The Serpent Queen season 1, episode 5 recap – “The First Regency”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 10, 2022 (Last updated: January 27, 2024)
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The Serpent Queen season 1, episode 5 recap - "The First Regency"


Several big developments in both the past and present make this another exciting installment of Starz’s period drama.

This recap of The Serpent Queen season 1, episode 5, “The First Regency”, contains spoilers.

In The Serpent Queen episode 4, a welcome time jump knocked the narrative forward 15 years and welcomely cast Samantha Morton as Catherine de Medici in both the present-day and flashback sequences, which turned out, somewhat unsurprisingly, to be in the show’s best interests. “The First Regency” continues that run of form, building to big developments everywhere.

The Serpent Queen season 1, episode 5 recap

It begins in the present day, as ever, where Catherine is still thinking about the plot she has revealed between Mary and Elizabeth I; she’s also, quite obviously, baiting Rahima, though this doesn’t reveal itself until the end. The trap she lays, though it isn’t immediately seen as a trap, is despatching her maid to rifle through Mary’s quarters in the hopes of uncovering more substantive evidence. More on this later.

In the past, we see Catherine grappling with the same thing – her quest for legitimacy, even as Queen, since the royal seal itself, when flipped over, turns the C for Catherine into a D for Diane, reflecting Henri’s endless fondness for his mistress. And that becomes a big theme of the episode.

The disrespect only continues when Henri goes off to war with the Holy Roman Emperor, leaving Catherine as Queen Regent, and his privy council totally unwilling to acknowledge her as such. This is especially egregious since Catherine needs to secure more funding for the war effort, but the Cardinal wants a castle, and the Bourbons want rid of the Cardinal, and nobody is willing to meet in the middle.

But Catherine is once again too clever. She addresses the French Parliament directly, and with some big promises is able to win Protestant support without the Bourbons’ help – making them “arseholes” in their words and “surplus to requirements” in everyone else’s.

Meanwhile, though, things aren’t going especially well for Henri, who has inexplicably taken Diane to war with him for strategic guidance – ha! – and is persuaded by her not to fight on the front. This does nothing at all for his reputation, especially since word of him not participating in the battle reaches the royal court before he even gets back. Embarrassed, Henri has a massive sulk, banning even Diane from his quarters, and his mistress begins to fall even deeper under the sway of Angelica’s liquid gold tincture.

You know things are desperate for Henri because he actually implies he might make a real go of things with Catherine. But that obviously can’t last, and it barely manages a few scenes. Catherine convinces the suddenly warm Henri to arrange an audience for Pierre, a humble but frustrated tailor, but once an increasingly strung-out and hysterical Diane begins intervening, the whole thing goes pear-shaped. Pierre loses his cool and says what everyone feels about the King and his mistress, and Diane cuts his throat. As she falls to her knees, sobbing that she did it for Henri, he soppily forgives her, leaving Catherine aghast at the frequency of his betrayals as an innocent man bleeds to death at her feet.

Elsewhere, another subplot begins to brew as a drunken, down-on-his-luck Montmorency teams up with a random man’s young daughter, agreeing to take her wherever he’s going in exchange for not killing her father. I have no idea where this is going, but I guess we’ll see.

“The First Regency” ends back in the present, with Rahima heading off to search Mary’s quarters while Catherine distracts her. But mid-conversation, Catherine sends one of the other Marys to fetch a shawl, knowing she’ll interrupt Rahima’s search. Why is Catherine setting her maid up? I suppose we’ll find out.

You can stream The Serpent Queen season 1, episode 5, “The First Regency”, exclusively on Starz. 

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