Thursday, October 2, 2014

REVIEW: 'Reign' - The Death Tally Rises as Mary Figures Out How to Rule as Queen of France in 'The Plague'

The CW's Reign - Episode 2.01 "The Plague"

Francis and Mary are plummeted into chaos after the Black Plague ravages the land and creeps inside the castle. Nobles grasp for power and pressure Mary and Catherine. Kenna and Bash find themselves separated. Greer is forced to watch Leith move on with a new love and is shocked to realize he's involved with her fiancé's daughter.

I really love what the plague is doing for Reign. The show was doing fine as a soapy melodrama in its first season. But it did get awfully repetitive rather quickly, didn't it? I'm sure that will still be a problem this season as well. However, the return of the black death gives a unifying sense of urgency to the show. It's exciting watching just how easily this disease can spread as well as how deadly it can be. It is forcing Mary and Catherine to lead with a strong and firm hand. That growth and maturity is exactly what a series should be doing as it gets older.

So, Mary is learning just exactly how to rule as Queen of France while Francis is embracing fatherhood. She is trying to forge her own kind of rule that is different from the way that Catherine and Henry ran the country. And yet, the nobles all expect things to stay the same. It's a delicate relationship between the royals and the nobles that largely wasn't on display in the first season. Now that Mary is Queen, she is forced to see how this world works and how to uphold her values while dealing with demanding people also in power. She values every single life that the plague takes. No unnecessary death should occur just because it would be easy to explain away. That's the struggle she faces. She is able to stand firm in her beliefs and even get Catherine to avoid poisoning a whole family. And yet, it still occurs. She is furious. But she also sends the noble responsible down to where the sick are being held. Infection is inevitable. So she is taking away another life. As much as she doesn't want to be corrupted by the system, it is still occurring whether she likes it - or is even aware of it - or not.

Francis, meanwhile, is outside the castle walls protecting Lola and their newly-born child. She's no longer at risk of dying. The premiere really does undercut that part of the cliffhanger a lot. She is shown to be perfectly fine and then Francis comes barging into the house. It lessens the surprise. They are then forced onto the road and meet a handful of new faces - none of whom make much of an impression. The big and best focus of this story is seeing Francis go back and forth on whether or not he wants this baby and Lola in his life. He is willing to send them away to give both of them the lives they want without being forced to go through the same thing that Diane and Bash went through for most of their lives. And then, when he holds his child for the very first time, it all becomes so real. This is his child. He can't just forget him. So they will eventually return to the castle and the consequences will be the soapy focus for the series. But right now, the soap in Reign's DNA is not on focus. And that works for this premiere.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Plague" was written by Laurie McCarthy and directed by Fred Gerber.
  • I don't really like it when Reign embraces some supernatural qualities. I can deal with hallucinations. But when Bash sees a young dead girl who is giving him a threat that things will only get worse because of what he did, I just couldn't take it.
  • For a brief moment I thought the show would really kill off Catherine. And then, I remembered that they would never do that to one of their most entertaining characters. So instead we get to watch Pascal and Yvette Castleroy die. Neither of which are that big a deal.
  • I still don't really care for the Lola and Leith love story. But now, we'll have much more of it because Jonathan Keltz is now a series regular.
  • Nostradamus without a beard is just weird. But hey, he's immune to the plague. I bet that will be very important later on.