Reign Review: Royals in Love

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And you thought your adolescence was tough, right?

In the pilot of Reign, the first episode of The CW's new show about the teen years of doomed royal Mary, Queen of Scots, we see the power struggles and confused sexual longing of any teen drama writ large, transplanted onto a background of plotting and intrigue in 16th century France.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots

Poor little princess Mary grapples with beheadings, attempted rape, attempted murder, royal conspiracies, ghostly figures, sexy princes, angry friends, forbidden forests, Nostradamus and lost dogs in the tightly-coiled 40-plus minutes of this episode, making a definitive mission statement for the series: being a teenager is dirty, dangerous business.

On some level, it's a surprise that it's taken this long for this merging of genres to happen - whose teen years didn't feel like a life-or-death struggle for power and acceptance? Reign does a great job of placing those feelings within the tradition of the campy historical drama, leaving us with a frothy confection that's one part Pretty Little Liars, one part The Tudors and one part Dark Shadows, while still feeling like a fresh take on a time-worn concept.

The production values are out of this world (the early scenes that almost wordlessly show Mary's flight from the convent that has been her only home are particularly striking), the princes are as hunky as you'd like, there's some hinting at the supernatural and Mary has a whole cluster of ladies-in-waiting with their own strong personalities and personal dramas in her orbit.

If the ladies-in-waiting are portrayed as dishy, scheming gossipy girls, Adelaide Kane plays Mary as a proto-feminist Joey Potter type, bristling against the rules of the court and staring off moodily into the middle distance. On a show that seems constructed from the get-go to be a juicy guilty pleasure, Kane plays her character as if she is in a different and much more serious show, with slows down the pilot in parts.

But it does make a certain amount of historical sense - Mary was, unfortunately, most notable for having had a pretty rough life for a princess. Perhaps all that mooning around will show off a bit more personality as the season goes on.

Is it historically accurate? Of course not. Reign is impressively untroubled by its historical inaccuracy, whether it's having Mary speechify on behalf of true love in her court, or having all the ladies-in-waiting engage in some wild, shoeless dancing that may remind you of your own bat mitzvah reception.

But there are no winks or nods here; this is not self-conscious camp. The show plays it straight (as you can see from a quick peek at the episode's best Reign quotes), allowing you to decide on your own if you want to take it as a campy joy or a teen drama that just happens to involve a lot of corsets.

Production values and historical accuracy aside: does it scratch an itch? Indeed it does; it makes being a Renaissance princess look as appealing as being a princess of the Upper East Side. God save the queen (for the rest of the season, at least).

Grade the Reign premiere now:


Editor Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (98 Votes)

My God, I was annoyed watching this show. It felt as if it had been written, directed and costumed by a 15 year old girl with fantasies about being a princess and having boys fall at her feet. I think I could have tolerated the (horrible) dresses if that were the only thing that was wrong. Sadly, it wasn't. The dialogue was so childish and - in my opinion - just badly written. Everyone at court acted like they were in the 21st century with very little class distinctions, the relationships were developping way too quickly, things that might have been interesting to see or know were left out, but they did have time to put in a scene about make up (apparently, make up in the sixteenth century has the exact same results as those now), a wedding that felt more like a prom (where the girls weren't getting enough attention so they went to play in the middle of the floor whilest giving yearning glances at a couple of men... Right) and a marriage consumation (the only historical aspect they put in the show, probably because sex sells, even to teenagers) which wasn't that bad at all for the couple, seeing as the bridegroom seemed to be an amazing lover... Right. And can I just say, if I woke up and a guy was trying to rape me, I would hope my friends were a little more supportive when he was later arrested. Just saying. Finally, Mary herself. I don't think they could have written a more typical character. Yet another girl who believes in true love and wants to help everybody and do everything for her 'friends' and country. AGAIN. Personally, I would find it refreshing to see a female character with a little more spice and perhaps even a flaw or two, if they could manage that. So one-dimensional. I just had to get this off my system. Sorry I'm such a whiny crybaby.


I wanted to like this show, well, not really, but I wanted to not be bugged. The french speaking english amongst themselves??!! That bugs me a whole lot Lots of factual errors too, Im sorry, but if u wanna entertain yourself, go destroy ur own history,
Oh wait! Your history only starts in 1776!


I think it's a nice drama, but all the historical errors keep bugging me. Especially the dresses which are far to modern.


I LOVED premiere.
I really don't get the whole whining over dresses, music, history and accents. It's not suppose to follow history. And if dresses or make up bothers you, I just have nothing to say. It's such a miserable part of the show. I can't even understand how it can influence people on whether to watch or no. If you want true history of this story go and watch historical channel. We are here to entertain ourselves. When people keep complaining why is main character so short, while she had to be like 2 "francis" and why isn't she redhead, I keep rolling my eyes. Yeah, guys, I can so sense here huge fanbase of an " elephant and fly". Just STFU.


French court speaking english... and i'm only 7 minutes in.. i want to like this but this is bugging me


I like it. It's not Game of Thrones, but the plot it's interesting and I liked the caracters. As a pass time, I think it works. However, I really, really wished the costume department had respected the 16th century fashion. I hated the prom dresses. If you are watching a period drama, you WANT to see the period dresses! It's part of the charm, actually! Shame on you, CW!


THe premiere was AMAZING.
Yes it is a bot of gossip girl in the 16th century and it isn't as serious as some other historical show could be. But that's the trademark of the serie, it's a look at teenage drama throughout history, with fun, wit, longing.
I thought that the actress playing Mary did really great, her serious side showed the deep burden on her shoulder, the horrors that she has seen and yet she can also be playful and dance barefoot like any impulsive teenager would do.
Her behavior was plausible on the contrary to many character in teen dramas, she showed the multiple side of a teenager: young, fun, impulsive, while at the same time full of thoughts, grounded, worried when by herself. It was very realist and makes the show really interesting to watch!!


i didnt like it - agree with everyone its like gossip girl in victorian dresses - the dresses where too colourful and looked like prom dresses nothing like what people in that time wore - maybe it should take a look at tudors and sort the costume department out i dont think i willl last 3 eps watching this - i hope it improves


I like the pilot and I think I'm going to continue to watch the show. Something I didn't realize until all the girl were watch watching the wedding of the daughter was that the character Kenna who's played by Caitlin Stasey is from one of my favorite movies which I think is pretty cool. I can't wait till the next episode and can't wait to see where the show goes.


This show was terrible! Looks like Gossip Girl was playing dress up. The only thing I liked was seeing the dude who played Thomas Culpepper the on from the Tudors. CW needs to leave the historical drama to Showtime and HBO. The dresses look more like Century 21 instead of 16 Century.

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Reign Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

My dear, this was not an act of passion. It was treason.

Queen Catherine

Love is irrelevant to people like us.