Being the addict that I am, my television watching is a vast swath ranging from sci-fi, fantasy, drama, period pieces, and comedy. I usually have at least one of each ongoing, and currently filling the period piece slot is Reign.
Two of my favorite questions from Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton are 1. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? And 2. What profession would you not like to do? My longstanding answer to #1 is Music Supervisor for a television production company because the soundtrack is that little gem which has the ability to transcend into our daily lives. I cannot even being to count how many songs I have added to my playlist based on their excellent product placement in a show. And the soundtrack to Reign is most excellent. At times dark and conflicted, and at other times light and folksy, each song pulls me in deeper into the story. Mad props, musical team!
Now, after seeing the Pilot episode, my answer to #2 is Royal Taste Tester. Knowing that one’s sole purpose in life is to eventually die of some horrific form of poisoning is immensely maudlin and depressing. And there is an awful lot of poisoning or supposed poisoning happening right now. Murder, mayhem, and mystery seem to be the three cornerstones of this first season, and there are already a bundle of questions (and dead bodies) piling up – and we’re just getting started!
Who are Mary Queen of Scot’s allies, and who are her enemies? Who is Clarissa, the sack-clothed castle ghost? Which of Mary’s lades-in-waiting is going to disappoint me more? And what the heck is happening in the Blood Woods?!? Truly, Reign is like Gossip Girl meets the Tudors, with a dash of horror thrown in to turn this Historical Fiction up to Level 11: Historical Fantasy.
What is not in question however is Queen Catherine of France’s deep-rooted power behind the throne. I have come to discover that I have a thing for ruthless Italians – just wait till I get to write about The Borgias, one of my all-time favorites – and Catherine de Medici has been a longtime beloved historical figure. So, while I was already hopeful when I added Reign to my Netflix queue, I became ecstatic when the lovely Megan Follows delivered this snarktastic line: “I’ve just had a vision. I see you [Nostradamus] beheaded at my command.” I’d say she had me at Hello, but it was more like a promise of pain if you disappointed her. Having the personality of Darth Vader and Voldemort, I approve wholeheartedly of this sentiment.
As we progress into the second episode “Snakes in the Garden” we see Catherine exerting more authority in her constant plotting to thwart and terrorize Mary in her efforts to secure a marriage with Francis and thereby France’s armies. So much so that Catherine is hiding evidence and facts from the King of France, and even working in conjunction with England, France’s ally but more like mortal enemy kept momentarily at bay. Step aside, Henry II, Catherine runs this show. I eagerly await the sarcasm and wit to come from this goddess of a monarch.
As for the other royals, Mary is young and intrepid, yet she conveys a wisdom beyond her years. I suspect she will prove a powerful match for Queen Catherine in the episodes to come. Francis, the dauphin, is touching in his desire to be a well-rounded and accomplished king, and while it is entirely maddening that he lingers in the no-man’s land of whether or not to marry Mary, it is also a trait she respects as it one she herself must also choose. And although, Queen Catherine may be the might behind the throne, it is clear that King Henry didn’t get there by riding on her coat tails. A master in the art of people-watching, nothing escapes his attention – not even his wife’s scheming and plotting.
The only real element which frustrates me, besides the motivations to be discussed at a later point of ladies-in-waiting Lola (Anna Popplewell) and Kenna (Caitlin Stasey), is the use of the “Avoid the Prophecy” plot. All attempts to evade a prophecy are going to instead cause the prophecy to come to pass. It is an eventuality the viewers know is coming, even if they don’t yet know how, making the audience at least somewhat more omniscient than the characters. As it is historical fiction/fantasy, and I’m already coming to the table with a decent amount of foreknowledge, the less the show outright tells me, and the more I get to discover and experience alongside the characters, the more I’m going to be involved in the show. However, given that the prophecy was introduced within the first mere minutes of the pilot, I suspect I will simply have to grow accustomed to it as an overarching plot line.
So, to recap: Long May Queen Catherine de Snark Reign and to Hell or the Blood Woods with all the rest. Ok, not really, we like them too, we just like Madame de Medici most of all.
Favorite Song: “Follow” – Crystal Fighters
Favorite Line: “I’ve just had a vision. I see you…beheaded at my command” – Catherine
Snakes in the Garden
Favorite Song: “Navigate” – Band of Skulls
Favorite Line: “I’m not sure words mean anything here” – Mary
– Queen Amidala
Photo courtesy of: Reign CW Wikia
Gif courtesy of: Pinterest