Welcome back, friends of the realm! Was your summer severely lacking in sexual intrigue, castle ghosts, religious uprisings, and killer tiaras, too? Très sad. Luckily, Reign‘s season 3 opener didn’t waste any time in getting back to business.
When we last saw our young monarchs, Mary and Francis — but mostly Mary, let’s be honest — had stopped Condé’s play for the French crown and had exiled Catherine from court after, oh, you know, kidnapping Lola and baby John in order to make Francis believe his son was dead. Moms, am I right?
With that pesky rebellion out of the way, Mary and Francis find themselves back in each other’s arms; their relationship is better than ever. Mary’s learning new dances in the palace gardens! Francis is building a boat! They’re practicing the ancient art of afternoon delight! Good for them, you know? After the doom and gloom of last season, they deserve it. But while Francis is leading the charge on enjoying the simple pleasures of life (of course, we know this new outlook is due to the knowledge of his impending death — of which he has yet to tell Mary), Mary is quick to remind her husband that they are in fact the rulers of France and they have responsibilities. Wives, am I right?
At the moment, most of these responsibilities revolve around the on-going crisis in Scotland. Lord Narcisse, still cleaning the remains of his favorite horse from his teeth, arrives with intel from his contacts abroad. Scottish lords who were once Catholic allies have been turned against them, and without more French resources, Scotland will be lost to the Protestants. The only problem? France has no more resources to give. But Mary has a plan: pirates!
Enter Martin de Lambert, a very successful, very handsome pirate with a penchant for exotic animals, including a tiger he’d like to gift to Mary, and high-born women, including Greer, who he’d like to marry. Surprisingly, our favorite madam is up for the challenge.
Greer agrees to an engagement with the pirate for the good of Scotland and reminds Mary that she only needs to stay engaged until Martin holds up his end of the bargain. If she has to sleep with him before he takes off, so be it. Thanks for taking one for the team, Greer. We know it’s such a hardship to sleep with a sexy pirate. Later, Greer comes to find she may be out of her league. Martin says all the right things to get Greer into bed and legitimately contemplating a sweet pirate-brothel keeper union, only to discover Martin says that to all the girls; He never had any intention of marrying her. Greer says she’s outraged, but we all know that once you go pirate, you never go back — er, something like that.
Regardless, thanks to Greer placating Martin, Mary’s last ditch effort to keep the fight alive in Scotland is in place. Little does she know, her public enemy number one is working on her own plan across the English Channel. That’s right, people — we’re going to England!
Post-exile, Catherine sets herself up with a decoy in France and hightails it to English court to see if that old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” adage holds any truth. Lucky for Catherine, it does. After a short time in the ear of Queen Elizabeth, Catherine has made an ally. Maybe it’s because Elizabeth so desperately wants to destroy Mary, or she’s aching to prove herself as a legitimate European power, or heck, maybe the gal is just grateful to have another fearsome woman around, but regardless, Elizabeth welcomes Catherine’s guidance. Where Elizabeth’s stodgy privy council, led by a fiery but practical William, wants her to stop her crusade in Scotland and focus on nabbing a husband, Catherine encourages Elizabeth’s hatred for her cousin.
Catherine knows Elizabeth has two big problems, Mary and marriage, so she hatches one plan to tackle them both. Introducing Catherine de Medici’s Two-Pronged Plan to Destroy Mary Stuart and Maximize Queen Elizabeth’s Power:
First, destroy Mary’s standing with the Catholic Church by revealing her affair with Condé to Rome. Second, have Elizabeth marry Prince Charles, Francis’ little brother and the next in line for the French throne. Charles is so young that he’ll be no threat as a ruler or as a husband—ensuring that Elizabeth has years to do whatever she’d like with her childhood friend and secret lover (but not actual lover because, guys, she’s a virgin queen, remember?), Robert Dudley. Everybody wins!
Can we take a slight detour, friends? We have to talk about the heat between Elizabeth and Dudley. It is palpable. If this forbidden and somewhat masochistic love affair is what we can expect from English court, then I am in. She can’t truly be with him because he’s married and she’s the Queen, but she refuses to let him go (and he continually asks). If he left, who else would brood in the back corner during privy council meetings? Anyway: HOT.
NEXT: Francis breaks all of our hearts