Long may she reign (in our hearts)

By Maggie Fremont
June 16, 2017 at 10:00 PM EDT
Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW
S4 E16
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Oh, Royals. If you thought Reign was going to go out without giving us one last completely bonkers story line, well, you haven’t been paying attention.

And so, we begin this final (!!) Reign recap in France… on the three-way with a witch. You have no idea how much I’m going to miss being able to write sentences like that. Sure, much of the time spent in French Court this season was less than thrilling, and many of the characters residing there get hastily wrapped up arcs, but the conclusion of Catherine’s story is just so Catherine that the faults in the French Court finale can be overlooked. Mostly. I mean, Poor Claude seemingly just pops by to say that Luc has left and now she’s lost both men she’s loved and then runs out. Claude deserves better.

Regardless, thanks to the witch Catherine enlisted and the well-timed use of nuts in stew, that peasant-in-queen’s-clothing Nicole meets her end. A distraught Henri carries Nicole’s body into court and lays it at the feet of his brother. They both blame the other for the death of the woman they loved. There is so much boy rage floating around that Henri and Charles draw swords. Thankfully, Catherine takes this opportunity to remind her sons that if they work together, they can crush the real enemy here: Spain. As we know, Catherine is an expert manipulator, and the ploy works.

Now that Catherine’s demand on her witch-in-residence has come to fruition, it’s time for her to pay up. Emmanuelle wants money and freedom and blah blah blah, but she also requires payment in a more peculiar form: Lady wants a three-way with the two most powerful people she knows — Catherine and Narcisse. She drugs them, and the three of them get into it. Partway through the, um, experience, Emmanuelle whispers demonic incantations in order to become impregnated with Satan’s spawn or something of that nature. Catherine is all like, Oh no, this is not what I signed up for, and attempts to go to Stab Town on the woman. It’s useless. Emmanuelle is protected by her unborn devil child now. Just another day in French Court.

Serious question: Is Catherine’s Witch Three-Way the biggest WTF of all the Reign WTFs? Other contenders include, but are not limited to: Death by Window Hump, Sex Horse Accident, Clarissa (Explains It All), and Narcisse’s Equine Feast. Share your favorites in the comments below. Consider it your final duty owed to the realm.

Catherine stumbles back into the throne room in time to overhear Charles and Henri plotting to take on Spain. It is the stupidest idea Catherine’s ever heard. Her sons don’t care and have her escorted to her room before she embarrasses herself any further. This does not sit well with Catherine — nor should it! Those two dummies owe their mother a heck of a lot. Like, remember when Catherine found Charles eating squirrels in the woods? Now, that is embarrassing.

So when Catherine runs into Emmanuelle again (awkward!), she wants the witch to use her witchy powers and give her the deets on the future of the Valois line. Outlook not so good. The witch confirms their plan will most assuredly backfire and Charles’ time on the throne is limited. Furthermore, if Catherine intervenes and stops the plan to attack Spain, Catherine will become her sons’ scapegoat and will be killed. She can save herself, however, by letting the attack against Spain play out and by making sure her daughter Margot is by her side. Will Catherine once again choose her children over her own well-being? Or will she let those boys rot for their sins and save herself?

You better believe sister hightails it to Margot’s place and chooses herself. It’s a bit of an abrupt conclusion to our time in French Court, but god bless Reign for letting Catherine de Medici be a top-notch bitch until the very end.
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If Catherine’s story is all about our favorite queen mother being exactly who we always knew she was, Elizabeth’s final go of it is all about the English queen becoming the monarch history told us she would be: a warrior.

Also? A murderer! Liz gets into it with Jane, who outs herself as president of the We Hate Royal People Club, thanks to the barbaric death of her grandfather at the hands of King Henry VIII. As Jane goes on and on about Elizabeth not caring about servants and their suffering, Lizzie picks up a scepter and swings it swiftly into Jane’s head. No amount of French cheese will bring Jane back from that.

The ruthless act is just the beginning of Elizabeth 2.0. Surprisingly, the real catalyst to her evolution is Mary’s letter. You know, the one in which Mary asks Elizabeth to make Mary’s son her heir and in return promises to permanently back off Elizabeth’s throne. Without the looming threat of Scotland, Elizabeth kicks her demanding fiancé to the curb in a rousing speech about bowing to no man — not now, not ever. In this moment, the woman we know to be mainly motivated by fear is completely terrifying.

And she’s not done yet.

The next time we see Elizabeth, she’s in her armor, reminding her soldiers that she has the heart of a king (Reign has proved the heart of queen is actually the fiercest of hearts, but Liz knows her audience, I guess) and promising to lead them in battle against Spain. No one is getting her crown unless they pry it from her cold, dead hands.

It’s exciting to see Elizabeth finally step up and become a real leader, but we’re watching Reign here, folks, and Reign has always, first and foremost, belonged to Mary Stuart. So, for the last time, we head to Scotland to see how our one and true queen is handling the kidnapping of her son at the hands of her syphilis-infected louse of a husband.

In short, not well. But Mary being distraught as people scour the Scottish countryside means lots of being held by Lord Ponytail, so it’s not the worst. And luckily for both Mary and all of us, her brother James finally returns, promising to do all he can to bring Mary’s child home. Something in those puppy dog eyes just makes me believe him.

You guys, James finds his nephew straightaway. Okay, so part of this is due to the fact that Darnley has gone crazy and Hallucination Keira tells him to leave the baby, so he leaves his son, and a farmer ends up bringing the child to a local church. BUT REGARDLESS, James is still a hero. Mary thinks so, too. And thus we get Prince James. Why James doesn’t plant a big ol’ kiss on Greer at this very moment is perhaps the greatest mystery of Reign. And this show had Druids on it!

The baby is safe, but after that ordeal, and the news that Darnley and his mother are still angling to make Darnley the Steward of the Heir, Mary is convinced that Darnley will be a threat as long as he lives. She finally gives Bothwell the go-ahead to take him out.

Mary wines and dines the privy council to give herself an alibi, while Lord Ponytail and a few of his trusted men head out to the house where they know Darnley is holed up by himself (well, plus Hallucination Keira, but she’s cool). Bothwell’s plan is to set explosives around the house to make it look like an accident. Predictably, things do not go as planned. The explosion doesn’t kill Darnley, and Lord Ponytail has to take matters into his own hands… literally. Bothwell strangles Darnley to death.
(Recap continues on page 3)

Bothwell races back to the castle to inform Mary that the plan went awry. And since Darnley’s death no longer looks like an accident, it will be much easier to implicate him and Mary. He thinks they should flee. Mary hardly has time to argue with the guy when nobles appear to accuse Bothwell of murder, led by none other than John Knox.

Mary attempts to stop the arrest, but Knox has enough evidence (Bothwell’s “trusted” men were anything but) to prove Mary knew all about the regicide — and he has her arrested, too. She hands Prince James over to her brother and goes with the guards. I wouldn’t call it “willingly,” though. As she is escorted out, she has some harsh words for Knox. He babbles on about how it is unnatural for women to have power and says that “men will never willingly bow to the weaker sex,” and Mary yells that men “will suffer greatly for it.” It is so badass that I almost forget this moment really is the beginning of Mary’s undoing, and it is heartbreaking. But for now, Mary gets a standing ovation for tearing into the patriarchy.

Meanwhile, 21 years later: It’s true, the moment Mary hands over her son and is unceremoniously carted off is the beginning of the end. But it still takes decades for that end to come. And so, Reign fast-forwards 21 years to Feb. 8, 1587 — the day of Mary Stuart’s execution. We find an aged Mary asking if her son, now the King of Scotland, has written about getting her a reprieve. He is her only hope of survival.

Before you go hating on King James, it’s not like he isn’t trying. In fact, we meet this young king as he stands before Queen Elizabeth (really Elizabeth Tudor-ed out), begging her to stop Mary’s execution. James can tell, even after keeping Mary prisoner in England for 20 years, that Elizabeth is still frightened of her cousin. Elizabeth doesn’t deny it. She asks James a simple question — one it’s clear she has posed to him before — he can save his mother but sentence her to a life of imprisonment, or he can accept her execution and Elizabeth will name him her heir, thus fulfilling Mary’s greatest dream: that her child unite England and Scotland. Even though James knows his mother was desperate when she killed Darnley, that she had very little choice throughout her life, and that he and Elizabeth both wear crowns that should’ve been hers, he can’t turn down that offer.

Laid out so simply, it is clear that Mary’s life has been one tragedy after another. Doesn’t that just make you want to throw something? The girl tried, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Mary has one more tragedy to face: her death. She marches to her execution, lays her head down, and the axe falls.

And then suddenly, Mary wakes up in the afterlife. She’s the young Mary we know well, and she’s lying in bed… NEXT TO FRANCIS. That’s right, you guys. Mary’s death welcoming committee is led by none other than her forever love. They kiss, he tells her all the sadness is over, and then they frolic. They frolic like no one has frolicked before. They frolic through the lush green grass, hand in hand, as all of Mary’s life flashes before us and a Lumineers song plays. You didn’t think you were getting out of this finale without crying, did you? PEASANT.

Admittedly, for me, the specialness of Reign had little to do with Mary and Francis’ relationship, but man, if it isn’t a perfect ending to Mary Stuart’s story. For a woman who endured so much pain, it’s really, really nice to see her happy in the end.

Outfit of the Week: Although there is special place in my heart any time a redhead wears emerald green (bonus points for the velvet!), I cannot, in good faith, bestow my final OOTW to Elizabeth. Instead, this prestigious award, in which no one gets anything or even cares probably, goes to Mary’s afterlife garb. It’s light, airy, and perfect for spinning around in a circle with one’s soulmate. Long live the queen!

Episode Recaps

A sexy, historical fiction CW take on the lives of Mary, Queen of Scots and her royal court.
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  • 10/17/13
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