Last May when the networks sent out pilot screeners for the 2013-14 TV season, Reign was hands down one of our favorites. We loved everything about it and even though the series received criticism for not being historically accurate, we weren’t bothered by that in the slightest.
We’re far too busy being entertained by the plot, the fantastic acting and the gorgeous scenery to worry about how much of the show is based on actual events. Everything about this series works and the best part is that each episode is better than the one before.
The show manages to surprise us, it leaves us wanting more each week and the characters are so incredibly developed that it’s impossible to root against any of them, even when they’re not making the right decisions. The characters are flawed and because of that, it’s easier to relate to them and root for them to succeed.
Normally at this part of our midseason reviews, we break down the season into best and worst, but that’s not going to work for Reign because there’s just too much good stuff to talk about. So let’s get into it.
Overall Midseason Grade: A
Best Character: Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary has never been, nor will she ever be, an average teenager. She was born to be a queen and protected throughout her young life because she had many enemies. Once she’s sent to the French Court to marry Prince Francis, her life doesn’t get any easier. She falls in love, but she still has a country to protect, which means that her wants and needs have to come second.
Adelaide Kane deserves so much praise for everything she does as Mary. There are so many sides to this character and Kane never misses a beat whether she’s showing Mary as strong or vulnerable or in love or defiant. The writing is amazing, but it’s Kane who breathes life into the character and makes her one of our favorites. Her chemistry with all of her scene partners is just an added bonus to her talent.
Best Character Runner-Up: Queen Catherine
We have to admit when we watched the pilot, we assumed Queen Catherine would just be a thorn in Mary’s side and we’d be rooting against her throughout the series. Instead, we completely understand where she’s coming from. Her vendetta against Mary isn’t personal. She’s worried that her son is going to die and she will do anything to protect him. Her husband is no help, but she doesn’t care. She’s stronger than that.
Like Kane, Megan Follows gives every scene her all whether she’s shaming her husband’s mistress into doing her bidding or she’s sharing an incredibly personal story with scared young girls when the castle is under siege. Life has understandably hardened Catherine, but when she lets her guard down and gives us glimpses of her emotions, it’s always an incredible scene.
Most Underused Character: Lola
There are no bad characters on this show (except Tomas – hated that guy). But aside from Kenna, who became the king’s mistress and Greer, who has an adorable relationship brewing with a kitchen boy, Mary’s ladies in waiting don’t have a lot to do on the show. Aylee died in the midseason finale and while it was obviously sad for the characters, we weren’t that broken up about it because we didn’t really know anything about her or have much of a reason to care about her.
That’s what brings us to Lola. In the pilot, she played a big role since it was her boyfriend who was forced to attack Mary. We assumed the show was setting up a rivalry, but that was dropped fairly quickly. We’d like to see her given something to do so that we have a reason to care about her existence. It’s one of our few complaints.
Best Love Triangle: Francis/Mary/Bash
Love triangles are incredibly common and often tiring on most television shows. There’s usually a good side and a bad side, but that’s not the case here. Francis is Mary’s future husband. They’ve been engaged since they were children and the marriage is going to happen whether they like it or not. The show easily could have made Francis the worst – the spoiled brat prince that she was going to be stuck with (the way he seemed in the pilot).
Then there was Bash, the king’s bastard and favorite son. He was a friend to Mary from day one, even when his mother warned him that getting close to her would not be good for him. Bash could have just been the forbidden side of the triangle, the dangerous choice that Mary knew better than to make.
But the series did something completely unexpected. It threw out the troupes that we’re used to and gave us two, well-developed men, who both love Mary and love each other as well. Neither choice is a bad choice. Yes, Francis is the one she is destined to marry, but Bash is not a tawdry love interest. He wants what’s best for Mary and for the kingdom. His heart is in the right place, even though he knows he’ll never have what he wants.
While some fans have firmly chosen sides, we’re happily remaining in the middle and enjoying Mary’s scenes with each brother. Thanks to her decision to run away with Bash to protect Francis, we’re guessing the dynamics are going to be quite different when the series returns later this week.
Best Episode: “Left Behind”
All eight episodes of the series so far have been incredible, but this one stands out above the rest. The castle is taken hostage by an angry Italian nobleman and it’s up to Queen Catherine and Mary to keep everyone safe. It was the first time the women acknowledged just how far they were both willing to go to protect Francis and both actresses shined even more than usual throughout the episode.
Looking Ahead to 2014:
We last left off with Mary and Bash fleeing the castle. She was running to protect Francis and he was leaving before his mother’s plot to make him a legitimate heir was revealed. But all Francis saw was his brother running off with the woman he loves. What will happen when they’re brought back to the castle?
Now it’s your turn. We want to know which stories, characters and episodes you loved and which ones didn’t work for you. What grade would you give the first eight episodes? What’s on your wish list for the rest of the season? Hit the comments and share your thoughts with us!
Reign returns Thursday, Jan. 23 at 9/8c on The CW.