The Royals 4×08 Review: “In the Dead Vast and Middle of the Night”

This week’s episode of The Royals deals with a familiar pre-wedding tradition in a not-so-traditional way: stag/hen parties, AKA bachelor/bachelorette parties. Who knew there could be so much surprise LSD and secret coups involved?

The Hen Party

Helena and a cast of old white men are quizzing Willow on royal history, ostensibly to see if she has what it takes to be Queen of England. She finds Eleanor and Jasper to angst over missing a question, worried that they’re not going to let her be queen. Jasper excitedly suggests that she call off the wedding so he doesn’t have to go to Robert’s stag party. The jokes they’re trading back and forth show a comfort we haven’t seen previously, and it’s a delight. Willow is glad that she’s not having a hen party, but Eleanor doesn’t get her motivations. “Having no fun is for after you’re Queen,” she points out. I can’t help but think that there was no hen party in the plans because we’ve never seen Willow have a life outside of the Henstridge family. While I appreciate that The Royals doesn’t overextend themselves with their ensemble cast (ahem, Once Upon a Time), they should have provided a bit more backstory and life building for Willow, considering the focus she’s received this season.

Not one to let things go, Eleanor presses Willow for her idea of the perfect hen party. She obliges; for her, a good hen party means a massage, champagne, and lots of chocolate. Eleanor and Helena reveal their surprise: one room has been converted to a pop-up spa with champagne, and another has been devoted to a giant chocolate fountain ready for the most epic treat yo’self day ever.

On the massage table, Willow is ranting about how her fairy tale engagement has been disrupted by all of the expectations thrust upon her. Her masseuse is sympathetic–perhaps too sympathetic, kissing her lightly on the mouth. The masseuse is Cassandra, who has once again sneaked into the palace (Mr. Hill, what the hell is going on with your staff? Multiple attempts on royal lives have been made and Cassandra just walks in here whenever she feels like it?) to drug Willow’s massage oil. Willow falls off of the table and tries to crawl to safety. Eleanor finds her and brings her to Helena, who demands they call a doctor. Eleanor halts her, saying that someone drugged her with LSD and she’s had enough drug experience to deal with it on her own. Helena declares that Eleanor will be her caretaker then, agreeing to buy her a new horse for her trouble.

Eleanor is trying to ensure that Willow has a good trip so that she doesn’t panic. Of course, Willow ends up lighting the sheet she’s wearing like a cape on fire, so Eleanor hits the panic button for their doctor, losing Willow in the process. Eleanor chases Willow through the tunnels, ultimately bringing her to Helena’s room, arguing that this means she and Helena can catch up while Willow sleeps it off. Helena asks about Sebastian, not divulging her connection to him. Eleanor takes this opportunity to admit that she’s the Robin Hood, horrifying her mother with the danger. Helena wants to discuss other, safer ways that her daughter can help people, but Eleanor is relieved to have gotten that off her chest, reaffirming that it’s so much better when they don’t have secrets from one another.

Willow seems to have snapped out of her high for the moment. Eleanor explains that she might experience flashbacks from the LSD, causing Willow to freak out over her upcoming last round of questions with her royal examiners. Eleanor asks if all of this is worth it to Willow–after all, “No one was drugging you when you were just our social media hag,” Eleanor argues. To Willow, marrying Robert is worth it (note: it’s not). Eleanor pledges to support her and encourages her to not let the bastards get her down, essentially.

Unfortunately, the drugs aren’t quite out of Willow’s system yet; she thinks she sees Cassandra calling her ugly and baiting her, so she throws her into the chocolate fountain. Unfortunately for her, it was actually Helena calling her “lovely,” and she nearly drowned her future mother-in-law and the queen of England in chocolate. Eleanor gets a huge kick out of it, but Helena is not happy. “You are so not getting a horse,” she says to her daughter. The parts of this episode spent chasing after Willow feel way too long.

Eleanor wakes up to find Willow in the closet. She remembers that Cassandra was the one to drug her, causing Eleanor to reply, “Remind me to ruin that bitch right after I sleep a few days.” Willow is hardcore dreading the royal quiz, but Eleanor steels her. Helena didn’t move it because she doesn’t have the power to do so, and even if she did, she wouldn’t–Willow has to learn that none of this stops if you have a bad day. All she can do is what she can, and trying your best is the only way to avoid having regrets.


Willow shows up to the quiz decked out in Eleanor’s best casual apparel, AKA a ripped rock tank, short shorts, and thigh-high boots. It’s a bold choice for anyone, but an especially bold choice for someone looking to be queen of England. There’s an air of dismissal to Willow in this scene that really doesn’t suit her. When they ask why she’ll make a good queen, she explains that she’ll try to do her best not to dishonor Helena and the queens who came before her, but truly the opinions that matter most to her are Robert’s and her own. She bids them an impatient adieu and goes off to find Robert, as she misses her fiance.

When she does see Robert, she’s a bit chillier than expected, asking him about how Cassandra might have gotten into the palace. He’s unconcerned, explaining that she’s broken in before. Why doesn’t anyone on this show have any respect for their own safety or the safety of those around them? She wants to believe that Robert had nothing to do with Cassandra being able to get into the palace, but she’s unconvinced. Robert is visibly uncomfortable.

The Stag Party

Liam has been laying low since the Kathryn/Robert drama, but Robert makes him promise he’ll be around for his stag party since family is the most important thing. Liam noticed that the stag party is only family and distant royalty; not one of Robert’s friends is invited. Robert brushes off the concern, but Liam remains a little suspicious.

Robert gives a toast at his stag party, looking around at what looks like the elder version of the Riot Club. When Robert sees Cyrus and threatens to have him arrested, he points out that the soles of his shoes are Venezuelan soil, therefore he’s not breaking the rules of exile. I’ve never been a fan of Cyrus, but points to him for that move. Liam appeals to Robert on Cyrus’s behalf, reminding him about his own quotes regarding family and second chances. Robert doesn’t appreciate having his words tossed back in his face and claims that Liam’s main weakness is his soft spot for lost causes.


Having had enough, Jasper attempts to go to a pub and invites Liam along. Liam crankily says no, explaining that he needs to make up for his past. He instructs Jasper to lose to Robert on purpose if they end up in any sort of game, which of course they do. Robert starts to beat him at pool, saying that he’s going to crush Jasper’s spirit in front of people who have actually earned their title (how does anyone like this dude?), but Jasper flips it around on him and makes his winning shot. Cyrus applauds Jasper’s moxie and propositions him, offering money to sweeten the deal. Jasper explains that he’s Robert’s bodyguard and Eleanor’s boyfriend. “Offer still stands,” Cyrus shrugs. This entire scene was a gift for having to see so much of Robert this season.

Robert stands up to give another speech, this time kicking Jasper out of the room because it’s only for “titled men of influence.” Jasper takes his leave while Robert strokes the egos of all the nobility present, explaining that his part in the blackout, the people’s response to him, and how he plans on keeping power away from parliament for the rest of time. Cool. His latest plan is to re-introduce the old school gentry system, in which the nobles would rule over their sections of England like regional kings in exchange for their unabashed loyalty to Robert’s reign. Hello, dictatorship. Cyrus stands up and calls him out on his dictatorial moves, calling him Adolf Jr. and pointing out that he never gave a shit about the nobility, and Robert doesn’t either–what’s to stop him from going back on this deal once he holds all the power? Parliament and the House of Lords is the only thing that protects them, so Cyrus calls for them to stand with him and fight against this autocratic nonsense. Liam punches him out, causing Robert to declare Liam his right-hand man for this new era.

Thankfully, Liam and Cyrus meet on a rooftop and confirm that the entire thing was an act. Their mission was successful; they’ve confirmed that Robert caused the blackout and plans to rule England as a dictator. Cyrus introduces Liam to Aston Lang, who will be helping their plan to take down Robert. The episode closes with Liam and Kathryn meeting by a brook and reenacting last week’s dramatic scene with Robert. “My girl’s a good liar,” Liam says, kissing Kathryn. Long sigh from me.

The compact nature of this week’s episode of The Royals did a great job in moving the plot and characters along. Robert’s plan is now out in the open and the writers have finally tipped us off on what they’re doing with Liam. Unfortunately, playing towards this reveal sacrificed Liam’s character and his related plots for most of this season, and his consistent attachment to Kathryn does nothing to help that. As for Willow, I’m glad to see a bit of the old Willow and her backbone come back when she faced off with Robert at the end; their engagement brought out an unpleasant side to her that never quite fit right with her past characterization. This plot has been an ambitious, yet uneven effort.



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