Reign, the CW's newly popular period drama, is hurtling toward its first season finale with high velocity. In fact, unceasing forward momentum has become a hallmark of Reign's charming, addictive, and insane first season.
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So it shouldn't exactly have come as a surprise when executive producer Laurie McCarthy told TVLine
the show planned to axe it's major love triangle. Since the show premiered (and even before, on the promotional posters) the love triangle between the young Mary, Queen of Scots, her betrothed Prince Francis and his bastard brother Bash has been front and center.
The first half of the season saw the love triangle drive much of the plot, as Mary hoped to save Francis from a fate foreseen by Nostradamus by marrying Bash instead. Yet after Mary ultimately married Francis, and Bash got unceremoniously stuck with Kenna, the show has seemingly hit the brakes on the big love triangle.
According to McCarthy, this is not only by design, but will continue going forward. Talking about Mary and Bash to TVLine, McCarthy stated: "There will always be a lingering thing between them, but [Kenna] is going to find herself falling for Bash, and she's going to be successful in getting him to fall for her. Our lives have chapters. People move on."
This is huge news, not only for those heartbroken Mary and Bash fans, but more generally for the outlook of the show. In fact, I think it's very positive news for Reign's future. Here's why:
Breaking Free From Tired Tropes
When Reign premiered this fall on the CW, it was mostly written off as another by-the-numbers CW teen love triangle. It looked as if the network had taken it's successful Vampire Diaries formula, slapped on a corset, and called it a day. The love triangle in question even involved brothers with a complicated relationship!
Certainly, Reign could have ridden the "Team Francis/Team Bash" mentality into the sunset. The CW knows there's a market for these kind of teen-focused romance stories. By nixing the love triangle at the center, however, Reign is announcing its interest in expanding the show's reach and leaving old tropes behind. There are dozens of love triangle-centered television options if that's your bag, but for those of us sick of the trope, it's welcome relief.
Improving Mary's Character
Adelaide Kane's Mary is a truly interesting and layered character. In fact, only Megan Follows' Catherine de Medici is more of a scene stealer. Mary burst onto the scene extremely well developed and has only gotten more interesting from the pilot forwards. She's steely but trusting, naive but honorable. She's a great character, but the love triangle had the power to undermine a lot of what makes Mary so interesting.
After all, by nature the central spoke in a love triangle has to be at least somewhat wishy-washy for it to be considered a triangle. We want to see Mary lead countries, broker treaties, and uncover schemes, not flip-flop between two pretty boys. By putting the triangle to bed now, it allows Mary to grow and flourish in ways not completely focused around her romantic life.
Shading in the Characters
Speaking of character growth and development, one of Reign's biggest problems has been developing the secondary characters. This is even true for Francis and Bash, who have thus far existed mostly to propel the love triangle. What do these two do outside of shooting Mary pining looks or fighting with each other? Thus far the answer is not much.
With Francis and Bash married men, we can find out more about what makes these two guys tick, besides pining for Mary. Francis has gotten to worry a bit more about his country, while Bash's out of left field relationship with Kenna has brought out a different side of his personality.
Shifting the spotlight from the love triangle also allows Mary's ladies-in-waiting some much, much needed screentime. Since the wedding, Lola, Greer and Kenna have all had more to do on the show and have developed their own storylines. Taking focus from the triangle has allowed the show to make the secondary characters feel more like three-dimensional people.
Expanding the Storytelling
Reign runs through story like King Henry runs through mistresses: quickly and brutally. So why should a love triangle be the only story element spared? By moving this primary romantic drama onto the backburner, the show can do what it does best, which is to speed through plot and bounce from one OMG-worthy moment to the next. (I am still not over King Henry sexing a girl literally to death. Never forget!)
It also broadens the scope of the show to focus on things that are, in my opinion at least, a lot more interesting than a love triangle. Things like Mary's relationship to her country, like the impact of Henry's madness on the court, like Catherine's machinations. I'd rather see Mary doubting her half-brother and trying to win the Scottish nobles than to see Mary weepy over which boy to marry. It also opens up the show to bring in more historical figures like the Duke de Guise or to deal with important events like the battle for Calais. Speaking of history...
That Pesky History
Spoiler alert for anyone who doesn't want to know historical facts! Basically, the problem with the love triangle is that if one was so inclined, you could always Wikipedia the resolution.
Obviously, Mary was always going to marry Francis. (As a history buff I was super interested when the show was barreling full tilt toward a Bash/Mary marriage. God bless the insane twists on this show, they always get to the edge of the cliff and then pivot just in time.) It's not much of a love triangle if you know how it ends. Even a show with the kind of loosey-goosey relationship with historical fact that Reign has can only pull so much drama before needing to push things back into alignment.
And (again, spoilers!) Francis is eventually going to die and thus the love triangle by nature only has a limited shelf-life anyway. Why not do away with the storytelling crutch before history and an ear infection does it for you?
Hopefully Mary will eventually move on to Scotland, depending on the plans and timing of the show, where she will marry again and get into a whole host of drama and trauma. Mary's history is tumultuous and incredibly interesting, and this history would eventually have made the triangle obsolete anyway.
By jettisoning it early, the show is intelligently priming viewers to tune in for more than Team Francis or Team Bash. Reign has a lot of history left to tell, and in all of it Mary is the central figure. To Mary Stuart husbands come and husbands go (and husbands blow up!), so perhaps Reign is trying to condition viewers early not to get too attached.
Whatever the reasoning, moving on from the love triangle is only good news for Reign. It allows the show to deal with more history, to develop characters more fully, and to be more interesting. And that's a good thing...although maybe not for Mary and Bash fans.
What do you think? Are you glad the show is getting rid of the love triangle? Or are you mad Mary seemingly won't end up with Bash? Sound off in the comments!
Watch an all new Reign next Thursday at 9pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of CW)