‘Reign’ 2×1: The Plague That Swept the Nation

Reign is back, bitches. (CW)
Reign is back, bitches. (CW)

It’s season 2 of Reign and you know what that means! Royal intrigue and hot bodice-ripping teen sex!
However, since the premiere episode is aptly titled “The Plague,” everyone in the castle needs to take a break from all the hot bodice-ripping teen sex. If there is anything that will kill a boner, it’s running sores and extremities that have literally rotted away into an inky black. Also, the fact that an episode about the onset of The Black Plague aired right around the time the first case of Ebola was confirmed on American soil feels a little too prescient for a CW costume drama, but that’s neither here nor there.

As it stands, the plague couldn’t have come at a worse time. France is in a vulnerable state right after the death of Henry. After ascending to the throne, Mary had just revealed to Francis that Lola is about to give birth to his bastard Bash 2.0. However, given the constant scheming and plotting, usually by Queen Catherine, it’s not like there’s ever a good time for a disaster to strike. Francis then leaves the castle to track down Lola and his son amid the burgeoning outbreak. Also, Greer dumped her kitchen boytoy Leith for her fiancé Lord Castleroy, a noble who looks like he is wearing one of Phil Spector’s more understated wigs. However, given the threat of widespread death and a teen king’s bastard son, that sounds about as low stakes as a Donna Martin storyline. Still, Leith wastes no time getting over Greer by getting under a pretty redhead.

When we return, the new king is trotting through the woods and stumbles upon a funeral in a cemetery where the entire family and even the priest is infected by the kind of raging sores that makes me wonder if anyone from the make-up department for The Walking Dead did a little moonlighting. Anyway, Francis stops to eye smolder at the funeral before trotting away to the drumbeat of doom.

Back at the castle, Mary and Catherine round up everyone at court to announce that the plague is here and they are taking measures to keep it in check. Catherine’s measures include wearing a beaded, high-collared gold and black gown that all but telegraphs HBIC.

Oh hey, Hot Nostradamus is back! However, without the beard Nostradamus now looks like the world’s tallest sixth grader. Anyway, Nostradamus is there to give everyone his expert medical advice, which given the fact that most of his training consists of fortune cookie mysticism and some Hogwarts eye of newt-style potions, doesn’t really inspire a lot of confidence. The real reason this scene exists is so that Greer can discover that Leith’s hot new peace of action is actually Lord Castleroy’s daughter. Dammit if this show isn’t sometimes just an exploding apartment building away from becoming Melrose Place in corsets. Anyway, both Greer and Leith both swear up and down to their significant others that they no longer have feelings for each other. Famous last words. Leith’s redhead then makes a desperate plea for him to hole up with her somewhere for some apocalypse sex, which Leith refuses. Way to drive home the point that you’re over Greer.

Also, Bash and Kenna make a plan to hide away in their chambers with their ward Pascal, so that should go off without a hitch.
Next we see an anonymous couple going at it. While the man is getting dressed, he let’s it slip that he’s an adulterer, so we pretty much know they’re marked for death before the woman even reveals the boil on the back of her neck. We then get to watch the disease spread in real time as the man leaves his chambers and goes out of his way to put his mouth and hands on everything in his path, so we pretty much know we’re not going to feel bad when this unnamed guy dies later in the episode. Welcome to court, plague!

On a happier note, Francis tracks Lola down gets to meet his infant son, which is really awkward for the blonde girl who helped Lola through her pregnancy.

Back at court, Mary and Catherine keep the situation in check by sitting on thrones. However, all of their throne sitting fails to prevent the first official plague death from being announce. Nostradamus busts in to volunteer himself to off in search of the missing Francis, because of his belief that he’s immune from the plague and because of his visions. It’s always visions with that guy. Also, Catherine won’t let a little imminent doom keep her from inflicting some misery on her daughter-in-law. She takes this opportunity to inflict some graduate-level needling at Mary on the nature of Francis’s relationship to Lola.

Oh, and as if we needed any more of a reason to dislike the philandering plague-spreader, he also slut-shames Kenna and then commandeers Pascal to do some grunt work, surely infecting the kid and throwing a giant monkey wrench into Kenna and Bash’s plan in the process. RIP, you walking petri dish.

We cut back to Francis and Lola who are deep in the process of emotionally unpacking the secret pregnancy when air clearing session is cut short by a coughing kid with black fingers. In fact, that kid only comes into frame to show that he’s infected. For that child actor’s sake, I really hope that overdubbed cough counts as a line. In any case, Francis and Lola bust out of there. Man, that Black Death can really kill a mood.

At court, we find that Catherine and Mary are still very committed to sitting on thrones. A noble named Lord Eduard prances into scene with a proposal that he allow a rival to be willfully infected with the plague or else he’ll starve the population by withholding a grain shipment. He’s not shot much from the waist down, so we never really get to see how he got his pantaloons over the kind of gigantic balls it takes to just straight up try to blackmail a monarch. Mary shoots him down without hesitation, but Catherine is deliciously evil is her prodding him for his motivations and details regarding his assets and leverage. She then delineates the kind of influence and power nobles hold over the monarchy for Mary. It’s a pretty great breakdown of the tensions between a leader driven by idealism and one with a pragmatic grasp of realpolitik.

Leith and Greer have a run in where Greer expressly forbids her ex from seeing Castleroy’s daughter, because apparently the fact that she finds the prospect of Leith being her son-in-law weird means that he should not find happiness. In fairness, it is weird, but still.

Meanwhile, Francis and Lola stop to get the dangerously dehydrated Lola some water when they have a chance run in with Francis’s very distant cousin Lord Conde. It’s amazing how all these chance run-ins keep happening in this vast realm. Apparently, the producers felt the need to hedge their bets in case viewers felt there weren’t enough hot guys on this show and plus, this episode has been criminally low on Bash screentime thus far.

Speak of the devil, Bash appears looking adorably disheveled after a night of securing the castle, helping a mother cat through a difficult kitten birth, nursing a baby bird back to health and other suitably noble acts of valor. He’s looking for Kenna, but is distracted when a little girl drops a doll. He picks it up and gives it to her and they sustain eye contact as she is led away. Surely that won’t be significant later.

Elsewhere in court, Catherine and Mary’s intense throne sitting session is interrupted by Lord Eduard’s temper tantrum over losing access to his intended murder victim. He threatens the kingdom with a widespread famine and stomps away. Can’t wait to hopefully see more of him this season.

Kenna finds an infected Pascal tending to the dead adulterer’s gruesome corpse. The kid isn’t looking too great himself, but before Kenna can whisk him out of there, a maid locks them both into the room. Doh! Meanwhile, Nostradamus returns to court to deliver news that he found the cottage that Francis and Lola fled marked with a red X and on fire. Catherine assumes the worst and the prospect of a massive power grab and a return to the throne inspires her to actually get up from the throne. However, Mary manages to be nauseated by Catherine’s naked ambition while keeping her butt firmly enthroned. Way to multitask.

Back at Lord Conde’s camp, Lord Narcisse rolls into scene on his horse. Before he even speaks, we know he’s the villain because, duh, his name is Lord Narcisse. Plus, fans of the Starz series Spartacus will be delighted to see that they’ll be seeing Craig Parker playing another bad guy. They’ll also be less delighted by the fact that the CW doesn’t allow for full-frontal nudity the way Starz does. You know what they say, God doesn’t open a door without closing a window. Or something.

Anyway, the second tip off that Narcisse is the season’s big bad is the fact that he has poor Estelle locked away in a cage until he can supposedly be sure that she isn’t infected. That sounds legit.

Narcisse is also the kind of smarmy dick that outed the fact that Lord Conde has a secret getaway boat stashed away to Lord Francis under the guise of being concerned and trustworthy.

In what is clearly the episode’s sexiest moment, which isn’t saying much since a lot of screentime was devoted to people bleeding from facial sores, Bash breaks down the door he thinks is keeping him from Kenna. Unfortunately, the woman on the other side happens to be an infected plague zombie and Bash ends up stabbing her to keep her from making a break for it and leading him to believe he is infected in the process. Bash, you’re in the main cast. Come on, you’re fine.

Lest we think anyone is safe, Catherine is ill and gives Mary some warm words of advice and encouragement now that she’s on death’s door. However, her illness is just the result of some Harry Potter wizardry that Nostradamus whipped up to keep her out of commission for a few days so that she doesn’t broker any more deals where nobles are allowed to slaughter their enemies just because they’re feeling a little stabby that day. It’s pretty cool how Nostradamus can invoke fake illnesses but can’t do jack when it comes to fighting an existing one. He’s lucky he’s handsome.

At camp, Francis and Conde kick off their bromance around a crackling fire. They have a heart to heart about their flawed, adulterous love lives and Conde offers Lola and Francis and their son safe passage to Amsterdam. It’s then that Francis resolves to put Lola and the kid on the boat and then return to Mary. Since we’ve all seen a TV show before, we can safely say that this plan isn’t going to pan out. Naturally, Francis gets in touch with his inner Bob Geldof and forbids her to go and start a new life for herself the moment he holds the baby in his arms. If this scene took place today, he’d immediately go post on some MRA subreddits after pulling the “I’m the father!” card. Naturally, his commands have as much gravitas as you’d expect from someone who weighs about 90 lbs.

Now that Mary can rule without her mother-in-law’s interference, she summons Lord Eduard, whose last name happens to be Narcisse, into her chambers to show him who’s in charge. Unfortunately, she discovered that Eduard took it upon himself to poison his rival and the dude’s entire family, including the little girl with the doll and Leith’s redhead rebound, who happened to be collateral damage. So much for an cumbersome season long love rectangle between Leith, Greer, Castleroy and the redhead whose name I won’t bother to look up. Mary then puts on her big girl pants and tosses his ass in a cell full of plague victims, which for those keeping score at home, was how he initially proposed his rival get murdered. Eduard threatens to invoke his father’s vengeance who I guess we’re to assume is Lord Narcisse? I know people had kids when they were like 15 back then. but is Craig Parker even old enough to be this guy’s dad within those parameters? I’m curious to know how close in age Craig Parker is with his co-star but I can’t find Kjartan Hewitt’s birth year anywhere online. This is gonna keep me up at night, I can already tell.

Meanwhile, Bash manages to have a dream while taking a standing nap, a feat arguably more impressive than Nostradamus’s visions. In this dream, the ghost of the poisoned little girl approaches Bash and promises that there will be “a reckoning” presumably for the troubled souls caught in some kind of purgatory? I guess we’ll find out later. Frankly this was way more effective when Will Graham said this to Hannibal Lecter in the last season of Hannibal, but he also had the benefit of being outfitted in a jumpsuit issued by a prison for the criminally insane, so we’re gonna cut ghost girl some slack.

Anyway, Bash does his second Kool-Aid Man impression of the night and breaks another door. This time he is actually reunited with Kenna this time instead of an oozing pus factory. Unfortunately, he won’t be reunited with little Pascal cause that kid walked into the light. Bye Pascal. We literally hardly knew you. On a happier note, Bash and Kenna look really cute together. This show was treading into some dangerous Rory Gilmore territory where Mary was poised to become the flawless dream girl that every man falls in love with in spite of themselves. It’s a relief to see Bash’s character evolve into something other than the put upon side of a love triangle.

“The Plague” ends with a newly realized and assertive Mary doing what she loves most in the world, sitting on a throne.

‘Reign’ 2×1: The Plague That Swept the Nation