TV Review: 'Reign' Arrives at Landmark Episode

Reign delivered a mightily unexpected blow in the season's sixth episode, “In a Clearing”. Following his brush with death last week, a slight reprieve seemed in order for Francis, only for him to lose his life after saving Mary from a kidnapping attempt. Despite his death being a major theme of the season, the historical foresight of knowing it was right around the corner and the pervasive push and pull of his near death experiences, when it actually happened it came as a shock.

When Nostradamus revealed his dire prediction at the beginning of the episode, one just assumed he was talking about an event that was still a ways out, not less than a day away (show time) and within the same episode. At least Francis got to go out swinging as a hero and he and Mary got to spend almost the entire hour experiencing happiness before tragedy befell them. Their final moments together were climactic and moving. Still it didn’t seem real, until his funeral and Mary’s soul shattering scream.

“In a Clearing" was a powerful installment of the series that gave its cast the chance to bring their A-game in an episode filled with vast tonality. Adelaide Kane and Toby Regbo ran a gamut of emotion, from Mary and Francis' luminously blissful disposition at the start of the hour to their grief stricken despair by the end. Kane and Regbo's final scenes were rife with an aching poignancy that put the finishing touches on their indelible portrayal of Mary and Francis’ doomed love. Neither actor had held back in the episode’s prior close call but when the actual moment came to say goodbye, there was no mistaking it. 

Then there was Megan Fellows, who worked her way through Catherine’s relief, ramped up concern, short-lived peace and quiet devastation with a terrifically commanding performance and Torrance Coombs’s impressive rendering of Bash’s resolute grief when he delivered the bad news to his stepmother.

All in all, it was a really gripping and sad end to a landmark chapter for “Reign”. The series must now find a way to keep going without its headlining supercouple and one if its most popular characters/actors, an obstacle most shows only have to face when one of its star’s contracts expires, not when a history dictated storyline does so.

Fans have known Francis’ death was in the cards ever since the series begun, allowing them time to brace for the impact. Unfortunately for fans who hoped it would turn out otherwise, the groundwork was already laid beforehand and while “Reign” has toyed with its play of history (the portrayal of Francis' death wasn't historically accurate), this was one general fact they had to stay true to.

It’s one of the major downsides to any historical series. Even when a character and the actor who plays them become popular and central to the show’s core dynamic, there is little to no wiggle room to rework things. Had “Reign” alluded to these figures in history, a la “Game of Thrones”, it could’ve written its own version of events and whatever proved successful could’ve been complementary altered. Instead the series is left to accompany an incredibly tough act. Mary’s time in French court and the labyrinth of characters that exist there are practically impossible to follow. They’ve made the show what it has been to this point.

It’s been a joy while it’s lasted. The series’ historical trappings and constraints on fictional restructuring does teach its viewers a valuable lesson: cherish what you like about a show while you can because it may not last forever. Even though “Reign” has had an overarching timeline to abide by, it found time to get lost in some difficult subplots.

After last season’s Monde debacle and the splintering of Frary, the writers were able to believably draw the pair back together in their final bow and give them a rewarding reunion, in the process. They somehow managed to decadently salvage the time viewers had left with these two characters as a couple, a feat that deserves appreciation. With Francis now gone, “Reign” is about to endure a huge turning point and how it handles the road from here will be interesting to watch.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: With history dictating that Mary can’t remain at French court for much longer, how will the show handle losing one of its other core relationships, that of Mary and Catherine’s? As entertaining as Catherine and Mary’s sniping back and forth is, there is nothing sweeter than watching these two headstrong ladies rely on each other.

Francis came a long way during his time on the show, from cliché hipster bad boy to tortured good guy to mature king and finally romantic hero. If you had told me when the series started that I’d miss him when he was gone, I wouldn’t have believed you and as it turns out, I would’ve been wrong. That change of heart is a strong testament to the series' talented writers and actor Toby Regbo.