Originally, I’d planned on posting review for a Christmas themed movie today. However, in light of last week’s powerful episode, which touched on many things I feel most passionate about, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on the TV show, Reign.
Basic premise: obviously inspired by The Tudors, it’s a historical fiction, a dramatic reinterpretation of the early reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was married to King Francis of France, and who was a notable opponent of Queen Elizabeth of England. The Queen Elizabeth. Mary, her husband, and their friends and family must deal with issues of war, plague, famine, dark cults, paranormal incidents, insane people with power, political rivals and enemies, rebellions, religious turmoil, international relations, etc. And, of course, their interpersonal relationships.
It took a little time for the show to grow on me, but I am enjoying it more and more with each new episode. It can be a bit off-putting when they set events to period music one moment and modern pop hits the next, but they’ve improved on that as time has gone by. The plot needed time to develop, but has now become fairly intricate.
Really, my biggest complaint about this show is how the plot basically hinges on the female characters’ love lives. I mean, seriously, they make virtually everything revolve around their courtships, desires, and marriages. Religious tension? One of Mary’s ladies, Greer, marries a Protestant (after a long, torrid love triangle which they beat into the ground, and then keep beating, before finally ending it). Political rival? Another lady, Lola, has gained the interest of said rival, after having been bedded by the king, before he was king, and at a time when he and Mary weren’t together. The list goes on.
That said, I really am enjoying the show. While what the plot revolves around may irritate me, I still find it thrilling as the protagonists try to navigate some complex issues and their own emotions, to rule a country and decide the fate of many people. The suspense can be thrilling at times, as we only really know the final fate of the most historical characters, and they often deviate in ways which they then have to cleverly sweep under the rug. It’s the drama of nations played out on a very personal level.
And it doesn’t get much more personal than the events of this last week’s episode.
King Francis and his half-brother Bash locate the final witnesses their rival, Lord Narcisse, can bring against them, to prove Francis guilty of killing his own father (he was insane, leading France to war, slaughtering innocents and heroes, murdering women in his bed, and intending to murder Francis and marry Mary himself, so, kind of had to be done), and silence them, thus freeing Francis, and France, from Narcisse’s grasp.
This is even while Narcisse gets a slap in the face, learning that his brutal, inhumane, and merciless methods are not as good as he thought (though Francis may soon be subscribing to them). When you treat people like some dog you can whip and hunt and back into a corner, you’ll find that they can and will bite you. Furthermore, his actions have directly endangered someone he can’t seem to stop caring about, namely Lola.
Louis Conde, Prince of the Blood, agrees to marry Princess Claude, though she initially disagrees, in an attempt to bring peace to their nation as it stands on the verge of a religious civil war. But though Conde agreed quite readily and put effort into wooing Claude, there is something in his mind and heart which causes him to leave the castle in the dead of night, right after the engagement has been announced.
Greer and her husband, Lord Aloysius Castleroy, discover that funds they donated for the purpose of building schools in underprivileged areas has been embezzled and used to fund this week’s chaos: namely an invasion of the royal castle by Protestant assassins seeking the king’s head. The mere connection could be used to destroy them. And they haven’t even heard the worst of it yet.
The worst is this: the assassins raped Mary.
This is what I most want to comment on.
Mary found an unexpected source of strength in Catherine de Medici, with whom she has had a complex, mostly adversarial relationship. While Francis was away, which saved his life, his mother was the support Mary needed in those moments immediately following the foul violation. It was Catherine who helped Mary to be strong, or to at least fake strength, when she felt she had none. She had to tell a lie, that she was “untouched” by the assassins, but the crime committed against her has left her traumatized.
I feel very strongly about this, as any moral person should. It simply does not matter how one tries to justify it: to commit such an act as this is simply inexcusable. It is a crime, an atrocity, a heinous, depraved abomination. I have fewer problems with murder, even with torture, than I do with the sexual violation of any being. It is not the act of men, but monsters. And they leave agony in their wake.
It is virtually impossible to escape such an encounter with these monsters, intimate and painful, without feeling sullied. Dirty. Unclean. I can’t even begin to imagine what one truly feels in the wake of such evil, to have felt so powerless, so helpless. I can’t really conceive a worse agony.
If I could say something to everyone suffering from such an atrocity, it would be something like this:
This was not your fault. It’s theirs. They are the weak ones. They are so small and petty and weak that they hurt you, to try and tear you down to their level. You are already stronger than them. You can do something they never could: survive. Heal. Stand tall. It takes time. It’s hard. But you can do it. They were weak, and thought they had power, but you, you, are the strong one.
Catherine de Medici says something similar, if I may take the liberty of quoting:
“I know you don’t want to be touched. That’s all right. But you’re safe. I don’t know how you managed to escape, but you did. You are alive. You will survive this. I know this. Because I survived. You know that, too. They tried to destroy you by taking your pride and your strength, but those things cannot be taken. Not from you. Not. Ever.”
She says some other things which I agree less with and which apply to Mary specifically, but, bottom line, to paraphrase and emphasize what I do agree with, “You can be strong. You can. And you will.”
I can’t really say it any better than that.
While it’s risky to address something so sensitive in such a blatant manner, and on a television show, I find it’s always better to confront an issue through a fictional account, instead of waiting for it to happen in real life. It creates awareness and reaches out to those who have already been victimized at the same time. For this, using their show to get a message out to everyone who has suffered, or who knows someone who has suffered, from such a violation, I applaud the creators of Reign. They ended this episode with the contact information for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
I will certainly be watching Reign for some time to come.