Darnley won't be winning Husband of the Year anytime soon

By Maggie Fremont
June 09, 2017 at 10:00 PM EDT
Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW
S4 E15
B+
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  • TV Show
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Genre

To be honest, Royals, I never expected Darnley to make it this far. Keeping the dramatic tension alive in a historical drama is tough. According to our friend History, we know that in reality, Darnley is murdered and Mary and Bothwell marry before Mary lands in an English castle to spend the rest of her days as Elizabeth’s prisoner prior to Mary’s beheading. And don’t come at me in the comments like these are spoilers — read a book once in a while! Regardless, I expected Reign to speed up the historical timeline (lord knows they aren’t sticklers for history…unless that sex horse impalement thing is accurate) and get rid of Darnley episodes ago. Alas, the guy is still around causing trouble for his wife…and now he has syphilis!

We watched him go mad with hallucinations of his dear, late Keira, and this week Mary finds a suspicious rash all over his back. Homegirl knows exactly what it is. She’s much more sympathetic than most wives would be toward an estranged husband who has been sleeping around and also tried to have them killed. She sends Darnley off to get treatment.

Two people are very upset about this: Lord Ponytail, who cannot believe Mary is still giving this guy a chance (drink every time Bothwell says “threat” on this show), and Lady Lennox, who thinks this is just Mary trying to get Darnley as far away from her throne and her child as possible. Lennox thinks she’s a regular ol’ Catherine de Medici. SHE IS NO CATHERINE DE MEDICI.

While Mary tries to explain to Lennox that she is only trying to help Darnley, she goes into labor. You guys, it is rough. There’s lots of bleeding and crying and talk about choosing the baby’s life over hers if it comes to that. Of course Lennox uses this as an excuse to get her son back into power. She finds him convalescing, tells him it’s totally cool that he’s seeing his dead lover because it makes him happy, and that it’s time to get back to the castle. She wants him to stack the currently vacated privy council with his own supporters while Mary is indisposed. Lennox isn’t like a regular mom, she’s like…THE WORST.

Meanwhile, Mary’s getting much worse. On the plus side, Bothwell comes to her side and he is very handsome. He also, apparently, has magic powers. When Mary says her good-byes and her eyes roll into the back of her head, Bothwell tells her to fight, to come back, to not leave him. And guess what? She does. And she pops out that male heir as if it were nothing. Mary’s a mommy!

More importantly, after that entire ordeal, she now understands that she is only strengthened by love…which means Mary’s all in on Lord Ponytail. They really are a great looking couple. Things are looking up!

Just kidding. Not only does Mary have to face death and squeeze a human out of her body, but she also has to deal with her dummy husband and his mother. What a day, huh? Lennox and Darnley plan to have the privy council make Darnley Steward to the Heir, giving him full control over their son and the ability to keep Mary away from her own child. Oh, and if Mary starts telling people that Darnley’s gone mad with the syph, they’ll tell everyone it was Mary who gave it to him. So, I guess, things are looking down.

Things are so dire, in fact, that Mary does something unthinkable: She sends a letter asking Elizabeth for help. She wants Elizabeth to promise to take care of her son should anything happen to her. Also, if Elizabeth never has children, Mary wants her cousin to make Mary’s son heir to both their kingdoms. In return, she promises to leave the English throne alone. She wants them to be allies — they are family, after all.

Unfortunately, while Mary is off trying to be the bigger person, Darnley gets into the nursery and is left alone with his son (somebody’s getting fired!). When Mary gets word that Darnley is up to no good, she runs to her son’s side…but the nursery is empty.

Things aren’t going any better in France. The war between the Valois brothers heats up again thanks to the arrival of their sister from Spain. Leesa strolls into France and claims to be very supportive of Charles’ decision to marry a Protestant peasant girl, but almost everyone knows she’s lying. Catherine, most of all. Not even a generous gift of a wagon full of French heretics and a witch is enough to persuade Catherine otherwise. And Catherine’s right, of course. When Leesa gets Henri alone, she tells him to head to the Spanish warship that’s been lurking nearby ever since Henri showed up in France. The entire Spanish Armada is soon to follow and Henri will have the full backing of Spain when he forces Charles to abdicate.

Henri’s into the plan, if only because Charles’ recent nuptial announcement has meant getting the cold shoulder from Nicole. She doesn’t want to upset Charles, and also, Charles can make her queen, so…the choice is clear. Henri informs Nicole of Spain’s plan, and begs her to reconsider. They love each other, don’t they? So, off she goes to pack her things — including Henri’s favorite corset — and the two head for the water.

It doesn’t take long for Charles to find out that Spain and both his siblings have been plotting against him. He barely takes a breath before tossing Leesa in the same prison cell as all of those heretics she trotted into court earlier. Catherine’s glee at seeing her troublesome daughter in prison is life-affirming. She informs Leesa that her husband will not be arriving with the Spanish Armada to save her and install Henri as king because they are indisposed at the moment (more on that below). However, Catherine is willing to help in return for a long list of favors from the King and Queen of Spain. Nothing comes for free from Catherine, not even for her own daughter.

Catherine may think she’s solved this crisis, but Charles tells her otherwise. He’s not thrilled that his sister gets to plot against him and go free, but he’s more so ready to attack Henri, currently a sitting duck with no Armada to back him up. Charles is under the impression that Henri kidnapped Nicole — he’s still in the dark about their affair. Why Catherine doesn’t tell him the truth there is a mystery, however, she is livid to learn that the possibility of a civil war is all because she has two sons fighting over the same girl. What’s a mother to do in such a situation? She heads to the nearest witch in town, conveniently located in her prison, and asks her to take care of the Nicole of it all.

If only the witch could also take care of Claude’s bore of a story line. I like Claude and I like Luc, I just hate that we’ve been pretending there’s a chance Claude and Luc might not end up together in a real marriage. The back and forth is painful. This time around, they’re denied their annulment because Charles doesn’t want to bother the Vatican while he goes and marries a Protestant. So, Luc, ever the masochist, tells Claude she should just run off and be with Leith, her true love. Only, when Claude writes to Leith to tell him the news, she discovers he’s gotten married. This seems very off-brand for his character, but if it means Claude will finally admit she loves Luc as more than a friend, I am on board with it.

Meanwhile, in England: Oh, Jane. Dumb, dumb, Jane. As it turns out, Jane was recruited by Narcisse to help him with his Great Revenge Tour of 15WhateverItIs. In return for riches and cheese, Jane poisoned Gideon. Honestly, I’d do a lot for free cheese, so I feel you, Jane.

Elizabeth doesn’t suspect Jane, since she knows Jane would never be stupid enough to endanger her family like that (ha!), and has turned all of her suspicion onto her fiancé the Archduke. And now she’s going to hit him where it hurts: his wallet. She hires Sir Francis Drake (yes, that Sir Francis Drake) to do what he does best and pillage a Portuguese freighter full of gold that’s headed straight to Austria and into the pockets of the Archduke’s family. But this is an unsanctioned mission and he needs to keep England out of it. Drake is all like, stop pirate-splaining, lady. I GET IT.

He completes his mission quite handily, but upon his arrival back at English Court, he informs his queen about one very large and very Spanish problem: On their way back, they got into a bit of a “thing” with the Spanish Armada. Thinking he could sail through in peace if he let his English sails fly, he let the Armada know exactly who he’s working for. Things escalated and he took down two Spanish ships. It’s terrible PR, but it also gives King Philip of Spain a reason for attacking England — something he’s been hankering to do for quite some time. Sir Francis Drake’s botched mission may have just thrown England into a war with the greatest power in Europe.

Drake does help Elizabeth with one problem though — he reminds her that she’s the Queen of England, and everyone will always want something from her. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. You know, like her servant Jane who says she would help take out the Archduke for the queen just because she is that loyal. It all finally clicks for Elizabeth: Jane is behind Gideon’s death, not the Archduke. That’s enough to earn Jane a one-way ticket to the Tower. Lizzie’s angry, you guys. I’d be scared if I were Spain.

Outfit of the Week: Royals, you know how I fall madly in love with a fabulous collar, so as surprising as it may seem given my feelings toward a certain peasant-turned-royal mistress, Nicole wins OOTW. Is she trying too hard to fit in? Sure. But I appreciate that her idea of “fitting in” is a ridiculously large piece of fabric around her neck. Get it, Nicole.

Episode Recaps

A sexy, historical fiction CW take on the lives of Mary, Queen of Scots and her royal court.
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  • TV Show
seasons
  • 4
Genre
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  • 10/17/13
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  • In Season
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