“Terror of the Faithful” is a gruesome gut punch of an episode both visually and emotionally.
As far as the imagery goes, we’re treated to a guy catching an arrow right in the face, a bloody crucified Protestant hung upside down in a busy town square, said Protestant stretched out on a rack during an interrogation, and, perhaps the most gruesome of all. Claude’s invasive virginity exam. I’d say this was all pushing the boundaries of what can be shown on network television, but last season Hannibal aired an episode where Michael Pitt was feeding pieces of his own face to a dog before having a bite himself. Clearly, the bar has been raised given that ‘Hannibal’ pretty much makes every other act of televised gore look like it belongs in a grade school play. However, we can all agree that the bloodshed bar has been raised for a teen drama and leave it at that. If anything, CW’s depiction of the 16th century and the discord sown by religious conflict is easily more horrifying than any of the supernatural fare provided by the network’s smorgasbord of sexy vampires, witches and other assorted spooks.
As for the emotional torment, there’s plenty of misery,despair and heartbreak to go around. Catherine is desperate to get Claude out of harm’s way by shuffling her off into a convenient marriage with a bush league Bavarian Count after being haunted by the ghosts of her dead twins. Part of that involves Catherine getting fingered by some clergymen as part of an upsetting “purity” test after the princess’s virtue is called into question. It’s essentially one of the most horrifying things ever shown on TV, and yes, that includes the aforementioned ‘Hannibal’ scene. Although Catherine manages to grease the right pams and ensure that the virginity inspectors approve Claude, she throws the marriage by publicly rubbing her butt all over Narcisse, thus causing her prospective father-in-law and husband to stomp off in a rage. This does however, set the scene for Narcisse to make a boner joke when he asks Claude to pass him a blanket so he can hide the tent he pitched. Given the fact that this episode dealt with dark themes like the increasing violence between the Protestants and Catholics, the violation of a young woman’s body in the name of archaic standards of chastity, as well as the imminent collapse of Henry’s reign, I’m glad the writers managed to fit a boner joke into one of the series’ darkest episodes. Well done.
For the first time, the ghosts of the dead daughters didn’t seem hokey and all and that’s all due to Megan Follows selling her own guilt and torment. In a perfect world, Follows would have the kind of award nominations afforded to the staples of the cable prestige dramas, but she’s kind of hidden away in plain site on a teen drama. Anyway, Catherine’s final flashback seems to reveal that Claude actually strangled the little girls to death in a fit of jealousy. Is Claude’s death the reckoning that they promised Bash in the season opener? We’ll see. Anyway, Claude kind of blows, so for the first time in this series’ run, I’m actually rooting for the ghosts.
In other news, the tensions between the Protestants and Catholics are boiling over because the edict that Narcisse strong armed Francis into signing has ignited an all out witchhunt on Protestants. This is also fueling the rift between Mary and Francis since she pretty much calls him spinless to his face. Francis’s solution is to just further pressure her into going back to Scotland and living separate lives rather than doing the adult thing and actually talking to her about what he’s repressing. At this point, so many heads are gonna roll for Francis’s crime that one more really shouldn’t matter. This is exactly why teenagers shouldn’t get married. Plus, Francis desperately needs Mary at his side since she is clearly his smarter half and more effective and decisive leader, if not completely hotheaded As it stands, Narcisse is always 5 steps ahead of him, and proves it once again by thwarting the raid Francis sends to his home to nail him with the cypher he had Lola plant. So, Francis’s best bet would be to align with Mary and his magnificent shark of a mom; The midseason finale is still a ways away, so maybe he can get it together. However, something tells me that this show is going to milk the wedge between Mary and Francis until right before his death, which is right around the corner. However, who knows how long the next year of his life will play out in this show’s wonky timeline. They already a continent wide plague neatly into a day, maybe they’ll stretch the next few months out over a few seasons. We’re on ‘Reign” time now. The hardcore Frary shippers love Toby Regbo, so he’ll probably stick around as a damn ghost and haunt Mary’s net wedding. In any case, the season isn’t even half over and I can’t wait to see how this writers’ room is going to end up surprising me.
Also, Bash got to witness a patsy Protestant martyr get impaled with a sword while he was just lying on the ground with an arrow lodged in his chest. The troublesome flirtation between Lola and Narcisse has come to an abrupt end before Lola could unsheath his sword. It’s all for the best considering that Narcisse’s behavior was cruising past creepy and into some gross areas regarding manipulation and personal boundaries, which given the course of the natonal conversation, seems a little extra repugnant. Also, Conde eye-fucked Mary, Kenna popped up for a hot second and I don’t think Greer was even mentioned. Also, Narcisse and Claude are totally going to do it.
In any case, all of the sympathetic characters are down for the count, either facing looming ruin, loss or beheading. It all has a very closing shot in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ kind of feel.