I have been wanting to do a full rewatch of Reign, one of the first shows I covered for this blog, but the timing was just never right, until now. Since I already wrote full recaps, these rewatch posts will mostly be reflections now that the show has ended. For this post, I rewatched the first four episodes, from Mary and Francis' first meeting as adults to their relationship strengthened by the two episode adversary that was Tomas.
One of the first things I noted upon rewatch was that Bash was very much a major part of Reign in those early days. I do not know what happened, why Bash was eventually pushed to the narrative sidelines. Whilst I was not entirely pleased at the thought of watching another love triangle involving brothers (I was also writing The Vampire Diaries recaps back in 2013), Bash was initially drawn as an interesting character. He was a favoured bastard, King Henry's son with his long time mistress Diane. Unlike Francis, Bash was free to do as he pleased. He enjoyed many of the perks of a prince without the attendant responsibilities. He had a reputation with women and was an uninhibited flirt (he was charming Lola even from his sickbed). Francis represented mortality to King Henry; he was the heir, the one set to replace him when he died. Bash was a fun companion, one the King could spar and even discuss women with. Bash was a character of much potential, even and especially outside the love triangle.
Francis, on the other hand... I am trying to imagine an actor less skilled than Toby Regbo in the role, and I do not think the character would have worked as well. When a character is essentially just the good, dutiful kind, the chances of blandness can be high. In Toby Regbo's hands, Francis was immediately an arresting figure, conflicted over his determination to do his duty to his country and his growing feelings for Mary. Toby Regbo sold Francis' quick evolution from carefree prince to man thoroughly, deeply in love, along with his burgeoning challenge to his father's decision making and his growing trust to his own judgement as future king. Francis became a more interesting character because of Toby Regbo's performance.
Then there was Adelaide Kane, who carried Reign from the beginning. Reign was a show of several identities --- a feminist retelling of the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, a standard issue CW love triangle, a historical/ gothic tale --- but its one sure centre was Mary. Adelaide Kane smoothly glided between young Mary, starry eyed over her handsome princely fiance, and Mary the Queen, strong and insistent that her voice be heard. There are a number of aspects of Mary's story I look forward to revisiting during this rewatch.
I remember feeling surprised at how much I liked Reign, because I watched it after reading a rather rough review. Over four years after the first episode aired, and I still thoroughly enjoy Reign. I am certain this rewatch will awaken some frustrations I felt for the show, but it is also reminding me why I devoted so much time to covering it. Reign is a jewel of a show, flawed but more often than not, pleasing.
■ I love how Catherine made everyone wait for her during the arrival of Mary. The King of France and the Queen of Scotland already stood there and Catherine de Medici just sauntered in when she felt like it, because she could.
■ Kenna was rather annoying in these early episodes.
■ There was an early Kennash scene, when Kenna tried to talk to Bash about Henry punishing her for not sleeping with him.
■ Adelaide Kane and Toby Regbo's chemistry were off the charts from the beginning.
■ The gown designs in these early episodes were quite lovely but they also could be a bit distracting. I look forward to seeing the evolution of fashion in Reign, as seen by my decidedly non expert eyes.
■ Near the end of the second, third and fourth episodes, there were lovely, sometimes melancholic shots of Francis and Mary from the back. The last one had a background of what looked like dark clouds, perhaps a reference to the arrival of a character from Francis' past in the next episode.