Historically inaccurate ‘Reign’ proves disappointing

Oct. 21, 2013

April Wefler
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2/5 stars

Mary Stuart, dark-haired and lacking the strength that history fondly remembers of her, has become the newest character to be ruined by the CW.

“Reign,” the supposed story of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, premiered Oct. 17. The costumes, castles and rooms are lavish and beautiful, indicative of French court in the early 16th century. However, the good points stop there.

The episode begins with a dream of Nostradamus, Queen Catherine de Medici’s mystic. Blood drips onto flower petals and Nostradamus awakens with a start, breathing heavily and murmuring, “She’s coming.”

A great start, but then it’s only downhill.

The scene transitions to a French convent, where Mary (Adelaide Kane) has been hidden away since she was 9 years old. After her taste tester dies, she returns to the French court to prepare for her marriage to Francis II (Toby Regbo).

Nostradamus tells Catherine (Megan Follows) of Mary’s impending doom for her son. Catherine is determined to put an end to the betrothal. Unnecessarily, since Francis has no intention of marrying Mary anyway.

Francis, who was historically a sickly boy and died at age 16, is strong and fit on the show and, because it is the CW, fairly decent in the looks department.

His half-brother, Sebastian (Torrance Coombs) is attractive as well and favored by the king, despite being an illegitimate son.

“Reign” is disappointing and takes creative license with Mary’s story. It’s insulting how little the creator, Laurie McCarthy, thinks people know of this important queen’s history.

The show is historically inaccurate, even in the easiest and smallest details. For instance, although Mary Stuart had Tudor red hair according to marie-stuart.co.uk, Mary is dark-haired in “Reign.”

However, “Reign” does indicate Mary’s love of animals, particularly when she loses her beloved pet and chases after him, only to be chastised by her betrothed’s half-brother for doing so.

Although many historical dramas tweak history to fit their stories, there is nothing salvageable about “Reign.” While Mary is snarky, she is mostly docile and certainly not the Mary, Queen of Scots that history remembers – the one who tried throughout her life to seek an audience with her cousin, Elizabeth I.

Additionally, Mary seeks only the affection of her betrothed, who is determined not to have a thing to do with her. Although this is reasonable, given that they must make a marriage alliance between their countries, it only introduces yet another Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Everyone in the pilot uses an English accent, despite the fact that Catherine de Medici was Italian and everyone else would have likely spoken French.

In typical CW and historical drama fashion, “Reign” is filled with scandal, backstabbing and love triangles. However, unlike most CW shows, Mary does have true friends – that is, until the end of the episode when an upset Lola (Anna Popplewell) declares that Mary is not her friend but her queen.

It seems Mary is more determined to win the heart of Francis and the hearts of her ladies-in-waiting than anything else.

Because the show is so divergent from history, it’s hard to predict what will come next. Will Francis live to be older than 16, unlike his historical counterpart? One of the major conflicts is Catherine’s attempt to prevent Mary and Francis’ marriage, so a young death for Francis could throw it off.

One wonders why the CW feels the need to rewrite the already intriguing story of Mary, Queen of Scots. Perhaps if the creator had written a show based on it, assuming that she does know the real story, “Reign” would be much more appealing. Alas, another historical figure is lost to the shallowness of the teen viewing population.