The Royals 4×05 Review: “There’s Daggers in Men’s Smiles”

On this week’s episode of The Royals, the Family Henstridge is still feeling the after-effects of the blackout–Robert uses persisting troubles to declare himself supreme leader of England, Liam reunites with Kathryn to solve the mystery of her missing father, Eleanor turns into a modern-day Robin Hood, and Helena laments her impending dowager-dom.

The Case of the Missing Barkeep

Another episode, another day’s worth of Liam wandering around London on his own, just daring someone to attack him. He’s off to check on Kathryn’s family at the Prince’s Arms, which was a target for looters and general mischief-makers in the blackout. While this is theoretically a nice gesture, an edgy Kathryn wasn’t expecting visitors and nearly attacks him with a bat. Liam wasn’t expecting to see her–isn’t she supposed to be out of the country? She explains that she came home because her dad has been missing since the blackout.

Liam has Hill look into the disappearance, who reports back with three John Does in the morgue. Taking a page directly out of One Tree Hill’s first season book (the scene is quite similar), Liam and Kathryn visit the morgue to view the body, only to find it’s not him. This would feel like more of a coincidence if The Royals didn’t employ One Tree Hill’s creator and assorted staff.

Right afterwards, Kathryn’s father returns. He was helping people in the blackout with no cell reception. Very altruistic, but also let your family know that you’re okay? There has to be a landline somewhere in South London. He’s more concerned about tearing into Liam for breaking his daughter’s heart than checking to see if his daughter is okay after thinking he was dead. Kathryn, please remove yourself from this narrative, no one deserves to be stuck in the middle of all these male egos. When Liam leaves, Kathryn’s sister runs after him to appeal on her sister’s behalf–and not just because she desperately wants her to marry a prince. Can we get more of Kathryn’s sister and less of Kathryn proper? I find her blunt honesty refreshing.

The Royal Decree

Surrounded by reporters, Robert gives out water to people in need and blasts the government for not fixing the power situation in South London. When Helena sees this on TV, she chastises Robert for not following tradition to keep the monarchy neutral. Eleanor applauds his commitment to helping people, arguing that maybe they need to get into some good trouble to do good in the world. It’s one of the first Eleanor/Robert interactions that doesn’t have some level of manipulation to it, and it’s nice to see them act like normal siblings taking on their mother’s opinion.

Willow runs through the wonderful responses Robert and Eleanor have received for their blackout activities on social media. Robert’s in such a good mood that he doesn’t even blink when they hit a picture of Eleanor and Jasper, though I’m sure the time will come. Sultry bridal prospect Cassandra arrives for her second date, causing Willow to awkwardly dance around the date’s postponement, and the fact that she’s once again number one on Robert’s list of marriage prospects. Cassandra barely notices and asserts her commitment to being friends with Willow to gain further access to Robert.

Robert visits Willow to ask that their relationship not change after he makes his announcement to the people of England. In his speech, he invokes the emergency power of the Crown to dissolve Parliament immediately, essentially becoming an autocrat. He promises that he will be the one to lead people out of the darkness. I know that he’s a king and all, but this is Dictatorship 101 and people better make a fuss. Also, the fictional people of England REALLY can’t seem to deal with this blackout situation.

Colin York is first in line to make said fuss, but Robert is always three steps ahead. He pulls out the photo of York in bed with Helena, claiming that “someone else” is blackmailing York and Robert can make it all go away if he falls in line. York goes to the media to tearfully admit to his affair and resign instead. “Disgraceful. Whatever happened to lying with dignity?” Helena asks, hoping that he keeps his “temptress” under wraps. She’s also upset that Robert hasn’t been consulting her in any of his recent maneuvers, making it seem like he doesn’t need her at all anymore.


Willow is freaking out over Robert’s history-making move. He explains that some pundits have come out against him, but he’s not worried. He grasps Willow’s hand, explaining that he wasn’t raised to fall in love–he knew from the get-go that he’d be marrying for England, not for himself. He used to secretly hope that duty and love could go hand-in-hand, Willow reawakens that hope, blah blah nonsense. They kiss.

Robert receives a package that contains a ringing phone. The photo ID is Cassandra in lingerie, so the purpose of the phone is pretty clear, though bold. She’s flirting and discussing scandalous photos, but Robert gets distracted when he sees Willow delivering an intensely supportive speech about him on TV. “The people trust him and have faith in him–and so do I,” she states. Inspired, he tells Cassandra that he’s not postponing their date–he’s canceling entirely.

Cyrus calls Robert’s move genius, jealous that he didn’t think of it himself. Liam wants to move past the Robert drama, but Cyrus wants to double-down on their efforts. Cyrus loudly lists the accusations against Robert, who unbeknownst to him is listening behind the door. Liam asserts that the only reason he went after Robert was Kathryn-related jealousy and he’d rather honor Simon’s memory by being loyal to his brother.

Moved by Liam’s admission, Robert bursts in and banishes Cyrus from the country. Robert gives Liam his blessing to go back to Kathryn, giving him one piece of advice: “If you’re powerful enough to destroy a relationship, you’re powerful enough to fix it–and maybe not just that one.” Every time they give Robert a scene that doesn’t involve him being blankly pleasant or sneeringly obtuse, his character gets far more complex. His sociopathic tendencies aren’t interesting to watch because he’s not a particularly charming character, but the hesitant tenderness for his family is. This conversation results in Liam telling Kathryn he’s not giving up on them, womp womp.


Willow and Robert chat again. He explains the effect she has on him–not only did she inspire his first civil conversation with Liam in months, but she makes him want to be a better man. He even apologizes for strong-arming her onto his bride list in the first place; he understands that he was being manipulative, not charming. Is all of this…genuine? Robert proposes.

Robin Hood: Millennial Edition

Jasper and Eleanor wake up in bed together and celebrate the fact that they get to wake up in bed together. The morning glow doesn’t quite stretch to the afternoon when Jasper is desperately searching for a place to fit his things and Eleanor is opening mail, upset that she can’t help everyone who needs it. Hill interrupts to relegate Jasper to desk duty, mentioning that he needs to dig into the background of Count Bellagio. Jasper spazzes, but Eleanor merely makes a few cracks about her grandmother being with a younger man.

Jasper confronts his father, who answers with lewd comments about the duchess and reveals his plan to gain the duchess’ fortune upon her demise. It’s almost comical how quickly and bluntly he reveals his plan to his son–he might as well twirl his nonexistent mustache, it’s so cliche. Jasper levels an ultimatum: tell the truth, or he will. His father hopes he’s not a rat, but Jasper immediately runs to Eleanor to tell her the truth. The character growth here is A+ and makes the course of this particular storyline a whole lot more interesting; their previous communication problems were getting old.

A “Who’s on first?” style exchange ensues when Eleanor confuses Earl’s name with the title of the same name, but once she understands, she merely laughs. “The joke’s on him, Duchy is broke,” she explains. When Jasper and Eleanor go to meet Earl, tensions start immediately, as Jasper has just caught his father in the act of stealing goods from the palace. Eleanor diffuses the tension by pointing out that they’ve all slept with Jasper’s ex-girlfriend, Mandy. She wants to get to know Earl, pointing out to Jasper that he only has one dad.


Earl’s con stories inspire Eleanor to do a little reverse con on her own–which is to say, she steals her family’s silver candlesticks so that a woman in need named Dottie can sell them to get her cat medical care. When she returns to the palace, Earl teaches her to pick a lock so that she can open what looks like a desk for Jasper to store his things. Jasper is upset because his dad is trying to figure out how best to manipulate her, but Eleanor is enjoying her time with Earl, especially since it helps her see how different he and his son truly are.

After Eleanor tells Jasper she’s hanging out with Rosie that night, he catches her sneaking out in her ding-dong-ditch getup on the security cameras. When he asks about her night with Rosie, Eleanor makes up some nonsense, upsetting Jasper. He doesn’t have a lot of time to lament this bout of dishonesty, as Hill calls him in to look at the ballistics from the shooting. Surprise, surprise–the bullet was in fact meant for Jasper, not Robert.

A Much-Needed Night Out

Helena is lamenting her dowager status, dreading the day she has to bow to her own children and grandchildren. Rachel suggests that they go out and have fun to distract her. With Rachel’s dominatrix side job, it’s assumed that the fun in question is probably a club of ill repute. Fast forward to the duo in masquerade masks people-watching at a burlesque club. Helena spies someone she likes and sends him a drink. Being as they’re taking great care to hide his face, I can only imagine that it’s Sebastian. The next morning she wakes up next to that person, horrified.

The Royals seems to have made a commitment to character development this season; I can’t thank the writers enough for not putting Jasper and Eleanor on the same merry-go-round they’ve been on in the past. Ditto Liam and his storyline; I’m bummed to see us returning to the Kathryn situation, but happy to see that we won’t have to outwardly cringe when he takes on his brother for a little while. One thing the show has been doing especially well this season is keeping viewers on their toes when it comes to Robert’s motivations; it’s quite difficult to tell whether or not Robert is actually a deranged sociopath with no care for the people around him or a bratty royal with deep control issues and a bad moral compass.


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