I don’t know why, but I watched the premiere episode of Reign. You know, the show on the CW where the Dauphin of France is running around without pants on and Mary Queen of Scots is wearing sleeveless gowns and sparkly headbands? Yes, that Reign. I watched it. And then I liveblogged it. For you.
I gave up on the costumes almost immediately, because it was really just dynamiting fish in a barrel and I only have so much outrage in my body. Let’s just talk about the plot, and the acting, and the…the everything. On a scale of One to Ten, I rate it a Hot Mess.
Let’s watch it!
It’s raining (HAH). Then the raindrops turn into blood, and fall onto a dude’s face and hands. Then surprise! he wakes up from a dream and says “She’s coming!” Cut to Mary, who is trying to look fierce but only succeeds in looking hella constipated. Ominous!
The subtitles: “France, 1557. Mary, Queen of Scots has been hidden away at a convent for her safety since age 9.” It turns out that Mary’s fiercely constipated look is because she and some nuns are playing Ye Olde Footballe. More subtitles: “Engaged since childhood to the future King of France, she awaits her return to the French Court…” They keep saying “the future king of France,” I guess because “Dauphin” is too French?
Lunch, picnic style. The nuns are having a good time. Then the nun who is Mary’s food tester spoils their fun by bleeding from the ears, and faceplants into her bowl of gruel. Helpfully, another nun informs Mary/us that “You must leave immediately! This was an assassination attempt! You were nearly poisoned!” as they run through the convent in the dark, several hours later, while all around them EXPOSITION HAPPENS at breakneck pace:
- Mary asks “By who?” by which I assume she means “By whom,” and the nun replies “Someone with ties to the Protestant throne of England no doubt.” The Protestant throne of England? Oh, Mary’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth! No need to introduce her; Elizabeth I will have little to no influence on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.
- “They will be found and dealt with.” We do not get to see the nuns Deal With their cook or serving girl or whoever put poison in just that one! single! bowl! of Porridge from the Common Pot, and I feel a little cheated.
- “Mary, you are the Queen of Scotland.” Then you should all be calling her “Your Grace,” yeah? Cheeky nun.
- “You’re safer in the French court.” [Citation Needed, because I'm no expert on the relative safety of convents VS the French Court, but this seems backwards]
- Mary and the nun hug, and I swear to God the nun rolls her eyes. Five dollars says SHE put the poison in the porridge.
This bit of dialogue happens between Mary and a little girl named Rose:
I choose to believe this is intentional and award the scriptwriter five points.
In the middle of the opening credits, which are set to music that is failing to be the Game of Thrones theme song, the subtitles inform us that we are now at “Royal Court of France.” I got confused at first and thought we had entered a new portion of the credits? Like, now you’re going to tell us the actors playing the members of the French Court? But no, that’s a location announcement. No mention of which royal residence. It is heavily implied that this is Where The Court Lives, i.e. that this is the only royal residence. The rushes must be disgusting.
Anyway, we are at the Royal Court. The Dauphin complains about his arranged marriage, and I am no less sick of this trope today than I was three million pieces of historical fiction ago can we just not? Then Catherine de Medici arrives! She brings some quality bitchface to the table, but is wearing a dress that is both several hundred years out of style and neither attractive nor flattering, and no amount of quality bitchface can make up for that. Something happens with Nostradamus and Catherine de Medici, and blah blah blah bored now. Not even “I’ve just had a vision…I see you, being beheaded at my command” can make up for how bored I am. I’m pretty sure I saw that necklace at The Icing.
Mary is arriving at the Royal Court of France(TM) and Francis has neither fastened his doublet nor put on any pants. Mary’s attendants from Scotland leap out of their carriage, looking like they just went on a $5,000 Free People shopping spree. I can smell the high-end patchouli from here. Now, funnier people than me have brought this up, but: Mary’s attendants are named Lola, Kenna, Greer, and Aylee. LOLA. KENNA. GREER. AND AYLEE. I am so baffled I deduct five million points from the scripwriter. (Incidentally, there is a girl named Lola near me in the Panera where I am typing this. I know because her mother keeps saying “Lola. Eat your soup. Lola. Eat your soup. Lola.” LOLA, WOULD YOU EAT YOUR FUCKING SOUP PLEASE.) They all bow to her–FINALLY, someone bowing to someone else–and then they embrace, because they’re been friends “all [Mary's] life,” even though she’s been at a French convent since she was nine and they have been in Scotland. I can’t determine which lady is which, so I have decided to call them, in no particular order, Blonde Vampire, Anna Popplewell, Blonde Hippy, and Brunette Hippy.
Mary says “Oh Greer, those can’t all be clothes,” referring to three whole trunks like that’s a lot.
Then the king arrives. “That’s King Henry!” says one of the attendants. Bitch please, that is the King in the North:
“Alliances can shift. Before they do, Mary needs to win the prince’s heart,” says Blonde Vampire. If by “win his heart” you mean “bear him a son,” that’s the most sensible thing anyone has said in the last 20 minutes.
Nostrodamus looks like he may cry, and tells Catherine de Medici that Mary “will cost Francis his life,” I suppose by pouring water in his ear until he gets an infection? I’m curious to see how this pans out. Five bucks says he dies heroically trying to save her from XYZ assassination/rape/assassination-and-rape attempt. Catherine de Medici does some excellent subtle work and I’m sorry she has to wear that ugly dress. A scene happens with the ladies in waiting, but I am overtaken with convulsions when I look at their clothing and cannot remember a thing about it. Later, Mary walks in on Francis cleaning his sword, which is not a euphamism. He has a sad monologue about how hard it is to be the
Dauphin Future King of France, because being the rich heir to absolutely monachy is super hard. Then, in what quickly becomes a pattern, he and Mary compare their Peasant Skills! He smiths, and Mary can milk a goat and chop wood “because nuns” (actual line of dialogue).
He makes a reference to the French Revolution, and I can’t really remember what else they talk about, because I was trying to shave his stupid cheekbeard through the monitor.
Still later, possibly the same day but I’m not sure because TIME IS WIBBLY on this show, Mary is chilling by herself outside with her ugly dog Starling, whom I will now be calling Clarice. There is an OMINOUS SHOT of dropped rocks! I have no idea what that is supposed to signify. Later she attempts to give something, perhaps the rocks (?) to Francis (??) to decorate the swords that he makes upstairs in the tower (??!!!), because jewels and goldwork is just too fancy, and Mary Keeps It Real.
“Kings do not answer to their wives,” Francis says during the first of their many fights about…I don’t know, it’s not entirely clear in what context they are arguing, it is only to show that Mary is Feisty. This may be the first vaguely historical thing anyone has said! Naturally it’s the patriarchal bullshit we chose to keep.
I would like to mention that when Mary meets “Bash ” (because he also Keeps it Real and “Sebastian” is just Not Real) she is wearing a grey afghan.
OMG, the rocks! The fallen rocks! They have been left in Mary’s room! The show very helpfully flashes back to her dropping them, in case the two lingering shots we saw before weren’t enough to help us remember. OMINOUS. Here, we learn that Mary, like her counterpart Elena on The Vampire Diaries, appears to have only two expressions: Sad, and Sad Because I Cannot Poo.
At the royal wedding of–OH MY GOD ON MY GOD OH MY GOD, a man’s doublet with slashing!
It’s Henrican but I WILL TAKE WHAT I CAN GET. Ahem. At the royal wedding of Francis’ sister Elizabeth and the man wearing a doublet with slashing(!!!), a lot of things happen all at once:
- Mary and her ladies abandon their pumps and dance a giggly, spinny, ladies-only variation on Tangle Bransle
- Catherine de Medici says “We are overrun by Scots.” A bunch of other people, overcome by the Joyfulness of Queen Keeps it Real, join the dance
- Little white downy feathers fall from the ceiling. Mary and Francis both remember destroying feather pillows as children
- I accidentally hit pause in an awkward place and Mary looks very silly indeed
- Then the newlyweds go off for The Consumation, and let me reiterate: the entire ballroom is covered with little white downy feathers why?
The ladies get very excited by the The Consumation: Anna Popplewell runs off to find her boyfriend, and Blonde Vampire (I think; it’s dark) decides she can’t wait anymore and just goes to town on herself on the stairs. Some random dude comes up behind her and she’s like “ooh baby” and it turns out to be the king, which is sort of weird in context, but ultimately pretty historically accurate, so!
That evening, while her ladies are fucking kings/bedposts/themselves, Anna Popplewell’s boyfriend tries to rape a sleeping Mary, and we get an excellent lesson in Rape Apologia 1001. “Colin’s a good man!” “He was forced!” “You don’t know what happened, none of you.” “He looked so surprised that I would fight back.” “He wasn’t a rapist!” “You’re the reason he’s dead!” Mary says “I gave him the wrong signals,” I am not making this up, in the middle of the ENTIRE COURT. Even Catherine de Medici, who set this whole thing up, is like “girl, really?” The only dialogue that makes any goddamned sense in this entire scene is “You are not responsible for your countryman’s actions,” which is said by the philandering king/bad father/bad husband/bad guy.
Oh, and Colin was executed for treason. By beheading, despite being a commoner, which, hey, lucky Colin! Anna Popplewell cries and delivers a half-decent monologue about how she’s not Mary’s friend, she’s her servant, which is actually lovely.
Mary, feeling guilty, wanders off, and talks to Bash for a while, and there’s some random bizarre plot that happens, I think, I have lost my ability to pay attention. Regardless, the scenes trundle on. Mary is wearing the ugliest Regencyesque dress in the history of the world. Francis accuses her of sleeping with the dude who tried to rape her (!). They talk at great length without saying anything of substance. Mary talks to the Mysterious Being that has been giving her helpful advice that I neglected to mention before because I was so fucking bored by this terrible show. AND THEN IT’S OVER THANK GOD.