Francis mostly comes off as a poor, little rich boy who’s jealous of the freedoms enjoyed by his half-brother, Bash (Torrance Coombs), who will never be king.
“They don’t worry about him dying so much that they don’t let him live,” Francis tells Mary.
Francis’ father, King Henry II (Alan Van Sprang), also has a mistress, Diane (Anna Walton), who gave birth to Bash.
Francis’ mother, Queen Catherine (Megan Follows, “Anne of Green Gables”), rules the roost, plotting on Francis’ behalf after consulting with her adviser, Nostradamus (Rossif Sutherland), who has visions of Francis’ demise if he marries Mary.
Written by Laurie McCarthy (“GCB,” “Ghost Whisperer”) and Stephanie SenGupta (“Hawaii Five-0,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”), “Reign” gives the politics of the French court equal weight with the teen drama of Mary and her friends, who appear to be ladies-in-waiting though “Reign” never really spells that out (when Mary gets to the castle, this quartet teen girls awaits her).
The “Reign” pilot, the only episode made available for review, puts contemporary music into many scenes, juxtaposing the period look with a more modern sound. It’s an approach director Sofia Coppola also used in her 2006 film “Marie Antoinette,” and it works particularly well in “Reign.”
This being a CW show, sex plays a role. Mary and her friends spy on a couple as they make love on their wedding night and one of Mary’s friends pleasures herself discreetly in a castle corridor.
If the political plotting and teen drama isn’t enough, “Reign” goes a step further – perhaps a step too far – by adding a potential ghost in the castle (or maybe it’s a character glimpsed briefly with a bag over her head) and a mystery in the woods that surround the castle.
Directed by Brad Silberling (“Moonlight Mile”), the “Reign” pilot may be overstuffed, as pilots often are, but it sets up plenty of opportunities for future stories in a fun, frothy mix that’s fit for a TV queen.