Let me tell you a not-so-secret secret: Catherine, and her portrayer Megan Follows, is the true MVP of the show. Adelaide Kane is a fantastic lead and Mary Queen of Scots is a likable and interesting teenage royal. But Catherine, and Megan Follows, makes this show spin on all wheels, cylinders, or other spherical objects.
Except, tonight might just be too much
. No, excuse me. It is WAY WAY too much.
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There is five episodes of plot in this episode. I can't imagine the writers' room breaking this episode. Actually let me try:
Writer 1: Let's just make this a Catherine episode.
Writer 2: Like, an origin story? Flashbacks and more. Bring back her family.
Writer 1: Sort of. Let's bring her family in for her to bounce off of.
Writer 3: And a love child!
Writer 2: We can add her framing Diane and Bash for Pagan conspiracy.
Writer 1: Perhaps a secret lovah!
Writer 4: And zappy one liners!
No but seriously, did it not go down just like that? It was so heavily plotted that it literally took me out of the show. There was exposition, reveal, character beat, repeat times ten this episode. Any of the character beats, the moments meant to make me feel for Catherine, were lost in the scuffle of raising stakes and story lines.
"Have you ever considered what might have been?" That is the show's MO, Bash. But I don't need to consider all those possibilities in one freaking episode. That said, I enjoyed the crazy train, to an extent. But how much better would this Catherine episode be if it had flashbacks? Was paced better? Built up to her moment of desperation?
It Started Out So Normal
So the baby is still around from last week's episode, causing all kinds of infant trouble. Not of the crying and pooping time, but of the religious Pagan variety. Remember? Bash's cousin had a child (that was not his!) and she marked the baby as Pagan on da baby's foot. Mary and Bash are using nurse maids to hide the baby while she/he (didn't catch the gender) heals from getting that Pagan symbol removed.
And then we get to see Catherine, still suffering and eating the nastiest gruel. However, her de' Medici family has come in the form of an old nan type and a middle aged uncle to save her. Well, mainly to warn her of her death. The two are quite the creepy couple, or whatever they are.
Her crime? Adultery. King Henry of France tries to pull a King Henry VIII of England by accusing his wife of adultery, using Kenna as a witness. Kenna, still bitter over her fling with the king, bitches about whatever, but Henry suddenly speaks for the audience and dismisses her with, "No one cares, Kenna." Oh, Hankie-pank. He's just growing on me, even if he is the WORST king.
See, if there is one thing I understand about Hank, is that he wants England. Badly. Catherine points out every ten seconds that England will be his downfall (heavy-handed foreshadowing!) but Henry wants it, darn it! And if that means getting manipulated by a teenage queen into disowning all of his potential heirs for one bastard heir who the church may not accept, then so be it! Henry is not the brightest of kings, no matter what the show tries to claim otherwise.
Things Fall Apart
Okay, the show clearly wants a lot to happen this episode, so they introduce Henry's special friend, who Catherine exiled a long time. There is some bitterness. And his name? Uh, well, it came so fast. Let's call him Henry's Beard. You know, because he has a big beard and is doing Henry's bidding. Henry's Beard is all too glad to see Catherine go down for being an adulterer. And who with?
Why, Nostradamus of course. This is absolutely HILARIOUS to me for reasons I cannot explain. I'll try: who honestly thinks those two are shacking up? I assumed Nostradamus was asexual or only attracted to people with the same raspy voice.
Catherine hits up Nostradamus for some info as well as an apology. Kind of like, "Hey, sorry-not-that-sorry my husband is holding you prisoner 'cause he's making up lies about an affair! Our friendship is important to me! But I'm more important to me." And Nostradamus, faced with torture and death, is determined to be loyal.
I'll skip around a bit, because the plotting and pace is a nightmare to keep track of, but Catherine realizes she must destroy the Bastard. So why not some baby murder? After realizing the baby Bash and Mary are hiding is a Pagan, she and her family decide to literally stretch out one of the nurse maids into revealing the location of the nurse maid.
By the way, the way she came to these conclusions and information was very liberal.
Queen Catherine makes some royal leaps to these royals. But Catherine is not taking any prisoners in her attempt to no longer be a prisoner.
And Then The Show Lets The Chaos Loose
Okay. At one point, the Shady Lady, Clarissa Who Knows It All, puts a white sheet over her head and scares Catherine. For kicks. Catherine demands an explanation from Nostradamus. Clarissa exposition time: Clarissa's mother did not want her and was sent to die or something like that. But, Nostradamus' papa wanted to correct Clarissa's face. So he performed experiments on her. On a baby. 16th century experiments on a baby. Naturally, cosmetic surgery wasn't that popular and Nostradamus' dad sent his son to kill her but he couldn't. Nostradamus saved the girl in the shadows, the girl who STABBED him two weeks ago.
After this story -- which was quite an e-bomb -- Henry and Catherine face off again. Each accuses the other of bad things, things only this show could do. Henry, of Catherine wanting to save her own skin and gain power. Catherine, of Henry flaunting his relationship with Diane and being a general man-whore. And then Henry drops this bomb: he was in love with her, in love with Catherine. I don't believe Catherine was ever in love with Henry, but she is always a player in the game, even if Henry hasn't figured that out yet. So with a simple, Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair, Henry realizes Catherine's true beauty and the two get it on.
That's not even the craziest part.
Almost immediately after, Henry's Beard is revealed as Catherine's old lovah! His name is Richard, by the way, and she must have exiled him to save him from certain death because the two were having an affair. At one point, which is not clear because she has some of Henry's kids, Catherine could not produce an heir that was Henry's child, according to a nurse maid. It was the lover's child, not Henry's. And guess who that baby grew up to be?
Show, what are you doing? This is madness. Absolute madness. This is like five episodes of plot shoved into one episode blender, blended on high, put down a penguin's throat, thrown back up and shoved down the baby penguin's throat for nutrition. It's every plot line you could have had in one episode.
And I'm not even done.
Screw It, Let It Reign Blood
Hey! Other characters exist too! (One scene each for Greer and Kenna, none for Lola or Francis). Mary and Bash are on a mission to save the baby by getting there before Catherine's evil family. They save the kid, but Catherine accuses Bash of paganism because of some silly orb. One that belongs to Diane that proves she is a Pagan. I don't know. This episode, guys. Heretics abound. Henry, who must feel used, doesn't know who to trust.
Henry asks Catherine's guards to speak up for her, and when all he hears is more lies he slices the guard's throat open, blood all over Catherine's face. WHAT. IS. GOING. ON. The worst bit is that everyone is casually horrified, but not really. Henry knows Catherine is a manipulative liar because of his true love for Diane, and retires to his chambers or something.
Catherine is sentenced back to her prison where her family gives her some poison, which must be some kind of Medici family ritual. They love poison and want Catherine to die dignified.
Bash and Mary, who were swept to the side this episode, have a scene that says the same stuff we knew: Bash is willing to kill anyone for Mary, even his father. Bash is not Francis, he does not play by the rules. And Mary declares Bash her one true love, basically. WHY ARE THEY RUSHING THIS? It could have been so good. I still root for them to be together, but come on. Where was the build? There was potential two episodes ago. Good bye potential.
And the final scene is of Mary bathing, alone -- which would not happen -- and Catherine comes in. Because she escaped the guards outside her room and outside Mary's bathroom to find Mary. She throws the poison in the water, and places a knife at Mary's throat.
And then the CRAZIEST bit is that Clarissa saves Mary and saves Catherine, all the while showing her true face! Catherine does not like that her face is not pretty, horrified at her daughter's ugly face. Bash rescues Mary, and Catherine is chained up for attempted murder.
WHAT HAPPENED? No, seriously fans. Is this better than the love triangle is digging? I hope not. This episode was a mess. Did you enjoy it? Didn't Catherine deserve a better episode? How are you handling this episode? I'm suffering PTSD, myself. Sound off below.
Reign airs Thursdays at 9pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of the CW)