Thursday, November 7, 2013

REVIEW: 'Reign' Unveils a Conspiracy that Makes Sure to Keep Mary in French Court in 'Hearts and Minds'

The CW's Reign - Episode 1.04 Hearts and Minds

Mary has to decide if she is willing to lie and sentence a man to death in order to have King Henry let her out of her engagement to Prince Francis. Meanwhile, Francis and Bash are suspicious of Tomas' true intentions which will ultimately lead to a confrontation with disastrous results.

Unlike some, I don't expect Reign to be historically accurate. It basically gave up all those claims five seconds into the pilot when The Lumineers started playing. It feels drastically different than any other show on its network but Reign is still a CW show. Thusly, I know exactly what I want this show to do in order to entertain me.

And in its early episodes, Reign was juggling every quality that makes a good CW show - an attractive cast looking pretty, a teenage coming of age story, political machinations, action and some eerie supernatural elements. That was perfect fine. However, while trying to juggle all those plots, it lacked a clear focus. That changed in the third episode as the English closing in on Scotland's borders gave a sense of urgency to the proceedings. The quality I've admired the most about Reign in its early stages is the political motivations fueling the character beats of Mary, Francis, Henry and Catherine. In that core quartet, the show has very clearly outlined what each person wants and what they are willing or not willing to do to obtain that.

But the stuff on the periphery of the main action feels quite aimless. I simply don't know what the show is trying to do with those plots. This largely is about the four ladies in waiting. I have no clue what any of their names are! Wait. I know one is Lola and another is Greer. Now which one is Lola and which one is Greer and who are the other two? I could not tell you. The only time I feel a purpose from those characters is when the show tries to open up a discussion about the differences between being a royal and being common folk. I don't think Reign handles that well but it's at least somewhat interesting. I don't care about the one having an affair with the King. That just seems like a way to incorporate sex onto the show.

In fact, the only romantic story I kinda like is the one between Mary and Francis because there are so many different things fueling that dynamic. Especially in "Hearts and Minds" whenever they bring up how their hearts feel like the right thing to do is get married but their heads are less sure because of the political ramifications that would result from it. That's conflict that feels meaningful. And that's all I'm really asking from Reign. To entertain me with archery and sword fighting and have a plot that feels like it is moving in a meaningful direction.

Some more thoughts:
  • How in the world did Bash recover so quickly? That was suspension of disbelief I had a hard time going along with.
  • Seriously though, who can name all the ladies-in-waiting correctly? Without cheating.
  • The character transformation for the Prince of Portugal was pretty drastic and jarring. I didn't expect Mary to leave French court any time soon - it's where all the main action happens. But that plotting did come out of no where.
  • I love the score for Reign perfectly fine except whenever they plug in a modern song. Those just really don't fit in with the tone of this piece and continuing to force them in just makes them stick out even more.