‘The Serpent Queen’ Season 1, Episode 3 Recap: The Price

Photo: Shanna Besson/Starz

KITCHEN GIRL FACE. Last week, Catherine gave her maid Rahima gunpowder in revenge on Cruel Kitchen Girl, and now Kitchen Girl is alive (surprise!) but she’s missing an eye and badly burned, like we can be expected. You know, because of the gunpowder that exploded in his face. She demands that Rahima be punished, which I guess is fair, but before that can happen Catherine shows up out of nowhere and asks that no one raise their hands on Rahima from now on. She also gives Rahima a very beautiful dress as a reward for revenge.

I’m going to take a bold stance and say maybe you don’t want Catherine de’ Medici by your side. I do not know! Looks like it will end in a horrifying way for Rahima. But she was already being called “it” by everyone and sexually harassed by the guards, as well as who knows what else, so maybe there’s nowhere to go but upstairs.

I’m certainly no authority on 16th century Western European magical practices (embarrassing!), but the courts had astrologers and alchemists. John Dee of Queen Elizabeth I has been called an “occult wizard”. So I take advantage of those weird little trips to the woods that Catherine makes, usually to see the magician Ruggieri in his little forest cabin. Ruggieri cultivates an image, and that is work. We learn that magic has a price and you can’t choose what it is. It’s a good trope with magic! If people can fix all their problems willy-nilly with magic, then what’s the point of anything? But here you have to sacrifice things. Or be ready to do so when the time comes. It’s like The Godfatherbut instead of a mumbling Marlon Brando potentially asking you for a favor, it’s The Mystic Forces.

Part of the reason Catherine wanders the woods alone is that Henry has been away for months in this campaign to conquer Italian lands, i.e. Catherine’s dowry. But now he’s back! And Because Men, he has a baby! Who he named Diana. Good God. The mother is an unhappy Italian. While I guess we’ll never see Hapless Italian Woman after this episode, she does a great job bringing Catherine and Diane together. This fixes what was confusing in previous episodes! Now Catherine and Diane are united in Catherine’s need to get pregnant so they can both stay at court and maintain their influence. Diane isn’t worried about this particular woman, but she’s worried she’s setting a precedent with Henry until he falls in love with someone who can replace Catherine.

Also: France won all the territories they wanted in Italy, but apparently you have to “leave people behind to keep your territories”? That’s why I could never rule a country. I would never remember details like this. So Montmorency, a noble at court, wants France to return some of the territories to the Holy Roman Emperor. People just died fighting for them. Ugh. Let’s get back to talking about court gossip.

While Diane has been annoying in the sense of being “very cruel to Catherine”, now that she’s on her side, she’s an incredible asset and I love her. She walks into Catherine’s room and tells her to pull herself together because they’re fixing this baby situation now. Then Diane throws Henry’s letters to Catherine into the fire and says her men are too simple to cry. OUEEESSSS DIANE. She says she will take care of the Unlucky Italian. OH MY GOD. A real strength.

The unfortunate Italians and Diane have tea, and the former says that Henry told him that Diane would be like a grandmother to baby Diane. HENRY. What good are you? Diane proceeds with a quiet threat to throw the baby out the window if Hapless Italian does not immediately leave for a convent. I’m not sure she wouldn’t. So baby Diane and her mother are now gone, but the memory of Adult Diane almost throwing the baby out the window will last a lifetime.

Henry and Catherine are examined to see why Catherine isn’t getting pregnant (perhaps because Henry is having sex with Diane instead?), and the doctor tells the audience of the king, queen, and Diane that Henry and Catherine can conceive children, but their reproductive organs are “mismatched”. He then illustrates this using an eggplant and a melon. Departure. The conclusion is that they must strike from behind, resulting in a extremely unpleasant scene where the camera focuses on Catherine while she has this clinical sex with her husband. Henry says he’s sorry they don’t match, which is good but sad.

Do you remember how interested Mathilde was in the Dauphin, but he was also very rude to her? Well, now they’re boning and having some really nice post-coital conversations where he tells her about the time his dad traded him and Henry for himself, and they’ve been under surveillance for years. The Dauphin says there was a little person who would teach them Spanish, and when he inquires about Mathilde’s parents, she says they sent her away because she “wasn’t normal”. And the Dauphin calls them bastards! It’s good! It is complicated but also horrifying. But sometimes not.

Bourbon enters and Mathilde hides while he talks the Dauphin into having Catherine murdered to put them both in a better position. The Dauphin seems to oppose it! Which again, great. For the moment. Unfortunately, now that Henri is the darling, King François ignores the Dauphin, and when the latter gets drunk in front of an ambassador, François Beats him in full view of the court. When Mathilde tries to help him in his room later, he calls her a monster. So how to be real shit, man.

We don’t see much of Catherine’s entourage, which I hope will change soon because they are all fascinating. Aabis, Mathilde, Sebastio (RIP) and Angelica. What I’m saying is I want to see more Aabis and Angelica because even though I recap a lot of historical drama, there’s not a lot of Lady Gay in it. So you can bet when Aabis got Angelica rub some oil on her back then watch her mouth the whole time, I was very there for that. People said they don’t want no more sad lesbian dramas with women staring at the sea, so what about a poisoner and a woman who teaches seduction? Great.

So, this whole Bourbon idea about killing Catherine – she rides into the woods and gets attacked! She hits a guy with a branch and hides while two men search for her. This is clearly an assassination attempt (a bad one), and she is saved by Henry, who was looking for her. Why? Who knows! But they have an adrenaline-fueled bong session in the woods. Later, she visits Ruggieri at his magician’s hut and says she must get pregnant and will pay “what is necessary”. He tells her that she will be faced with a choice and if she chooses to pay, she will get what she wants. PLEASANT. To like. Deliberate choices and consequences. He also throws her a book, which is a guide to poisonous mushrooms. She accidentally leaves him in Sebastio’s room when he pushes her away to spend time with the queen, which would probably be fine, but the Dauphin collapses and dies, and the king insists he was poisoned. And who has a book of poison in their room? Yes, it’s true. It’s Sebastian.

This choice seems a little easier than it could be because it’s not only “are you going to sacrifice this man you hired and who is under your protection to have a baby”, but also “if he is not arrested, you will be”. It’s the sixteenth century! Sure she is going to sacrifice her servant. Points to her for feeling bad about it, but like the minimum number of points.

François goes off the rails after the death of his son (which makes sense), and he banishes Montmorency from his court. Why? Not clear! He thinks Montmorency has always hated the Dauphin? When Montmorency says he has dedicated his life to François, François responds, “Well, what a waste.” SAVAGE. He also has Sebastio separated by four horses, which is, wow, not the best way to go. I can’t believe people can come up with ideas like this when you can literally think of anything you want. Catherine sees Sebastio’s arm get ripped off and then runs off, undressing and saying she can’t breathe. Her servants follow her and when she vomits, Aabis tells her that she is pregnant.

Back to the time of Samantha Morton! We finally meet her – Mary, Queen of Scots! She and her ladies-in-waiting are all in white, walking down the long Chenonceau Gallery, where they meet Catherine and Rahima. All his ladies are also called Marie, which, yes, is historically accurate. I’m SO excited; Mary looks DISTURBED. We find out that Mary is widowed because Catherine’s eldest son died and Rahima is wearing Mary’s dress. fair catherine took this. Surprising. I can’t stand Mary, Queen of Scots except as a messy bitch, and I hope we see her here in all her glory. We end with her telling her ladies that as the king’s widow, the throne is hers by right and that she is doing everything in her power to prevent Charles IX from becoming king. YES.

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