Reign – S01E01 – The Pilot

I adore historical pieces.  Honestly, I think you could present me virtually any show topic, and as long as the characters were in period-wear and speaking with some kind of accent, I’d watch it.  You throw in a connection to Queen Elizabeth and I don’t even need to know anything else about it.  So it’s really not a surprise that I’m watching Reign, even with it’s many historical inaccuracies.

Portrait of Mary Stuart in 1559

Portrait of Mary Stuart in 1559 via Wikipedia

We’re not talking about simply spicing up the story of real-life person Mary Queen of Scots for entertaining tv either.  Honestly, if I didn’t know this was about her from the helpful overtext at the beginning, complete with exact year, I’d have no idea it was her.  It’s not like Mary is an uncommon name in history.  Hell, four of her ladies in waiting were named Mary.

But no, we start this show in 1557 as Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland since she was a whopping 6 days old, leaves the convent she’s been living in to return to the French Court.  Historical Mary was going on 15 that year.  This show is on the CW though, so teenage Mary is played by 23 year old Adelaide Kane; the better for sexy interludes I presume.  Sort of CW’s thing, right?

Actually, the first scene is a guy we later learn is Nostradamus having a dream where a tree bleeds on him and somehow that means Mary is on her way.  One of my big pet peeves on television is horribly fake looking greenery, and this tree is no exception.

THE tree

THE tree

I don’t know what kind of tree we’re supposed to think it is, but it looks like one that’s had random flowers and greenery attached with wire.  Also, we get a close up of one of the flowers:

Tree Flower Screencap, Reign S01E01

Tree Blossoms of Doom

Isn’t that an orchid?  Whatever.  It’s not important really; like I said, just a pet peeve.

[Side note: Beth tells me that it’s probably meant to be a Dogwood, which would be symbolic since it was the wood used to make Jesus’ cross.]

Reign Screencap - French Convent

Reign Screencap – French Convent

I’ve been trying to figure out what castle this actually is where Mary was supposedly hidden most of her life, but so far no luck.  It cracks me up that they chose a place with no roof, as if the nuns all just live there, exposed to the elements, no big deal.  Talk about taking asceticism to a whole other level.  On the plus side, it looks very similar to the actual convent where Mary hid for 3 weeks when she was 4, Inchmahome Priory, which is also currently roofless.  Though I assume it wasn’t at the time.  I hope.

Anyway, she doesn’t spend any show time here either, because her food taster is immediately poisoned by “someone with ties to the Protestant throne of England no doubt.”  Which is curious considering that in 1557 England was ruled by Bloody Mary, who was decidedly catholic and doing everything in her power to make sure everyone knew it.  Though our Mary did have a strong tie to the English throne (she was Henry VIII’s great-niece and next in line after Elizabeth), so either way I suppose assassination attempts were entirely possible.  If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a whopping 0% in accuracy so far.  Yay television!


On to the French Court!  Here we meet Francis and Sebastian, who imply that Francis, Mary’s betrothed and future King of France, is a bit of a rogue.  Surprise!  Francis also calls Sebastian a, “lucky bastard,” which is I suppose is meant as a clever pun, since he’s an actual bastard.  The royal family is preparing for the marriage of their thirteen-year-old daughter Elisabeth to Philip II of Spain (which really happened, just 2 years later).  Catherine de Medici, Queen Consort and Francis’ mother, is arguing against bringing Mary to court because, as King Henry says, she found her irritating.  Francis is being passive aggressive about having an arranged marriage, which gets us this gem:

Francis: She had skinny legs, a missing front tooth, and strong opinions.

King Henry: I’m sure the adult tooth has come in.  The opinions you can ignore, right Catherine?  *pointed look*

OOOH BURN!  Women are property and can be ignored, even if they’ve been a Queen since before you were born.  Awesome.

Next we’re taken to what looks a bit like a dungeon, where Nostradamus gives Catherine some kind of stinky poultice.

Catherine: *sniff*  That’s disgusting.

Nostradamus: Where she puts it, he won’t smell it, unless he’s a very good husband.

Catherine: Imagine that…

Nostradamus: You do want Elisabeth to bear sons?

Catherine: As soon as possible, or what is a wife’s value.

Fun fact: Nostradamus was not only a real person, which you probably know, but Catherine de Medici really thought he was a seer.

Catherine de Médicis, wife of King Henry II of France, was one of Nostradamus’ greatest admirers. After reading his almanacs for 1555, which hinted at unnamed threats to the royal family, she summoned him to Paris to explain them and to draw up horoscopes for her children.  via Wikipedia

She also was unsuccessful at having children for the first 10 years of her marriage, and “tried every known trick for getting pregnant, such as placing cow dung and ground stags’ antlers on her “source of life”, and drinking mule’s urine.”  So this poultice thing is actually one of the more accurate bits of the show so far.  And you thought it was the part they made up, didn’t you!  Oh man, this show.  It’s killing me already.

What Catherine really wants to know is whether Mary is going to rain on her parade.  Nostradamus says his visions are as yet unclear.  I guess bleeding trees could be a good thing?

Mary arrives at court and greets her ladies-in-waiting.  In real life they were all actually named Mary as well, and were all noble.

The four not-Marys

The four not-Marys

In the show, we have from left to right, Kenna, whom I assume is the “bohemian” one based on her wackadoo outfit, Lola, Aylee, the one with the always horrible hair, Queen Mary, and Greer, who is “filthy rich” but lacking a title.  They’re all excited to find husbands, except for Lola who is waiting for some dude named Colin, left behind in Scotland possibly never to be seen again.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 11.54.08 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 11.54.13 PM

I mean, can we just take a minute and really look at that mess?  Even forgiving the flyaways on account of wind, what the heck is up with that awful braiding?  I won’t judge you if you laugh at how perfectly the horse’s ears line up over her head in the second image.  Maybe she can ask it for some tips.  Greer says, “Oh Mary, your hair!  Didn’t the nuns teach you anything?”  Lady, you just rode in a carriage, presumably following a long boat ride, with someone that obviously needs to be taught how to do her hair.  Where was all your feminine knowledge then?

Now we get a formal introduction to the royal family.  King Henry shows up with Diane de Poitiers, his mistress (an semi-official title she kept from when Henry was roughly 19 and she 38, until he died) and their son Sebastian (who apparently the show has invented).  Then Catherine comes in and very pointedly stands in front of Diane, throwing her a very bitchy “take that!” look.  Don’t be so obvious Catherine!  Also, some lady in a burlap sack and dirty hands is hanging out in one of the windows.

Burlap Sack Ghost

Burlap Sack Ghost

Francis strolls up with his doublet all undone, walking in the grass, as if this wasn’t some kind of important ceremony.  Mary proceeds to have a serious case of word vomit, and I can’t help but laugh and feel akin, since I have the same affliction.  They both seem awkward now that they’re face to face, and happy to see each other.  I suppose they’re both pretty enough that it would be hard to be sad at first glance.  Then Nostradamus drops the bomb that their union will cause Francis to die.  DRAMA!

We get a quick lesson in how to be a lady (protect your Queen’s virtue!), some shots of the girls putting on makeup with sticks and fingers (which isn’t too far from the truth, although the look they achieve is lacking in white face and poison), and then they all dress up in new gowns from Paris and head out to explore.  Also, we’re treated to more horse hair:

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.17.37 AM Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.17.39 AM

Mary stays behind because she needs to go upstairs to her former rooms and reconnect with her wee baby self and remember what it was like chasing after Francis and his too-long legs.  There are old toys laying around, and there’s an air of abandonment, but what’s this?  Not actually abandoned!  Francis is up here cleaning his sword (surely that’s a euphemism).  Poor Francis is jealous of his half brother, who “they don’t worry about him dying so much that they don’t let him live.”  So Bash gets to run around and do whatever he likes, and Francis sneaks off to the attic to teach himself to make knives.  Mary offers to save him should he ever fail as king, and you can just see him feeling emasculated.  He’s attempts graciousness out loud, saying he hopes it’s never needed.  Smooth Mary, way to woo a guy with self esteem issues.  Francis quietly goes back to his room to snog Natalia, in case this scene was starting to make you feel sorry for him.

Mary is sitting next to a pond collecting rocks when her dog starts barking and growling at the nearby woods.  Which are dark, and I guess spooky?  Was the little girl at the convent right?  IS THAT A HAUNTED FOREST?  I’m not sure I can handle actual ghosts in this show, you guys.

She heads back up to Francis’ room to give him the rocks, something about putting them into his swords, but Francis gets all squirrely.  Busted!  He pulls a page from his father’s book and lets Mary know that he can do whatever he wants because he has a penis.  So she runs back outside to throw the rocks in the pond, and her dog runs off after the ghost in the forest.  But Mary is stopped from being eaten by the forest ghost by Bash, who teases and flirts with her about enjoying walking in the mud at the convent.  He offers to find her dog, but doesn’t look particularly pleased to encounter that ghost.


Oh what’s this?  Lola does see Colin again!  He’s snuck into the castle and into her room as she sits naked in the bath.  What is up with the security in this castle?  Aside from a random guy being allowed to wander the halls and into the single ladies wing, even ladies in waiting had attendants.  Women just weren’t ever alone.  Why was the Queen of Scotland wandering the grounds by herself?  Catherine, if you’re so worried about your son dying, I recommend you start with firing all of your guards and getting new ones that actually do their job.

Anyway, Colin.  He just couldn’t bear to be away from Lola and followed her to France.  They seek permission to court from Catherine, who asks lots of probing questions with a mocking air.  While the questions are actually rather normal, the way she looks at him like he’s a delectable meal is a bit weird.  Be scared Colin!

Horse Hair tries to warn Mary that Bash is a womanizer and wasn’t acting out of pure chivalry outside. Mary suggests it’s a family trait but refuses to speak further.  She’s like that annoying friend you have on Facebook that posts vague, generalized comments that are actually pointed attacks about some personal fight they’re having with someone.  Don’t be a passive aggressive twat Mary!

Burlap Sack sneaks into Mary's room

Burlap Sack sneaks into Mary’s room

As Mary prepares for Elisabeth’s wedding, she notices her pond rocks on the table, remembering that she dropped them in the first pond scene.  Forgetting that she must have gathered them again to give to Francis and then threw them in the pond in anger.  It’s the Burlap Sack Ghost from the window, she’s in her room!  If it were me, I would have been calling for my guards, but I guess strange women hiding out in her room is just normal for her.  Burlap Sack Ghost warns her not to drink the wine at the party and then slips away through a hidden entrance in Mary’s room.  These aren’t uncommon in castles; they let servants run around without being seen (and also let trysts happen without being seen).  I’d still be pretty freaked to find out there’s a door to my room I didn’t know about, and Burlap Sack was hanging out in my room unawares.

We enter the wedding celebrations with a explosion of modern fireworks, which at first made me skeptical.  A little research indicates that these kinds of fireworks (perhaps not quite this grand, but still in the air) were used by the French court by the 16th century, so this might be fairly accurate.  It’s a really bizarre twist to the show that the things you feel are made up are actually true, and the things that seem real are actually twisted or completely fabricated.

Inside, Colin brings Mary a glass of wine and kisses her hand, while Lola looks on with dagger eyes.

Dagger Eyes!

Dagger Eyes!

Also, let’s take a moment to discuss the hair again, because it’s nagging at me.  No woman wore her hair down for this entire century, nor were they ever bare-headed.  This is about all the range an authentic costume should have for this show:

1550's Hairstyles

1550’s Hairstyles

Exciting, no?  I can understand why they wouldn’t be using historical references for a show like this, though I’m still baffled by Horse Hair.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 1.42.06 PM


Mary realizes she’s hurt Lola and decides to distract her with some barefoot dancing.  I’m painfully reminded of middle school dances when the girls wanted to dance, but the boys thought it was lame, and so the girls just made a circle and swayed together.  Diane de Poitiers catches King Henry leering, and Catherine says, “We’re overrun by Scots.”  This is especially humorous considering every single person on this show has some form of English accent, and so far none of them are English.  Bash stares at Mary, and Francis catches them.  But feathers falling from the ceiling save him as Mary is reminded of a time when they were children and jumping on the bed.  So they make googly eyes instead and start to move toward each other, only to be interrupted by her ladies pointing out that it’s consummation time.  Are they actually doing their job and protecting her virtue??  Hilarious tactic.  Let’s go watch his sister have sex! Whoo!



Horse Hair has a moment of pearl clutching and encourages everyone to leave, and they scatter through the castle.  Lola goes looking for Colin.  Kenna finds a dark corner to pleasure herself (seriously?!) and is accosted by King Henry (you were totally friends with Henry VIII, weren’t you?).  Mary goes looking for Francis.

Francis certainly has a way of putting his foot in his mouth.  (Francis:  There were other ways of handling this.  Mary: Handled what? Me?) Is he really supposed to be this suave guy that’s banging all the girls?  Maybe it’s just the dumb ones, or the ones that don’t care what he says because he’s a prince.  He lets her know that the wedding may not happen if France needs better allies, and Mary is rightfully offended.

That night, Mary is woken from sleep when Colin tries to rape her.  WHAT.  I don’t even know where her ladies are sleeping (seriously, they should be in her bed).  She calls for her guards, who come running, though where they were in the first place is beyond me.

Lola tells Mary that she has spoken to Colin, who told her that he was forced by someone powerful.  Mary realizes that Burlap Sack saved her by telling her not to drink the wine.  She goes to Catherine and Henry to find Colin and speak with him, attempting to get to the bottom of this plot, only to be told that he’s been beheaded for committing treason with England.  Lola goes off on Mary.

“We’re here in service to you, whatever that means. Whatever that costs us.”

What it means, girl, is that you’re supposed to be sleeping in her bed so Colin can’t sneak in in the first place.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Also, yelling at your queen like that was pretty close to treason itself.

Mary leaves in tears and runs into Bash, who has found her dog.  He suggests that he’s on her side, but gets more formal when he notices his mother watching him.

Diane: Where did you find the dog?

Bash: In the woods.  It was drawn to the blood.

Diane: How close did you get?

….Okay.  These woods are super weird.

Francis confronts her the next day, getting high and mighty that someone was found in her bed.  Hello pot!  He chastises her about potentially ruining her reputation just to get back at him, because obviously the only thing that matters in his world is himself.  Are we really supposed to be rooting for this guy?  He drops his tough prince act for a moment, and Mary asks him if he’d want to marry her without the politics.  They almost kiss, but he finds his inner broomstick just in time, announces, “I won’t do this!” and marches off.

Catherine was watching from Francis’ secret knife room.  She complains to Nostradamus about his potion failing to make Mary sleep, and he says the problem was in the delivery.  So Colin died to protect Catherine’s meddling.  She asks if his visions have changed, but the bleeding tree is back and means death for Francis.  “You cannot relent.  You must continue to sacrifice.”  Sacrifice what, exactly??

We end with Mary standing alone outside at night.  Someone creeps up behind her, and somehow Mary knows that it’s Burlap Sack.  Without turning around, because this is of course how you hold conversations with sack people, Mary thanks her for saving her life.  There’s an ominous lightning strike, but when Mary turns around, Burlap Sack is gone.

Conversations with Sack People

Conversations with Sack People

So that’s what we have to look forward to, readers.  Horse Hair, fake trees, an entire family of horny men, ladies in waiting who don’t know what that means, a haunted wood, a Burlap Sack Ghost, and an entire cast who continually seems to forget Mary is a crowned sovereign.  Should be fantastic!

The crafty Sleep Goblin is our resident Reign recapper and maker of great things.

Leave a Reply



  1. Beth

    Any theories on who Burlap Sack is? Part of the Royal family?

  2. Resisty

    I like the nickname “Horse Hair”! I think “Bash” is a bit too cool for that guy, though; maybe we should call him Sebby Poo (‘cuz he sounds like mommy’s dearest? I dunno, I’m not funny.)

    I would like to hear more about how poorly this is written. NEXT EPISODE, PLEASE!

  3. Sleep Goblin

    Well, we know her face is a “ruin”. So she must be the daughter with some kind of deformity that they all pretend doesn’t exist. She’s supposed to be locked in the castle tower, but you know, this castle’s guards never do their jobs so she just walks around instead. You can’t read about her on Wikipedia because Catherine made sure no one would know about her. It’s the sad but true story that only CW’s historians could unearth.

  4. Beth

    Rereading this now, I was giving the show too much credit with the dogwood tree symbolism

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