Reign Review: Castles, Costumes And Soapy Teen Drama
On some level, I want to say that The CW's Reign is in the vein of A Knight's Tale, in that it's sort of period-piece light, with its modern music and updated -- or at the very least, modified -- costumes. But what Reign lacks that made A Knight's Tale work is humor. The CW's new series takes a similar approach to any other young adult drama on the network, which is fine for that audience, but combined with its loose approach to historical accuracy, it's really hard for me to take this show as seriously as it takes itself.
Executive produced by Laurie McCarthy and Frank Siracusa, Reign tells the story of young Mary Stuart (Adelaide Kane), aka Mary Queen of Scots, as she arrives in France with her four BFFs/ladies-in-waiting (Celina Sinden, Caitlin Stasey, Anna Popplewell and Jenessa Grant) to formalize her arranged engagement with the French king's son Prince Francis (Toby Regbo). Mary and Francis spark right away, but it also seems like there's some chemistry between Mary and Francis' half-brother Bash (Torrance Coombs), King Henry's (Van Sprang) bastard son, whom the king favors. Megan Follows plays Queen Catherine, Francis' mother. When Catherine's seer Nostradamus (Rossif Sutherland) tells her that Mary will be the death of Francis, she becomes determined to save her son at all costs.
From castles to costumes, Reign makes the most of its setting, albeit with the mentioned updates and adjustments, which may be an effort to make this drama a bit more accessible to the network's younger-skewed audience. I'm not even sure if the characters' manner of speaking is fitting to the times, but they all speak with British accents, which I think qualifies as "close enough" for a period drama? Some of the drama introduced in the pilot includes angsty tension between Mary and Francis, threats against Mary's life, a bit of violence in the form of a beheading, and even a few steamy moments, one of which was trimmed down from its original cut.
And there's music, The series has a fun soundtrack, which also deviates from the setting, but that's not such a bad thing. It's a tactic that worked really well in setting a lighter tone for A Knights Tale. But I really don't think Reign is trying to be A Knight's Tale. The only reason I bring up that comparison is because the 2001 film also took liberties with historical accuracy and got away with it by being light, fun and entertaining. I'd say that Reign's not trying to be light and fun, but there's one specific scene in the pilot that's actually a little bit of both, which makes me think this series could really benefit from more of that, or a little humor to offset the angst, without detracting from all of the soapy drama.
To be fair, I've only seen the first episode, so it's entirely possible the tone will shift one way or the other as the series progresses. And when it comes down to it, I don't really care that the series isn't trying to be a a perfect model of what a period drama should be. I actually think it's ok to take liberties with that, as it allows Reign to be both a teen drama and set in a world where things like arranged marriages and royalty exist. Mary's story is full of potential for drama, which could make for a great series. It's the stuff of fairytales, with politics and prophesies mixed in to decrease the possibility of a happily-ever-after for certain characters. But at its core, this is a soapy teen drama. If there were something more to it than that plus the costumes, I might feel compelled to watch more, but I'm not the audience for this. With that said, some people are, so I'll be curious to see how this show does among CW viewers.
Reign premieres Thursday, October 17 at 9/8c on CW.
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