Period drama, 22 episodes aired
Created by Laurie McCarthy & Stephanie SenGupta
Starring Adelaide Kane, Megan Follows, Torrance Coombs, Toby Regbo and Alan van Sprang
Returns to The CW for a second season in the fall
Of all the new offerings from The CW in the 2013-14 season, Reign outclasses its competition by delving totally and unashamedly into its melodrama. Historical accuracy be damned, this series ranks among the best of its genre (including Downton Abbey) by being ridiculous and ridiculously fun. Not since the first season of The O.C. have I seen a debut that has burned through story so quickly without faltering much along the way. Of course, that series couldn’t quite match the creative energy of its first season for the rest of its run, but Reign is poised for a solid second season after smartly turning its attention to a show-wide conflict in its first finale.
That’s not to say that the character dilemmas have been uninteresting, however. Reign follows the romantic and political adventures of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her handmaidens at the French court of Henry II. The casts features nine central characters, rounded out by someone critics dubbed early as “Hunky” Nostradamus. All of them have been involved in romantic entanglements and have had their lives threatened several times. At least. It’s never a dull moment on Reign, and if you only saw the pilot and thought you knew where certain stories were going, you were only partially right, because they went in those directions and about a hundred other ones. “Which character has feelings for that person?” and “Who is trying to kill this person?” are threads that are sometimes impossible to keep up with, but Reign manages to make the whole thing work by virtue of a believable cast.
Megan Follows and Alan van Sprang anchor the roster as the queen and king, respectively, and have far too much fun in their roles of scheming and triple-crossing. Henry’s late-season arc, in which he’s basically insane, gives van Sprang complete freedom to run amok in the castle doing things simply because the character wants to. We’ve seen plenty of mad kings before, but I can’t remember one being as entertaining as this. Most people, though, will rightfully point to Follows as the key to Reign‘s success. Queen Catherine bounces off every character incredibly well, showing actual heart underneath the near-impenetrable exterior only in the most occasional and necessary of moments. Follows is perfect in the role and subverts the icy queen archetype several times throughout the first season.
No doubt, period drama enthusiasts are probably already watching Reign, but for those out there who are skeptical, this is just a matter of knowing what you are getting into beforehand. Don’t expect Reign to be a truly great drama series in the style of Mad Men, because that’s not what it’s aiming for. What it’s doing is occupying that underrated corner of television for incredibly fun shows that don’t require the viewer to think. This is popcorn entertainment at its finest, which shouldn’t be seen as a negative quality. Long may it reign.
– Sean Colletti