Reign 2.01: “The Plague” Review

Is Upon Us

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

After I concluded the first season of Reign, I must admit that I was held by surprise  that I had liked it nearly as much as I did and that final shot had me captivated. There were a couple of meh episodes and the beginning certainly took a bit of rough going. But the moment I was truly and utterly sold on the series was when Mary and Catherine were found lying on the floor after Catherine attempted a murder suicide by poison bath salts. It was delicious, over the top, and absolutely brilliant. Not everything worked in the first season naturally, but I loved it. And now here I am with Season Two, a bit late in the catch-up but eagerly awaiting each new episode with gusto. My attribution of what truly made me fall in love with this series goes to the performances of Megan Follows and Adelaide Kane. Thankfully, The Plague is a much stronger episode than the opening Pilot, setting a plethora of plot lines in motion with an extra shot of Queen Catherine staring at a goblet she might have poisoned as the icing on the cake.

This season hits the ground running, throwing a million things at the viewer without apology before the credits even begin. “The Black Death has returned once more to plague our lands” begins the episode and we hit the race button, never looking back. The central conflict that has been the best part of Reign has been the clash of world views between Catherine de Medici and Mary, Queen of Scots. Catherine is more politically wise as one would have to be to survive for so long, especially against a mistress and rival along the likes of Diane de Poitiers. She’s rutheless, conniving, but above all has to think of the greater principle of survival. Mary is far more idealistic, not having nearly the amount of experience and turmoil that Catherine has faced. But as Catherine has said all along last season and says so again here, idealism and short-term gains are not going to take Mary far as Queen. She has to make the tough, ruthless decisions by seeing the needs of the many over the needs of a few.

The scene between Catherine and Mary where Catherine feels as if she’s nearly dying is one of the cathartic scenes this show has ever done. Catherine is not a woman to be crossed, but considering how women were shuffled around like chess pieces, there’s hardly a lot of blame to be placed upon Catherine. Only the sharp survive and survival often requires stepping over the patriarchal bounds of morality and grinding them into the very dust where they belong. She’s bitter, more than anything else. Her early years of joy with Henry gave way to a bitter struggle for power between the two where they each nearly killed one another. In spite of the bitterness, there is regret that Catherine lives with in how their marriage dissolved into such a mess. Her advice to never allow her marriage with Francis to devolve into the one she had with Henry. It’s a miserable existence in that sense. It reaches Mary more than anything else Catherine has ever told her and Megan Follows and Adelaide Kane nail that scene.

The ruthlessness necessary to rule gets its darling in Bash out of all people in this episode, with him stabbing a woman trying to escape quarantine. All lives matter, from Mary’s point of view but in letting this woman go, Bash would be perhaps committing an even greater error in exposing more people to the Black Death. He took a life to spare many, a point of view firmly espoused by Catherine. It’s a neat little character beat that adds further shades of grey between its characters. It seems like obvious foreshadowing, all of this death. Sooner than later this concept of killing a few for the sake of many will undoubtedly take on a much more sinister tone and I’m looking forward to that (no supernatural shadows this time around, though).

The Plague is a great start to this season and I can only hope for a continued upwards trend. Kenna really got much better as the first season of Reign continued and hopefully she gets more to do soon. Her good-bye to the stricken Pascal was absolutely heartbreaking. Greer’s storyline is a little problematic, but the way it concluded at the end of the hour was immensely satisfying (that makes me sound terrible, I know). I’m not sure how much longer Leith is going to be around for a significant storyline, but if they kill him off with the plague, I will be okay with that. It’s time for him to let go of Greer and stop tormenting her despite knowing what she has to do for her family and sisters. Lola bringing her child to the castle sets up even more shady political plays considering how vital heirs are to this world and considering that Anna Popplewell is at her best with darker, more difficult material, I look forward to this entanglement. Largely gone are the CW-teenage style dressing and makeup montages that made me groan, gone is the insipid Darkness, and Clarissa is nowhere to be found (unless I missed something), all of which point towards a more positive season.

Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+“If one life saves more, you have your answer.”

+“Your position is given by birth, but your power is a negotiation with the nobles.”

+Francis and Lola are safe and inside the castle next week, them escaping the plague outside would have been preposterous

+Megan Follows needs to be in everything. I don’t use this word often, but she is FABULOUS and conniving. Perfection, basically.

Note: I didn’t catch Reign until it premiered on Netflix. The first season reviews will be coming one by one as quickly as I can get them out, but I’ll have season two rolling on a regular schedule from now on. 🙂

Brilliant

9/10

Title: The Plague

Written By: Laurie McCarthy

Director: Fred Gerber

Image Courtesy: Film Trophy

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