It's always disappointing when a beloved series comes to an end, but it's easier to say goodbye when the writers get the chance to wrap things up and write a conclusive finale for its characters. The CW's historical drama Reign will not return for Season 5 after its fourth season finale on June 16, but at least the series wasn't subject to a surprise cancellation. The fourth season was written with the series ending in mind, and according to co-creator and showrunner Laurie McCarthy, the series finale is "really satisfying." As McCarthy told Yahoo TV, "We were aware that it might be our final season," and even though the real Mary didn't die until middle age, she added, "luckily for us, and unluckily for the real Mary, Queen of Scots, the moves that she makes at this juncture this season really do position her for where she ends up, which is a kind of fearless demise."
According to Variety, ratings may have been a factor in the series' cancellation, which was announced while the series was midway through production on the fourth season. "We only found about 10 days before we were due to wrap," star Adelaide Kane explained to TVLine. "It really came down to the wire, but … it still gave us an opportunity to properly say goodbye."
Throughout its four seasons, Reign did adapt some of Mary, Queen of Scots' most famous life events, like her marriage to French king Francis and her political rivalry with Elizabeth I. But Reign wasn't afraid to take a few liberties in order to better mix historical fact with compelling drama. That's an instinct that many other period series share. In fact, with more networks and outlets than ever, some of the most impressive historical drama can still be found on TV — even if Reign won't be among them after its fourth season comes to an end.
The Last Kingdom
A fictionalized version of real Anglo-Saxon noble Uhtred, The Last Kingdom crafts its drama around family. Uhtred is taken from a Saxon family and given to a Viking one, grows up surrounded by violence and tragedy, and continues the cycle in hope of protecting those he cares about and holding on to a home.
The White Princess
This Starz miniseries and its predecessor, The White Queen, also tackle the struggles for England, a few generations before Mary was born. By the time Reign begins, the Tudors control England, and by Season 3, Elizabeth I is on the throne. The White Princess and White Queen help explain how that family managed to wrest control in the wake of the War of the Roses.
North of the Scots, English, and French, the Norse Viking kingdom of Ragnar Lothbrok are the subject of this History series. Ragnar is a mix of potentially real raider and Viking legend, making him the perfect subject for an action-packed TV series.
The Hollow Crown
Shakespeare's history plays are kind of like the historical TV dramas of their time (and, of course, some of the best literature ever written). They adapt the history of England into entertainment that shaped popular perception of certain figures (pre-Tudor monarch Richard III was not necessarily like Shakespeare's scheming villain). The Hollow Crown adapts the history plays into episodes of television, featuring actors like Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, and Patrick Stewart in the iconic theatrical roles.
This miniseries focuses on Thomas Cromwell, an advisor to King Henry VIII. As a real historical figure, Cromwell is often interpreted as a scheming sycophant, but in this retelling, he is conflicted but pragmatic, attempting to balance deference to Henry's wish to split from the Catholic Church with his own, private beliefs.
This famous French palace is known for its enormous size and incredibly lavish furnishings, but for the characters in Versailles, its remote location, far from Paris, is emphasized instead. When King Louis XIV moves the royal court to the palace in the seventeenth century, every character from the most powerful wealthy men to their mistresses attempts to wrest some power away from Louis' spoiled grasp.
Historical fiction and historical romance don't have to be incompatible, as Outlander proves. Claire was a WWII nurse who traveled back in time, fell in love with Scotsman Jaime, married him, and had to leave him in order to protect their unborn child. The lovers will be separated for at least part of Season 3, but just like Claire, the audience will be yearning to see the eighteenth century again.
While, surely, fans will still be disappointed to lose Reign, there's a lot of love for historical TV dramas right now, especially ones that use history as a jumping off point for more creative interpretations, be it by adding romantic elements or by creating original characters — so there's plenty left to watch.