‘The Serpent Queen’ Season 1, Episode 3 Recap – What Happened in “The Price”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 10, 2022 (Last updated: 2 days ago)
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The Serpent Queen image for season 1, episode 3 recap
'The Serpent Queen' Season 1 Image (Credit - Starz)




More scheming results in some big political changes as the present-day plot starts to become clearer too.

Things are, I think it’s fair to say, looking up for Rahima. After maiming the cook who was rude to her with the help of gunpowder provided by Catherine, the maid, now the queen’s official one, has some degree of protection. Catherine even arrives on the kitchen steps like a looming specter to interrupt any debates about Rahima’s potential punishment with a reminder that she’s under royal protection – and even gets a new dress to prove it, though that is also a shrewd slight against someone else which we’ll explain later.

It isn’t that Rahima shouldn’t let her newfound strength go to her head, just that she should be careful to vet those who the strength attracts. This is a lesson that younger Catherine could have stood to learn much sooner, since her idealized “love” for Henri becomes more and more painful with every development, like a splinter wedging itself deeper and deeper.

He was already having a love affair with Diane – after spending almost a year at war fighting for the lands supposedly owed to him by his wife’s dowry and waxing poetically about his endeavors via letter all the while, he neglects to mention that he’ll be returning home with a mistress, Filippa (Elissa Alloula), and their child, a girl named after Diane, of all people. It’s a slap in the face for Catherine, who has genuinely missed him, and the idea that it’s simply what men do at war and means nothing is a small consolation.

The mistress and the kid aren’t to become permanent fixtures at court, since all that really matters is a male heir, and it isn’t exactly good for optics anyway. At the behest presumably of the King, who has only grown fonder of Catherine in Henri’s absence, both woman and child are dismissed, and a physician is brought in to assess the present problem of Catherine’s apparent inability to conceive. The official medical solution is hilarious in its simplicity – a simple change of position ought to do it.

And it seems, at least at first, like the subsequent sex scene – somehow more awkward than the previous one between the two – has done the job. Catherine suspects she’s pregnant and we move on to other matters, such as Marthe’s continuing relationship with Francis, which is clearly designed to humanize the young dauphin because he’s reasonably kind to a little person, having apparently developed a fondness for them as a royal hostage of the Sultan. He even refuses the Duke of Guise’s offer to essentially assassinate Catherine, which Marthe overhears because she’s hiding in the other room.

But nobody is buying the idea that the dauphin is suddenly reformed. During a meeting between the King and an ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor about handing over half of the Italian states conquered by Henri in the midst of burgeoning Catholic and Protestant conflict, Francis is very vocal about his dislike of Catherine, and the furious King berates him and then assaults him. When Marthe attempts to tend to Francis, he cruelly takes out his anger on her. He’s as vindictive as ever.

Of course, when you wrong so many people so frequently, someone will inevitably do something about it, and thus during a game of tennis, Francis collapses and dies, apparently of heart failure, but almost certainly of poisoning.

But who’s the culprit? Catherine, of course, becomes the prime suspect, partly because it makes sense that she’d seek revenge for Francis’s tirade against her earlier, but also because a book about potions found in Sebastio’s room, which Catherine left there after being given it by Ruggieri, directly implicates her. The point of the book was about brewing some kind of fertility potion to ensure she got pregnant, but nobody’s concerned about the details.

Catherine can’t be openly accused of murdering the dauphin, though, for political reasons, so instead, Montmorency suggests framing Sebastio, since the book was found in his quarters and it’s an easy fit for evidence, and Catherine reluctantly agrees.

Sebastio is brutally and very publicly executed, which sends a shiver of worry up the spines of her remaining retinue, who suddenly realize in unison that they’re all equally expendable.

But things are at least looking up for Catherine. She seems to finally be pregnant, and in Francis’s absence, Henri is the new dauphin, and thus the next in line to the French throne. She’s well on track to be queen.

And as we catch back up to the framing device, we see her troubles to claim the throne almost pale in comparison to the difficulty of retaining it.

As hinted at earlier, Rahima’s new dress is second-hand, formerly belonging to Catherine’s widowed daughter-in-law, Mary (Antonia Clarke), the future Queen of Scots. Mary keeps several lady assistants dressed in virginal white who’re all also named Mary, and tells them that she’ll do anything in her power to prevent Catherine from consolidating power over France.

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