Historical dramas have become all the rage in the last few years, so when I heard that The CW was taking a foray into the now popular genre in their new series Reign, I was intrigued to say the least.
I love HBO’s Game of Thrones. I like Showtime’s The White Queen. I have the entire first season of Starz’s Da Vinci’s Demons patiently waiting on my DVR. And, I desperately wanted to fall head over heels for CW’s Reign – but after last night’s lacklustre debut, I might have to reconsider my position.
The CW introduced us to a virtually unknown cast in the series premiere of Reign last night. There was only one face that comes to mind that viewers may have immediately recognized, Teen Wolf‘s Adelaide Kane. Kane joined the hit MTV show this past season as a mostly peripheral character but had already packed her bags by the mid-season finale.
The CW network has a great track record of taking fresh talent and creating well-known celebrities out of them; many actors that got their start on the CW (or, the WB/UPN before it) have went on to become household names.
Of course, that all depends on whether a series sticks around long enough to gain any sort of notoriety – stars of last fall’s Emily Owens M.D. have sunk back into relative obscurity after the network gave the show the ax in the midst of its first 13-episodes. Reign is probably safe for at least that long, but the cast might want to start crossing their fingers sooner than later.
One of my biggest concerns going into the premiere of Reign was whether the writers would be able to fluff up the material enough for the intended audience. In case you’re not up on your world history, Europe during the time of Mary, Queen of Scots was relatively harsh in nature (and that’s probably putting it nicely). We got a small taste of that brutality in the pilot, but it looks like the writers have found a way to hopscotch around most of it.
Reign is differentiating itself from other popular series in the genre off the bat by choosing a more narrow focus. The show will mainly be about the teenage years of Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) as she returns to French court. It may be hard for fans to relate to a teenage queen, but she’s got some interesting attributes that might, if they do it right, keep viewers tuned in to see where her misadventures take her next.
I’d like to think that the show would also be able to offer young viewers a lesson in history, but as it turns out, Reign is more of a modern drama set within historical confines than anything else. The characters resemble the attitudes of teenagers we’ve become accustomed to on any network drama, and the adults are just as petty.
The portrayal of Mary, in particular, left something to be desired. Instead of presenting her as a strong historical figure and protagonist, the Mary they debuted was ignorantly bliss a good majority of the time. Reign is intended to bring fans a new twist to the story, but they may have gone a bit too far. Watching Kane go from playing the strong-willed Cora Hale on Teen Wolf to a dumbed-down version of Mary, Queen of Scots bordered on painful at several points in the episode.
There’s also a supernatural element to the show that leaves me with mixed feelings. The CW line-up is already full of supernatural savvy series – Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals – not to mention ones that failed in the past, namely The Secret Circle and Cult. I’m not really interested in adding another one to that list. Although, I’m curious to see where the Nostradamus storyline is going, but I’d rather it not become a dominant theme of the show.
The writers behind Reign sure have their work cut out for them if they hope to avoid the ax, because as it stands, the show is nothing more than a lackluster attempt to capitalize on the historical drama genre.