There will be no reining in of 'Reign'

Thursday, 14 November 2013 12:12 PM Written by 

RE102b 0091bBEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The CW's "Reign" (9 tonight, WPCW) isn't doing well in the ratings, which is sort of a shame since it marks a real departure for the network. (It was renewed for a full first season but at this point a second season seems doubtful unless the ratings begin to tick up.)

"Reign" is not the greatest show ever -- it's basically "Gossip Girl" meets "The Tudors" with a splash of "Game of Thrones" added -- but it is different for The CW and certainly aims at least a little higher in its efforts to creatively depict the story of Mary Queen of Scots in a soap format.

But the show could use some improvement, and tonight's episode may make mark a step in the right direction. 

Read more after the jump. ...

RE105c 0143b"Reign" seems a bit stuck in story ruts, repeating the same twists again and again.

Queen Catherine (Megan Follows) is forever scheming against Mary (Adelaide Kane) because Nostradamus told her if her son, Francis (Toby Regbo), marries Mary, he'll die. While her scheming makes sense, the repetition is also getting tedious.

Similarly, it's tough to sustain a show built on a binary premise: Either Mary and Francis are coming together or they are drifting apart.

There are ways to alleviate the feelings of sameness from episode to episode and the "Reign" writers are finally getting around to embracing some plots set in motion in the pilot.

Slowly they're attempting to differentiate Mary's ladies' maids and give them their own personalities but it's been a slow go. I still don't know most of their names -- Kenna is sleeping with the King and Hayley is in love with a servant boy, I think -- but at least the writers are trying to give them individual personalities.

The ghost/hooded girl who hides in the walls of the castle disappeared for a few episodes but recently re-emerged, a welcome development. And the pagans in the woods outside the castle -- the "Reign" attempt at Whitewalkers? -- return tonight after being on the backburner for several weeks.

Of course, the problem facing the "Reign" writers is nothing new: Advance the story too quickly and you run out of story for the show. Move too slowly and viewers get bored. And so we have detours and pronouncements like the one at the end of last week's episode that attempted to erase the episode's plot since it didn't match this historical time line: "The matter will be forgotten by all of us and history, too, I suspect."

"Reign" does begin to finally get into the predictable love triangle of Mary, Francis and Francis' bastard brother, Bash (Torrance Coombs), tonight, but the show too often feels like it is running in place.

At a press conference this summer before the show premiered, executive producer Laurie McCarthy acknowledged the stretching required to fit the show around the real history of Mary's life.

"The real facts of Mary, Queen of Scots’ life are so extraordinary and so dramatic and we're coming in on the story of her life at an early stage and so she has just returned to French court and she has a ways to go before the wedding actually takes place," McCarthy said. "They'll have a ways to go as a married couple. And then eventually, what we learn as a prophecy of young Francis' death will ‑‑ we won't shy away from that. We'll actually embrace it at a certain point in the series."

The question, of course, is when. In success, producers would delay Francis' death as long as possible. Since success seems unlikely for low-rated "Reign," I hope the writers are thinking of moving up their time line. But I'm not counting on it.

"Mary lives into her 40s. And Catherine continued to really have great influence over much of Europe for a long time," McCarthy said. "So I feel like there are plenty of avenues to explore and plenty of ways to go. And it can take us some time to get there, I think, because the show is ‑‑ you know, it has many facets.  It's a love story. It has a horror element to it that I think you'll see more of when you see some scenes that were already scripted but were not shot yet. I feel like it has legs, but certainly their stories continue on."

Unless, of course, the show gets canceled.

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