Who: “Reign,” currently airs on network TV, specifically on the CW, Thursdays at 9:00 PM.
What: “Reign,” a historical fiction/fantasy series depicting the rise to power of and political machinations surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots.
When: The series premiered on the CW, Thursday, October 10, 2013, at 9:00 PM.
Where: The show is primarily set in France, to where Mary was whisked in anticipation of her arranged marriage with Prince, later to be King, Francis (and for her protection, based on assassination attempts originating from England).
Why: Simply put, Reign struck me as the PG-13 version of The Tudors, like The Vampire Diaries is the PG-13 version of True Blood. In fact, I don’t know why the show wasn’t titled “The Stuarts,” since Mary, Queen of Scots’, sorted reign of Scotland overlapped the Tudors’ reign of England and preceded the Stuarts’ (she was a Stuart) ascension to the English throne following the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Anyway, I enjoy a good historical fiction, particularly related to royalty from yore and yesteryear and the isles across the pond, even if this is set in France (and even if no one has a French accent).
How – as in How Was It?
The pilot/premiere rating scale:
***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING. HOLY SMOKES!
**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing. I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.
*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens. There are things I like, and things I don’t. We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.
** – I will give it three episodes. Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together. No matter how unlikely.
* – Pass on this one, guys. It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.
Reign = ****
Queen Mary of Scotland (Adelaide Kaine) has been sequestered for the whole of her childhood in a nunnery, awaiting the day when she can return to the French Royal Court to meet her betrothed, the Prince Francis. Unfortunately, her life is being plotted against by those who hold other thrones, and the Queen of France sees fit to derail Queen Mary’s reputation, as Prince Francis philanders with women about the court. Meanwhile, Francis’ half-brother Sebastian, a child by the King of France’s paramour, has taken quite a fancy to Mary, while Mary fights for the good of her distant realm and the sanctity of her betrothal as a 15 year old monarch on the cusp of her adulthood and her true reign.
Reign is watered down history for the 14-24 set, peppering the pot with soapy romance and the repression of 500 year old mores to add a sense of elicit to the proceedings. In all honesty, the tone heavily borrows from The Tudors, though it is clear that this program was conceived on a smaller budget.
Kane is winning enough as Mary, Queen of Scots, though, as a historical figure, she is an odd choice around which to frame an entire series. Judging from the current average weekly ratings, which are quite abysmal, even for the CW, others in the viewing audience may agree. Mary led a rather whirlwind life from adolescence to adulthood, though the sense of intrigue surrounding her is not as mystical or as fascinating as some of her counterparts in countries to the south, including those adjoining Scotland in the British Isles.
Still, there is a sense of teenage angst as a trope that renders Reign potentially addicting. Mary is finding her life as ruler a complication to finding a marriage and relationship of love as well as to maintaining friendships with her lifelong ladies-in-waiting, including the actress who plays Susan Pevensie in the Narnia movies. Also, Francis has more or less proclaimed that he does not want to marry Mary while simultaneously holding a secret candle for her from their childhood play days. Add to that a villainous Queen who may also be jilted in the ways of love by her callous King, and Reign has all the elements of “guilty pleasure” permeating its pores. The production values are also smartly addressed, with lavish sets and a divine musical score and use of backdrop songs.
In the end, this viewer is going to stick with the program for as long as it airs, though the fact that Adelaide Kane is not as enticing a watch as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Henry VIII on The Tudors) might ultimately be the show’s downfall in the end. After all, the target audience for this program is not well defined, and The Tudors and all of its historical liberties were offset by Rhys Meyers’ charisma and the lushness of the visual presence and production values of the latter program. Reign lacks in both these qualities, no matter how fine a job Kane does in performing her titular role.
Reign is recommendable to young adults, as the tone is decidedly geared toward a specific age group, and anyone who enjoys decent historical fiction. Beware that there is a juvenile angst serving as an undercurrent as well as a harlequin romance vibe to the execution of the story.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:
Too early to tell. The show is not rated highly, but it’s on the CW. Also, only five episodes have aired. The fate of this program may be determined at the mid-season break.