October 20, 2013

TV: Reign (Thu 9, CW)

It's 1557, and 15-year-old Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland (Adelaide Kane), is being shipped off to the French court to prepare for her eventual marriage to Prince Francis (Toby Regbo), a marriage which was arranged when they were six. But politics have changed in the last decade, and the French royals are no longer convinced that an alliance with Scotland is in their best interest. Mary is thrown into complicated intrigue and plotting for which nothing in life has prepared her.

The one person who seems to be entirely on her side is Francis' illegitimate half-brother, Sebastian (Torrance Coombs), known as Bash. Despite being a bastard, he is the favorite son of King Henry II (Alan Van Sprang), which is an immense annoyance to Queen Catherine (Megan Follows). Catherine is most definitely not on Mary's side, especially after her counselor, Nostradamus (Rossif Sutherland), tells her that according to his visions, Mary will literally be the death of Francis.

If you're looking to Reign for accurate history, you will be disappointed; Nostradamus was about 20 years older than the dashing young man we see here, and Bash is entirely a fictional creation. And since this is the CW, everyone is young and pretty -- bordering on interchangeably so in some cases, notably Mary's ladies-in-waiting -- and the focus is at least as much on everyone's love life as it is on international politics.

But if you're looking for a swoony, romantic fantasia on the life of the young Mary, Queen of Scots, then this might be just the thing. It's surprisingly well made; costumes and sets are reasonably stylish by broadcast TV standards; and while none of the actors are doing award-worthy work here, no one is embarrassingly awful, and Follows has a few nice moments as the show's reigning bitch/diva.

I have no idea whether this will appeal to the CW's young audience or not, but the CW is a network that doesn't generally produce a lot of backup shows, so it's likely to last for at least a few months.

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