The Plan Begins
The season four finale of The Royals opens with a royal wedding scene, complete with a church chorus’ cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” I immediately decide that the church chorus cover of “Creep” is my favorite part of this episode, so strap in for what’s about to happen. During the vows, Willow decides to confront Robert about stealing Eleanor’s letters to Jasper and passing the words off as his own. He brushes off the question with the suggestion that they talk later with the instruction, “For now, stand still and look pretty.” Their conversation ends with Robert saying, “Til death do us part, baby,” so at this point I’ve figured out that it’s a nightmare. Willow wakes up. She stops by Robert’s office, where he’s playing chess and talking to the ghost of his dead father.
Family coup meeting! Eleanor and Liam believe that they can 100% trust Willow, but Cyrus and Helena aren’t so sure. Based on Willow’s shoddy characterization this season, I think I’m on Cyrus and Helena’s side here. Jasper joins them, putting on Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” in order to mask their voices from any bugs that might be in the apartment. I’ve changed my mind, my favorite part of the episode is when all of them pause the conversation to do the air drums during the bridge of “In the Air Tonight.”
Helena instructs the family to go on as normal, which for her means meeting with Willow’s mother for the first time. Turns out Willow’s mother was close with Dominique (the woman Helena’s mother killed so her daughter could be queen) and doesn’t want her daughter anywhere near the Henstridge family. Hey, this seems like something we could have explored this season!
The Team Expands
Willow confronts Robert with the fact that he caused the blackout. At first he wants to know who told her, but then shrugs it off–whatever, she knew who he was going into this! He argues that every dictatorial move he’s making is for the greater good of the people (red flag) and says that they’ve gone far too long with everyone having a say. Willow fights back, claiming his goals are far too tyrannical when he says that there should be one vision for the fate of the country… his. Willow says she’s going to need some time to think. “If you’re getting cold feet, I need to make other arrangements,” Robert spits out, then immediately regrets it. He apologizes for such an unfair comment, and the two hug.
Afterwards, Willow tearfully runs to Helena and tells her, “I’m sorry, I can’t marry your son–he must be stopped.” During their next family coup meeting, Willow offers to expose him during her vows. Helena thinks that publicly revealing their dysfunction could be the end of the monarchy, but Eleanor argues that the disbanding of the monarchy is what Simon wanted for them in the first place.
Robert informs Hill that he’s bringing in his own separate security team in addition to the regular detail, as there have been a multitude of security issues this season. Hill and I can’t disagree with that logic, though it will throw a wrench into some plans. Jasper and Hill discuss the situation in the middle of a field. Jasper is furious that Robert would be so insulting to Hill and divulges that the shooter was actually his father. Hill, annoyed at everything and everyone, informs Jasper that there isn’t much that goes on around the palace that he doesn’t know about–he knows about Jasper’s father, Cyrus’ usual unsavory activities, and anytime anyone uses the freaking tunnels to sneak out and in. Jasper manages to surprise him with the knowledge of Liam’s coup. Unfortunately, Hill can’t help them–he’s pledged to protect the king, so that is what he must do.
Knowing they’re down, Hill and Jasper pays a visit to Boone (remember Boone?) to ask him if he wants to overthrow the current King of England. “Already killed the man once–I’d be happy to do it again!” Boone says. For anyone who doesn’t remember, Boone was the man who was paid to shoot down Robert’s plane in the first season.
An Interlude for Eleanor
Robert comes to visit Eleanor while she’s decorating the church (which they probably have people for, no?), who greets him in a distant fashion. While Robert is The Worst, he’s not stupid, so he can tell that something is up. Eleanor casually mentions her missing Christmas letter to Jasper, making up a situation where she doesn’t totally believe that he didn’t get it. Robert breezes over it, instructing her to trust her instincts. They bid adieu, but not before Eleanor gives Robert one last well wish: “I hope you get everything you deserve,” she says, in a not-so-friendly tone.
Jasper stops by to find Eleanor lamenting among the decorations. “Something like this should only be for two people in love,” she states. Jasper insists they dance to a nicely sped up version of “Canon in D.” Personally, I thought it was an excellent choice to give Jasper and Eleanor the traditional wedding song while Robert and Willow get “Creep,” if a bit on the nose. As they dance, they vow to love each other for the rest of all time. It’s a nice scene, but also a reminder that most of Eleanor and Jasper’s storyline this season was dedicated to fluff moments–certainly welcome, given their strife-ridden past, but most often felt like they were sprinkled in the episode as a bonus at the end rather than an integral part of the plot. Hopefully next season they strike more of a balance for the two of them.
The Big Day
Jasper and Liam meet in the tunnels and are not careful about discussing their plans. There are two ways this coup could go: either Robert steps down quietly for Liam or he doesn’t and Jasper and Boone have to take him down by force. Liam’s job regardless is to protect Willow. Liam then meets with Kathryn to run over her portion of the plan, which involves running to a car that will take her to safety so she and the baby (excuse ME) can get out of there. Besides the ridiculous baby plot they’ve just introduced, this scene is absurd. Why isn’t Kathryn already in a safe location? It’s not like she’d be invited to the wedding, so this was just a clunky plot device that will up the stakes when they inevitably put Kathryn in danger as a cliffhanger.
Cyrus and Helena discuss the fact that things are going too smoothly–they need a distraction so they don’t trigger Robert’s suspicions. Willow’s mother makes a perfectly timed jab at Helena about Allistair, giving Helena the opportunity to start a catfight. “I learned this move from Dynasty reruns, bitch!” she says as she pulls her hair. The Royals is certainly making a lot of pointed pop culture references this episode, and I am here for it.
Robert and Liam have the closest thing to a heart-to-heart that they can. Robert explains that he resented their father for his lack of faith in Robert’s ability to rule. Liam argues that Simon was trying to protect Robert from corruption. Liam reminds Robert that he used to idolize him as a child and that he loves him still. Robert follows this up with a conversation with King Simon’s ghost, as one does. While the conversation starts out tense, it turns more towards the tender, as Robert insists that Simon would like Willow. Simon would like Willow, but he probably wouldn’t like his son. Simon argues that Willow could be Robert’s salvation, and that he doesn’t have to choose between love and the crown. Most importantly, he instructs Robert to not destroy Willow’s light with his darkness. Before the ceremony, Robert and Willow meet up and speak.
The Wedding Itself
The wedding ceremony begins to the dulcet tones of that “Creep” cover again. Jasper’s father appears as a priest to bless the rings, so we can only hope that he’s cursed them. Cyrus thinks he sees Violet, so he runs out of the church after her. In fact, it is Violet, and when they meet they hug. Are we legitimately supposed to care about this? Kathryn runs to her safe car, which isn’t so safe. Lucius joins her in the backseat and they drive to a mystery location. I once again ask why Kathryn was there in the first place. In a non-twisty twist, Willow says “I do” instead of revealing Robert’s tyrannical tendencies during the vows. The family looks on angrily as Robert and Willow are pronounced husband and wife, man and woman, king and queen.
The season finale of The Royals is a disappointing end to this season, and continued to prove that the first half of the fourth season was a lot stronger than the second. The “twists” in this particular episode felt predictable, clunky, and rushed–Kathryn’s pregnancy reveal, Willow’s last-minute decision to betray the rest of the family, and Violet’s return didn’t hit the emotional notes that they should have. The writers also need to decide what they’re doing with Robert–is he a megalomaniacal sociopath trying to take over the world, or is he a misguided man blinded by his own feelings of inadequacy?
The flip-flopping seems to denote a lack of decision rather than complexity in character, something they’ve been struggling with this whole season. While Jasper and Eleanor have been very present throughout and each had their own well executed storylines, as a couple they were relegated to fluff filler halfway through this season’s arc. Don’t even get me started on the tales of Cyrus’ redemption–the only redemption plots I want to see belong to Helena. However, the season certainly had its high points, and the failed coup could introduce a host of tangles to unravel for our favorite royal family. Here’s to hoping that The Royals gets renewed for season five, and that the new showrunner straightens some of this out.