Reign premiere recap: 'With Friends Like These'
Mary seeks a new marriage alliance and Elizabeth isn't happy about it.
Our three favorite queens are back in action, doing what they do best: wearing gorgeous gowns, plotting for power, and straight-up murdering people. Reign season 4 wastes no time in reminding us why we love this nutball show: queens dressing down people who are beneath them and anything that Catherine does. It also quickly reminds us of some of its problems, like all the talk (so much talk!) about religious alliances. Less talk, more action, Reign. We’re coming to the end, so let’s make these last few episodes as outrageous and wonderful as possible.
Speaking of the end, it’ll be interesting to see how Reign wraps up this whole shebang. As history tells us, Mary meets her demise at Elizabeth’s hand at a much later time than where the series currently is. Reign hasn’t always felt the need to stick to the history books, though, so maybe they’ll take some license and Mary, Elizabeth, and Catherine will sail off into the sunset together singing some 1500s version of “You Don’t Own Me.” Hey, a girl can dream.
As it stands now, our three queens are all attempting to stay in power in their respective countries. Let’s check in.
Over in Scotland, Mary is quickly learning that life in the homeland might be even more dangerous than in France — and that place had ladies being humped out of windows! Mary doesn’t know who she can trust. Bash has run off with the Druids (typical Bash), and Gideon has returned to his post next to Queen Elizabeth. Mary’s brother seems okay — he teaches her some sweet sword moves — but Mary knows he’s playing all sides. He’s very chummy with John Knox. Remember him? Protestant leader and hardcore misogynist who came up with the plan to trick Lola into thinking Mary had ordered the assassination of Elizabeth, which ended up getting Lola beheaded and making the rivalry between the two queens very, very personal? Yeah, that guy. We don’t like that guy.
So Mary takes James’ advice with a grain of salt. She knows she needs to marry again in order to gain some momentum in her attempt to take Elizabeth’s throne. She’s considering Lord Darnley. He’s another Catholic with a legitimate claim to the throne, and he has lots of English allies. James warns against the match: A Catholic king would infuriate protestants like John Knox. Knox would turn the country against her. James thinks Mary should concentrate on uniting all the Scottish clans behind her and using them to overthrow Elizabeth. Mary’s all like, “Yeah sure, whatever, James” and gets back to her swashbuckling.
Turns out, James is right about the clans being important players in the quest for power. Clan Gordon (Catholics from the north) drugs Mary via communion wafer while she attends Lola’s funeral (oh, hi, Greer!), and when she leaves by herself, they kidnap her using her very own carriage. Why the Queen of Scotland doesn’t have more guards around her remains a mystery. When she comes to, the Earl of Clan Gordon informs her that she’ll need the protection of a Catholic clan and in order to gain that protection, Mary will be marrying his son, George.
It’s not just Clan Gordon who’s concerned with Mary’s next husband — it’s also of great interest to Queen Elizabeth. Liz, still under the impression that Mary really did plan that attempt on her life, is looking to stop her cousin’s campaign for England, permanently. So when she hears rumors that Mary is looking to marry Darnley, the gal is on high alert. A union between two people with claims, who have the support of Rome? No, thank you. Liz is so desperate to keep Darnley away from Mary that after a meeting with Darnley’s mother, Lady Lennox (she’s a Catherine-in-training, if you will), goes awry, Liz puts all of her best men to the task of finding and bringing Darnley to court. She’ll have him dragged there on his knees, if need be.
NEXT: Hey! What’s Narcisse been up to?
One of these men is Gideon, recently returned from his heated love affair with Mary. Liz isn’t super pumped about how quick Gideon is to cry Mary’s innocence. Gideon tries to convince the queen that she may not have all the facts, but Liz orders Gideon to forget about trying to prove Mary was framed and instead go find Darnley. Gideon can’t help himself. He wants evidence to show Elizabeth that she’s wrong about Mary. Instead of following orders, he goes directly to someone who may have some more information on Lola’s actions: Narcisse.
Narcisse has been hanging out in the Tower since he killed two guards after watching the love of his life lose her head — nevertheless, the guy is still rocking a gorgeous tan. Good for him. After the two boys get to chatting, they discover that if anyone knows who is really behind the plot to kill Elizabeth, it would be Renee, little John’s nanny and the person who physically handed Lola the letter with the instructions. In fact, she’s probably in on the whole thing. This is alarming because the last thing Narcisse did before Lola’s death was hand John off to Renee to protect the kid. So, that’s not great.
Narcisse sends Gideon off to Renee and John’s last known location. When Gideon finds them, John is fine, but Renee is having a complete breakdown. She never says his name, but Gideon figures out that John Knox is behind the assassination plot and Renee is terrified for her life. So terrified, in fact, that she’d rather take two arrows to the back than get dragged in for questioning and leave herself open to retribution from Knox. So, bad news, Renee is dead. But good news, Gideon can tell Elizabeth to lay off of Mary.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth doesn’t much care about the truth. She refuses to go after Knox and his powerful allies, and even if Mary didn’t plot to kill Elizabeth this time, the two will always be rivals. There are two queens but only one throne. Someone’s going to be on the losing side of this war.
Elizabeth should be concerned about Mary — she’s very resourceful. Back in northern Scotland, Mary hatches a plan to escape Clan Gordon. She “agrees” to the earl’s demand that she marry George. Then she invites George, who is 100 percent dweeb, to come to her room. She knows George won’t be able to handle a powerful woman like herself — and if he can’t perform, Mary has the right to refuse the marriage. She demands he take off his belt… and George faints. Well, that was easier than expected.
Mary bolts, runs an ax through a guard’s stomach, and then hops on a horse and rides off into the dark. The next day, she runs into James and his men. James does his best to get Mary to stay behind while they march on Clan Gordon, but Mary’s smart. She knows her brother is up to something. Almost immediately she figures out that James has brought enough men with him to completely slaughter Clan Gordon. She also realizes that the only way James and all of those men could’ve arrived so quickly is with the help of John Knox’s allies. She calls James out for plotting with Knox to wipe out Mary’s Catholic allies. And she has news for her brother: There’s no playing all sides any longer. You’re either with Mary or against her.
James really has no choice but to be with her. So, when she orders him to execute the earl in order to show that Mary means business but is also merciful enough to spare the rest of the clan, he does it. When Knox finds out, he is not pleased. He threatens to spread the word that James is a Catholic sympathizer. But James has been bossed around enough for one day. He slams Knox against the wall and reminds him who has royal blood in his veins. That’s going to sit well with Knox, but it is nice to finally see James with some backbone.
NEXT: Let’s meet Darnley
It’s especially nice because I’m pretty sure he’ll be getting yelled at by his sister for some time. He makes two big mistakes with Mary: First, Mary learns that James knew about Knox’s assassination plot after the fact and said nothing. Second, he tells Mary that he’s truly on her side because she’s proven she can handle the job. It’s the latter that really pisses Mary off. She doesn’t have to prove anything to him because SHE’S THE QUEEN.
It’s pretty remarkable that so many men have to be reminded that these ladies are in charge. Even Narcisse gives Elizabeth a lot of lip service when she comes to tell him that Knox was behind the plot and that Narcisse and John are free to return to France. Sure, she did just execute his wife, but maybe Narcisse should ease up on telling the Queen of England that she has no real relationships and that she’s a fool if she thinks otherwise. I don’t know, just a suggestion.
Liz has bigger things to worry about than Narcisse cutting to the core of her. Darnley has finally arrived at court! He has an idea to help Elizabeth with her problem: a little quid pro quo. He’s in love with another woman — who we meet briefly, in his bed — who is betrothed to a man in a powerful family. If Elizabeth breaks the engagement for him (“That sounds expensive”), he’ll stay in England with his lady and never even meet Mary. Problem solved, yes? Not really. Little does Elizabeth know that over in Scotland, Mary has just reaffirmed her commitment to finding and marrying Darnley. This isn’t about love, it’s about power. From the looks of it, Mary isn’t going to back down easily.
Meanwhile, in France: Catherine’s other daughter, Leesa, Queen of Spain and stepmother to Don Carlos (he of sex horse fame), has come to France to escape her stepson’s weird crush and also wreak havoc on her mother and sister. Welcome, Leesa!
Leesa and her husband King Philip are very pious Catholics concerned about the building Protestant movement in France. To subvert this uprising, Leesa thinks a prominent Catholic marriage is in order, and she wants Claude to marry Martel de Guise. It would make Spain very happy.
There are some problems with this match, though. Claude is still in love with Leith, who she does not believe is actually dead. When Claude comes around to the idea that Leith might really be gone (BUT IS HE??), she still isn’t into it because she’s figured out that Martel probably killed Leith. And oh yeah, Catherine had Martel’s father murdered and she really doesn’t want that kid getting any more power. You know, little problems like that.
Catherine has a plan though (Catherine always has a plan!). She and Claude are going to murder Martel. I mean, it’s the only way. In the end, though, Catherine doesn’t want her daughter to deal with the guilt of murder, so she does it on her own. Martel is dead and everyone buys into his fake suicide letter. The day is Catherine’s! Well, almost. Since Spain’s fears of a Protestant takeover still haven’t been alleviated, Leesa is staying in France indefinitely. Is Catherine more annoyed by Spain inserting themselves into France’s business or her self-righteous daughter becoming a permanent fixture at French court? Time will tell.
Outfit of the Week: It’s a tie between two dresses our gals were wearing while wielding sharp objects: Mary’s white gown with beaded trim she wears while tearing into a guard’s guts, and the sequined and feathered number Claude has on while contemplating whether or not to shove a knife in Martel’s side. A lady should always look her best while reminding men who is really in charge here.