The CW officially announced that Season 4 of “Reign” would be its last on Wednesday (Dec. 7), devastating the diehard fans that have stuck with the show since its admittedly shaky premiere three years ago.
However, signs have been pointing to cancellation for a while now, and it’s probably for the best that this little historical drama-that-could goes gently into that good night.
First and foremost, with Francis (Toby Regbo) dead, the major romantic storyline of the show came to a screeching halt, making it difficult to find the show’s driving force. Anyone who ever cracked a history book knew this death was coming, but it’s still hard to sustain such a romance-heavy narrative with the main character in a state of perpetual mourning for her true love (even if a lot of us are right there with her).
Unfortunately, none of Mary’s (Adelaide Kane) other relationships ever took the world by storm the way “Frary” did. Additionally, the show has to retain a little bit of historical integrity, which means that Mary will one day have to wed her cousin Lord Darnley, who has just been cast in Season 4. We don’t imagine that romance will have a different fate than any of Mary’s other dalliances.
In the wake of Francis’ death, “Reign” attempted to course-correct, and make the show more about politics — was an excellent move, putting Kane’s massive onscreen presence front and center and showcasing Mary’s inspiring leadership abilities. In practice, however, it doesn’t seem to have reinvigorated the show in the way the writers probably hoped for.
Secondly, the show has been hemorrhaging series regulars and fan-favorite characters for a while now.
With the departure of Kenna (Caitlin Stasey) in Season 2, the death of Francis and Lola (Anna Popplewell) in Season 3 and the news that Bash (Torrance Coombs) would be written out of Season 4, the only original main characters left are Mary, Catherine (Megan Follows) and Greer (Celina Sinden). The show has certainly added compelling new characters to the narrative over the years, but none of them quite measure up to the ones who made the show great in the first place.
Finally, there’s the ratings to consider. The CW isn’t usually harsh about low ratings, but they’ve got to draw the line somewhere — and “Reign” was playing hopscotch with that line throughout their third season: It was among the lowest-rated shows on broadcast TV last season, averaging only a 0.3 rating in adults 18-49 (live + same-day) with 984,000 viewers. That average saw a slight rise to 0.5 and 1.47 million viewers with a week of DVR and on-demand viewing — not enough, by a decent margin, to save the show.
At least this way, “Reign” gets to go out with plenty of warning this is their final season, and we don’t anticipate any cliffhangers or feelings of things left unfinished. A show that always believed in itself — its style and story, the meaning it offered — so deeply will certainly not be going dark without a firm sense of completion, closure and celebration.
“Reign” premieres Feb. 10th at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.