Mary makes a fatal choice.

By Maggie Fremont
November 06, 2015 at 09:38 PM EST
Sven Frenzel/The CW
S3 E4
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What’s the cost of a king’s life? Tonight’s installment of Reign answers that question — and the outcome is not pretty. It’s an answer that Mary and the gang at French court will be grappling with for a long time (or at least for the next few episodes). So, what’s the cost of a king’s life? Let’s find out.

Mary receives an urgent letter from her mother, Marie de Guise, alerting her that there’s been a surge of English forces in Scotland. Their supply chain has been cut off and if France can’t make a big assist, Scotland will be lost. Francis is sure Elizabeth knows he’s dying and she’s testing his power. He refuses to look weak, so against the counsel of his advisors, Francis quickly decides to send in two of their best warships. “It’s on like Donkey Kong, Liz!” he shouts, in my imagination.

Unfortunately, Francis should’ve listened to his advisors — better yet, he should’ve called upon the most badass of advisors: Catherine. Catherine interrupts a perfectly good sparring session between Francis (he’s been taking magical Austrian herbs and feeling so much better) and Charles, to inform her sons that their two ships were sunk and hundreds of French lives were lost. If they had asked her opinion before attacking, she would’ve provided some intel on the sleek new ships the English Navy built. Let her treason be good for something, guys!

Francis would rather his mother concentrate on the real reason he released her from prison: To secure enough privy council votes to ensure she’s appointed regent for Charles. Catherine assures him that she has the privy council under control. She’s been wining and dining Lord Clavelle, and his vote is as good as hers — or so she thinks.

Lord Clavelle is a bit of a grump. Catherine’s been going out of her way to keep him happy — which is basically Catherine’s own personal hell — but she still hasn’t been able to win his vote. She even drags Claude in on the act, pimping her out to Clavelle’s son. (The mother-daughter get-your-charm-on primping was perfection. These two ladies are more fun when they’re working together rather than trying to, you know, murder each other slowly via soup.) When Operation Claude doesn’t work, Catherine asks the noble point blank what it’ll take to get his vote. In short: nothing. He’ll never vote for Catherine because years ago, she ran over his daughter’s foot in a carriage, ruined her chances to wed, and a year later the girl killed herself. Well, that’s unfortunate.

Catherine’s need for privy council member votes has put her in a vulnerable position. Anyone with an ax to grind could use this unique hold over the Queen Mother to his advantage. And, of course, by “anyone,” I mean Narcisse.

When Narcisse catches Catherine harassing Lola in the castle hallways (and almost blowing up his spot on Bath Rat-gate), he knows something must be done. Narcisse is a smart dude. His now step-son John, thanks to Francis, has almost enough lands to earn a seat on the privy council, which would ostensibly be Narcisse’s seat since, you know, John’s a little tied up learning how to eat solid foods. A seat on the council means a say in Catherine’s regency, which means Catherine will have to play nice with Narcisse and Lola if she wants his vote. To get the extra lands, Narcisse turns his honeymoon into a looting excursion. He ends up getting what he needs to secure a spot on the council, but the means by which he procures those lands raises some red flags for Lady Lola.

Narcisse thinks he has Catherine right where he wants her, but he’s wrong. Catherine sashays up to the guy and reminds him how much fun the two of them had together. They’re equals, after all. Narcisse insists that he loves Lola, but Catherine may be right: There is still some definite heat between the ex-lovers.

All this privy council business will have to wait, though, because there’s still war raging in Scotland. Mary tries to make a trade with Nicholas: two captured English generals for the removal of English troops. Nick tells her that Elizabeth will never cede to Marie de Guise or the Scottish, and his orders are simply to just sit tight until the French tire of dying for the Scots and for Francis to croak. Nicholas is a cold-hearted snake and he needs to make out with someone immediately. Those are my orders!

Mary calls him a vulture, because she’s the best, and leaves her room — allowing Nick enough time to steal the cipher she and her mother use to communicate. Later, Greer spots Nicholas colluding with one of Mary’s servants in her bar (Greer owns a bar now!), who hands over the letter Mary sent to her mother containing very valuable Information on French movements in Scotland.

Mary doesn’t sweat it. Why? BECAUSE IT’S ALL A RUSE. Nicholas did exactly what Mary hoped he would do, and now the ambassador has sent bad intel on to Elizabeth. Watching Mary be underestimated by a man and then have it blow up in his face makes my tiny, cold heart grow three sizes.

Sadly, the French monarchs don’t have much time to celebrate their win. Francis is out with Charles, trying to impart some kingly wisdom on the kid, who took the downed warships in Scotland pretty hard. Though Francis means well, his advice is basically: Fake it till you make it, little bro! Which, although possibly true, may not be the most comforting. Also not comforting? Watching your brother fall off his horse and crash to the ground.

NEXT: Adventures in temporary death!

Francis’ recent bout of good health was simply the final surge before his death. All those Grey’s Anatomy fans out there could see this coming from a mile away (come back to me, McSteamy!). Francis chooses to spend his final moments in bed with Mary, imagining the future, and the family, they’ll never get to have together. No! They need to dance more! And sail more! And I need to meet Anne and James, their precocious kids! THIS ISN’T FAIR (to me). Mary begs Francis to fight harder, but he has no more fight in him. The King of France IS DEAD.

But wait! Just as Mary is contemplating what fab mourning-wear she has in her closet (did they put her in so much white in anticipation of all the black she’ll be wearing soon?), Bash and Charles bust in with a surprise guest: DELPHINE.

CSI Bash, after having the outline of a cross burned into his chest thanks to that fun binding ritual, discovers that Delphine is being held prisoner by some nuns trying to exorcise satan from her soul. Typical Delphine. Thankfully (I guess), Bash arrives before any real harm is done. Bash barely gets Delphine out of the nunnery when Charles, who’s become hip to Delphine’s special powers, shows up and demands she save Francis.

Bash warns both Charles and Mary that they’ll pay a steep price for bringing Francis back — a life for a life. Mary doesn’t care and she’d gladly die to bring her husband back. No one ever listens to Bash! So, Delphine does it: She brings Francis back from the dead. The King of France LIVES.

We quickly jump to Scotland, where Marie de Guise is writing a letter of congratulations to her daughter. Their plan worked and the Scots are gaining an upper hand in the war against England. Before she can cross her last T, however, Marie de Guise collapses and dies. What’s the cost of a king’s life? His mother-in-law, I guess.

Meanwhile, in England: Lord William of the Wet Blanket interrupts Elizabeth’s leisurely stroll in the sunshine to announce that Prince Don Carlos of Spain has arrived at court. Oh, and by the way, he’d be the perfect suitor to marry because he’s super Catholic and Spain is a European powerhouse. He’s a real get, is all Wet Blanket William is saying. Also, if Liz doesn’t marry him, Mary surely will once Francis dies. Elizabeth agrees to meet with him, but even she’s wondering when they’ll give Tom Everett Scott something more to do.

Enter Don Carlos (or Scott Disick, maybe?). The prince of Spain arrives sporting an English accent and a beard that won’t quit. He fits in perfectly on Reign. Don Carlos openly flirts with Elizabeth and gets right down to the proposal. Elizabeth likes his forwardness. He offers her all of Spain’s sweet New World cash, and tells her that while “many queens might meet [his] needs, only [she] would meet [his] desires.” Smooth line, Beard!

Dudley is not a fan of Don Carlos’ beard (jealous, much?) or of the moves he’s putting on D’s lady. He begs Elizabeth to refuse the prince. Elizabeth wants to put an end to their affair — it’s not healthy or safe and all that talk of “getting rid of” Dudley’s wife last week was a little off-putting. Dudley assures her it’s totally cool to think about murdering someone as long as you don’t actually do it. Liz isn’t convinced, and anyway, she has Wet Blanket William in her ear telling her that no woman can rule alone.

Elizabeth has to put England first, and when she hears that Mary has bested her in Scotland, she has no choice but to marry Don Carlos. It should be a pretty simple negotiation, but they hit a snag when Don Carlos hears a little rumor about why Good Queen Bess hasn’t married yet, and he wants answers. YOU GUYS: The rumor is that Elizabeth is actually a man. To disprove it, HE ASKS TO SEE HER WOMANHOOD. A person is resurrected in this episode, but I’m more shocked by this whole exchange.

A historical FYI: This storyline does have a basis in reality. Esteemed historian Wikipedia tells me there was something called the “Bisley Boy” conspiracy, in which people believed Elizabeth died as a child and was replaced with a male decoy in order to keep her death from King Henry VIII. Nonetheless: WTF?

Elizabeth is horrified and blames Dudley’s wife for starting the rumor. Dudley confronts Amy and makes it very clear that he’s in love with the Queen. When Amy starts badmouthing Liz, Dudley hulks out and strangles her. It seems like he’s going to go all the way, when he pulls back, and, realizing that he’s become a monster of sorts, promises Amy he’ll end things with Elizabeth.

Over in Liz’s chambers, she’s putting her foot down with Wet Blanket William. Elizabeth wants to make it clear: She will never marry. Instead, she’ll convince the English people that she’s strong enough to rule on her own; she doesn’t need a man in order to have power. Is this what a feminist looks like?

Outfit of the Week: This week’s winner is the yellow gown Elizabeth wears when she greets Prince Don Carlos Disick. It’s vibrant, edgy (for CW Elizabethan times), and very feminine. Your loss, Beard!

The Queens’ Corner of Harsh Lady Truths:

  • “Why must the fate of nations be decided in a shared bed?” – Elizabeth to Wet Blanket William (but also me at Thanksgiving dinner 2015)
  • “It is a fact of our time: A man rules his wife, even if his wife is a queen. I will not be laid low by any man. I will not be ruled by anyone.” – Get yours, Liz
  • “I will show England their leader is fierce and brilliant and strong. I will draw them to me and they will love me, and thank me for loving only them.” – GET MORE, LIZ

Episode Recaps


A sexy, historical fiction CW take on the lives of Mary, Queen of Scots and her royal court.
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