**********************SPOILERS ALL AROUND*************************
Note: During this unprecedented global quarantine I find myself unemployed and at leisure to binge any show at leisure. It’s an arduous and demanding task but I have no choice but to humbly bear it. I’ve been drawn to period pieces more than others, perhaps to escape from this modern mess and look to another time where life was uncertain and full of cruelty but with love redeeming the darkness. The Black Plague episode resonated especially now, showing us we are connected in so many ways even when separated by centuries and technology.
The making of this show, I believe was due the creation of two women who wanted a story about a girl who grows up in court with all its pressures and intrigues. I was never interested in watching when it aired, assuming that the CW did not know how to present European historical content. Happily I was dead wrong. It was a given the CW would parade a bunch of foxy supermodels with their teen dramas but I was impressed at their handling court society of power moves, illegitimate children, and the tensions of the Protestant and Catholic churches. Not to mention the gorgeous landscapes of Ireland where they shot the castle scenes and grand interiors where death and intrigue happened at all hours of the day. I think they shot a lot during the winter, poor actors must have been freezing their bits off in the snow! And the sumptuous costumes, I die with happiness seeing the cloaks, long coats and boots of the men and the richly patterned fabrics of the women, even if grossly inaccurate. Typically, like all royal media, their accents are nearly all English so I usually forget this is set in France until they say it explicitly or mention a region (I wonder why they do this for Greek or Russian dramas?! for expediency??). There are accents of visiting Scotsmen, Hungarian, and Spain, but I can’t remember a time I heard a French one. But overall this show is too much fun (and educational!), if not completely accurate.
An innocent idealist who was betrothed and crowned as queen at the age of six. The show lead should be educated and authoritative even if she seems harsh to others. However she had a softness and was very likable throughout even though her choices were destructive at times. She realizes she is changing into someone she didn’t want to be but there are paths life takes her down she didn’t anticipate all due to her station. And not once but twice found herself in a triangle between a fair haired softy and a dark broody relative. Where have I seen this before? Mary had many unique claims and also went through a good amount of husbands. She is a tragic figure but one that I can easily respect.
The golden haired blue eyed dreamboat, I mean, the dauphin and eventually his majesty King of France is one who puts his beloved country before his own desires. That being said, his weakness was his love for his wife Mary who he would do anything for which caused some twists and heartbreak. He was constantly screwed having to serve the nation’s needs, defend against England, and deal with the powerful nobles conspiring against him when things don’t go their way. His hard choices were fascinating because he had a conscience but would still order torture and death for the greater good. I can’t imagine the burden of privilege and power but to have a teenager control the fate of a country is incomprehensible.
The rugged bastard half brother of Francis with a tender heart for the people (wholly fictional addition). He is desperate to prove himself at court while hiding his pagan background in an intolerant climate. He becomes a competent king’s deputy, whom I call Detective Bash, solving local mysteries while battling injustice and superstition. It was genius to have him paired with an opposite like Kenna and realistic how their love grew and fizzled in the permanence of marriage which was unbreakable at the time. I liked his dynamic with Francis after they reconciled their relationship as brothers. I swoon anytime I see his eyes and hear his voice; pity his character’s fate is ambiguous.
Catherine de Medici
An Italian woman from a powerful family that put her into a foreign position of power. Through the years her heart was hardened by the dirty nature of court and became a professional at scheming herself. She is most definitely a survivor commanding respect and fear in the world typically run by men. Blended with her severe manipulating is a fierce heart that exists to love and protect her children to continue the family legacy (see: tiger mom). Later on in the show everyone recognizes her tendency to “eliminate” problems so it becomes humorous they assume she’s the one who poisoned this or that person. She is either your aggressively loyal friend or your most dangerous enemy. She is the gem of the show, outshining the leads, her husband, and Queen Elizabeth combined.
In order to survive in 16th century, she is only as good as her man. We get to glimpse inequality and maneuvering required to secure a husband whether he be an old unattractive bully. As a royal, things should be better, n’est pas? Well, if you being seen as only a breeding vessel for future male heirs and constantly underestimated then the cage is a gilded one. The show did not shy away from the trauma of rape and horrors of abuse. It was an oppressive time but sorry to say we still face the same issues now.
Catherine being extra bringing in luxuries to her prison in the tower then organizing her execution with a gilded coffin and a dozen miniature ships.
Feathers and flower petals showing down at various events.
Catherine eating capons like a starving peasant, then later crunching sugar from a croquembuche.
Sorry, Leith. (apply throughout the series)
Bash kneeling before the new King Francis and their hugging in grief
Running joke of Aloysius and his love of pepper
Catherine succumbing to various medical procedures: steaming in a barrel, birds pecking at her feet, ugh
Any scene featuring a giant dog!
Narcisse going through hell and highwater to rescue Lola in priest costume.
Mary surrounding the French troops with her mercenaries, saving the court like the warrior queen she is
Francis giving Mary a night of “fireflies” after her miscarriage.
Catherine spurring Mary toward Francis, basically any time she and Mary are allies is killer
Mary’s bonnie first date with Lord Darnley playing golf, hail lassie!
Mary shipwrecked on Scottish shores, an outlander (teehee)
Francis’ handmade sword for Mary as she leaves for Scotland
Leith doing his country dance and spinning Claude around
Francis patient sleeping on a couch while Mary recovers
Proper Mary holding a whip over Prince Don Carlos and trying to sound dominant
Catherine being tender with Francis or any of her other children
Francis and Mary sailing, so sweet and peaceful
Claude beating down her new husband after he slaps her – take back the night, girl!
Mary and Francis dancing while he is ill, oh that hurt all over
Francis spending his last hours with Mary (could not stop crying)
Catherine and Henry working together to cover up a murder, comic gold!
Bash forced to watch his love consummate with his half brother, wtf?
Catherine feeding Lord Narcisse his beloved horse due to jealousy with Lola
Francis leading the charge against Conde’s army, hotness!
Mary and Greer enjoying French fashion comparing dresses in Scotland
Narcisse’s attempt to save Lola at the end
Francis’ brotherly guidance with Charles, awwww
All the details like butter sculpture, court games/parties, consummation ritual, etc.
And does your friend have a name? Tits? A vagina?
I’m a woman. I won’t accept what that means. I won’t bow to a lover.
What a miracle.
Here’s a simple rule for success. If it pleases the king, don’t stop.
You are a glorious kisser!
You put a knife in me and I still want you. Is this madness?
Ruling requires that your hands be drenched in blood.
I can feel myself growing harder.
I love you. And I thank God for the time we had.
The longer I am made to wait, the more creative I will be in my retribution!
I am a fascinating man.
I may not be able to get you out of a nunnery. But when the time is right I can make you a widow.
A man rules his wife even if his wife is a queen. I will not be laid low by any man. I will not be ruled by anyone.
I had sex in a greenhouse once.
I am more than a marker to hold an alliance. or a breeder for the next generation. Or the next. I am my own person, a woman grown. And tonight I realize that I’m utterly and completely alone.
On behalf of France, I’d like to apologize for the plague, famine, and religious violence.
But I stuffed it myself…
I cannot eat or sleep. Even my favorite earrings failed to cheer me.
Greer is having a pirate baby?
This marriage has been a challenge like no other. I feel like I was a child before I knew you. I was able to judge you for the things you did because I never understood the things of this world.
Haven’t you heard? I’ve been titled Master of Horse and Hunt. So…gather your horses and go out and hunt!
The finest Venetian glass and what do the English put in it. Riesling. I would kill for a good French red right now.
The world can be dark, Mary. And uncertain, and cruel. The only thing that really matters is that we face it together.
Because you value power above all else you will always be alone.
Denmark is the best!