Reign season 3 finale recap: Spiders in a Jar
A shocking death reignites Mary and Elizabeth's royal rivalry
Well, Royals, we did it! We made it to the end of Reign‘s season 3. What with the amount of time it took for the dearly beloved CW network to roll out this season’s 18 episodes and the sheer amount of obstacles that plagued our fierce queens, it felt like we might never get here. Do you remember where we started? Mary was dealing with the Condé fallout, Francis was grappling with news of his impending death, and Catherine was hanging out with her new BFF Queen Elizabeth, plotting to take Mary down. My how things have changed — mostly for the better. This last batch of episodes have been the season’s best, with Mary using her grief over Francis to propel her forward in her mission to bring peace and prosperity to Scotland. She certainly is a very different woman than she was at the start of the season; tougher, politically savvier, more murder-y. If Mary was just a teenager when we first met her, she has most certainly earned her adult badge by now.
Okay, I’m trying to be very professional here, in honor of the season finale, but I can’t hold it in any longer: YOU GUYS, SOMEONE GETS BEHEADED AND I AM NOT OVER IT. I will never get over it. I felt obliged to start this recap with Mary, since she is the true queen of my heart, but all I want to do is talk about that death and how I never thought Reign would actually go there and that I gasped out loud when it happened. GASPED. So, because I have no self-control, we’re starting this whole shebang in England.
Over in England, Lady Lola is scouring over the letter she received with instructions from Mary to aide in the assassination of Queen Elizabeth. She’s searching for any way out, but, alas, the letter is written in their secret code, and Mary’s orders are clear.
Lola secretly meets with Narcisse to hand off John to him. She says she needs a few more days before she can leave for Scotland. He seems somewhat suspicious, but dude, if there’s one time to be an uber-controlling husband who murders people to keep your wife around, it is now. Instead, he seems willing to accept that Lola needs to stay for “an event” and that her good-byes to both him and her son sound awfully final.
Soon after, Lola has a rendezvous with her new assassin friend to go over their plan, and then they are off. There’s barely any time to process the fact that Lola is taking up the huge task with no backup or any proof, really, before she’s there in the hallway, making extremely noticeable nods to the assassin and demonstrating just how horrible she is with stalling tactics. She’s so obvious, in fact, that even Dudley, who has proven time and again that he’s not the smartest guy on the block, almost immediately outs Lola’s plan. I mean, this is the dude who, after getting rid of one wife and making it out alive from public scandal, decides he’s had enough of waiting for Elizabeth and gets remarried after just a few months. You could’ve been king, guy!
Thanks to Dudley, though, the plot to murder Elizabeth is thwarted and both the assassin and Lola end up in prison. Things are not looking good for Mary’s last remaining lady-in-waiting. When Liz visits her friend in prison, Lola explains that there can only be one queen, and Lola chose Mary. For good measure, she tells Elizabeth that because she is a power-hungry monarch, Liz will always be alone. Both of them are crying, and Elizabeth, most fearsome monarch in all the land, actually looks very hurt by all this. But at no point does anyone talk about calling this execution off. Well, except for one lowly recapper yelling it from her couch. But no one listens to her.
This is really happening, people! Lola is led out to the executioner’s block as the crowd that contains both Elizabeth and Narcisse looks on. Narcisse makes one attempt to stab a few of the guards and free his wife, but it is useless. Liz gives the nod AND LOLA IS BEHEADED. Up until the very moment the executioner swung his ax, I didn’t believe it would actually happen. Lola is dead, and now Narcisse is locked up in English prison and mad as hell. Hide your rats, Lizzy!
There’s some unfortunate news out of France, as well. After what is to be assumed was days of horrible torture, the Red Knight prisoner Catherine and Leith captured, finally tells Leith the names of two king’s guardsmen who are working with the Red Knights. It’s perfect timing, because those very same guards are asking Catherine and Claude to come with them for protection. Leith swoops in and takes them both down with a bow and arrow. It is very leading man of him, and Catherine thanks him by giving him and Claude her blessing to marry. These two are so stinkin’ cute that everything has to work out for them, right? Well, not if Martel de Guise has anything to do with it.
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Fresh off a very simple yet sweet proposal, Leith heads back out into the field to stop the Red Knights once and for all. Martel de Guise sends some of his men to assist, but by assist he means “to stab.” Leith takes a big one to the gut and is left to bleed out in the snow. He calls out for Claude, while she is back at the castle deciding on a wedding dress none the wiser. Why, Reign, why? Leith certainly looks pretty dead, but I refuse to believe he’s really gone until we get some type of confirmation. I’ll never let go, Leith!
NEXT: Catherine may regret her tireless search for Charles
Speaking of looking pretty dead, King Charles is back and he looks terrible. He and Thierry escaped into the snowy forest, only for Thierry to be captured by the Red Knights. Charles had to hide in silence as his friend was tortured and killed. The entire ordeal has forever changed the young king. It’s changed him so much, in fact, that he would like nothing more than to stop being king. Catherine, ever the doting mother, basically tells him to get his head out of his ass and start acting like the powerful royal he is.
Charles has had enough heartless reprimands from his mother, so he secretly calls the privy council together and has them declare him off age — Charles is now officially king and Catherine’s services as regent are no longer needed. Catherine learns of her son’s actions, is proud of him, and moves out into the country never to be heard from again. YEAH RIGHT IN WHAT WORLD? Catherine is mad, people. To show her son that he can’t just cast her away, she has the next son in line, Henry, move back to the castle. She wants to remind Charles that he is completely replaceable, should something, you know, ever happen to him. French court should be so fun next season!
Meanwhile, in Scotland: Mary is trying her hardest to unify her people. It’s a tough feat considering that the Scottish people are wary of her because she’s Catholic in a now very Protestant country and because she’s spent almost all of her life over in France. She’s a foreigner to them. Mary presses on, though. In the face of John Knox’s threats to convert or else, Mary reopens the church in the castle and begins to take mass. Mary has bigger problems that John Knox’s misogyny at the moment, anyway.
First, she’s informed by her brother James that some Catholics in a small village massacred their Protestant neighbors. The Catholics fled, and only the town priest survives. This isn’t great for Mary, whose plan was to preach complete religious tolerance. She has James go find the priest — if he’s guilty, he will be held accountable. While James is taking care of that problem, she and Bash head into town to deal with another: There’s a group of English delegates traveling around attempting to gain the support of Scottish nobles in Elizabeth’s continuing quest to take the Scottish throne. Who should be at the helm of this motley crew but one Gideon Blackburn.
Mary and Gideon waste no time in returning to Make Out City. Before it goes too far, however, Mary stops to talk business. She wants to unite her people and find peace with England, but she can’t do that if Gideon and his delegates are successful in gaining support for Elizabeth’s coup. She needs more time to win over her people, so he promises to stall them for a day because Mary is a boss who gets stuff done.
When the priest in question ends up hanging himself rather than face the rumored wrath of Mary, she, though somewhat nauseated by the idea, decides to use this to her advantage. She tells her people that she had the priest hanged as justice for the Protestants and as proof that she does not judge a man on faith alone. She then gives yet another rousing speech to her people about Scotland and standing united together and defeating the English, you get the picture. She’s a badass and she can’t help it.
Mary’s feeling pretty good about the progress she’s made in Scotland until her party is severely rained upon by Bash — who, by the way, is running off with the Druids in order to hone his magic skills and become a seer for Mary, because, sure — when he is forced to deliver the terrible news regarding Lola. Mary is in disbelief that Lola would ever get mixed up in something like that and immediately blames Elizabeth for concocting a story in order to kill Mary’s friend and punish her. All of that talk about peace with England is going out the window. Things just got very personal.
Of course, Lola’s death wasn’t caused by any plot on Elizabeth’s end, as James discovers, it was all the doing of John Knox. He created a win-win scenario for himself: Even if Elizabeth wasn’t killed, Mary would be implicated in the assassination attempt and any sliver of hope for peace between the two women would be lost. He’s pitting them against one another so that they’ll destroy one another and he’ll come out on top. Yup, he’s still The Actual Worst.
His plan works, of course, and in the end, Mary calls Gideon to her side for one last meeting before he leaves her, this time at the very border of Scotland and England. Looking out over Elizabeth’s lands, she begs Gideon to get close to Liz for intel, as Elizabeth had him do to Mary. Mary’s coming for Elizabeth’s throne and nothing is going to stop her this time. Okay, well, to be honest, a lot of things are probably going to stop her, but that’s a problem for season 4 Mary!
The Queens’ Corner of Harsh Lady Truths:
Bash: “Where are you going?”
Mary: “To show John Knox that queens do not bow to their subjects. It is, in fact, quite the other way around.”
“It’s incredible, really. I march to my execution very soon and yet, you are the one to be pitied.” Lola, speaking the truth until the very end.
“…This is our land! And though they may spill our blood, they will never take the Scotland that pounds in our veins!” We get it, Mary. You give good speech.
Outfit of the Week: Although I appreciated the Scottish flair added to Mary’s wardrobe — that dress with the sheer sleeves and striped skirt was killer — I’m giving the final OOTW of the season to Queen Elizabeth. Of course she would wear red to an execution. OF COURSE.