After last week’s horrific rape scene, “Mercy” straddles the line between depicting immediate retribution for Mary’s attacker and setting up all the various conflicts, recurring characters and threads that will run through the latter half of Reign’s second, and if the dismal ratings are any indication, presumably last season. In “Mercy,” we see a shift from Francis and Mary from benevolent leaders to rulers who are meant to be feared. Conde finds this out firsthand when he eeks out a hilariously disarming “Dear Lord!” when Mary unsheathes a dagger when pledging her commitment to hunting down the Protestant infiltrators who raided her bedroom. Of course, nothing drives this ruthless streak in Mary home more than when she SETS HER RAPIST ON FIRE! I was starting to wonder if the gruesome gang sexual assault was being set up to reconcile the just and fair and tolerant fictional Mary and the Mary Stuart from history who beheaded Protestants seemingly for sport. Although it’s doubtful that the show will fully embrace a protagonist’s penchant for religious persecution, Mary’s impulsive act of arson shows a definite turning point in the character.
Francis’s cruel streak is exemplified by corralling his suspects into the freezing cold so that the extreme conditions will hopefully break some down into identifying the insurgents who broke into Mary’s room. And then there’s the fact that the blackmail tables have turned with Lord Narcisse. Now that Narcisse is down and out and plucked from hiding out on a pile of hay, Francis is promising the disgraced noble a fate worse than death in regards to making the Lord his puppet. Personally, Francis would be better off killing Narcisse since the guy has a demonstrated history of being five steps ahead of the young king and he won’t hesitate to grab the upper hand again once Narcisse finds another weakness he can exploit, but that’s a lesson Francis is gonna have to learn for himself. Over and over and over again.
This hardening of both Mary and Francis ultimately ends in Mary suggesting that the pair “live separate lives” while putting on a united front to rule France, even after Francis finally comes clean about the death of Henry and Narcisse’s blackmail.
Otherwise, “Mercy” has generally been about dealing with the cataclysmic fallout from the previous episode and then setting up all the conflicts that will play out when the season resumes in January. Here’s a rundown of what we need to keep fresh in our minds for a month and change:
- Henry’s back! In ghost form! And he’s horny! Seriously, Catherine steals a page from Kesha’s playbook and has ghost sex with her late husband. I guess this means Alan van Sprang will be returning to the show in a regular capacity. Also, since Megan Follows is by far and away the most talented actor on the show, I can’t help but wonder if each week the writers sit around and pitch the most ridiculous scenario the poor woman has to sell. As if talking to the ghost twins wasn’t challenging enough, now she has to get all horned up for her dead husband. I mean, Follows is top notch, so naturally she sells the hell out of it, but sheesh!
- After being duped into financing a Protestant plot to overthrow the king, Castleroy heads into leaving Greer at Court under the concerned and watchful eye of her nubile and age appropriate love interest Leith. Cut the sound of 1,000 raunchy 70s basslines.
- Oh hey! It turns out Conde is at Court under dubious circumstances. Conde’s brother turns up, and we can tell it’s Conde’s brother because he addresses Conde as “brother.” That’s how we all address our siblings, right? At least it is when you desperately need to telegraph to a viewing audience that your character has always existed without the courtesy of even the slightest previous mention. Anyhoo, Conde’s brother is mad because Conde has stopped writing letters containing intel he’s gleaned from spying on the king. So naturally, he jumps to the conclusion that Conde has fallen in love with Mary. Okay, that’s pretty on point. I guess they must really be brothers.
- For anyone thinking that this revelation plus the rift in Mary and Francis’s marriage means that Conde is just immediately gonna offer himself as an opportunistic shoulder to cry on, the episode ends with him abruptly splitting town after leaving Mary a letter confessing his love. Dudes, man.
- As per the ghost twins request, Catherine poisons Claude under the guise of trying to apologize for years of parental neglect. We see Claude suffering from the effects of the poison, but since we have yet to see a body, we can assume she hangs on until after the break. Plus, she’s still sowing the seeds of discord between Kenna and Bash, as evidenced by Kenna’s discomfort at walking in on her husband comforting his ailing half-sister. This is Bash’s plight. If he’s not part of a love triangle, no matter how flimsy or ill conceived, then he’s out chasing ghosts. So, it’s probably better he be part of a love triangle.
Okay, those are the points to keep in mind until the show returns on the 23rd. Although history proves that things don’t end well for most of the historical figures, the best we can hope for is that our favorite fictional characters make it out of the turmoil relatively unscathed. Hell, given all the historical liberties taken with the real characters, maybe they’ll all live to see old age with nary a raging ear infection or chopping block in sight. Who’s the say, really?