Post-rape episode: how did Reign do?

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Warning: spoilers follow below for the “Mercy” episode of Reign

Reign had a lot to answer for after last week’s attack on Mary. And while plenty of what was wrong with the sudden and unnecessary attack on the queen has already been said, the fact that it was done as the build up to the midseason finale meant “Mercy” was just as complicit in how the attack was handled, and despite its best efforts only partially delivered on the story it needed to tell.

My worry, that Mary’s rape would end up becoming all about Francis, didn’t seem too far off as Wednesday’s episode focused heavily on Francis transitioning from the kind of king he wanted to be into one that was feared—in other words, a king that murdered dozens of innocent men and took those numbers, like a little boy to a teacher, to Mary as though trying to prove he could handle the situation and make up for the lies he’d told.

Because in the midst of Mary trying to process an attack on her that’s just happened, Francis decided it was finally time to tell Mary the truth—about how he’d killed his father, let himself be blackmailed by Narcisse and left Mary alone in the castle to commit murder on the night evil men went looking for him and found her instead.

And Francis also decided it was time to step up as an authoritative king instead of one that was liked, to give Narcisse what he wanted and turn himself into another Henry. And we watched as Francis turned into another tyrant, ostensibly forgivable because he was trying to avenge his wife on men who weren’t responsible.

For too much of the episode we lost the Mary we’ve come to respect and cheer for—not because she was destroyed, or because any of that was taken from her, but because she simply wasn’t the focus of her own show, or of her own attack. Until thankfully the series seemed to remember it was about a heroine. And while I don’t condone revenge as a solution and think a better discussion could have come from Mary pursuing justice, seeing her take action again and handle Severide herself instead of asking Condé to do it—as she’d done with Francis—gave me some hope that we wouldn’t be losing her again.

And yet, Reign also got wrapped up in making the most  of its (typically fun) side plots. Catherine’s slow decent into madness—with a ghost of Henry creeping up her body in a scene that was, perhaps, not the best idea after last week—and Leith finally returning to fan the flames of that ship kept the focus off Mary as everything got set up for a series of cliffhangers instead.

A number of “explosive” moments at the end are sure to create a frenzy driving us forward to the show’s return as we wonder about Mary and Francis living separate lives, or Condé’s now exposed feelings for Mary, or whether Castleroy’s departure and Leith’s return means it’s worth hoping again, or even if Kenna is beginning to suspect Bash and Claude’s past indiscretion (assuming Claude is alive at all). And the ghosts, of course, with the return of Alan Van Sprang as Catherine’s invisible lover making itself the crowning distraction. And so, for all the good that was said, and the slightly lesser good that was done, “Mercy” simply didn’t do enough where it really mattered.

Reign airs Wednesdays on M3 and Thursdays on The CW and CTV Two. Or, get it on iTunes.

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