As Reign inches closer and closer to The End (say it ain’t so!), it’s lifting its foot off the brake and going for it, people. We got sex! We got death! We got… okay, so mainly just sex and death (and gorgeous costumes, obviously) for now, but it’s some extremely important sex and death. There are some big moments in “Coup de Grace.” Sure, my eyes glaze over every time we make a pit stop in England, and Catherine is really the only thing holding things down in France (old news, right?) but Scotland, you guys! SCOTLAND. There’s so much action happening in Scotland, I wish we could just spend all of our time in the highlands.
Instead, we’ll just kick off this recap there.
Well, John Knox has made good on his promise to Darnley to help sway the privy council over to the king consort’s side. Mainly by way of money, of course. Darnley’s paying the council to vote against Mary, stripping her of any real power, and they’ve also promised to vote to give him the crown matrimonial. I know, I know, it seems like Darnley is getting a lot out of this deal, and the privy council gets some money, sure, but also… they are willingly going to let Darnley be their monarch? Seems fishy.
Mary knows she must win back the privy council. If Darnley gets the crown matrimonial, the nobles will see him as her superior just because he’s a man. Don’t worry, the misogyny only gets worse throughout this episode. Mary’s plan is simple, but devastatingly effective. She finally announces to the world that she’s expecting. Those old rich dudes go gaga for the news of an impending babe. Okay, so really it’s because now they know there’s an heir on deck, but secretly don’t you think at least one member of the privy council is excited because he knows how warm and cuddly babies are?
Darnley, of course, eats up the praise of siring a child, which was Mary’s plan all along. She knew he wouldn’t deny paternity because the guy just wants to be loved. And thus, she wins back any leverage Darnley had over her. Only… not quite. Knox is livid that Darnley didn’t think big picture, and he wants to put his plan to get rid of Mary into hyperdrive.
Mary and Rizzio are sipping on some tea and celebrating the win. Most of the privy council has flipped, with the exception of one: the Lord Treasurer. Mary asks David to check the books and see if their treasurer has been up to no good. Anything that will get them leverage over him. Of course Rizzio will do it; he’d do anything for Mary. Mary gushes over how she is so grateful for David. She “treasures” him, she says. And that’s when you know Rizzio is a goner. No one gets a speech like that out of the blue and survives!
Yes, the treasurer is skimming funds from Scotland and his fellow nobles, but the threat of exposing that isn’t enough to turn this misogynistic fool over to Mary’s side. Rizzio takes matters into his own hands: He pulls the treasurer aside and lets him know that the two men share a secret… which is that they share a male lover. Rizzio doesn’t like using this knowledge against the guy, but he also knows it may be the only way to protect Mary. If both men have to burn, so be it.
Looks like the threat of outing him is enough to sway the treasurer. Knox fumes. He needs to kill Mary ASAP. Darnley swings by with a different suggestion: Why don’t they just accuse Mary of adultery with Bothwell? If they catch her in the act, she’ll be forced to abdicate and either be banished or tossed in prison. Darnley can take over as king, and Mary lives. It’s a win-win for the guy. An evil win-win, but still one nonetheless.
Here’s where it all goes very, very downhill.
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That night, Bothwell comes storming into Mary’s room. There’s a coup afoot. They’re in the castle — led by Darnley — and they are coming to overthrow the queen. Out in the hallway, Darnley and his supporters, including the treasurer, are ready to catch Mary and Bothwell alone together. Only, they don’t account for Mary sending Bothwell away to gather her own supporters, and Rizzio running in ready to defend his queen. As the conspirators descend, they find Mary and Rizzio alone, playing cards. They are not pleased, and Darnley demands to see Bothwell. Mary accuses them all of treason, but no one backs down. Since they didn’t find Mary in the room with Bothwell, they’ll use Rizzio as a stand-in for the queen’s co-adulterer. And that’s when they start stabbing Mary’s BFF. Like, a lot. For a long time. It’s excruciating to watch, especially as Mary sobs, helpless to save her friend. I’m sorry to report Rizzio has gone to that big hair salon in the sky.
Mary doesn’t let her grief take over. Instead, she does what she does best: plots. She has a very frank discussion with her dummy husband, reminding him that the privy council turned on her fast. How quickly will they turn on an English Catholic? If he stays with them, he’s a dead man. So, they ride off to meet Bothwell. Darnley isn’t totally as dumb as he looks. Partway into their journey, he realizes he’s also a dead man if he gets anywhere near Bothwell. He rides off into hiding. Good riddance, ya jerk!
When Mary finally reaches Bothwell and the men he’s gathered to take back the castle, she is raging. There are men in her home who think they can take her crown. She’s going to kill them all.
Exciting stuff, right? What’s going down in France isn’t nearly as thrilling — it’s all talk of ships and ports and cargo, wee! — but there is one moment that makes it all worth it. YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.
Henri’s commandeered an English ship in French port to show English ex-pats who’s boss. That ship happens to be carrying one of the main ingredients in gunpowder. They’ll be keeping that, thank you very much. Henri has plans to send it over to Spain, his greatest supporter. When Narcisse catches wind, he reminds the young prince that he’s supposed to be working for the French, not the Spanish, and that by handing over the ships to Spain, rather than negotiating with England, he could be causing a war. No biggie.
Narcisse uses the information Henri’s passed along to his own advantage, naturally. Gideon’s the one in town looking to find a diplomatic solution to the current tensions between France and England. He wants his ships back, money for those English nobles Charles beheaded last week, and a formal apology. Gideon will get none of those things. He does get something else. He calls Narcisse out for making this personal since, you know, the Queen of England executed Narcisse’s wife. Gideon tells Narcisse that his bitterness will destroy him. He needs to let love back into his life. Isn’t Gideon so sensitive? In return for the advice, which Narcisse really needed to hear, Narcisse fills Gideon in on the whole Henri and Spain situation and implies that if Gideon has a little chat with Charles about it, the king might be more amenable to England’s requests.
So Gideon does just that, and it works. Charles sends the ships back to England just to spite his brother.
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Narcisse also takes Gideon’s advice. Later, alone with Catherine, he makes fun of the gifts Nicole leaves for him each day, how she is suffocating him, how all the work to keep up the charade might not be worth it. The two reminisce about the days when they were manipulating one another and how much fun it was, since they were equally matched. The entire scene is dripping with sexual tension. And finally, they give into it. Get the ticker tape ready, people, CATHERINE AND NARCISSE HOOK UP AGAIN. Dreams do come true!
There is one small caveat. Henri’s been trying to seduce Nicole away from Narcisse. To prove to her that Narcisse feels nothing for her, the two of them hide in his room to watch him receive his latest gift. They watch much more than they bargained for. Nicole is devastated, Henri is disgusted, so obviously they go back to Henri’s room to get it on. Charles may have no idea, but that’s one more point for Prince Henri. We’ll see what consequences this secret romance has for Charles, Narcisse, and all of France, really. I told you there were important hook-ups!
Meanwhile, in England: Liz has really gotten herself into a pickle. As Gideon bids her adieu for France, he tells her to write down all of her dirty desires, and then they can read them together once he returns. It seems a little suspect that a woman who was willing to murder a maid in order to keep their secret would be willing to leave a paper trail, but sure, why not.
Her lusty love notes for Gideon get her into trouble almost immediately. The Archduke, you know, the Catholic dude she is about to marry, finds them and confronts her. Elizabeth claims they are all about her desire for him, based on things she’s read about. (“The Queen of England reads erotica?”) In that case, her betrothed is pretty happy because he feels the same way about her. And since they are about to walk down the aisle in a hot minute, why not just give in to their feelings?
Elizabeth has no rebuttal.
Post-coital, the Archduke reveals that he knows those letters were about Gideon. He only went along with Liz’s lie because he wanted to show her how good they could be together (according to him, they are very good together). It’s all a little too creepy, but Elizabeth never denies that she liked it.
The Archduke wants a chance at a real marriage with Elizabeth. He also knows they both have a lot to gain from this working out. So he has one condition: Gideon must be banished from court. He doesn’t want his competition walking around in front of him. Elizabeth tearfully agrees, believing she doesn’t have much choice. Also, that engagement ring is hella nice.
Since history tells us that Elizabeth never marries, we know this won’t work out. But how will it go down? Will Elizabeth outright choose love? Or will the whole thing blow up in her face, leaving her without a husband or a lover? Since no one on Reign gets a happy ending, my money is on the latter.
Outfit of the Week: Mary sports a lot of red this week, most definitely signaling betrayal and death, but the fairest of them all is the bright red, bejeweled empire waist number she has on when announcing her pregnancy and attempting to stop Darnley’s plot against her. The girl is working hard and looking fabulous while doing it.