March 8, 2014

Reign: "The Consummation" Review

Remember when I wrote that The CW's new show Reign sounded perfect for the network - just without the vampires? It seems I may have spoken too soon, because its first season has been full of supernatural visions, prophecies, druid-like curses, good luck charms hidden inside decorative tchotchkes, and now, zombies?!? Ok, not really. I'm sure Clarissa, the creepy bastard child/ghost who lived in the shadows until she kidnapped her half brothers only to be bludgeoned by her only friend was never actually dead. Wow, I guess this show does belong on The CW after all.

If I were going to fault Reign for a single point that's weakened the show's entire first season, though, it wouldn't be the inclusion of the fantastical. I'd fault Reign for overplaying its hand, both in the development of storyline, and in the way it pushes the envelope with what's allowed on network TV. Case in point, this past week's episode, "The Consummation" (with a creepiness factor adeptly and amusingly described by Lily Sparks over on, which featured Mary's choice of a husband, her wedding, and their subsequent, well, you read the title, should have been a finale - both to the season, and to a carefully crafted love-triangle story. Instead it was a missable midseason yawn that only served to highlight just how unimaginative and hastily-crafted the Francis-Mary-Bash triangle really was.

I would have liked to see Mary and Francis and/or Mary and Bash develop a believable relationship, perhaps giving the viewers a reason (more significant than muscle tone) to cheer for one brother or the other. Instead the plot got sidetracked by an overbearing Portuguese prince, that ridiculous affair between Kenna and the King, who looks like he's old enough to be her grandfather, Francis's uber-blonde ex-girlfriend with the indecipherable accent, and Bash's pregnant cousin. It's like the writers tried to cram every possible subplot into 13 episodes, burying the main selling point of the show in the process.

And if they really wanted to hurt the viewer - or Mary - by pairing Francis with Lola in a moment of infidelity, or at least indiscretion, they should have given us reason to care for or trust Francis to begin with. He was always a bit of a scoundrel, and Mary knows that. So when the Lola/Francis rendezvous truth comes out (and it will, because Kenna is malicious), Mary shouldn't be the least bit surprised.

In the end, I guess we have to believe that Mary chose Francis simply because she loved him more. And I'll buy that, if only because Queen Catherine finally used one of her psychological mind games for good, forcing Mary to make up her mind through a fake papal letter. Catherine remains my favorite character on the show because Megan Follows's acting skills tower so far above the rest of the cast. I want to re-watch her plan her own beheading. It was elegant. Seriously, if her suicide in "Royal Blood" hadn't been a ruse to escape captivity, and she was actually gone, I'd have stopped watching.

Ability to give the stink eye must be genetic.
The real reason Mary chose Francis is, of course, that that's what really happened, although with costumes as anachronistic as Reign's, I wouldn't exactly have been surprised by a revisionist history that led Mary Stuart to marry King Henry's bastard son. So does this mean Bash is gone for good? And just how long can this show survive now that what should have been the ultimate moment, the big decision, the grand finale of this first season has past without much fanfare?

What Reign doesn't seem to be lacking is a fan base. The show has one loud enough that Adelaide Kane had to take to twitter to prevent them from boycotting when several episodes didn't include Francis. So if I were to bet, I'd say this show gets renewed, especially since the best shows on the network don't seem to. But I wouldn't bet that it gets any more interesting, even if Clarissa does reappear undead.

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