TV Review: CW’s ‘Reign’

Reign TV Review CW
Joss Barratt/The CW

Basically 'Gossip Girl MDLVII,' CW's soapy period piece 'Reign' falls mainly in the plain

By all means, don’t let history interfere with potential enjoyment of “Reign,” which will hinge entirely on embracing the show as high camp — “Gossip Girl MDLVII,” if you would. CW’s from-a-distance-daring embrace of the period piece quickly defines itself as a silly soap, albeit one where the bodice-ripping we’ve come to associate with the genre on pay cable, while artfully done, is perhaps here closer to bodice-wrinkling. Perish the thought that young viewers with an aversion to books come away thinking the show’s timeline is accurate (a dashing young Nostradamus? Really?), but other than those who watch it as comedy, “Reign” falls mainly in the plain.

Teenage Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) has been living in a convent since the age of 9, before being summoned out of exile to court, where she’s supposed to marry France’s Prince Francis (Toby Regbo). She’s quickly united with her four ladies in waiting, who, much like Mary, clearly didn’t get the memo that Revlon wasn’t invented until several hundred years later.

Almost as soon as she arrives, Mary is greeted by layers of intrigue, including those who don’t want to see the marriage happen. Unfortunately, that contingent includes the queen (Megan Follows), who receives ominous warnings from Nostradamus (Rossif Sutherland, one of Donald’s sons), telling her if the union happens, “She will cost Francis his life.”

Of course, if “Reign’s” Nostradamus was really all that prescient, he probably would have held out for a part in another show.

Beyond that, there’s the little matter of Francis’ dreamy bastard half-brother, Bash (Torrance Coombs), who hangs around the palace and, like all CW leading men, is sure to make a contingent of young women with good Internet connections go positively weak in the knees. (Both Francis and Bash, incidentally, have perfected the three-day beard growth, looking more like grunge rockers than medieval royalty.)

Not helping matters, “Reign” (written by Laurie McCarthy and Stephanie SenGupta, and directed by Brad Silberling) rather distractingly undermines its 16th-century setting with a contemporary soundtrack, presumably because there are fewer “music featured in ‘Reign’ ” tie-in possibilities involving Renaissance-era composers.

All told, the series — handsomely shot in Ireland — represents what amounts to a sleight-of-hand act — an attempt by CW to look like it’s trying something different while really just churning out more of the same, albeit with more splendid settings and ornate costumes. It’s “Game of Thrones” with a learner’s permit, for those whose parents won’t let them watch pay TV.

“Anyone who’s close to you lives in constant danger,” one of Mary’s ladies fusses, seeking to build a sense of intrigue.

The actual Mary was wed at 16, participated in various intrigues, and spent the last 19 years of her life in custody before being executed by order of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, at the age of 44.

“Reign” should be so lucky.

TV Review: CW's 'Reign'

(Series; CW, Thurs. Oct. 17, 9 p.m.)


Filmed in Ireland by Joyful Girl Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios.


Executive producers, Laurie McCarthy, Stephanie SenGupta, Brad Silberling, Frank Siracusa, Morgan O’Sullivan, James Flynn; director, Silberling; writers, McCarthy, SenGupta; camera, Checco Varese; production designer, Jonathan McKinstry; editor, Tara Timpone; music, Trevor Morris; casting, Gillian O’Neill, Lori Sugar. 60 MIN.


Adelaide Kane, Toby Regbo, Torrance Coombs, Megan Follows, Alan Van Sprang, Celina Sinden, Caitlin Stasey, Anna Popplewell, Jenessa Grant

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  1. melly says:

    I love reign…. Its the greatest show. Love the cast love the clothes. Love the music.. Love all.. Continue with the show

  2. Anyhow says:

    I’m thrilled with this show, and see no negativity in it as the author of this article portrays. I am glad that it is not following the history books, and some people need to stop thinking that everything needs to be spot on, when televised, in order to be a good show. I hope they continue to stay off track, because I am a Mary and Francis fan and if they follow the books, the time of Mary and Francis is extremely short. In the season finale, I was excited to see Nostradamus back!!!! I was sad to hear the conversation between he and Frances though and hope something can change the outcome of that conversation.
    So to the author of this article, lighten up. Enjoy a show as it is shown and stop nit picking. There is sooooo nothing wrong with going off the grid to create such a great thing.
    Love the show and writers: keep up the good work.
    Wasn’t too happy about the Conde and Mary thing, especially straight after her trauma. Made Mary look bad, and caused me to not like her so much, as she blamed Frances, who obviously would do anything for her. Thanks for putting that part back in order.
    Don’t take our hope and Frances away from us just yet.
    Brian Lowery, why so harsh. Your rants sounds a little like you are a bit jealous of nice looking men, and somewhat prejudice of this show altogether. Whats going on with your review????

  3. Nancy says:

    We have watched Reign since the beginning and love it! We knew that it was not historically accurate. Who cares. We do not watch tv to learn history. We watch to be entertained, and we are so entertained. Love it, and I still have hope for Mary and Frances. Great job!!

  4. tommy says:

    I watch it because it is better than reality shows and I am tired of CSI and so on. Sure it could be more accurate but it is just an interesting soap opera that shows some original thinking. I miss it when it is not on.

  5. Cassy says:

    I was initially excited about this show when it was announced. Mary , Queennof Scots is an interesting historical figure. However, I was disappointed with the costumes and how it was written. I know it’s made for TV so expect historical inaccuracies. But at least get the period clothing right! You can tweak the story but at least make it a little bit closer to what really happened. I was aghast that they wrote that Mary lived in a convent until she was summoned to court. It’s not everyday you get to watch a tv series on Mary Queen of Scots but it’s a shame that this interesting subject matter be wasted.

  6. Kathleen says:

    No one says it has to be totally historically correct! You are missing the point! The history in this period is well known and contains enough intrigue, treason,romance and skull duggery to fill at least 5 seasons! The story lines are already there all the writers have to do is create a script! The show will lose viewers because people who enjoy period drama are usually history buffs. They will drop off because they will be disappointed. When you lose viewers, the show gets cancelled. The least they could have done is get the costuming correct!

  7. ricardo says:

    So true its a great show some people on here are to put hurt about history but then again if your watching this show for a history lesson you must be to lazy to go to a library and pick up a book at least theres some substance to this show and its very entertaining it amazing how good shows get canceled do to put hurt people about history its a tv show and not. once was it marketed as educational programing

  8. Kathen says:

    This program distorts history so badly that I cannot watch it. I planned on giving it a second chance but switched it off before the first commercial break. The saddest part of all is the fact that this period in history is overflowing with romance, betrayal, espionage, rogues, villains and fair maidens in need of rescue. All the producers have to do is write a script based on the facts.

  9. Ken says:

    This TV show is for entertainment, not historical accuracy. If you don’t like it you can always go read a biography!

  10. IDavid says:

    When the music went to that similar to Gossip Girl or Charmed, I knew this thing was a bust. Period piece? Get real. It’s a slap in the face of history on every level. Such disrespect is alarming. There should be laws to protect history so as to raise intelligent children, not surfacey gum chewing bottle heads.

  11. maria says:

    Anyone who actually watches this should read Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser, which is historically accurate, and, in truth, infinitely more interesting. The other reviewers are correct, this is Gossip Girl and has nothing to do with.. Mary, Queen of Scots, beyond the insult to her name, life, and the history of the times. Possibly I wouldn’t be so offended by this show if they hadn’t engaged in such pretense and misrepresentation. I’m sure it’ll get great ratings amongst the teens, however, it would be a crying shame if the anathema that is this show is allowed to represent itself as accurate in the context of Elizabethan history. Some of the errors I truly do not understand, unless the network felt that they had to dumb down for the viewers. For example, Mary’s four ladies in waiting were known as the four Maries, because they were all named Marie, staying with her up to and including her beheading. She was not raised in a convent until the age 9. Her mother sent her to France, from Scotland, both to be safe from Protestants, and to secure the alliance with France, long view, as an ally to put Mary on the throne of England, which, in the end, well, not here to write a history book, but I strongly suggest the book by Antonia Fraser.

  12. Char says:

    Where’s the moderator? Some of these comments are ridiculously abusive.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I’m not sure if you know your history, but they did that in those days. To make sure they consummated and it wasn’t fraud. (The teenagers watching is a little addition for the show. Who cares? It’s TV! What do you expect?!)

  13. irshwsky706 says:

    Anyone who watches this trash is brain dead.

  14. Alan says:

    Not that I am making any further comparison, but a certain Bard’s work on Richard III is not considered historically accurate and has been performed in different costume including Nazi uniforms. The words and humour were of the time of the writer.

    I am certain that the real Mary had a rather strange upbringing in France. She was a Queen, but only of Scotland. She did, however, have a potential claim on the English throne.

    Just the setting for a soap. Her half brother in Scotland did not want her there, and Catherine de Medici only saw people as potential pawns for her family ambitions

    As for the teenage stuff, better that than a reproduction of even noble life of the time

  15. Dane Muhlig says:

    This show Reign is moral garbage. Teenagers watch as a man an woman moan and have sexual intercourse. May God now rebuke the creators and producers and curse this show!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I’m not sure if you know your history, but they did that in those days. To make sure they consummated and it wasn’t fraud. (The teenagers watching is a little addition for the show. Who cares? It’s TV! What do you expect?!)

    • Margie says:

      A man and a woman who are married. Husbands and wives are allowed to have sex.

  16. Char says:

    OMG! I glad to know its not just me. Pretty – horrible. The costumes are not even close to era proper. The ding bat behavior of Mary and her ladies is absolutely ridiculous. No one even has the slightest of hint of an accent. Tudors was interesting and at least somewhat based on history.

    This is a kiddie drama. Falsely advertised. I will not be watching.

  17. zuriea says:

    Bettany, *I* watched it because I love stories set in Tudor times and because Mary Queen of Scots had an amazing story.
    It’s more fun when the romance novels and movies are historically accurate because it’s interesting to see different authors’ interpretations of events we all know about.
    I would have enjoyed this show more if they had given her a different name and never pretended to have anything to do with Mary, Queen of Scots.
    This has NOTHING to do with her so why bother.
    Pretty dresses, pretty sets, pretty people – if I pretend the names are different (Helen? Rebecca?) then it would be more fun.
    And Tudor music was lively too – the sound track could have been tweaked to the modern ear but still be somewhat accurate.
    Think CGI was used for the big castle hallway?

  18. Kathleen says:

    What a mess! The costuming is all over the century. They could have at least dressed the characters in correct period dress! The ladies in waiting look as if they are going to the Senior Prom! No lady would have worn short sleeves! Even the fabrics are not believable. Where are the ruffs and the bonnets and jewelry? Where are the delicious layers of brocades and silks that the ladies and gentlemen wore in the Elizabethan period? I could go along with stretching historical fact for the sake of drama – but there is no excuse for sloppy thoughtless costuming! I was looking forward to enjoying a good period piece. They have totally ruined it for me!

  19. Nah you nailed it. The soundtrack is overbearing. Is it a drama or a music video? Production style certainly says music video.

  20. It seems that a large number of teen-age girls are not aware of English history otherwize there would be no market for this trash. CW shows a lot of trash.

  21. Rebecca Chan says:

    I think this show is simply meant to be a soapy, guilty pleasure.

  22. Bettany says:

    Your article is beyond stupid. This is a teenager show, so I don’t really get the point why You are looking it? Obviously You won’t like it. It’s an entertainment show,with a romance storyline that all teenage girls love to see. Those who want some history – go and watch history channel. This is meant to entertain viewer. This is by far my favorite show this fall. REIGN IS THE BEST!

    • katie says:

      i’m a big history person and saying that i love the show as said by the few it is meant for entertainment not a history lesson, i will continue to watch the show!! cw shows are not trash ive watched almost every ahow that cw has played and for the most part i love them all !!!! Reign is a good show you need to give it a chance!!!

    • Molly says:

      Well said Brittany! It’s TV folks… an escape from the mundane everyday. Sit back, chill out and enjoy the fairytale! Geez! It’s not a history lesson… and ahhh nor was President Lincoln a vampire slayer… get it??? Relax!

      • namipomi1005 says:

        Zuriea please tell me you are not a GRADE A BITCH!?!? Oh wait no need i already know you are by your stupid ass comments. The show is a drama and not supposed to be 100% correct. Look at any other show are they 100% correct?!?!? NO!! So why does Reign have to be? So there is no need to by a bitch. If you dont like the show thats fine then dont watch it but you dont have to bitchy to anyone does and is trying to defend the show so why dont you just shut your goddamn mouth and go sit down somewhere. And in case you didnt know because your to stupid “sit down somewhere” is an expression. Your welcome.

      • zuriea says:

        Sigh… Please tell me you are not a registered voter.

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