Full disclosure: Reign is my favorite new show this year. Although I am not enthusiastic about the love triangle we can already see forming between Mary, Francis, and Sebastian [unfortunately, The Vampire Diaires has thoroughly destroyed any enjoyment I ever felt for love triangles], Reign has many other qualities that make me want to continue watching it in spite of that. For one thing, as I previously mentioned, it is reminiscent of Gossip Girl – within a historical context [those Upper East Siders were essentially New York royalty, after all]. When you combine that with the added intrigue of the anonymous, advice-giving shadow, plus the music that fantastically gives Reign a unique tone, you have perfect combination for the exciting potential that is this new CW period drama.
I have been looking for a show to fill the void Gossip Girl left behind when it ended it’s six-season run last Fall. What with Queen Mary and her court, King Henry’s and Prince Francis’ indiscretions, Bash’s ‘bad boy’ attitude, the mysterious ‘shadow’, and Queen Catherine’s secret attempts at devaluing Mary, Reign certainly seems up to the challenge. Of course, Reign also has the added draw of a historical setting. The period costumes are gorgeous, and though it will sound very American of me, I love that they have decided in favor of the English accent, opting out of using the French and Scottish accents you should expect given the various characters’ backgrounds.
With that to serve as a segue, I think it is a bit of an understatement to say that Reign is historically inaccurate. Most people have enough knowledge of history to know that Francis was a sickly child who died of an illness less than two years after he and Mary were married – which, contrary to what Nostradamus “predicts” in this pilot episode, had nothing at all to do with Queen Mary herself. However, thanks to Google, I also now know that Francis didn’t have an illegitimate half-brother named Sebastian [what he did have were two half-brothers, both named Henri – how original, right?], that Queen Mary was not ‘hidden away’ at a convent at any point in her youth, and, as a young girl, she was supposedly well-liked by nearly everyone with the exception of Francis’ mother Queen Catherine [a fact that does seem to have transferred over into The CW’s version].
Now, as someone who enjoys history [which I attribute to some fantastic history teachers and professors over the years who made it such an appealing subject], you might think I would take offense to the ‘creative liberties’ the show’s writers have taken in telling this story. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. Perhaps [because it is The CW], my expectations for historical accuracy were not high to begin with, but I also have more reason for not being too concerned.
Basically, I watch fictional TV for entertainment, not to glean historical facts [though it has clearly already encouraged me to do some research for myself to learn more about the subject]. Moreover, since we are talking about a television show, I think it goes without saying that there would be no fun in a watching a serialized drama to which we already know the outcome [particularly one that is as depressing as Francis and Mary’s]. Therefore, it is not a surprise – or a disappointment – that the writers opted to embellish a bit to take that story in a different direction.
I also like that Reign is already a bit risqué [for The CW, at least]; it further sets Reign apart from their other CW shows while pushing the ranks to join the more mature networks. While The CW does cater to a younger audience than most of the other networks, it isn’t a stretch to assume that most of their viewers are familiar with the sexual topics hinted at in the pilot. Though the much-discussed and scandalized masturbation scene plays out a little more discreetly in the aired version than it did in the promotional pilot, it is nice to see the network willing to break through the instinct to shy away from it altogether and give the show a chance to shine.
While Reign is clearly glossing over [or, in some cases, completely re-imagining] quite a bit of history, I appreciate that they are staying true to some of the more vague historical topics, a particular focus this week being the way women were treated. [Referencing here the “victim-blaming” over the attempted rape of Queen Mary in addition to comments throughout the episode such as: “the opinions [of Mary], you can ignore;” “at least she has some property and a title to bring to the marriage;” and “a husband does not answer to his wife.”] Topics like this still get people fired up today, and it will be interesting to see these historical themes play out.
Ultimately, I tune into a TV show because it entertains me in some way, and Reign has certainly managed to do that. I enjoy watching historical dramas, and I will continue watching Reign in spite of it’s historical inaccuracies. It is a fun, dramatic show perfect for it’s target audience and I think the CW has needed a show like this to compete with other networks’ period dramas [such as Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Downton Abbey, to name a few]. So far, I am impressed, and I will continue to tune in to see where they take this story.
Let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments below!
Reign airs Thursday nights at 9/8p.m. CST on The CW, starring Adelaide Kane as Queen Mary, Toby Regbo as Prince Francis II, Torrance Coombs as Sebastian, Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II, Megan Follows as Catherine de’ Medici, Rossif Sutherland as Nostradamus, Anna Walton as Diane de Poitiers, and Jenessa Grant, Anna Popplewell, Celina Sinden, and Caitlin Stasey as Mary’s Court/Ladies in Waiting.