“Reign” was one of my most anticipated shows for the fall. I wanted to learn about the protagonist, Mary Stuart (Adelaide Kane). Then I saw a trailer, and my expectations were greatly lowered. Five episodes of this new drama barely brought it back up. “Reign” makes her romance with Prince Francis II of France (Toby Regbo), into just another teen drama. The chemistry is awkward at first, and the narrative caters for teen drama. At the same time, you will want to visit the gorgeous set design and watch Mary “Reign”. The soundtrack is also enjoyable, but sometimes unfitting.
First Vampires and Werewolves, Now Royals?
“Reign” is the latest addition to teen dramas about anything. Mary arrives in Scotland to build her relationship with Francis. The show focuses on the constant conflict between the couple, especially with Francis’s mother, Queen Catherine (Meagan Follows), not willing to leave her throne. For a couple who’s been engaged since they were six, Mary and Francis’s chemistry is very off. Actually, his brother, Sebastian (Torrance Coombs), is a better match for the Queen of Scots because they look happier together and more passionate when they kiss. Mary and Francis don’t lock lips until the third episode, or look remotely passionate until later. A new love interest for Mary appears by that point as well, Tomas, Prince of Portugal (Manolo Cardona). In the last episode, Francis reunited with childhood friend Odette (Zoe Cleland), who wants to pursue him. It’s a wonder why Mary and Francis are engaged at all other than for power, because they clearly don’t want to be together. Then again, they’re both angry when they find other partners. It’s a tense relationship, but it’s also unclear how they feel about each other.
Mary’s interactions with her friends are also no different than what’s been seen in any shows about teens. They group hug, do make-up together, gossip, and share first kiss stories. The girls also peek inside Princess Elizabeth (Caoime O’Malley)’s (ahem) “special night” after her wedding, which is certainly an unusual way to spend the night. Their reason? Mary had to find out what to expect on her wedding night. Sex isn’t anything new in shows, and the girls are at the age to be curious about it. This is before the age of magazines to satisfy said curiosity as well, but that scene is still unsettling.
Jewels on a Crown
“Reign” does a spectacular job with its design. The costumes are regal, the land is lush, and the castle looks authentic. The cinematography is sharp and inviting from the very first shot of the series. The soundtrack is fairly good, but only the few instrumentals actually suit the era. All the other songs have a modern alt-pop sound. It suits the mood of “Reign”, but it’s too advanced for the time period.
Out of all the actors, Follows is the most convincing. She makes it as clear as possible she doesn’t want Mary to become queen, and she will try anything to ensure she doesn’t. Recently, she asks Mary’s friend Aylee (Jenessa Grant) to spy on her by stealing letters to her mother, and told Odette she wants her to be queen. Watching her scheming also gives Mary sympathy. She’s been condemned since her first step into France, and it’s clear the other characters don’t want her to be queen. Hopefully she’ll triumph by the end of the show.
The last episode of “Reign” is the strongest, and the show’s design makes it worth watching. However, a pretty picture isn’t enough to save it. I wish I read the play “Mary Stuart” instead of watching “Reign” first, because overall this is another teen drama. Still, I doubt Mary was gossipy with her friends like high schoolers back then. Plus, the accents are nearly all British and therefore too inaccurate to match the time period. “Reign” could live up to its name if it continues to progress, however.