Reign: Pilot

“If you weren’t the future king of France, and I was just a girl, not the queen of anything, would you want this?”

Don’t judge me, but I think I like it. It won’t be winning Emmys any time soon, to be sure, but this definitely wasn’t the train wreck I was expecting.

I was originally interested in Reign after Mark suggested on Twitter (FOLLOW US! @DouxReviews) that the show was basically Gossip Girl combined with The Tudors, which definitely sounded appealing to me. Then I watched a preview and found it utterly horrific. It was terrible. Really terrible. I was expecting the pilot to be as terrible as the preview, but it wasn’t. Parts were quite good, actually. It looks like I might’ve gotten the guilty pleasure show I’ve been looking for.

Although I do have my reservations, the show seems to have what it needs to make it (at least on the CW). A relatively charismatic lead, a handsome leading man, a hint of (possibly supernatural) mystery, and a love triangle. That’s all we need, right? Right.

Francis has been established as a bit of a playboy, but one who really thinks through his actions, at least in terms of politics, and who genuinely cares about the welfare of his country. Plus, in a speech any modern person would love, he confesses to Mary that he thinks it’s ridiculous for royals to be literally good for nothing and so has taught himself how to make swords. Pretty cool.

Sebastian (Bash) was less well developed. He’s the Jon Snow to Francis’s Robb Stark. He’s a bastard but his lack of position gives him freedom Francis envies. I know this is a weird comparison, but it’s almost like an Aladdin/Jasmine thing. One is untitled but free, one is privileged but confined and both are a bit jealous of the other. They’re obviously trying to set up a love triangle between Mary and the two brothers. Fortunately, she has decent chemistry with both. Deepening the issue is the idea that she’s been a friend of Francis’s since childhood. But Bash has the whole bad boy thing going on and that can be damn hard to resist.

Mary was quite likable. Rebellious, romantic, kind. Plus, she managed to walk the line between naïveté and idiocy like a champ. She is a bit lost in the French court without being mindnumblingly clueless. It’s a trick many, many characters on The Tudors couldn’t pull off. Mary’s friends I’m a little iffier on. The giggling will get old quickly. Very quickly. As in I’m already tired of it. And let’s never, ever do a makeover montage again, okay? I’m not going to mention how ridiculous their names are. Lola? Really? Sorry. I’m done now.

Obviously, if I was to tackle every historical inaccuracy, we’d be here all day. And into the night. And probably the next day. One of the more obvious inaccuracies is that the younger characters have been aged up at least half a dozen years, in order to avoid the ick factor. I can’t imagine anyone really having a problem with this.

The episode’s exposition was remarkably well handled. When a pilot episode doesn’t come across as awkward, it is really an amazing accomplishment. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean the show will be any good, but it’s certainly not a bad thing. In my opinion, soap operas don’t fail because of ridiculous plots. They fail because of awkward dialogue or crappy chemistry. This show isn’t suffering from either (yet).

I’ll be tuning in for now, but the show definitely isn’t for everyone. Those of you who require genuine substance in your television will want to skip it entirely. If you liked The Tudors, and don’t mind a bit of silliness, I think it’s worth a try. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the giggling.

Bits and Pieces:

Our characters are Scottish and French, but everyone has the same English accent.

Historically, Francis was quite short and had a stutter. Mary, Queen of Scots, on the other hand, was renowned for her beauty. At least they cast one part well.

Reign’s interpretation of sixteenth century fashion as prom dresses and sparkly headbands leaves a little something to be desired.

If we’re going to keep the girls’ hair modern, could someone please provide poor Mary with some conditioner?

Nostradamus really did hang out with Francis’s mother, Catherine de' Medici.

Tudors connections: Torrance Coombs (Bash) played Culpepper and Alan Van Sprang (King Henry II) played Sir Francis Bryan

Quotes:

Sebastian: “Francis, They were looking for you everywhere. Tough to find you.”
Francis: “I was riding.”
Sebastian: “Really? Who?”

Francis (about Sebastian): “Lucky bastard.”

King Henry II: “You also claimed she needed to be kept at convent for her education, when we both know she simply irritated you.”

Nostradamus: “I saw your son’s future. His union with Mary...she will cost Francis his life.”
Historically, Francis died of complications from an ear infection, so...

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I'm glad for the CW's sake that the show is a bit better than it appears, but it doesn't sound like my kind of thing. Although the hint of supernatural is mildly intriguing.

One of the more obvious inaccuracies is that the younger characters have been aged up at least half a dozen years, in order to avoid the ick factor. I can’t imagine anyone really having a problem with this. There is almost always a line in your reviews that makes me laugh, sunbunny, and this one is it.

Morgan India said...

So basically Alan Van Sprang is Francis Bryan again, except he's now King, lost the eyepatch as well as the beard and hair.

Francis is really handsome.

And I do like the costumes even though the inaccuracies made me scream into the arm of my couch.

But Francis is really handsome.

sunbunny said...

Morgan - I can't imagine what you're talking about. Of course lip gloss was invented in the 1500s.

ChrisB said...

I know it's not fair and I know that actors rail against being seen as one character for their entire careers, but Megan Follows will always be Anne of Green Gables to me. Watching her play the manipulative queen Catherine just felt so, so wrong. She and Gilbert are up on PEI living happily ever after...

Anyway, I return from my little world. The historical inaccuracies in this show are so rife as to be laughable. The one that had me, as Morgan so beautifully put it, screaming into the arm of my couch was the names of her four friends. In reality, they were all named Mary and they called each other nicknames based on their surnames. But, I can see how that may have been too much trouble for the writers when all one has to do is type Lola...

Once I realized that the history books had been tossed into the moat, I settled back and approached it as a standard CW soap. From that perspective, I quite enjoyed it. It was a good pilot and, you may judge me as well as sunbunny, I will be back for more.

Gavrielle said...

The historical inaccuracy makes this sounds appalling rather than enjoyably trashy to me, but it does seem to have great potential as a comedy.

he confesses to Mary that he thinks it’s ridiculous for royals to be literally good for nothing and so has taught himself how to make swords

Make...swords? Too... hilarious... can't... breathe...