Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pilot Review: Reign

Reign (The CW)
Premiered October 17 at 9pm

The third of the CW’s new fall offerings feels a whole lot like its first two, only it’s not based on a preexisting series but rather on history itself, albeit a bit exaggerated for melodramatic effect. Why broadcast networks bother to take on the burdensome business of period drama, since it’s expensive and lavish and not all that easy to sustain. What’s more problematic here is the boring nature of all that’s going on, reminiscent of a Keira Knightley movie but with far less maturity or depth. The visually violent death of the food-tasting nun at the start of the episode was a bitter way to start out, and the intensity moved over to a sexual nature after that, with a bit of public bedding to rile everyone up and an attempt to deflower the queen which resulted in a rather swift execution. This show has a lot of characters, though that’s not too surprising given it takes place in a regal realm, and princesses have to have handmaids and the like. The notion of a real romantic connection existing between the two betrothed people but them being held back by a desire to remain steadfast to their respective home countries is somewhat interesting, and should prove to be a decent guiding anchor for the show going forward. I’ve said it before, but I’m not supposed to be in the target demographic for this show. Taken objectively, it’s fine, but hardly worth a second look even if it was the kind of fare I liked.

How will it work as a series? Mary coming to live in the palace has already caused much turmoil, and character assassination attempts (in addition to actual assassination attempts) are sure to follow on a weekly basis. Think of it as a much, much tamer version of “The Borgias” or “The Tudors,” with as much sex implied but much less actually shown.
How long will it last? A statistic like the CW’s lowest-rated Thursday night debut ever is hard to shake, and the network has enough hits that it considers successful not to need a show that underperforms. It was never going to have the audience of “The Originals,” but it needs to improve its performance if it’s going to make it to November or beyond.

Pilot grade: C-

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