Friday, October 17, 2014

Reign – 2.03 – Coronation – Review: “Kneel before Frary.”


Hey Royals! It’s time once again to dissect and discuss a brand new episode of Reign. The ratings may be low but the writing quality has really kicked it up a notch. Along with costume design and overall production value. There's so much to love about Reign (especially the talented cast and crew) and this season its potential is so great that I just wish more people would tune in and I'm doing everything I can to encourage others to watch. I hope other Royals are out there doing the same (read: HINT!). But enough of that let's get to the review, shall we?

If I had to make a long story short here's the rundown of what I would say happened over the course of this episode: With France in a state of famine, as well as religious and political unrest, Mary looked for a way to feed the people and risked the wrath of a vengeful Lord Narcisse in doing so. Francis was preoccupied by the harrowing suspicion that his dead father’s spirit can possess the living and is haunting Francis as revenge for his murder. Meanwhile, Catherine made excessive and lavish preparations for a coronation ceremony to give the impression of stability to the realm. Also, Bash was confronted by the harsh realities of a country plagued by fear, bankruptcy, and murder and resolved to stay above reproach.

This episode introduced us to a new collaborator in the writers’ room, a Mr. Harley Peyton. After a little research I must say am impressed with his resume as well as how fast he grasped all the facets of our characters and their interactions. I consider Peyton to be a welcome addition (let me know if you agree in the comments, k?).

After a 19 episode absence I was pleased as ever to see the name Holly Dale beside the designation of ‘directed by’ in the credits this week. Episode 1x03: Kissed was the last time we heard from her. The cinematography featured in this episode was excellent. I do love when we get to do exterior shots in the day time.


The soundtrack for this episode was so pitch perfect and apropos I could die. The song that was my absolute favorite was the song that was used when Francis and Mary were crowned king and queen. It was ‘Hills to Climb’ by Tim Myers. The title alone really just sums up the relationship between Francis and Mary as well how they want to rule and how they plan on getting there. The other song was ‘Wraggle Taggle Gypsies’ by Domnic Ashworth. That song had a very Renaissance Fair vibe going which of course is what makes it blend so well with the show. As for the sound design itself this week, the scoring was subdued and subtle. It had very little ambient noise incorporated into it. The scene where the scoring really stood out as well as enhanced the mood was when Mary went to go speak to Conde.

"Show respect to all people, but grovel to none." - Tecumseh

Character Contemplation

Bash has come so far in such a small amount of time. Back in the middle of the first season there were times when I struggled to find nice things to say about him. So far this season, I haven’t witnessed a thing I don’t like. Every week he just gets better and better. The conversation about Lola’s baby between he and Kenna was a nice little touch to give us some insight into both his and Kenna’s frame of mind (even it was a bit obvious). Bash’s sense of duty is so damn endearing. I’m really enjoying his role as the King’s Deputy so far. Bash’s role is great because we get to see an even seedier side of life at court that Francis and Mary are not experiencing.

Catherine is a saucy little minx who has an endless amount of tricks up her sleeve. Just when you think you can count Catherine down and out she’s starting her shenanigans all over again. I like that they are staying true to the history books about Catherine and her scheming ways to get and maintain power and relevancy. I love her interactions with Francis but they grow more and more suspect by the episode. Another interaction I’m here for is between Catherine and Narcisse. Do I smell another crack ship forming in the ether? The two actors play well off one another and the characters themselves seem like perfect foils for each other. Megan Follows continues to slay in this role and I say she should get a spin off based on an alternate timeline (as long as she takes one of her younger sons, Nostradamus and Clarissa with her).

Conde is such a wonderfully complicated guy. I don’t know what to make of him. I like him which of course means he can’t be trusted. He’s a fast talker and a manipulator. I think he might be this season’s Tomas; which is actually something I don’t want to happen. I think that he could really help shape Francis into being the kind of man I need him to be (if he doesn’t turn out evil that is). I liken Conde to Sir Thomas More (Jeremy Northam) in The Tudors. I loved that relationship until it turned sour and when it turned sour it got even more interesting. Nothing like a bittersweet relationship and it’s kind of even more interesting when both parties are of the same gender (less angst in most cases).

Toby Regbo is nailing it in the tortured and haunted soul department. I don’t like that he is keeping secrets from everyone but it’s a king’s prerogative. I was floored with the twist that it was Francis who killed his father at tournament and never expected this twist. While I think Bash and his history lends itself better to the supernatural, I’m all for shaking things up and letting other characters wander into something outside of their normal boundaries. Maybe it will be Francis who brings back Nostradamus. It this is case that will earn Francis a ton of brownie points. I don’t know if I’m the only one or not but I’m having a super hard time emotionally connecting with Francis. I think the end of this episode was a good push in the right direction. I enjoy the complicated relationship between Francis and Mary but I’m really invested in him being an excellent AND a better man than his father.

Greer got to be the smart and loyal one this episode. Though she did little else besides look fabulous and question Mary on her certainty about her course of action. I’m actually kind of glad they we’ve been able to take a step back from her drama. I liked Greer before the writers wrote her into a love triangle. It’s something about how no matter what show it is, if it’s on The CW an awesome female character is going to get roped into a love triangle and knocked down a peg or two. While I am team Castleroy I’m sure she’ll end up with his money and Leith’s ring on her finger when it’s all said and done. I miss the relationship between Mary and her ladies from the beginning of the series. They drifted so far apart and every last one of them has brought some form of shame on Mary and I’m just not OK with that. So when I get glimpses of the ‘old days’ I cling to them fiercely.

Poor Kenna! This character is just a lovable mess. I don’t begrudge her wanting the finer things in life but come on she’s married to Bash, I take him over a chateau any day. He has the love of his brother the king and she has the love of Mary the queen. If I was Kenna I wouldn’t want to live at court after the messes I’d made their either but things could be worse, a whole lot worse. And did anybody else go, ‘What the hell?’ when Pascal wasn’t brought up? I know we are a few weeks removed but still, come on. I guess we’re glossing over that so that we can “forget” the pagans and The Darkness storyline altogether. I’m bummed but I’ll go along to get along. I like this whole reckoning thing along with Francis being haunted by his father.

I guess I should enjoy this Lola light episode in light of this week’s sneak peak for 2x04: The Lamb and the Slaughter. I really hate this “love” triangle. Babies complicate modern day stories. Throw in a bastard child of a king and well things can easily get derailed and end up hopelessly soapy and never get back on the right track. While I trust the writers of this show that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous every step of the way until we reach our final destination on this particular journey. I know Mary as a queen has to make some personal sacrifices but what really drew me into this show was the girls’ friendship and standing together (and also the relationship between Bash and Francis). Seeing them married off, broken and fractured hurts a little. I thought once they were all paired off we could get back to some female bonding. I guess I was wrong. I think they really cut off the budding friendship between Francis and Lola too soon as well. In that one episode we learned a lot about Lola and their scene really softened Francis in my eyes. Now everything is just awkward and stifled.

I hope I’m not the only one who has mixed emotions about Mary this week. I love her flaws and all. I love that in the end she usually tempers Francis and gives him hope and shows him there is a better way to lead. She is kind, compassionate and head strong. I love that she is a queen in her right; but man sometimes I just want to slap her. She’s a reactionary and that’s dangerous. She needs to learn to be more diplomatic and aware of her surroundings. I’m aware she didn’t have the luxury of learning these things because she was hidden away due to threats on her life but sometimes it feels like life at court hasn’t taught her a damn thing. I feel like she was very lucky that this incident with the German Protestants worked out but I think Francis was right and that some will see it as him losing control of his nobles. Adelaide Kane still brought depth and complexity to the character of Mary and even when things felt dire she still managed to carry an air of regal elegance. I love the infusion of stoicism and burning passion that Kane brings to the role every week and I’m really excited to see Mary go off emotionally next week.

What can I say about Lord Narcisse other than state the fact he’s the pain in my ass that won’t go away. I think the actor who plays Narcisse, Craig Parker, is absolutely killing it when it comes to playing the vengeful, arrogant and maniacal noble. But I think that his goals are a little over the top and I just want Reign to tone it down on the soapy elements a little bit.

Grade: B+

Final Thoughts: Reign just keeps heating up. Every week I'm sitting in front of my TV at 9 PM with bated breath. This season holds a lot of promise and is shaping up to be quite a roller coaster ride. I'm enjoying the build up and I can't even fathom what the climax of this season is going to be. Every week just keeps getting better on every level. This was a show that I definitely thought might be hit with a sophomore slump in terms of writing because of the time frame they are working with but they surprised me and even brought back a factor I thought was a moot point at this stage in the game. They are rebuilding bonds and learning the lessons from what worked and what didn't last season. And as a fan that all you can ever really hope for. It's amazing to feel like you've been heard and that the writers, execs and showrunner think that your opinion matters.

Awards

Character of the Night
• Catherine

Best Character Interactions
• Mary and Conde
• Bash and Kenna
• Catherine and Lord Narcisse

Line of the Night
• Francis: This is not a coronation for a king. This is a coronation for king AND queen.

Scene of the Night
• Francis and Mary are crowned king and queen of France

Favorite Lady-In-Waiting
• Kenna

New Crack Ship Alert
• Tell me I wasn’t the only one who felt the palpable chemistry between Adelaide Kane and Sean Teale (and you guys know I am so NOT a shipper so that’s saying something).

All Kinds of Awkward Award
That awkward moment when you fear Reign is about to turn into Game of Thrones and attempt child murder.

Highlights

Memorable Moments
• Frary love scene (don’t you judge me, you know you liked it too)
• Conde explains to Mary that he was sending his mistress back to her husband and children.
• Francis has a chat with his father via the possessed nanny.

Superb Scenes
• Lord Narcisse and Catherine have a chat over wine when they should be at the post-coronation festivities.
• Mary confronts Conde about the German prisoners
• Francis and Mary rub Lord Narcisse’s nose in the fact that got grain without his help



Lowlights

• No update on Nostradamus.
• There was a miniscule amount of Greer.
• There was also no Leith at court. I want to see more interaction between him and Francis.
• A reminder of the ill-conceived love triangle from last season reared its ugly little head.
• For the love of all things good and sweet, give me some actual Bash and Francis bonding time!

Miscellaneous

Biggest Surprise of the Episode
• It was Lord Conde who took the prisoners.

Side Note: Should I bring back ‘Ratings Round-Up’?


Friendly Reminder
Don’t forget to live tweet with the show (@CWReign) and me (@lilithhellfire) every Thursday night at 9 pm EST.

Well, now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

PS: Don't forget to promote this and all interesting ‘Reign’ articles in all the social media you can. For instance be sure to click the like button, retweet this and +1 this article if you like it and appreciate this reviewer's hard work.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reign – 2.02 – Drawn and Quartered – Review: “Return of the King.”


Hey Royals! It’s time once again to dissect and discuss a brand new episode of Reign. I thought this episode was great. I don't mind the slow build up of the season either. We are really getting a good hard look at our characters, their motivations and their coming trials and tribulations. So many interesting things are being put into place and I'm eager to see our cast react to what's going on. Hopefully, they'll be a cohesive unit and come out of it ever stronger.

With that said, I guess, I'll just get right into this review...

If I had to make a long story short here's the rundown of what I would say happened over the course of this episode: In the aftermath of the plague, a powerful lord discovers that Mary was responsible for the death of his son and demands vengeance, testing the loyalties of Mary, Francis and Catherine. Francis returns to the castle with Lola and their newborn son, creating tension with Mary. Greer is torn by her loyalty to her fiancé, Lord Castleroy, who blames Leith for his daughter’s demise. Meanwhile, Kenna urges Bash to be formally recognized in his new role.

I enjoy the writing team of Wendy Riss Gatsiounis & Drew Lindo. I am an especially huge fan of the last episode they wrote together which was episode 1x21: Long Live the King so I was pleasantly surprised that were back so early in the season. Gatisionis and Lindo are the type of writing partners that really seem to balance each other out and work well together. I’m not sure who does what but what I do know is that they do it well together. Most of all I appreciate that there weren’t flashbacks (or what I call recapping) in this episode. The writers trusted the viewers were paying attention and aren’t complete idiots.

This was yet another well-paced episode. I enjoyed the character interactions between everyone but most of all between Francis and Mary. I found the dialog to be ominous and riddled with foreshadowing and in case you’re wondering, that’s not a bad thing at all. I love a good mystery and intrigue even more. I’m really loving this glimpse into the under belly of royal politics and how the kingdom of France is really run.

This episode saw a return of Jeff Renfroe to the director’s chair. Episode 1x16: Monsters was the last time we heard from him and oddly enough it was an episode that Gatisionis and Lindo wrote as well. Renfroe has a very simplistic directorial aesthetic. I’ve noticed he’s not one for tracking shots and a lot pans and zooms. Instead he is master of the medium shot and subtly detached close-ups. Renfroe definitely has a varied and fantastic repertoire in the aesthetics department. I did notice a nice angle shot during the Castleroy and Leith confrontation scene and found the use of it very interesting. I love the way he uses space and lighting as an enhancement to a scene. The episodes he shoots seem a lot more vibrant than others. The composition of a lot of early scenes in this with Mary and Francis were very purposefully blocked with a lot of space between. I especially love how the sex scene between Francis and Mary was shot both during and afterwards.

I thought Renfroe did a fantastic job in getting the actors to emote in a very regal manner and subdued manner which of course is necessary when at court because all eyes are on the royals and gossip spreads like wildfire. Also the composition of the scenes with Francis, Mary, Lola and Bash were blocked nicely and maybe were a tad bit suggestive about where these characters allegiances lie right now or will lie eventually. While we didn’t linger in the moments and every scene ended on a strong note. I appreciate that the transition between scenes, they weren’t jarring and the episode flowed very nicely.

I am really enjoying the soundtrack and general sound design of the season. This episode only featured one song which was ‘Fuel to the Fire’ by Agnes Obel. The scoring was muted and really enhanced the emotional as well as tense scenes. The season thus far has been really thoughtful and a step up from last season with its use of “jump scare” noises and other ambient noises as well. It seems like this season there will be a bigger focus on some kind of supernatural element and the scoring is really laying that ground work so it seems. I hope I’m right because ‘Reign’ needs to start blending into the new CW (which is heavily based around action oriented Sci-Fi & Fantasy) if stands any chance at a renewal and drawing in new viewers to make it to a season 3.

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” - Aristotle

Character Contemplation

They better not be teasing me with this whole Bash is tied to the supernatural myth arc of the season or so help me, I will be taking a trip to Canada. I’m here for the creepy, spooky and supernatural on Reign. It’s even better if Bash is all tied up in it as well. Bash is just a feels inducing machine for these past two episodes. I’m like a mother just beaming with pride. I love Bash’s sense of duty and right and wrong. The fact that he is embracing Kenna and becoming inspired by her to do better and be better and want more out of life is just amazing. I also like that the brothers are reconnecting and reestablishing the bond that drew to me this show in the first place. Reign writers, keep it up!

You can’t keep a scheming, manipulative, two faced woman down for long. Catherine was back in action as deliciously biting and conniving as ever. But the thing I love most about Catherine, her fierce mama bear personality, was out in full force again. I really like that Catherine loves her children, it’s her saving grace. The scene between her and Francis where they talk about whether or not Francis should be in Lola’s baby’s life was very well written and very well acted. Though, I wonder if was just another one of Catherine’s schemes to get Mary out of the picture.

Francis as a king, I’m just not buying it right now. I only want good things for Francis. But I just feel like his heart is just not that into ruling. But Francis as a husband and a father to a bastard child, now that’s interesting and compelling to me. My jaw dropped in one of Francis’s final scenes where he is holding the baby and his father’s ghost possesses the wet nurse. His facial reaction was priceless. I love this twist that Francis killed Henry and in the end might go mad like his father did with the guilt (a lot of mental illnesses are hereditary and royals are pretty incestuous by nature on top of that). I know last week I said I was interested in seeing how Francis would rule but now that I’ve gotten a taste I don’t think that’s where personal investment with this character is going to lie.

Greer is a hot mess and she needs to pull herself together. Don’t hate me but I’m totally rooting for Lord Castleroy. He’s definitely a character that can be put in contention for most improved character. While I may not want to see a sex scene between Greer and Castleroy I still think he is a better choice for her (within the parameters of the social mores this show is steeped in). I enjoy the qualities Greer brings out in him and I like that he is a stabilizing force in her life. I’m not a fan of love triangles so the sooner they decide on Greer’s course of action the sooner I’ll be happy not to have to write about this.

I know not every side character can be in every episode but I did miss Kenna something fierce. There had better be some really good scenes with her in them next week to make up for this. I’m really enjoying Kenna’s growth as a character and am eager to see more. I’m most definitely interested in seeing how Pascal’s death is going to affect her.

I’m just not feeling Leith anymore. I can’t believe they gave his character a full season story arc. Here’s hoping things get a little more interesting. But wow, that was a crappy thing for Francis to do to him. But I guess that old saying, the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few is true. That was also a kind genius plot contrivance to get Leith to move to court. I hear they are building up this character to be one of Francis’s good friends and I did enjoy their interactions when they were last seen together so there is definitely a lot of potential for this character, here’s hoping they don’t take too long kick this character into gear.

The situation between Francis, Lola and Mary is so damn awkward that I’m in a constant state of secondhand embarrassment for everyone involved anytime the three of them are in a room together now. Motherhood does agree with Lola, however. Anna Popplewell is nailing the nurturing and maternal act! There wasn’t much for Lola to do in this episode but be a third wheel unfortunately. I imagine it’s going to be a good long while before things are truly cordial between her and Mary. That is something I hate because I love the chemistry between Kane and Popplewell. I’m also going to need a lot less of Francis and Lola to stomach this whole messed up situation as well. I’m still very curious how this is all going to work out in the end; especially if Francis does claim the baby publicly.

We seriously need to slow clap it out for Mary. She was absolutely brilliant. Kane killed it with her performance of Mary this week. She was large and in charge and wasn’t going to back down from a fight. I really love Mary’s sense of what’s right and wrong and her willingness to stand in her truth and convictions. Mary can easily become Catherine 2.0 but she is proactively fighting against that tide. I wish France was ready for a queen like Mary but sadly it doesn’t seem like it is. I hate the way the French nobles treat her because she is a queen in her own right and just hate people practically spitting in her face. I wonder what lies ahead for Mary… We can’t possibly still be on historical side of story, right? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we need to jump the track and take this story into the realm of unadulterated fiction otherwise we are hindered by time constraints.

So Nostradamus is coming back right? At the end of this episode that is by far my biggest burning question. The relationship between Mary and Nostradamus had such promise. It can’t end like this. Catherine is going to hunt him down and drag him back to the castle. Right? The scene between Catherine and Nostradamus in the holding cell was great. Everything about that interaction was on point. Nostradamus can’t go right when things are getting creepy and spooky. He’s the king of that stuff. I’ll be royally ticked if Nostradamus’s absence is permanent.

Grade: A-

Final Thoughts: This was a terrific follow up to the season opener. There was just the right amount of angst, drama, tension and intrigue. I’m really enjoying Kane’s performance this season as Mary and her determination to be a fair and just queen. I very much look forward to witnessing all of the growing pains that come along with this journey.

Awards

Character of the Night
• Mary

Best Character Interactions
• Francis and Mary
• Francis and Bash
• Catherine and Nostradamus

Line of the Night
• Lola: I just want to be with my child.

Scene of the Night
• Francis and Mary work together to trick Lord Narcisse

Favorite Lady-In-Waiting
• Lola

Highlights

Memorable Moments
• Francis’s face when the wet nurse gets possessed by his father’s ghost
• Lord Narcisse discovers a survivor in the catacombs and learns the truth about what happened to his son
• Mary puts all the pieces of the puzzle together about what Narcisse has been up to
• Catherine realizes what Mary and Nostradamus did to her

Laudable Lines
• Francis: Your kisses are more easily attained than your words.
• Catherine: Bring us some whiskey!
• Mary: I let my anger get the best of me.

Superb Scenes
• Lord Conde challenges Francis to rule righteously as Lord Narcisse accuses him of being a radical protestant.
• Mary tells Francis to recognize his child
• Mary tries to express her hurt over the fact that Francis has a child with Lola

Lowlights
• No Kenna.

Miscellaneous

Biggest Surprise of the Episode
• No Kenna
• Nostradamus running away
.

Friendly Reminder
Don’t forget to live tweet with the show (@CWReign) and me (@lilithhellfire) every Thursday night at 9 pm EST.

Well, now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

PS: Don't forget to promote this and all interesting ‘Reign’ articles in all the social media you can. For instance be sure to click the like button, retweet this and +1 this article if you like it and appreciate this reviewer's hard work.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Reign – 2.01 – The Plague – Review: "Buy When There's Blood in the Streets."


Hey Royals! Did you miss me? You know I missed you. It is finally once again time to dissect and discuss a brand new episode of Reign. I know I for one am very pumped about the season 2 opener. I think my avoidance of all the spoilers over the summer really helped me enjoy it even more as it kept me guessing about was going to happen.

If I had to make a long story short here's the rundown of what I would say happened over the course of this episode: Just as Nostradamus foresaw, the Black Plague has come to France’s door once more. Francis found himself on the wrong side of the quarantined gates, on his quest to find Lola and their baby. A noble named Lord Edward got too big for his britches and tried to pressure Mary into exacting his revenge for him. Meanwhile, Kenna and Bash found themselves separated. Lastly, Greer persuaded Leith not get involved with her fiancé’s daughter.

I have to say nothing puts my mind at ease more than when an episode (especially a premiere or a finale) is written by one of a show’s most prolific writers, as was the case for the season 2 premiere of Reign. I can honestly say I have loved every single episode she has a part to play in. She wrote my favorite episode of the series to date, ‘The Consummation’ single handedly, so yeah, I’m a fan.

I think McCarthy really brought her game and knocked this one out of the park. It was an excellent way to open the season and get us all caught on what’s been going on as well as a jumping off point for the first half quarter or half of the season. This episode was well paced and enjoyed the dialog as well as a glimpse at characters motivations and growth in some cases.

In the director’s chair this week was another name often seen in the credits, Fred Gerber. Fred Gerber is one of my favorite TV directors hands down. I love his aesthetic. He really knows how to set up the ambiance and uses the surrounding environment. I love the composition of his shots and his instincts on when and when not to linger in a scene. I always notice the acting is kicked up a notch as well when he is around, too.

And this episode did not deviate from the formula. I particularly loved his use of medium shots and two shots in this episode as well as a few choice and well placed close ups that managed to somehow be subtle. The composition of every scene was also very well thought out. The scenes between Mary and Catherine as well as between Francis and Lola were fantastic. There were lots of reaction shots and Gerber was not afraid to linger in the moment for emphasis which I enjoy in general but especially for emotionally charged situations.

The soundtrack and sound design for this episode was muted, subtle but at the same time a little ominous, which was very apropos for the subject matter that was dealt with in this episode. I thought the use of 'Fight for Your Castle' by Don Brownrigg was a nice choice. I also thought the song choice for the scene where Lola finds Francis holding their child and he tells her she can't leave and also while Mary has Lord Edward locked away with the ill was quite fitting. The name of that song was 'My Lair' by Bear's Den.

"No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and emotions shared by all." – Albert Camus

Character Contemplation

Bash was the best he's been in a very long time in this episode. I love his deep sense of responsibility. He gets the way world works and tries his best to prevent bad things from happening if he can help it. I really enjoyed the tender moment he and Kenna shared after he found her. 'Benna' is growing on me (I still say it should be Kash but whatever). It has made both parties better characters and when it comes to TV couples (especially on The CW, yeah I'm looking at you TVD) that's the rarely case now days so it is super refreshing. Bash also seemingly got a "vision" or "premonition" of some sort. I've been dying for some supernatural happenings in this show since it was revealed that Clarissa was just a flesh and blood creeper and don't even get me started on that whole 'The Darkness' shenanigans. So my hopes are way up on this even though I know they shouldn't be.

Catherine was a quite the pistol in this episode and while initially wanted Catherine to be Mary's mentor after her mother sold her out I've decided there could never be a better foil for her than Catherine. Especially since the role is played by the lovely and talented Megan Follows. I love the pragmatism of Catherine. She is from the house of Medici after all. I love that Catherine is so fierce as well as ready, willing and able to seize power at a moment's notice. But what I love more than that is vulnerable and utterly honest Catherine. My absolute favorite scene in this episode was Catherine giving Mary advice on what she thought was her death bed. I can't wait to see what Catherine gets up to this season. But I know one thing for sure; it's going to be entertaining as hell.

Francis, too, was the best he's been in a very long time as well. They finally back around to giving Toby Regbo something meaty to sink his teeth into and he knocked it out of the part. I loved chemistry between Toby and Anna. I'm not sure where this storyline is going but will one hell of ride it seems. His best scene hands down was when he finally picked his son up and decided that Lola couldn't leave. I loved all the new interactions he had a chance to have as well. Francis being beyond the gates is something that is a win every single time. I am very eager to see him rule as king of France though so the sooner he gets back to the castle the better.

The award for most awkward situation goes to Greer for sure. I was kind of shocked that they didn't drag this situation out a little longer. I really thought Greer pleading with Leith basically saying he is her weakness and if exposed long enough she would give into the temptation that he represents.

My heart broke for Kenna in this episode. It was just one trauma after another. But she was strong and managed to stay alive. I really loved what the character of Pascal brought out in Kenna. But maybe this loss will spur her to want to have a baby with Bash. I have enjoyed Kenna's meteoric rise to a great, complex and interesting character. I have high hopes for this character over the course of season 2 and I don't think Reign writers plan on disappointing me.

I love Anna Popplewell and in the beginning of this show's run she was consistently winning the best 'Lady-In-Waiting' award. I still like Lola well enough and Popplewell is still slaying every week but the Lola broke the girl code and it's kind of tainted the character for me. Do I still want her to have nice things? Oh, most definitely. Did a secret part of me want either her or the baby to die to make things less confusing for Francis and Mary? Don't judge me but yes there was just the teeniest part of me that was holding out for that option and only because the Frary relationship drama is already pretty contentious and doesn't need any more fuel to the fire at the point.

In the end I was glad to see both the mother and child doing just fine. My heart absolutely broke for Lola when Francis decided that he wasn't going to let her and the baby go. But the scenes between Francis and Lola really opened up both characters. This is the storyline that I'm most invested in at this point because it really is a game changer and might be the jumping off point where the writers decide to ditch the historical aspect and allow themselves to get a little more creative.

The hits just keep coming for Mary and with no end in sight it seems. Adelaide Kane slayed in this week's episode. She really holds her own with Megan Follows and their scenes together just simmer with quiet loathing and begrudging respect from both characters. Mary is beginning to think like a queen. Unfortunately, for her, the queen she is channeling happens to be Catherine. I thought it was great that they had Catherine tell Mary that she didn't set out to become the kind of queen she ended up either. I'm not sure if this is foreshadowing or not. But I kind of hope so. Mary wants to do the right thing. But is the right thing always going to be good for the kingdom? Probably not. What's that saying about good intentions?

I don't think most rulers set out to become tyrannical dictators but there is a reason there is saying about how absolute power corrupts absolutely. We got a glimpse of how things really work in the kingdom of France and it was bleak. How Mary adjusts to these new realities now that her eyes are wide open is anyone guess but I'd venture to say she's going to the play the game and play to win. Something tells me this business with Lord Edward will definitely come back to bite her in the butt and I'm going to enjoy watching it unfold and see Mary's evolution as a ruler.

Finally, Nostradamus has head in the game! I was floored that Nostradamus chose to help Mary pull one over on Catherine. I've wanted to see a lot more from Nostradamus but this character still remains the most underdeveloped and mysterious. We gotten glimpses of the man he is but not nearly enough. I hope this season is the rise of a manipulative Nostradamus who wants to pull all of the strings in the French court. Whether his intentions are noble or malevolent, it doesn't matter to me just give that man something more to do. I mean there is still the threat of Clarissa hanging over his head (and Mary's as well presumably) too so that could come as an unexpected twist quite literally at any time. I really enjoyed when he a love interest as we got to see a different side of him so I hope he gets another love interest this season (for the character development I swear, LOL).

Grade: A

Final Thoughts: This was a lovely season opener. I was surprised that it picked up right after the events of last season's finale and didn't utilize a time jump. But I thought that was actually a good choice. This episode was well paced and had pretty good dialog. I enjoyed this episode because it was basically a character study and a really nice way to come back to the characters we know and love and see the growth from the end of last season expanded upon.

Awards

Character of the Night
• Mary

Best Character Interactions
• Mary and Catherine
• Francis and Lola

Line of the Night
• Nostradamus: I am immune to the plague my queen but not fire.

Scene of the Night
• Mary locks up Lord Edward with the victims of the plague.

Favorite Lady-In-Waiting
• Kenna

Highlights


Memorable Moments
• Bash finds Kenna.
• Francis finally holds his child
• Mary orders Catherine as her queen to shut the hell up.


Laudable Lines
• Kenna: Catherine’s being too nice.
• Catherine: Welcome to your rule, my queen. And welcome to the real France.
• Catherine: It worked for the pope.

Superb Scenes
• Catherine tells Mary not to let Lola get between her relationship with Francis.
• Greer confronts and pleads with Leith not pursue her fiancé’s daughter.
• Bash's dream of the little girl ghost telling him there will be a reckoning.


Lowlights
• There wasn't a Francis and Mary reunion.

Miscellaneous

Biggest Surprise of the Episode
• Nostradamus helping Mary pull one over on Catherine.
• Nostradamus having a clean shaven face.

Friendly Reminder
• Don’t forget to live tweet with the show (@CWReign) and me (@lilithhellfire) every Thursday night at 9 pm EST.

Well, now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

PS: Don't forget to promote this and all interesting Reign articles in all the social media you can. For instance be sure to click the like button, retweet this and +1 this article if you like it and appreciate this reviewer's hard work.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Young & Hungry – 1.10 – Young & Thirty (...and getting married!) – Review: “A day late and a wedding cake short.”


Hey there all you fans of ABC Family’s Young & Hungry! Are you ready to talk about this week’s episode? I know I am. First let me start off this review with a small prayer to the TV gods and say please let this show get renewed (although with its numbers I might have to resort to writing fan fiction for some emotional closure and don’t worry I will totally share it with you guys).

This week’s episode was written by the series creator and executive producer David Holden. Mr. Holden hasn’t written an episode since ‘Young & Ringless’ which was the second episode of the series. Meanwhile on the directorial side of things the most prolific director of the series to date, Phill Lewis returned to close out the season. I like the synergy between these two and should show be picked up for another season I really hope they utilize these two together more.

So this week’s episode saw Josh and Caroline's wedding being pushed further ahead than planned. Meanwhile, Caroline forgot Josh's birthday and Gabi decided to let Caroline take credit for her special gift for Josh which was a replica of his childhood blanket. Josh is very moved by this gift, and is sure that Caroline is who he wants to marry.

Eventually, Elliot breaks down and reveals to Josh that Gabi is the one who made the blanket, and that Caroline forgot his birthday. When Josh confronts Caroline, they both realize that they are having doubts about their relationship, and decide to call the wedding off. After some advice from Yolanda, Josh decides to go see Gabi and confess his feelings.

By the time Josh makes it to Gabi's apartment, Cooper who is back from China has already won Gabi over with his own sentimental gift. Cue the cheesy 80’s music from Pretty Woman (which apparently is Gabi’s favorite movie).


I must say in the short ten episode run that this show was given the writers really found a good formula. This show lives and dies with the side characters and they have made a solid effort to give them all a chance to shine. Heck, they even fleshed out the character of Yolanda who I was sure would get the short end of the stick because it’s very easy to let the sassy black maid be one note and one dimensional. They also gave Elliott and Josh a nice scene together. Even Sophia’s cynicism returned only to be rebuffed by Gabi’s hopefulness and chaotic life.

And miracles of all miracles, Josh and Caroline’s relationship is over with. It was the most nonsensical thing on the show, to be honest. I really appreciate that they finally let Josh grow up. I’m glad he was the one to call things off. But it is also nice to know that Caroline was having doubts as well.

The main thing about this season as a whole is that I started watching this show because I’m a foodie. I love food and I love shows about food. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this show is based on a food blogger turned personal chef. That’s their hook. They need to play up this aspect a little more. The premise of the show quickly disappeared after about the third episode and other than having Gabi in the kitchen the food has lost its priority on the show.

I was also let down on the food front this week, AGAIN. Muffins and a wedding cake? That’s it? Whatever, moving on.

The best thing about this episode is that everything is starting to feel a little more real and little less slapstick, finally and thankfully. The characters have all come a long way in a short amount of time. This was the second most watched episode of the season. The premiere being the most viewed episode to date. So at least some people checked back in to see how far the show had come and if they’re anything let me the just might have pleasantly surprised.

My final thoughts in regards to this episode are this show really is a modern study on the classic tropes of a sitcom that is also a rom-com and even though I could totally see where this episode was headed it didn’t hamper the ride to the conclusion. This was definitely in the top three episodes of the season and it shows growth on all fronts and sets us up perfectly for the second season. .

Grade: B+

Awards

Character of the Night
• Josh

Best Character Interactions
• Josh and Yolanda
• Josh and Elliott

Most Memorable Moment
• Josh out in the rain with the flowers realizing he is too late.

Line of the Night
• Sophia: I'm going to say this one more time, OK? Your gift is super girlfriend-y.

Scene of the Night
• Josh breaks it off with Caroline.

Miscellaneous

Truth Bomb
• Caroline: I guess that’s what my therapist meant by our relationship being one sided.

Best Food Pun
• ‘You’re the butter to my bread.’

Favorite Running Gag
• Sophia's bat

Connect with the Show
Facebook
Twitter
Show’s hashtag: #YoungandHungry

What did you think of this episode? What did you think of the season as a whole? Who’s your favorite character? How hopeful are you about the show’s chance for renewal? Please feel free to sound off in the comments.

You know I love you for reading…

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Satisfaction – Pilot – Advance Preview: “Middle Class Malaise”




It seems as though the USA network is going through a bit of its own mid-life crisis . Sure they still have quirky character driven shows like Suits and fun action packed dramas like Covert Affairs. But with Psych and Burn Notice in the can and White Collar being on the way out very shortly it feels like the dog days of USA’s ‘blue skies’ formula may be coming to a grinding halt. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.

It started with last summer’s premiere of Graceland. It was definitely a darker and grittier show than anything this side of an SVU marathon that airs on the USA network and continues with a bold choice to get into the original scripted comedies game(if you haven’t watched Playing House do it now and thank me later). While Rush (Satisfaction’s lead-in) definitely still very much fits the mold of what USA is known for its very obvious that the network is trying to branch out while still trying to maintain a balance of what their viewers want (formulaic as it may be).

Satisfaction, or at least its pilot, is a curious case. At first blush this show seems a little bit like HBO’s Hung but instead of economic hard times being the mitigating factor in the male lead becoming a gigolo; it’s a mid-life crisis or perhaps a bout of depression or maybe even a bit of both. But dig a little deeper and you come to find out you don’t actually know what’s going on due to the endless parade of plot twists as well as a slew of moments you can live vicariously through (everything from the hero on plane that is stuck on the tarmac and actually getting off it, to telling your boss what you really think of him and your job).

In the pilot we meet Neil Truman (Matt Passmore). He seems to have the quintessential upper middle class life: a loving wife, a neglected daughter who is desperate for her parents’ attention, a great job and nice house in a nice neighborhood. But from the very first scene you can tell that this family is going through the motion. No one is happy and everyone just seems to eking out their niche in this mundane existence. But this family is full of surprises.

After years of soul crushing investment banking, Neil Truman has had just about enough. He knows that he spends way too much time at work but he doesn't know how to correct this problem until a series of events leads him to quit his job and sets him on a new path of “enlightenment” unfortunately that moment is cut short when he discovers his wife is having an affair. It seems as though his world is about to come crashing down all around him. Maybe the old Neil would have just left to go cry in a corner but not this new Neil. This Neil actually confronts his wife’s lover. He gets his ass handed to him in the confrontation but he does learn that this affair is more of a business arrangement.

Simon (Blair Redford), his wife’s lover is a male escort. For some reason this isn’t a deal breaker to Neil and he keeps his knowing about Grace’s cheating a secret. He goes about his life for a little while harboring the secret and being passive aggressive. Until he realizes that he has Simon’s phone. He answers it and goes out on a date (and has sex with) one of Simon’s new clients. The date is a revelation to Simon and gives him a little insight into just why his wife might have been seeing Simon. But it doesn’t stop at just one date he goes another as well and gets a job offer to boot.

Grace getting suspicious of Neil goes to his old workplace to discover he quit and is a rising YouTube star thanks to the stunt he pulled on the airplane. She manages to convince his boss to give him his job back and the family seems to be getting back on the right track. Heck they are even spending quality time together around their neglected pool.

Simon does manage to hunt Neil down to his place of employment and threatens him. Simon wants his phone back or at least access to his contacts online. But Neil hands it right back to him and in more adult manner by threatening to get the IRS to audit Simon and it isn’t clear if Neil is doing it out of spite or because he wants to stay in the gigolo game.

Right when it seems like things are going great and Neil and Grace are in a good place, Grace makes a call to Simon and Neil sees it (because he still has the phone) and the episode fades to black with a curious look on Neil’s face and everything up in the air.

Themes of hypocrisy, the meaning of life and the pursuit of happiness are the main themes presented in the pilot but it barely scratches the surface despite the premiere being quite long. I’ll wager a guess that the crux of what the show wants to explore is, what does happily ever mean and how is doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. Or maybe it’s a scathing satire on married life at the midpoint in life. Perhaps it’s morality play on the ethics of lying… I’m not quite sure what Satisfaction is striving to be but I know I like it. While the topic of bad marriages might feel done to death on TV Satisfaction feels more complex and gray.

The tagline for the show asks an interesting question: Would you risk your marriage to save it? From a marketing standpoint, I don’t know if the show is being properly explained or perhaps it’s that the network is not quite sure how it wants to proceed with the subject material. But from a casual viewer standpoint I’m intrigued and the way the pilot ends I definitely want to know more about these characters.

Satisfaction premieres tonight at 10 PM on USA.