Let's talk about sex, shall we?
It was all over the place in Reign Season 1 Episode 5, as the show finally realized the full potential of its high-school-is-royal-court-is-high-school concept. The episode's whirling, interlocking plots about virginity, compulsive shoplifting, and your boyfriend's bitch ex were gossipy, girly and utterly delightful.
Despite the episode's cuddly beginnings - Mary is just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her (and also to let her be the queen of France) - by the end, French court had been thoroughly torn apart. Mary's kissing Bash! Greer is kissing that bakery guy! Everyone is kissing everyone, even though everyone else knows that none of them should be kissing each other because of sexism and stuff! Chaos!
But Renaissance silliness aside: the episode's tension between who we're supposed to want and who we actually end up wanting was very genuinely felt. More so than in any other episode of Reign Season 1, I felt these characters as the overwhelmed teenagers that they are.
Will Olivia actually derail Mary's marriage? There's an obvious answer to that, which keeps this situation from getting too high stakes.
But even though Mary's eventual union with Francis is a historical inevitability that the show can't sidestep, the episode's examination of the loveless royal marriage casts an intriguing possibility; that their union won't necessarily lead to happiness ever after. The drama's clear and clever parallels between young women's issues with reputations, then and now, was also particularly cutting.
And, of course, in the end, the whole thing was a big Catherine de Medici plot. New rule of thumb for this show: everything, including dinner, is considered a sinister plot by Catherine de Medici to unseat Mary, until it is proven otherwise.
Wait, before we're done... let's talk about the Blood Woods! They're full of blood pagans, who serve a blood monster! Who needs to be fed with...something, I can't quite remember what. But I love the Blood Woods, and I love that sad, sorry boy with too much Sun-In in his hair who spoke with Bash about them.
But I'm not just goofing around here - the Blood Woods subplot provides a nice serving of the unexpected and that chaotic on a show where the major plot points are all fairly set in stone.
Between the romantic intrigue of Mary and Co., the historical shenanigans of the various heads of state, the horrors of the forest, and the steady flow of nicely crafted Reign quotes, the show achieves a tricky and enviable balance, turning what could be a goofy, campy mess into one of the most watchable shows to debut in fall 2013.
Here's my official endorsement: "The most compelling monster-forest on television! - -Gabrielle Moss
Official Reign FashionWatch: 9/10. That dress Olivia wore when she was being chased through the murder-forest was perfection! Very Stevie Nicks-at-the-ren-faire.
Also: did you know that the real, historical Mary, Queen of Scots, was actually supposedly famous for her refusal to wear a corset? The things that I learn recapping this show! It almost makes me wish I hadn't dropped out of grad school to go work at that Hot Dog on a Stick.
How do you think Mary and Francis will reconcile? Will they reconcile? Will Bash make his move now? Can you think of a more compelling monster-forest on television?