Reign, Season 2: Episode 2 – “Drawn and Quartered”
Written by Wendy Riss Gatsiounis & Drew Lindo
Directed by Fred Gerber
Airs Thursday nights at 9 on The CW
It’s not exactly surprising that Reign decides to gloss over the claustrophobia of the plague by having “Drawn and Quartered” move past it, since the series doesn’t slow down to linger on may plots. But in a 22-episode season, it might have been nice to spend more time on the day-to-day horrors of the disease in the same way that The Walking Dead devoted a handful of episodes to its outbreak at the beginning of that series’ last season. That said, “Drawn and Quartered” certainly doesn’t skimp on the repercussions of actions taken during such tension–actions of emotion more than careful thinking. And if the episode is a reminder of anything, it’s that no deed goes unpunished.
Maybe I wasn’t paying attention to it last season, but Rossif Sutherland’s name as a guest star makes the character totally expendable. So, even though there’s plenty of story to tell through him (especially things having to do with the supernatural), I completely bought in to the possibility that he might be killed off. And that’s a rather troubling feeling. It’s one thing to think you might lose one of your favorite characters in a series; it’s another thing to witness the characters around him–even those most appreciative of him–come up empty trying to save him. His scene with Catherine before his almost-execution manages to garner plenty of poignancy through Catherine’s apathy. Of course, Nostradamus had a hand in fooling Catherine into thinking she was dying of the plague, but the Catherine-Nostradamus pair has been one of the strongest connections since Reign began. We know Catherine can be terrible, but to see her treat him with such disinterest is almost shocking and shows that Reign‘s cast is developed enough that scenes don’t have to involve Mary or Francis to be among an episode’s most powerful.
That said, as other supporting characters shine, some fall victim to an abundance of melodrama. I’m interested to see what kind of character Leith really is at his core now that Jonathan Keltz is a regular cast member, but Leith’s current predicament with Greer and Castleroy isn’t particularly compelling. Something must come out of the death of Castleroy’s daughter, but this corner of the show is currently one that’s relying too heavily on connections between characters that haven’t been as well-established as their peers. Greer is especially guilty of teetering back and forth between motivations to the point of frustration; so, once Reign decides that those two aren’t getting together or that Castleroy’s absence categorically brings them together, it can move on to do other things with two people full of potential.
Elsewhere, the conflict in “Drawn and Quartered” shines by virtue of Craig Parker’s Narcisse (The CW has become a home for former Spartacus actors). The expansion of the nobility versus royalty aspect of Reign is among the most interesting ideas of these first two episodes. For the most part, the series has used the castle grounds as its central location (by a wide margin), but Narcisse and his late son open up new avenues to explore. France, of course, is more than just where we see Mary and Francis. The land is vast and controlled by various people. That, rather than just minor concerns of characters of the romantic variety, makes the stakes in Reign higher. So, too, does Francis’ decision to claim his son, thus departing from the ways of his father rather severely. It’s a new era of rule fraught with new issues, and that’s as good a place as any to develop the season.
Gossip from the Halls:
– Seriously, though, Craig Parker is excellent in this role. Narcisse’s sit-down with Mary, in which Mary is very aware of the information Narcisse actually possesses regarding his son’s death, allows Parker to go to town.
– We get our first mention of Clarissa here, which is likely to elicit as many groans as nods of approval. For my part, Clarissa became much less interesting once more characters started interacting with her. As a haunting presence that is equal parts benevolent and malicious, she’s much more effective.
– And touching on the supernatural aspects of Reign, that’s a wonderfully entertaining final scene with Henry’s ghost possessing the caretaker and speaking to Francis. It’s also a strong and believable performance from that actress. More of this kind of stuff, please.