I can’t shake the feeling that Reign is a trainwreck. It feels like the CW, seeing the success of HBO’s Game of Thrones, decided they wanted a piece of the medieval-costumed pie. (Though, I guess Reign takes place in the 16th century, so this is more Renaissance-ish than medieval, right?) They went through their roster of CW-esque actors and actresses and made a show. I feel like, costuming and set dressing aside, the cast of Reign is indistinguishable from say Vampire Diaries, or The Originals, or Star-Crossed.
So despite these misgivings, why can’t I turn away while this show is on? Let’s dive into that!
For those not in the know–and didn’t click the Wikipedia link up above–Reign is a historical(esque) drama about Mary, Queen of Scots. It’s set in the French court of King Henry II, and is full of intrigue, courtly stuff, and the standard CW-levels of sexiness. Disclaimer: I haven’t seen every episode. I’ve only seen episodes 14 through 17.
The showrunners themselves say that Reign is “highly fictionalized” so I understand this not an accurate portrayal of 1550’s France. Still, part of where Reign feels just ridiculous to me comes from the fact that there’s “highly fictionalized” and then there’s “highly fictionalized.” Why is it that, for a show set in France, none of the actors have French accents? Everybody sounds generic English (as in England). I get that its Hollywood shorthand for “these people are foreign and aren’t speaking English, per se. But we need them to speak English for you, the audience, because that’s what you speak.”
So I guess British accents = French in Reign’s universe. But then in the last episode, a bunch of Scottish people show up in the French court and they speak with Scottish accents. Why doesn’t Mary have a Scottish accent? I guess the explanation is because she was raised in France not Scotland. Either way, it’s kinda weird and makes me shake my head almost every episode I’ve seen.
Another topic: far as I can tell, everybody on the show is white. Now before you start saying “That’s just how it was back then!” lemme say this: “Wrong. Very wrong.” For a start, please take a look at medievalpoc on Tumblr for some cool stuff.
So let’s take a look at everything: all white cast, generic English accents, and extreme liberties taken with history. I guess since I didn’t see the pilot, I missed out on “Hunky Nostradamus.” Lolwut? From other reviews out there in the aether-webs, critics don’t appreciate the dumbing down of Mary Stuart’s life as well as the addition of fictional love triangles.
But why do I watch it when it’s on? It’s not for the acting. It’s not for the accuracy. I think it’s because it’s like a sugary treat that hits the same spot as Game of Thrones or playing EUIV. All the talk about alliances, personal unions, heirs, and who will inherit the crown of Scotland (yes it’s all hugely patriarchal) is so similar to playing EUIV that I can picture how this “campaign” would go in the game. Is that weird of me? Probably!
All this adds up to make Reign a trainwreck. Or perhaps a joust gone wrong. That works as a period-appropriate metaphor, right? I guess this just shows that sometimes you end up watching bad TV.