Why You Should Be Watching ‘Reign’
Take the sexy young things of ‘Gossip Girl,’ throw them into a period drama like ‘The Tudors,’ mix it all up with the spooks of ‘Supernatural,’ and you’ve got ‘Reign,’ the latest hit show from the CW. Since its premiere on Oct. 17, Reign has been winning over viewers week by week. As the ratings grew, so did the fan love — and ‘Reign’ was crowned “Favorite New TV Drama” at the People’s Choice Awards this month. Bottom line: We love this show. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, there are plenty of reasons to start tuning in.
Teen Drama Queen
For those not in the know, ‘Reign’ tells the story of Mary, the teen Queen of Scots, as she negotiates love, duty and assignation attempts in the French court. Historical fact: Mary became Queen of Scotland when she was just six days old, and at the age of five entered into an arranged marriage to Francis, the Delphin of France (that means Prince, by the way) as a strategy to one day unite both countries against the evil empire of England. Does that seem like a lot of pressure on one girl? You’re right! Happily, this version of Mary (played with style and soul by Adelaide Kane) is more than up for the task.
The core of the show focuses on typical wheelings and dealings of court with its power plays and spies, but we get to experience it all through the lens of a teenage girl. Super interesting and waaay more fun. First, Mary doesn’t even know if she likes Francis, let alone love him. Plus, he has a pretty cute half-brother, Bash, and who doesn’t love a love triangle? Second, there are forces at work, from English spies to Pagans in the woods (more on that later) that are actively trying to destroy her. Third, she’s the reigning monarch of all of Scotland, and a whole nation depends on her!
Rather then collapsing or whining about her situation, Mary fights for what she believes is right with bold actions like escaping into the woods with the prince’s half brother (to save his life!) or standing up to the King of France and negotiating the heck out of her awkward position, proving time and time again that she has what it takes to be a true leader, all while staying true to her heart. That ain’t easy in the 1500s.
Feeling the Fantasy
Technically ‘Reign’ is a historical drama, but the series just lets history be a lovely background that doesn’t get in the way of the fun. While Mary, Francis, Queen Catherine, King Henry II and Nostradamus (yes, he’s here too!) all really lived, the rest of the cast is pure fiction, and we LOVE it that way. This is a teenage version of the French Court, with girls night out dance parties, luscious costume festivals and ladies in waiting who can stand up to kings and say, “Hey, man, I have feelings, too!” (Not an actual quote.)
Personally, we’d much rather indulge in a show where Mary’s ladies in waiting are called Kenna, Aylee, Lola and Greer, instead of Mary, Mary, Mary and Mary as they were in real life. Speaking of Mary’s gal pals…
Fashion Forward Ladies in Waiting
When Mary’s quartet of besties first showed up on the scene, the show made a very clear statement that we weren’t in 1500s France anymore… and that’s a good thing. The costumes of these Scottish lassies, Mary included, are EVERYTHING — from super casual peasant realness:
…to absurdly eleganza:
…to we don’t even know what’s happening with those braids:
…and everything in between, the costumes of ‘Reign’ deserve a line of credit they do so much work on this show!
The many looks of ‘Reign’ are at least 80% of the justification for the not-really-historical-historical-fiction tactic the show’s creators picked for the series. It’s like watching a program that’s not just about teenagers, but looks like it was designed by teenagers — well, maybe super talented, fashion forward teenagers, but definitely not stodgy historians trying to portray the accurate fashions of France in the 16th century. We bet those fashions were great and all, but surely not as flirty.
Complicated Emotional Life
When the series began, Mary and Francis hadn’t seen each other since they were children, which made for a bit of a strained reunion. To make matters worse, King Henry of France wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on the marriage between these two kids, choosing instead to let our poor Mary flounder, both at court and in her heart. Despite many setbacks in the form of a brief engagement to a Portuguese prince, the return of Francis’ ex at the behest of a scheming Queen Catherine and, of course, the heal-dragging King, Mary and Francis were able to find real affection for each other, even spending the night before officially being married! The scandal!
The slow build of the relationship feels, dare we say, almost realistic when compared to some of the series’ more fantastical features, which makes it all the more tragic when everything falls apart. You see, Nostradamus had a prophecy that a marriage to Mary would cause Francis his life. Bummer. Once Mary finds out, she does the honorable thing and tries to disappear. A hard choice for sure, but who wouldn’t do that for the person they love? Especially if we were accompanied by someone like Bash…
While Francis seems like a really nice guy, the true hunk to many fans is his fictional half brother, Sebastian, aka Bash. He may have just been invented to eventually throw a wrench in the works for the Mary/Francis coupling, but he also exists as an interesting parallel to Mary in the French Court. Both characters have tenuous places in court dependent entirely on the whim of the King, and have to work hard to carve out their own destinies. Whether or not those destinies will intertwine, as this season seems to be suggesting, remains to be seen. But in any case, everyone loves an underdog, especially with those eyes.
Things that Creep in the Night
If love triangles, court intrigue and glorious costumes aren’t enough, ‘Reign’ also serves up a heaping helping of the seemingly supernatural. Starting from Nostradamus’ spooky prophesies, spiraling out to Clarissa, a mysterious masked (a bag on your head counts as a mask, right?) woman who stalks in the castle’s hidden passages, and peaking with human sacrifice-loving Pagans who worship a demon who lives in a cave, there is always something otherworldly happening. Could the show exist without all these mystical side plots? Sure. Would it be half as fun? No way, Nostradamus (pictured here, prophesying someone’s death, no doubt).
Every aspect of ‘Reig,’ from the love triangles to the over the top costumes, is carefully cultivated to provide the juiciest viewing experience, and the featured music is no exception. Almost every episode features an intriguing alt-rock song (or two!) that makes viewers go, “Huh… I wonder who that is?” Some of our favorites are ‘Silent Treatment’ from the Welsh rock band the Joy Formidable (episode 106, ‘Chosen’), ‘Wasting My Young Years’ by the Brit hip-hop group London Grammar (episode 103, ‘Kissed’) and ‘Fuel to Fire’ by Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel (episode 109, ‘For King and Country’). Just watching this show will significantly expand your music collection. The CW knows they are onto something, because they want to help you find links to buy recently featured music with ease. Just go here. You’re welcome!
We hope you decide to tune in to ‘Reign.’ But be warned, once you experience the world of Mary, Queen of Scots, you may just want to be a subject forever! Long may she reign.