The CW has done it again: Freshman Series Reign has fans enthralled…
And Larkable is no exception. Purchased for development back in fall of 2012, Reign was promoted as “Game of Thrones” meets Marie Antoinette — producers did not disappoint. Of course, the show conforms to common CW tropes: a dramatic love triangle, will-they-won’t-they relationships, and more hook-ups and break ups in the first 14 episodes than most rookie shows could hope to pull off. Despite all the clichés, Reign gets several things right, retaining an element of mystery, romance and just enough adventure to win the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama.
If the awards alone aren’t enough to entice you into tuning it, we’ve got 5 reasons why you should be.
1) Strong Female Leads
It would be impossible to do a show about Mary, Queen of Scots and fail to present tough heroines. The CW takes several liberties but the cunning of Catherine de Medici and Mary’s fierce and passionate nature aren’t too far off the mark. In 14 episodes, we’ve seen the most development from Mary, Catherine, and Mary’s ladies, on occasion. Meanwhile the men remain relatively flat characters. Bash and Francis have some depth (and we’re hoping for more), but so far? The show’s massive success can really only be attributed to the brilliant performances of Adelaide Kane (Mary Stuart) and Megan Follows (Catherine de Medici).
Older audiences fell in love with Megan Fellows in the 80’s when she played Canadian literary sweetheart Anne Shirley for Kevin Sullivan’s Anne of Green Gables adaptations. Why is Catherine so unhappy in her marriage to Henry II? Umm, because he isn’t Gilbert Blythe. Duh.
But I digress.
Of course, Catherine de Medici is a vastly different character from Anne Shirley. When asked about her character, Follows had this to say,
Oh, I love her. She’s fiercely loyal to her son, so it’s not like she’s just malicious. She beheads kids for a reason. And…when you look Catherine up, there are references to the dark arts and witchcraft, so we have the right to explore that stuff.
As for Adelaide Kane, she’s a bit of a breakout star. Though she’s been acting for several years now, Kane only recently attained recognizable stardom with her role as Cora Hale on MTV’s Teen Wolf and now, with Reign. At about 125k followers on twitter, Kane is at that point where she’s still remarkably connected to the fanbase that loves her. She even personally reached out to her followers last fall when some Reign fans (so-called “Royals”) tried to boycott the show until Toby Regbo’s character (Dauphin Francis de Valois) returned.
2) Solid Acting
We would be underselling the show if we raved about Megan Follows and Adelaide Kane and failed to mention the rest of the cast. This writer, a former Gossip Girl addict, was loathe to watch Reign. However, once I started the show there was a clear difference — I hated that I loved Gossip Girl. With Reign, I can’t even bring myself to be ashamed. Not too much anyways. The casting is brilliant, the actors can nail even some of the cheesiest lines I’ve ever heard. If that’s not a gift, I don’t know what is.
Toby Regbo, Torrance Coombs (Sebastian/Bash Poitiers), Anna Popplewell (Lady Lola), Alan Van Sprang (King Henry II), Rossif Sutherland (Nostradamus), Celina Sinden (Greer) and Caitlin Stasey (Lady Kenna) excel in their moments on the show. Most recently (episode 1.14: “Dirty Laundry”), audiences tuned in to hilarious sequences between Van Sprang and Follows when Catherine helps Henry cover up manslaughter and prevent war with Bohemia. The chemistry between the two actors is one that has sat on the back burner for the first half of this first season but we certainly hope to see more of it in the future.
3) The Costumes
When it comes to Reign, fans will either find the wardrobe a hurdle to get over or just another reason to love the show. Personally, as a history buff, the inaccuracy of the costumes was initially painful. And then I resigned myself to the fact that hip pillows, high neck collars and tights simply weren’t on costume designer Meredith Markworth-Pollack’s agenda. Markworth-Pollack told Zap2It that when she was brought on set she was charged with creating “something slightly different to the costume dramas we had seen so far, especially because of the demographic of The CW, and bring in the element of contemporary fashion…[the pieces] are by no means exactly period, [rather] a great example more reminiscent of the era.”
This, of course, sparked an opportunity to feature gowns and pieces made by modern designers and maybe even inspire prom or wedding gowns.
“I would hope that a young woman watching this thinking, ‘I can’t afford the Basil Soda gown’ — maybe so, but she could afford to go to the thrift store and find a gem of a 1950s floor-length prom dress and dye it, bead it and add a sleeve to it, and make it your own.” Markworth-Pollack
Other popular designer pieces featured on the show include a black and gold Steve McQueen jacket (shown above) which Pollack paired with a plain black tulle skirt. Most recently, fans adored Mary’s Wedding Dress (worn in episode 1.13: The Consummation) which was designed by Monique Lhuillier.
4) Historical Romance
The marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots and Francis II de Valois was an arranged political alliance but by most accounts, it was also rare union of mutual love and affection. Reign’s historical accuracy is dubious on most accounts — Diane de Poitiers never bore King Henry II any children, particularly a son named Sebastian — however the love between Mary and Francis can hardly be called into question. Upon Francis’ untimely death, only months after their marriage, Mary wrote a grief-stricken “Ode to Francis II” in which she laments the loss of “the only pure love she would ever encounter.”
When asked about how the historically short lifespan of Francis would affect the show and Toby Regbo’s job, Megan Follows vaguely replied, “[Regbo] is long for the show but not long for the world.”
5) The Soundtrack
The CW has a reputation for fantastic soundtracks to their shows and Reign is no exception. Music supervisor Madonna Wade-Reed skillfully chooses music which is obscure enough to blend in to each scene and compliment the emotion in a way that top 40, well-known hits could not. Of course, typically the song choices come down to whether or not the music license is affordable which is how we end up with artists like Ben Howard, Santigold, The Joy Formidable and other excellent but lesser-known singer/songwriters.
Without a doubt, we couldn’t talk about the soundtrack to Reign without acknowledging the phenomenal theme song, “Scotland” penned and sung by The Lumineers. It’s an incredible and passionate piece — now if they would just share it on iTunes…
Check out the full list of songs featured on the show here.
So What’s Next for Reign?
In January of 2014, the CW announced that it was picking up “Reign” for a second season. It’s a relief to know that the network realizes the show is a solid hit, however there’s 8 episodes left to the season finale and it’s time for writers to expand the storyline a bit. The first half of the season succeeded by means of a ghost story, a love triangle and murder plots –while that’s intriguing, the writers can’t continue recycling the same arcs with different faces. While they seemingly resolved the Francis/Mary/Bash conflict last thursday, the new Lola twist this thursday appears to be another triangle in the making. There’s a time and a place for love triangles, and the CW seems to delight in overdoing them in every show — but after everything the main characters have been through this season, viewers may tire of this particular romantic drama if writers insist on bombarding us with it constantly.
The ghost story/mystery element of Clarissa was put to rest earlier this spring, at least for a little while, but the reappearance of Olivia and her injuries seems to set up yet another horror/suspense element. This arc has a lot of potential, if it’s handled properly. However, this writer is nervous that creators have taken Clarissa out of the castle only to replace her with Olivia — one tormented soul for another. Fingers crossed I’m wrong.
Reign airs Thursday nights on the CW, at 9pm/8c.