Mary and James butt heads over Darnley, while Catherine goes searching for a king.
Hanging Swords
Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW
S4 E7
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Good on Reign for spending so much time developing the sibling relationship between Mary and James this season. Aside from some fraught moments with Marie de Guise, Mary hasn’t had much interaction with true family. Watching her try to balance loyalty to her brother with loyalty to Scotland and to her future husband has been a compelling new layer added to Mary’s character.

Of course, when you’re talking about royalty, the idea of an overprotective brother goes to a whole new level. It’s no secret that James doesn’t like Darnley. That whole “setting someone’s home on fire to look like a hero” thing really bugs him, he’s heard complaints from the servants about Darnley being a real ass, AND Darnley took James’ favorite horse. Don’t mess with a dude’s stallion, you know? None of this helps when Mary tells her brother she is taking James’ lands and giving them to Darnley so that he has a proper title. At one time, those lands belonged to the Lennox family (before Darnley’s father became a traitor), so they will also have sentimental value for Darnley. It’s just another sign that Mary might actually be falling for this guy —James is not amused.

Also not amused? Darnley’s mother. Darnley goes to see Lady Lennox to find out if Keira is telling the truth about getting a letter from Darnley breaking things off. Lady Lennox admits to it straightaway…she’s pretty proud of the forgery, in fact. She wants her son to keep his eyes on the prize: He’s about to marry a queen. Not to mention, if he doesn’t get rid of Keira soon, she’s sure to be imprisoned for adultery and Darnley will lose all of his lands, money, etc. “Don’t be a fool,” she tells her son.

It’s not so easy for Darnley. Keira was the love of his life, but he admits to having true feelings for Mary, too. He’s touched by Mary’s gift of the old Lennox lands. Too bad he’s even more touched by Keira’s demands to kiss her and try not to feel anything. The ex-lovers end up back in bed. “No one can ever know,” Darnley says. So, obviously, someone will find out.

Mary, falling harder for Darnley by the minute, sets out to fix things with James. She promises to get him new lands with valuable trade routes. In fact, she’s found a noble with just the lands she wants for James and is going to negotiate a trade. She tells James the guy’s name is Bothwell (Adam Croasdell) and he’s ill at the moment, but once he’s better she’ll get those lands. James laughs. Oh, he knows Bothwell, and the dude isn’t sick. He’s down at the local tavern getting drunk.

To the village, we go!

Once there, the brother and sister duo get split up. Mary heads into the tavern and finds Bothwell playing poker. On one hand, he is very fresh with Mary, and refuses to give up his lands, but only after humiliating her in front of the other nobles. On the other hand, he has a ponytail, dimples, and seems very flirty. Okay, I’m all in on Bothwell. If you’ve done your history homework, you know who Bothwell is — this is a very exciting little meeting.

While Mary is off paying too much money for lands from other nobles, James is called away to look into the suspicious arrival of a woman from England at the village inn. He needs to do only minor investigating because he recognizes his old horse — the one Darnley took — tied up outside said inn. He knows Darnley must be involved. James storms into the room and finds Darnley and Keira in bed together. How awkward!

Darnley implores James not to tell Mary, but understandably, James is livid. Darnley reminds James that this marriage is Mary’s one shot at taking the English throne and it could very well ensure her survival. He can’t argue with that, but James does promise Darnley that if he betrays Mary one more time, Darnley’s a dead man. James is the best.

As it so happens, Darnley didn’t have to worry about James spilling the beans to Mary — the Loyal Watchman does it anyway. Any bets on who the Loyal Watchman is? My current theory is Bash (come back from your Druid adventure, please!). Discuss!

Mary is heartbroken over the news. She confronts Darnley, who tries to deny it, which Mary has no time for. Have we ever seen Queen Mary this angry? She feels stupid for thinking this marriage was anything more than a political move. Darnley tries to do some damage control by telling her things are over with Keira and that Mary is his future. It doesn’t work. He then goes for the low blow: He tells Mary she would never truly love him, and this whole thing is about power. She can’t spurn him now — too much is at stake. Mary knows Darnley’s right, but she doesn’t have to be happy about it. She’ll marry him, but they’ll be miserable. This is only for the good of Scotland. YIKES. Um, so, like, where are you guys registered? I’d like to look into their return policy.

While the story line in Scotland is certainly the most interesting in “Hanging Swords,” the stuff going on in France is definitely the weirdest. Per usual.

Leesa has her men combing the French countryside in hopes of locating the currently MIA King Charles so that she can force him into abdicating. Catherine and Narcisse need to find Charles first, or else France may become a Spanish territory. Conveniently, Catherine’s spies have heard of a farmer in Meaux (where Charles was last spotted) who has recently taken in a mysterious boarder. It must be Charles. And guess what? It is! Well, that was easy.

Charles is living off the land and loving it. Seriously! Catherine’s never seen her son so happy. Unfortunately, that means it won’t be so easy to convince him to get back on the throne. Or is it? Catherine and Narcisse realize Charles has struck up a special relationship with Nicole (Ann Pirvu), the farmer’s daughter. They tell Nicole that if she can persuade Charles to return to court, they’ll bring her with them. She’s in! And one off-screen conversation later, Nicole has gotten Charles to go back to the palace. Well, that was easy, too.

Once there, they still have to convince Leesa that Charles is fit to rule. He seems to be back to his old self in no time, and he basically tells Leesa she can stuff it. He’s in charge here. Oh, and by the way, her threats of bringing the Vatican in to check up on Charles hold no sway over him: He’s Protestant now. GASP. Leesa’s about to pop a forehead vein.

Catherine and Narcisse try to reason with Charles: He’s the king of a Catholic country, run mainly by Catholic nobles, who, BTW, also pay the Valois private income. Charles tries to remind them that Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church and he was just fine. Catherine’s like, “Oh, little one, you are no Henry VIII.” Also, having a Protestant king will throw the country into civil war. Charles doesn’t care — he’s ruling France his own way now.

So, maybe things aren’t so easy?

Speaking of doing things your own way, there’s more to Nicole than just a farm girl with excellent persuasion skills. Narcisse walks in to find her tangled up in his sheets. She wants more than time at court, and now that she’s here, she can see that Narcisse, not Charles, is the one with real power. She wants gold and she wants Narcisse to get it for her. In return, she’ll continue manipulating Charles into doing whatever he wants. It’s a pretty decent offer, but this girl might be more trouble than she’s worth.

Catherine knows she needs to find a way to talk Leesa off the ledge. Leesa’s packing up to go home and get King Philip and the Vatican to intervene and take France. This is worse than that pigeon soup Catherine had to choke down on the farm! REALLY BAD! Catherine knows everything Leesa has done while in France has nothing to do with spreading Catholicism, and everything to do with getting back at Catherine for her terrible parenting. Catherine begs Leesa to stop punishing the entire country and stick to punishing her. She’ll give her whatever she wants.

Unfortunately, what Leesa wants is a whole lot worse than Catherine was expecting. The ladies strike a deal: Leesa will keep Spain and the Vatican out of it, as long as Catherine convinces Charles to step down and allow his younger (and very Catholic) brother Henry to take the throne. Now that Charles is super into his kingly duties, Catherine knows he won’t go down without a fight. It will pit Protestants against Catholics. In short: It will lead to civil war.

It doesn’t really seem like a fair deal, does it?

Meanwhile, in England: Boy, will I be glad when Elizabeth gets back to destroying people’s lives. This sad character development thing they have going on is not the most compelling. It feels like Reign is stalling? Sorry to be so callous about poor little Agatha, but there it is.

Gideon has accepted his daughter is dying, but he wants to make her last few days on this earth happy ones. It’s hard to do when you’re crying all the time, so he lets Elizabeth take the reins. It’s all very lovely: Elizabeth turns Agatha into a queen for the day. They jump on beds, play in fountains, basically reenact the Friends opening credits, I guess. Agatha gets a gown and a tiara and can boss servants around. This little girl is so nice, though, all she really does is order her father to give her a piggy back ride to the library. THE LIBRARY.

Agatha’s slow march to death serves two purposes. First, Elizabeth comforts Agatha with tales of a heaven full of dancing and hugs from your mom. Gideon can tell it’s the same story Elizabeth comforted herself with while locked up in the Tower as a little girl. It’s a reminder of how terrible Elizabeth’s life was for a while. Man, if I were queen, I’d never let my subjects forget how they locked me up in the Tower. A queen may forgive, but she never forgets. Okay, Elizabeth probably doesn’t forgive either.

The second purpose for Agatha’s story is to get Elizabeth to rethink her current hunt for any reason to invade Scotland. Agatha quite liked Mary when she met her, and also isn’t a queen supposed to want peace? It all hits Elizabeth hard, and she ends up calling off an impetuous invasion. She needs to be smarter than that.

Agatha dies peacefully in her sleep and Gideon weeps in Elizabeth’s arms. Ben Geurens really sells this Agatha stuff. Gideon’s been put through the ringer in his short time on Reign, huh? Let’s get this guy a happy ending, ASAP.

Outfit of the Week: Shout out to Mary’s dress with the lace sleeves and embroidered bodice, but obviously the win has to go to Queen Agatha in her fancy gown paired with her fur-trimmed cape. Give that little angel everything she wants!

Episode Recaps

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