The Queen of France achieves a dream nearly a decade in the making in the penultimate episode of Marie Antoinette's first season, but it somehow only reaffirms that nothing she does will ever be good enough for her husband's terrible family and his awful court. Yes, after eight years together — and four years on the throne of France — the queen finally manages to get pregnant. Still, rather than rejoice with the happy couple, almost everyone else seems more determined than ever to take Antoinette down.
There's undoubtedly happiness to be found in "The Ostrich." Antoinette announcing her pregnancy to Louis by informing him one of his courtiers has repeatedly been kicking her is next-level adorable and calls back to the charming sweetness of the pair's earliest interactions. (At least, those that didn't involve Louis physically running away from her.) Her desire to eat everything in sight is deeply relatable, and her cautious joy about what her pregnancy means for both her reign and her marriage is lovely to watch.
After seeing Louis and Antoinette at odds for so much of the past few episodes, it's honestly a relief to get such a stark reminder of why we liked them together so much in the first place. (We'll talk about Louis's dumb backsliding in a minute, don't worry.) But Louis's family is literally The Worst, so they're seemingly the furthest thing from being happy for her.
Despite being beloved by the people, reconciling with her husband, and getting pregnant, nothing Antoinette manages to accomplish will ever be good enough for these people, determined to view her as an outsider and a threat rather than a key player in the House of Bourbon's future. (I mean, she deserves a lifetime of macarons for that childbirth scene alone.) Granted, she's also not always the best advocate of her own cause, but who can blame her after almost a decade of being treated like trash?
Remember those rude paper doves that were being spread about Versailles back in "Rebel Queen"? Louis never figured out who it was, and no one ever faced any consequences. So no one should be surprised the next time someone decides to libel the queen publicly; they step up their game. This time, it's pamphlet-sized flyers full of graphic drawings depicting the so-called "The Ostrich Bitch's" affair with Chartres. (At least presumably — PBS, hilariously, insists on awkwardly blurring these images out, so let your imaginations run wild!)
The upshot is not just the bestowing of one of the dumbest nicknames of all time on Antoinette — ostrich sounds like Austrian if you squint — but simultaneously calling the paternity of her unborn child into question. Provence even repeats the rumor to his brother's face, implying that her friendship with Chartres has sexual overtones and the royal child is a bastard. (It's adorable later on when Provence finally gets punched in the face, is what I'm saying.)
Louis genuinely wondering whether the rumors are true is another swerve that doesn't make a ton of sense. After everything they've been through, his inability to trust her is disappointing. Not to mention another unfortunate example of Marie Antoinette's tendency to inject problems into the royal relationship that are never really given enough narrative context. Why is he willing to believe his dirtbag brother's suggestion is possible? Shrug emoji.
Speaking of Provence — and no shade on actor Jack Archer — he is officially in the running for one of the worst characters on TV this year. Jealous, ambitious, and cruel, he's still somehow exhaustingly one note. His only personality trait appears to be that he wants to be king — and, perhaps more importantly, desires the power that comes with the position — and Marie Antoinette has sadly done very little to give this character anything like nuance.
It would be one thing if his motivations were at least more interesting or complicated by his affection for his brother, his love for France, or his desire to do what's best for his countrymen. But since he seems to actively hate Louis and doesn't care much if France rots, it's hard to see him as much beyond a mustache-twirling cartoon villain. (If he, you know, had a mustache.)
He's publicly rooting for a girl, so he stays the heir and is openly dismissive toward his brother, assuming his status as the current heir and his position as "Monsieur" will protect him. The show doesn't seem interested in why he hates his brother beyond jealousy and/or daddy issues, But worst of all, Provence isn't fun to watch. His schemes are basic, revolving around calling the Queen of France a dumb whore. If the show wants us to take him seriously — or his wife, who's much more interesting — don't viewers deserve something more? (Especially since he's going to become king someday, whether he deserves it or not.)
Provence's wife, Josephine, is at least given complex motivations. She's behind the pamphlets, hating Antoinette for reasons that boil down to internalized misogyny. She's angry her husband refuses to impregnate her and treats her like dirt. However, rather than taking it out on Provence (save for one satisfying scene where she physically kicks the crap out of him), she turns her rage toward her sister-in-law because it's easier to punch down at another woman, even if that woman is the queen, rather than demand better from the man she married. (I mean, she faked a pregnancy for this guy, you'd think he could at least be polite to her!)
Maybe she sees Antoinette as competition, a roadblock in the way of her only viable path to power as Provence's wife. Perhaps she's someone Josephine sees as allowed to attack because she's not popular amongst the rest of the family. But it's messy (and interesting) enough that I wish this episode managed to find more time to devote to teasing her motivations and goals out a little further. It makes for better TV than Provence's blind hate.