When Reign first premiered, the terrible voiceover in the opening sequence always began with a shot of Mary and ended with “Long may she reign”. It’s obvious who the show’s supposed to be about, with us entering the world of French court along with Mary and following her complicated engagement and marriage to Francis. Focus placed on other characters in the meantime is expected, and preferred, but though Reign‘s got plenty of supporting players, we know who our leads are. And our main one is Mary. That’s why love triangles, despite their frequency, don’t matter as much. The show is about Mary, and she’s the one the audience cares about which is a huge difference from other shows, especially on the CW, where male characters are given priority and preference not only by its fandom (such as the network’s most successful show The Vampire Diaries) but also its writers.
But since Reign returned from its winter hiatus, it’s had trouble keeping up with its protagonist, relegating her to reacting on the sidelines to whatever new turmoil entered her life. It was a far cry from what we got when Mary’s decisions were affecting the direction of the entire show, such as when she put stock in Nostradamus’ prediction of Francis’ death and sought to have Bash legitimized. Since that was resolved, Reign‘s been flailing in finding something for Mary to do. Last week’s “No Exit” looked like it may be the solving that, but “Toy Soldiers” undid most of the work the last episode did.
As Mary’s brother promised, Protestants attacked Marie, and without intervention it looked likely that she’d be killed and Mary would lose her crown, prompting Mary to turn to her infamous uncle for help. Though it’s nice to see Mary doing her own thing in order to protect Scotland and her mother, Reign‘s attempts at bringing in various people related to Mary this late in the game only makes it clear what a disservice the rest of the season has been in this regard. Mary’s uncle is supposed to be a “dangerously ambitious” man with who Mary’s avoided contact with since coming to France, but we’re only just now hearing that he exists. And Reign decided to make up for this with a throwaway scene showcasing Tristan’s unique method of enlisting soldiers and exposition from Francis and Catherine. Even Mary’s brother has faded back into Reign obscurity, and Marie de Guise, despite her name being scattered across the entire episode, can barely be called a character.
Reign is deeply entrenched in France, Francis and his family, and for the first time an episode felt unbalanced in this regard. Though Mary was active in the beginning, with her uncle coming to France at her request and her touching base with her ladies about her and Francis’ problems, Francis eventually rose to the forefront in negotiating with Tristan, and his dealings with Henry’s persistent madness became more central than Mary’s worries over her mother (and the episode didn’t even mention the angry circumstances surrounding Mary and Marie’s parting after the wedding), an awkward move in an episode packed to the brim with everyone but Mary.
In many ways the focus on Francis was necessary as it added context to his eventual decision to take Tristan’s army not to Scotland but to face down the English, but “Toy Soldiers” also had a lot of other storylines going including one with the still-present Penelope that didn’t have the same urgency. After Catherine got Penelope to admit that her claims of being pregnant with Henry’s child were false, Catherine gave her something new to do: learn how to behave so she can later join Catherine’s Flying Squad. Penelope was a lot more enjoyable when she was calculating, ambitious and a decent, if annoying match for Catherine. But Reign goes the route it does with many of the women who oppose Catherine and engage in sexual relationships with Henry (like Kenna) in making them suddenly unaware and ill-equipped when it comes time for Catherine to get the better of them, their earlier skills at manipulation and cunning fading into the ether. But assuming Penelope does return, she’ll apparently be back to top (ish) form. I’d rather she not come back at all, but if she’s got to come back for something, at least it’ll be something close to interesting.
In another subplot Greer’s father came to France to offer her dowry to Castleroy who refused it and called Greer’s jerky father out on being a jerk. Castleroy’s no Leith, but he’s very decent and is obviously infatuated with Greer, defending her against her father’s insults and making a deal that gave her the power to control hers and her sister’s marriages. I still miss Leith, but in his absence at least Greer’s not completely miserable, and even though Castleroy’s not much in the looks department (though I wouldn’t be giving any of the guys in this cast any Best Looking superlatives), he’s respectful of her, kind and honest so there are definitely worst guys to be marrying.
Removed from everything – and everyone else- were Kenna and Bash, locked up in their tiny chambers having sex. Despite Torrance Coomb’s nonexistent abs, they had some pretty good scenes with Bash insisting on cleansing Kenna’s sexual palate, which makes sense considering her most recent, and most frequent partner has been his father (ew). It was nearly sullied with Reign revisiting Bash’s still-present feelings for Mary. After witnessing a Frary kiss, Bash returned to Kenna so they could have their way with each other again, and that could have sunk all the delighted feelings I had about the pairing until Kenna picked up on Bash’s preoccupation and attempts to put Mary behind him and called him on it, all the while continuing having sex. I’m glad to see that Reign isn’t yet trying to sell Kenna and Bash as anything more than married semi-friends who are physically attracted to each other which will make it all the more fun when their feelings eventually become stronger.
Though the subplots weren’t necessarily bad (though Penelope and Catherine could have ended up on the cutting room floor without my caring), it’s disappointing to see the show’s female lead being shuffled to the side especially after last week was such a huge episode in hers and Francis’ relationship. It fast forwarded through any of the followup to it, giving us hints of Mary’s anger in short exchanges between the characters without actually committing to showing us the way it affected their relationship. That “Toy Soldiers” eventually ended with these consequences, and Mary’s acknowledgement that while she truly loves Francis, she won’t let him put Scotland at risk anymore, just makes last week’s episode seem like filler. Or it at least makes Francis locking Mary in the tower seem like an attempt at drama without any of the follow through, and this looks like it could have more long term promise. Since this episode denied us of the rightfully angry Mary we should have gotten, her determination to rely only on herself, and not her husband or his family, to save Scotland is a move that’s been a long time coming and will hopefully lead Reign into some awesome final episodes that will put Mary front-and-center where she belongs.
- Why, after they actually spent all their scenes having sex with each other, did Kenna say “I thought you wanted to take things slowly” when Bash came back for more later?
- Lola didn’t do anything this week either though she’s apparently showing enough that the girls are afraid to throw snowballs at her.
- I’ve never seen a CW show with less attractive men in it than this one. Toby Regbo and Torrance Coombs are far from ugly, but neither of them has anything going on in the abs department. I know not everyone can look like Arrow‘s Stephen Amell, but I can’t tell what the network, known for its attractive casts, including dudes with six-pack abs, was going for when it cast them.
- On that same topic, I’m confused as to why the camera lingered so long on Torrance’s shirtless form as if there was something to see there
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