Reign fits perfectly into the guilty pleasure category. The series embraces its historical inaccuracies as a style rather than a defect, stands proudly by it’s silly plots and has the grace of not taking itself too seriously.
The series, currently in its second season, is centered in the figure of Mary Stuart, who spent a significant part of her life in France, was betrothed and subsequently married to Francis II. Historical accuracy is not interesting for a series that intends take this theme and make it into a teenage/ young-adult drama in the moldes of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. Mary was barely fifteen when she married fourteen year-old Francis, and luck was not on their side since Francis died less than two years after their wedding. Not exactly The Tudors material either, thankfully.
Reign allies silly entertainment with darker topics, such as the intrigues and betrayals of life in court and how the struggle for power can convert well-intentioned leaders into backstabbing son’s of Queens. Mary, played by Adelaide Kane, is a compelling character. Her gradual lost of innocence before the intrigues of the French court and her struggle to remain just and loving to her people despite having to order murders and other gruesome affairs is touching. Kane plays her character’s transitions with sufficient competence to convince.
The character who steals the show, however, is indisputably Queen Catherine. Actress Megan Follows is not afraid to take her character to the next level. Catherine is sarcastic, over-dramatic and flamboyant, but realistic and serious enough when she must. She is one of the few actually well-developed characters of the show, and when she is not whining to Nostradamus about her fears of losing her son, the writing for her is great. One of her most memorable moments happens on the first season, when the she runs up and down the castle working as a busy bee on… her execution, which she plans to make into a grand and luxurious spectacle. Too bad Anne Boleyn didn’t have the same privilege, but even if she did, I bet Catherine would have found a way to surpass her.
The modern soundtrack, sweet and sticky, is filled with indie and folk rock by the likes of The Lumineers and Twin Forks. The music is an important element with which Reign dissociates from its period piece aspect, and so it’s the costume design. Most of the clothes are stunning, but not exactly what sixteen-century people would wear. The costume design department takes inspiration from the period, subtracts a great deal of historical accuracy and adds a touch of glamour and boho-chicness. The result is a wardrobe that, despite not being wearable on a daily basis and not as nearly as enviable as anything we might have seen on Gossip Girl, is usually better than some of the wacky combinations that appear on other shows that target the same audience.
If you are ready to accept Reign as it is: a teenage drama that portrays a stylized, or better, a parallel universe kind of Medieval France, than you are headed for a good time. If you can’t handle historical inaccuracies, go watch some The Tudors DVDs or a History Channel documentary and leave us alone to admire the good bits of fashion Mary wears and laugh at Catherine’s sarcasm in peace.