Hey all! Hope you all survived the rollercoaster of the holidays. After making it through this past week you deserve some time to veg out. Perhaps a hardcore binge watching session is in order and you are looking for something you don’t have to work to hard on? In that case, might I suggest Reign…and before you think I am still hitting the holiday punch, hear me out.
It’s well documented that I love a costumed drama. And yeah, that what’s Reign is. It’s oh-so-loosely based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, her ladies in waiting, Catherine de Medici, and Elizabeth I. It’s also a CW show so it’s about as historically accurate as a Baz Luhrmann movie, or A Knights Tale (and yes, I like that movie). It’s fan fiction of the time, or what you day-dream the Elizabethan period is like. Clean, glamorous, everyone has good teeth and hair, and clearly there is indoor plumbing hidden somewhere. Additionally, there is some good old-fashioned CW drama, including but not limited to sexy Nostradamus, castle ghosts, and weird but network TV safe sex stuff.
But underneath all that gloss and manufactured drama, what Reign does really well is present a compelling cast of women, whose characters are in powerful positions. The relationships among these women are complex, but largely center around friendship and support rather than competition. How refreshing! Politics and social mores supply enough external pressure on these women and it’s nice to see a show that realizes that. They may be Queens, or other royalty but that doesn’t exempt them from the need for strategic marriages, and other political alliances. These plays for power make them vulnerable enough. Having friendships and allies is key in a society that has given women power via a monarchy, but still hopes they will merely be figureheads or puppets.
Over the 4 seasons of this show we watch the relationships among the women shift in the way friendships do as life changes. And when someone falls from power, Reign manages to work in some modern sensibilities so these women rarely become victims….or at least are not victims for long. Also, the women stay the center of the story. While there are always men in each story line, it’s the women who remain the protagonists. They are who drive the narrative, unlike some other recent shows that promised me a female driven western…I’m looking at you Godless, but that’s another post. Characters, especially Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth are fully formed with strengths and weaknesses. They aren’t perfect, not by a long shot, sometimes their passions drive them, other times we watch them wrestle with and ultimately make difficult decisions for the good of country. As the show goes into later seasons it’s these characterizations that seem to drive the show more than the love triangles of earlier seasons. and hence, for me, it’s the later seasons that are more interesting, more mature.
So if you are looking for something to entertain you while you dig out from the holidays, maybe try bingeing Reign, in the very least you’ll get some great fashion idea for the next cosplay ball you attend.