Despite the fact that Reign doesn’t always follow the history books, one thing is certain: King Francis will die in the upcoming third season of the series. Showrunner Laurie McCarthy spoke exclusively to EW about the death, and why she wanted to spoil it before the season began.
“I wanted people to get used to it — there was no way around it in the storytelling,” McCarthy said. “We’ve done shocking deaths and that’s not the tone of this story.”
McCarthy added: “I wanted it to be an emotional journey that we all went on and that we could all feel the highs and lows of, and I wanted it to be a love story. I didn’t want it to be something that shocked the fans or really anybody. I needed to process it, too.”
By spoiling it, McCarthy says fans will be “heartbroken but you won’t be reeling. I think it’s better to reel with them and to be with the characters as they process it.” Then there’s also the fact that she loves Francis. “I love that character and I love Toby [Regbo] so I just couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.” (Yes, Regbo has always known his fate. He just didn’t know the timing until this season.)
As to why now is the right time for Francis’ reign to come to an end, McCarthy said: “We definitely take liberties with history but there is an element of history that we felt beholden to.” But even more than that, killing Francis is a way for the show to honor its pilot, which foreshadows the young king’s death. (Of course, in real life, King Francis died of an ear infection at 16.) “The pilot promises his death, it foretells it and it promises that it’s going to be a tragic love story,” McCarthy said. “It felt incredibly naturally like it was time, before we got so far away from what the stakes that we put in the ground at the beginning.”
In fact, McCarthy said there wasn’t a moment in the writers room when Francis was going to survive. Although the writers discussed it over the years, she said his death was just so woven into the pilot and furthermore, the first season. For the writers, it was always just a matter of when.
“His death allows you to tell a story that really honors their love and believe me, there will be tears. There’ll be a lot of them, and I think there’ll be also a lot of incredibly uplifting moments because it just deepens [Francis and Mary’s] very existence, individually and together as a couple, and so we were really ready to tell that kind of a love story, And it also it really reboots some of the stories for the other characters because it sets people on a different course,” McCarthy said.”He’s not just the lead of our show. He’s not just a love interest. He’s the king of France.”
McCarthy promises a proper — though maybe not quite by the history books — send-off: “When you look back at the end of it, you’ll realize that all the seeds were planted, and that the prophecy is in fact fulfilled,” she said. “But it won’t be fulfilled necessarily in the way one might imagine it would be. It’s going to be a great journey. It’s going to be full of twists and turns, but it is going to be a weeper of epic proportions.”
Reign returns Friday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.