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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Reign is a sultry dramatization very loosely based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. The show takes great liberties with historical facts, inventing characters to thicken the plot and manufacturing tensions between various players to heighten the intrigue. It also ramps up the sexual drama within the castle walls, presenting infidelity and casual sex as common behavior and showing some of it, including a shadowy bedroom scene and a brief but highly suggestive masturbation scene. Violence is another factor that's hard to predict, as bloody shots of beheadings or other trauma can pop up unannounced. The bottom line? This is far from a reliable history lesson, and some of its content is too risque for teens, but it is scintillating drama that entertains nonetheless.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Scottish Queen Mary Stuart (Adelaide Kane) has returned to King Henry's Court prepared to fulfill her obligation and marry Prince Francis (Toby Regbo) to form an alliance between his native France and her homeland. The young royal hopes for the best in her reunion with her childhood friend, but instead she finds Francis hesitant to seal the deal and affronted by her efforts to reacquaint. Meanwhile, she develops an unlikely affection for Francis' illegitimate half-brother, Bash (Torrance Coombs), which doesn't go unnoticed by her intended's mother, the merciless Queen Catherine (Megan Follows). Guided by her resident seer, Nostradamus (Rossif Sutherland), Catherine leaves no stone unturned in her efforts to secure her son's regal future, even if it means condemning to death anyone she perceives as a threat. With even the loyalties of her ladies-in-waiting in question, Mary is desperate for allies, and she finds one in a mysterious shrouded figure who strives to keep her safe from powerful forces that threaten her impending marriage...and her life.
Is it any good?
REIGN is trademark CW entertainment, taking a questionably marketable concept and dressing it up with enough sex, sabotage, mystery, stunningly gorgeous cast members, and more sex that teens will flock to it. This is no history lesson; in fact it's such a trampling of historical facts that if a statute of limitations still existed on the characters' likenesses, lawsuits would ensue. Some are entirely contrived –- including the essential piece to the gripping love triangle, Bash -– and others are rewritten to ensure good drama, most notably the historically inaccurate, strapping specimen of Francis. Happily, Mary's strong, opinionated demeanor holds to historical accounts, giving fans the validity of at least one standout representation to hang their hats on.
What Reign does manage to do is use superb cinematography and a magnificent musical score to modernize a 16th-century story enough that teens -– most of whom aren’t exactly prone to loving historical dramas –- will want to watch. On the upside, this may spark an interest in learning the real stories of these (and perhaps other) historical figures. On the downside, it relies heavily on racy sexual and violent content to keep them on the edges of their seats and wanting more. If your teens are mature enough to handle it, the series also touches on some intriguing points about how wealth and status enable many privileges but disqualify others -- like love, for instance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how wealth and power play out in this story. What role did they seem to play in the politics of this story's time? How different is this from current politics? Are there places in which a similar scenario exists today?
To what degree is sex used in TV shows to entice viewers? Is it necessary in series like this one? What, if anything, does it add to the content? Do you think its presence here excludes viewers who otherwise might have gotten something from the show?
Where is it acceptable to draw the line between historical retellings and pure fiction? What purpose does a highly dramatized story like this one play? Can it be relied on to teach viewers anything? Would it have been more or less successful if the entire story was contrived?
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love history
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.