Possible spoilers for Season 3 of Reign below.
With shows like The Flash and The Vampire Diaries taking up part of its schedule, The CW isn’t a network that aims for realism at all times. But then there’s Reign, the fantastical drama that takes at least part of its source material from history’s tapestry. And it is indeed an attempt at accuracy that is being used to justify the early death of show lead King Francis II of France.
Fans of both Reign and history know that Francis II wasn’t long for this world, but it wasn’t beyond reason to think that the show would keep him around simply because fans enjoyed him and his story was engaging. But here’s why showrunner Laurie McCarthy says they decided to follow in the footsteps of the past for the monarch’s fate.
We definitely take liberties with history but there is an element of history that we felt beholden to. The pilot promises his death, it foretells it and it promises that it’s going to be a tragic love story. It felt incredibly naturally like it was time, before we got so far away from what the stakes that we put in the ground at the beginning.
In the Season 2 finale, Francis showed signs that Nostradamus’ prophesies were coming true, and seeing a pair of bleeding ears is a sure sign that something is going direly wrong. The Season 3 premiere, which aired this past Friday in a new timeslot, showed him revealing to Mary that he is dying, which means that Charles will be his successor as King of France.
So it’s out in the open and everyone knows about it, which is itself a move that feels slightly old-fashioned and improper in today’s age of mindblowing TV deaths. But as McCarthy explained to EW, Francis’ death isn’t supposed to be a surprise, but rather something that people should have to deal with in the impending weeks.
I wanted people to get used to it – there was no way around it in the storytelling. We’ve done shocking deaths and that’s not the tone of this story. I wanted it to be an emotional journey that we all went on and that we could all feel the highs and lows of, and I wanted it to be a love story. I didn’t want it to be something that shocked the fans or really anybody. I needed to process it, too.
As odd as it feels, I like that kind of transparency, without any trickery involved with Francis meeting his maker presumably later in Season 3. That said, expect lots of twists and turns throughout the rest of this season, as Reign airs every Friday night on The CW.