she? That's a con, though. Don't fall for it.

It is a little strange how she's wearing a choker with chains attached, which isn't a look that happens very often, or ever again that I know of, and for obvious reasons; i.e., many people would like to choke Catherine. She's probably the #1 choking target in the whole castle, maybe in all the land. People would come from miles around to choke Catherine! But she's too poison-savvy and flush with familial Italian doubloons to get backed into those corners very often. I don't worry so much about QC, tbh. She's one character we know is leaving this show alive. (Thanks for the spoilers, History.) And as we all learn in season 2 (another spoiler), death by necklace is something Catherine does to others, not something done unto her.

Poor Braidy exits the cab last and hangs back there all alone, a sure sign she’s not long for this world. She’s also vaguely Bo-Peepish in contrast to the others, who look like a couple of bruisers who can handle themselves in a bar fight. Greer is obviously the brains of the operation. She sizes up the whole situation in mere seconds, which is indicative of her having a good head on her shoulders (most of the time) and will serve her well (ditto). Kenna is only interested in gossip and Lola doesn’t do much but stand around and squint. Typical Lola.

This is the high point for me and Francis in this ep, him eschewing the pomp and circumstance in favor of charging diagonally across the lawn in his leather ‘n velvet Captain Jack Sparrow-at-a-Ren-Faire ensemble. I appreciate a nice stride, is what I’m saying. But I don’t have many feelings about Francis yet. As with most soaps, his character and motivations shift radically from scene to scene and from episode to episode, and backtrack a lot, depending on which direction or how fast/slow they need the storyline to move. And I get that “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” etc., but he can be a real wet blanket, in terms of charm and appeal compared to Bash. Also I prefer dark-haired dudes with angry eyebrows to blondes with scruffy chin hair. Sorry.

Here’s the first two-shot we get of Cathy and the Proph (™ Genevieve Valentine) standing side by side. I’m not sure if she’s perched on a box in this scene or what, since most of the time he looks two heads taller than she is and here they seem more evenly matched. It’s possible she’s so good she can just grow on command. Add that to your IMDB credits, Megan Follows! Or maybe it’s that he looks bigger when he’s wearing his usual bear costume and for this event he evidently said to himself, “Seems like a temperate spring day out there, what with the blooming flowers and welcoming party and all, why don’t I chill for once and leave the bear at home. Best not to frighten the ladies.” Good call, Nosty. You’re the size of Paul Bunyan AND his blue ox, but try to fit in.

This is Catherine’s sincere reaction to a declaration of love between two baby morons. It so perfectly captures her glee at knowing she has some new secret to stash in her back pocket for future use. What a grab bag of devilish secrets this one lugs around with her. I always appreciate it when her gown reflects the color of her own epic perpetual simmering rage, but what's up with this weird hand position she has going on. For the life of me I can’t figure out how her fingers fit together, it's like she has a deformed crab claw that is also a club. Maybe one of her poisons got away from her. And then how she says to Colin, “You come from former servants” almost like it’s a question and something she'd be impressed by. Come on. QC would never be impressed by the staff. She’s not that advanced. The whole lesson from this scene is you do not ever want to be left in a room alone with Catherine. I don't care if you have to chew your own arm off, just flee.

I’m not too interested in Baghead’s plot at this juncture, either. I can’t identify with people pulling burlap sacks over their noggins and dwelling in spidery passages. That's not the kind of Nancy Drew I am. I’d gladly accept the top candle-procuring job on set though. I would just tool around suburban Toronto in my candle truck till I found a Pier One, then back it up to the loading dock and holler, Give me everything you’ve got, we shoot in like an hour and I still have to get all of these lit. I'd be the most popular customer at every Pier One and Cost Plus World Market in Canada. Sort of a vagabond hero to the whole wax retail profession.

This shoeless dancing scene, however. It's such a disaster. Who behaves like this at the royal wedding of some future sister-in-law you hardly know? It’s the one scene that, if I’d started watching the series with this episode, would have made me sensibly turn off the TV and throw it out the window. (Luckily I started with “Inquisition” which turned out to be a killer move, because “Inquisition” is everything I want out of life. I cannot wait to type out my feelings about “Inquisition” on this here blog.) I’m so deeply insulted by anyone with decision-making power thinking this is a good way to demonstrate that these girls are plucky free-spirit teens bringing a breath of fresh air to this stuffy old castle. It just makes them seem dumb, and even Lola, who’s plenty dumb, isn’t that dumb. I know these scenes function as a signal that their naive hopes and dreams will inevitably be crushed by the Man (or Woman) and the System and Life, but I’m still insulted as both a grownup and as someone who would have found it equally pandering as a youth. 

The only thing that makes it worthwhile is Catherine watching from the sidelines and muttering “We’re overrun by Scots" to herself. I love it the most when she hates anything. She’s now sporting some sort of brass zipper contraption that actually unzips around her neck, another weird accessory we will never see again. In a group shot like this they all look like the Addams Family, only Henry is Uncle Fester and Nosty is Grandma. Diane is whatever that dragon thing is that lives under the stairs on the Munsters. She’s so unwelcome as part of the REIGN gang that she’s an unseen monster from a whole other derivative show.

Henry sucking on somebody’s neck will never not be a fun visual for me. It’s so who Henry is, a purebred horndog on every conceivable existential level. (Every time I type "horndog" my keyboard autocorrects it to "corndog," which not coincidentally is also a thing I love. Still, let's not muddy the waters.) Certainly he seems better at this than he ever is at being king. Also, I’ll state for the record that I do not hate and have never hated Kenna. She serves a free-wheelin’ yet mercenary purpose, in that she always knows what her goal is and does not deviate from it. She cries a lot and is not the best at carrying out a scheme, but she’s also the only one of the ladies whose heart doesn't lead her down some dark back alley to misery. In fact, she does pretty much whatever her heart advises her not to, then bounces back like a Weeble when it all inevitably falls to pieces. Respect.

This modern-day web format also enables me to insert a hyperlink to that great interview Megan Follows did with Vulture way back when, where the interviewer asks her (for who knows what reason) what she liked about Kenna's masturbation scene (which was mostly cut), and Megan Follows is all "It's masturbating, what's not to like"? Respect again. That's why she's the MF.

In closing I’d just like to present Nosty at the giving tree, watching blood REIGN down from the sky. There's nothing else I can say after this, really. The end.

* I don't actually know Bob Mondello.