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A look back on the first season of Reign

Note: This was first posted in my old blog on February 20, 2018.

Mary and Francis Reign
Image from Reign, currently streaming on Netflix

I had hoped I could write short posts as I went along with my Reign rewatch, then I remembered that I have bills to pay and need the time and energy to do work that actually pays (i.e. not blogging about TV). So, I decided to simply collate some observations I made during my rewatch into one post. Happy Reign rewatch, everyone!

What I liked

■ Adelaide Kane and Toby Regbo. A large part of what made Reign worked was the casting of these two committed actors. I wrote more about them here.

■ Megan Follows and Catherine de Medici. I was a Catherine stan long before Matherine, and that was mostly because of Megan Follows' phenomenal performance. Catherine also got many of the show's best lines (delivered flawlessly, of course), some of which I collated here.

■ 'The first lesson I ever learned was never to wait for a man's rescue. History is written by the survivors, and I am surely that.' Reign was a show of strong women, which I have always appreciate.

Catherine de Medici, Reign
Image from Reign, currently streaming on Netflix

■ 'I was in love with you. Could you not have trusted me?' That flash of vulnerability in Alan Van Sprang's face as Catherine walked up to him was one of the best moments in Reign's first season. That Reign is often bonkers is one of the reasons I love it, but when it taps into genuine emotion and the power of memory, it becomes a truly special show. Once upon a younger time, Henry loved Catherine. Their marriage deteriorated as Catherine grew increasingly desperate to produce an heir. That conversation included several real life Henry and Catherine tidbits, including that time Henry had Diane sit on his lap (in real life, it was the much younger Henry who was on Diane's lap) and that Catherine tried all sorts of remedies to help her get pregnant, including, according to Wikipedia, "placing cow dung and ground stags' antlers on her source of life and drinking mule's urine."

■ Post marriage Mary and Francis. I liked Mary and Francis pretty much from the moment they first shared the screen, but it was after their marriage that their relationship really became interesting. For most shows, a will-they-or-won't-they strategy is needed to keep a narrative for a couple engaging. Mary and Francis got married in the middle of the first season, and their story only became stronger since. One of the strongest Mary/ Francis scenes was in Liege Lord, when Francis realised that Mary had been willing to sacrifice France's stability to save Scotland from becoming a French territory. Francis was a would be King of France, Mary the Queen of Scotland; that they ruled two separate nations was a good source of conflict.

■ Lord Castleroy. At first, I liked him mostly because he was sweet, yet he remained a shrewd business man (he performed due diligence and knew that Greer's father was broke). Later, I liked him because he represented the more pragmatic side of Greer. With the lands Francis gave Leith, Greer could have married the man she loved and lived a comfortable life. Greer, however, knew comfort was not enough. Leith's income would not clear even a fraction of her father's debts nor provide her sisters with the needed dowry so they, too, could make good marriages. I liked Greer and Leith, as I elaborated on here, but choosing Castleroy at this stage in Greer's life was quite consistent with her character.

What I didn't like

Image from Reign, currently streaming on Netflix

■ King Bash and the handling of the love triangle. I was not too happy with the love triangle of Mary, Francis and Bash to begin with, because I thought Reign was a show of much potential and did not need to be just another CW show with a love triangle involving brothers (The Vampire Diaries did that already). Having written that, a slow burn romance with the ethereally handsome Torrance Coombs could have worked. But no, Reign decided to rush the love triangle, then made Bash future king.

Mary had repeatedly stated that she only wanted to force the issue of marrying Bash to save Francis' life. This was not accurate, because if Mary only wanted to save Francis' life, all she had to do was not marry him (to be fair, she did try to run away). But Mary was a Queen, a political player, and she did not wish to lose a powerful ally like France. No matter how adoringly Bash declared that Mary was such a good person, Mary was fine, proud indeed ('I have made the perfect choice. Because together we have killed you!'), that Catherine de Medici, the mother of the man she claimed to love, was going to be executed. Mary could live with the fact that young Charles and Henry, brothers of the man she declared her deep love for, were going to be in danger as a consequence of the legitimisation of Bash. There was a hardness, a pragmatism, to Mary's decision making that was often couched with her tearfully declaring she had no other choice. Yet, with Bash's legitimisation still in question, she wanted the two of them to elope already. Bash pointed out that she could end up with a man who could not be King, there was no guarantee that they could force the issue of his legitimisation, and Mary, the Queen of Scotland, the woman who almost married an abusive bastard for the sake of her country, was suddenly just fine with that? I understand that real life Mary, Queen of Scots was reputed to be impulsive, but the decision of Reign's Mary to throw her country's security in the wind to marry Bash, a man she has only recently began to love, did not quite ring true to the show's characterisation of her thus far.

Part of me wonders if making Bash the future king was a way for Reign to back away from the love triangle it had written itself into. After all, that storyline later forced Mary to choose between Francis and Bash, and ended with Mary and Francis' wedding. Whatever the reasons may have been, rushing the love triangle and making Bash the heir to the French throne were parts that I wish Reign had handled differently.

Image from Reign, currently streaming on Netflix

■  The repeated references to Mary's mother as Marie de Guise, as in, "I've received a letter from my mother, Marie de Guise." Throughout Reign's first season, every time Mary's mother was mentioned, she was always referred to as Marie de Guise. Even during a conversation between Mary, her daughter, and Catherine, her long time friend, Marie was still Marie de Guise. The writers probably just want to make sure the viewers, especially casual viewers, are clear on who Mary's mother was. Two things, however: (1) It smacks of a lack of faith in one's audience. Reign is about Mary, Queen of Scots. If viewers do not know who her mother is, we can Google it. (2) Surely there were better ways of including Marie de Guise in the dialogue (e.g. Mary: I've received a letter from my mother. Catherine, rolling her eyes: And what does Marie de Guise want now?).

Reign forgetting itself

■ In Reign's series finale, Mary declared, '[Murder] is a sin I have been unwilling to commit.' Lol. Hortenza de Medici and her severed head say hello.

■ Also, Mary colluded with Catherine to try and kill King Henry. When I get to rewatching Season 2, I feel that I am going to be adding more to the "[Murder] is a sin I have been unwilling to commit" list.

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