After spending the last few episodes wavering with her commitment to marry for entirely political reasons to a man she hates, this week finds Mary (Adelaide Kane) forced to agree for the oldest reason in the book: she’s pregnant with his child. I’d been wondering how this show would manage for her and Darnley (Will Kemp) to conceive the son history shows they share, but of course this child was created back during that 20 minute period of time they actually sort of liked each other.
Although surprise visitor Catherine (Megan Follows) brings a wealth of knowledge on how to extricate oneself from a terrible engagement, she ultimately agrees with Mary in that marriage is vital to preserve the legitimacy of this child; last week’s forest prophet may have suggested she’ll need to make a choice between love and an heir, but it seems the decision is now out of her hands entirely — with a bun in the oven, no time to dwell over or even continue to consider the “love” option.
Speaking of the forest newcomer, his name is David Rizzio (Andrew Shaver) and he’s been given a hairbrush and a bath and is now Mary’s official GBF. His bonafides are proven — even winning over Catherine — when he agrees to use his wiles to glean some info about Darnley’s scheming. And is he ever scheming: Mary catches her betrothed trying to sell her out to the Vatican before they’re even married. Like, I get that she’s quasi-responsible for the horse death of his girlfriend last week, but a lot of that blame rests on him, too. It’s fun watching how Kane and Kemp, whose chemistry was bumpy at the start but somewhat smouldering there for a bit, can so ably play two people eager to be anywhere other than around one another — who have to get married nonetheless.
Once Darnley learns of Mary’s pregnancy, his stance vis-a-vis hating her may change, as does the attitude of Greer’s (Celina Sinden) own surprise visitor, her pirate babydaddy (Saamer Usmani). His presence offers necessary comic relief against the slow motion freefall that comprise Mary’s nuptials, and Greer can’t be too mad when he secretly pierces their daughter’s ears because pirate girls have pierced ears, and she’s half-pirate, which is apparently an ethnicity on this show.
More than this, the pirate — who actually has a name, we learn, and it’s Martin — is eager to get to know his daughter and spend time with her. Greer explains yet again that officially, she and her then-husband adopted this baby and that without that pedigree, and particularly outed as half-pirate, Rose would almost certainly be doomed to a life of shame…
Speaking of, Emily Knox (Claire Hunter), whose affair with James (Dan Jeannotte) — who, recall, is only using her for intel on her husband — is found out by her gross husband. Because he likes her, he doesn’t have her publicly humiliated; he only steals her shoes and leaves her penniless to wander the moors. This wandering brings her right back to Scottish court, just in time for her bleary eyes to witness Greer turning James down, and of course Emily misinterprets their friendly touches as something more, so you know bunny boiling is about a week away (or two… damn you, Reign writers, making us wait an extra week!)
Still, the thing that unites each of these stories with that of Elizabeth (Rachel Skarsten) in England is that of the many ways illegitimacy can mark a person’s entire future. James is bastard; Greer’s daughter is technically one also, but hidden under a false identity; were Mary not to marry Darnley, her child would go from a potential saviour of the Scottish cause to just another Bash-like hanger-on at the court of whoever winds up in power. Elizabeth knows both sides of this situation all too well; born a Princess, then downgraded to a bastard when his father’s marriage to her mother was annulled, sent to prison for a time by a sister who had also spent time as both a bastard and a Princess, and finally thrust onto the throne for lack of other options.
Had her father behaved more conventionally, Elizabeth’s claim to the throne would be much more secure; his perfidy has meant constant questioning of her as Queen, thrown England and Scotland into perpetual religious war… and cleared the stage for Mary’s own claim. Of course Elizabeth blames him: he’s entirely responsible for the situation she finds hehas self now trapped by.
Again, we see how Elizabeth’s experiences have given her the ability to see a bigger picture than Mary can — being in mind, of course, she is also not pregnant and not about to marry the world man in Europe. Last week Elizabeth chose to look outside of Europe’s boarders to the New World, trusting that gains achieved there would translate to an increase in her power back home. With news of Mary finally, actually, for sure really marrying Darnley (in TV’s grimmest walk down the aisle since Claude married Luc when she thought Leith was dead like two episode ago), Elizabeth breaks. She’s still pretty sure that she can weather this, but memories of how her life, and that of her mother, were destroyed casually by her father — at how quicksilver the lives of royals can be — sends her into a frenzied despair.
Mary knew her wedding to Darnley was the strongest, and possibly only, weapon at her disposal. Finally seeing this through, with gritted-teeth and clenched-jaw accessorizing a stunning gold lace gown, is definitely a triumph for her. These days, we offer congratulations to newly-married couples, but what Mary has pulled off here feels more deserving than most — sincerely, congratulations and best of luck in the future. She’s going to need it — especially now that Catherine has seen her through her final doubts and helped her drink her way into preparedness for a very chilly wedding night.
Catherine does offer some hope for her mentee, though: the combination of everyone’s thrill at a royal wedding and Catherine’s substantive bribes have led a number of border towns’ allegiance from England to Scotland. It should be a time of relief for the Scottish Queen, perhaps the beginning of her rise back to the top of the power rankings. But it’s clearly hard for Mary to see that, trapped in a marital room with a man she loathes… especially when Bothwell (Adam Croasdell) is waiting literally just outside a la “The Princess Bride”, having previously this episode declared his love for her. The funny thing about pregnancy is that it is also an effective form of birth control, so the condition that finalized Mary’s decision to marry Darnley may now free her up to join a man she could truly love…
And yet, of course, the prophecy was that she can have love or an heir — it’s not clear what will happen to a woman who refuses to settle for either/or.