So, STILL STAR-CROSSED. We’re on episode five, but it’s not looking good. It’s been moved from Thursday nights to Saturday nights, which is not a good sign; networks know people are busy weekend nights, so they’re less likely to be watching television. It’s definitely not a vote of confidence in its ability to pull in audience numbers.
And that’s really too bad. It’s not a bad show; I’m not saying it’s the next Breaking Bad or The Wire, but it’s not bad. The problem is, it could be so much more.
I compared Still Star-Crossed to Game of Thrones before when I described it as “Game of Thrones if it was a soap opera.” I have a similar problem with Still Star-Crossed that I had with Game of Thrones (please don’t smite me, Game of Thrones is a great show – just not without its flaws). What bothered me about Game of Thrones was it has so many characters, but I only care about a few of them. It’s a similar issue here with Still Star-Crossed; there’s so much going on all at once, with so many people involved, but I really only care about a select few. Luckily, this episode chose to focus on the genuinely interesting characters of the show: Benvolio and Rosaline, and Isabella.
The show felt better for it; there wasn’t so much jumping around, it cut out all the fat and stuck to what we cared about the most. At this point, I wouldn’t care if I never saw Escalus again, and the plot lines with Livia and Paris and Lady Capulet and the nurse are just too thinly drawn to be interesting. It’s a similar sensation to when, during every Game of Thrones episode, we would inevitably leave the capitol or the Dothraki desert and go to the north (“No, not the north, I hate the north, nothing happens in the north!”). To be fair, I’ve only seen the first two seasons of Game of Thrones (again, don’t smite me, I had to take a break from all the violence and death and darkness), but I felt like there shouldn’t be a consistent segment of every episode where your audience is just bored. Again, that’s just me; there’s such a thing as building dramatic tension and momentum, but oh, my word, never take me to the Wall again.
Anyway, this week Benvolio has been falsely accused of murder, and Rosaline flees with him to find out who framed him to try to ignite (heh) civil war between their families.
Okay, so let me backtrack. I said Rosaline was interesting, and she is – sometimes. But she’s supposed to be the main character. Why doesn’t she have her own plot line?
Every action she does is always for someone else – agreeing to marry Benvolio for Livia, agreeing to leave Verona for Benvolio, etc. Where is her character arc? She is always good and kind and smart and brave, which are great characteristics for a heroine to have – but she never acts on her own. We need to see her face challenges that are uniquely hers, not tied to someone else. Also, can we really say if she did anything of note in this episode? Main characters usually have some kind of moment where they do something really clever, or really brave, or just really entertaining. But Rosaline never really has a moment to shine. Maybe we need to see her have some kind of moral conflict – I’m not saying make her evil or anything, but in order to feel real and human, she needs to have some kind of challenge to her beliefs or morals. Otherwise, her whole character feels two-dimensional. This show has a great chance to take a character that existed only in dialogue before, not even as a physical person on stage, and make her a wonderful, dynamic female lead. The writers are seriously dropping the ball, and it’s frustrating the heck out of me.
There’s also the relationship between Benvolio and Rosaline. We got our first real hint this episode that they’re being set up to be a couple when Rosaline not-so-subtly checks out Benvolio when he’s in the bath, and I can’t say I’m all that surprised at the development – the title of the show finally makes sense, after all. I enjoy their snarky banter, so I hope we don’t lose that when they do become an official couple. The relationship may have been a bit predictable, but it works.
Here, though, we get to the really interesting part of the episode. Isabella visits the court of the doge (no, not the meme) of Venice to make peace for the murder of the Venetian ambassador; for the doge, though, “apologizing” means something a bit more than words (Or, as Doge would say, “So consent. Very sex. Wow.”).
It’s fascinating to see Isabella try to navigate the waters of court politics, and sad that she has to do it. I know Tessa Montague in the last episode told her very confidently that she wouldn’t have to give up her virginity to the doge, but I would have hoped she would have given a bit more help than just those words. Alas, Isabella seems to be on her own, and the doge knows it.
The doge doesn’t really have a defining personality, just Creeper McSlimeFace. He wants Isabella, but he wants to toy with her first, and no other women in his court are willing to help her.
Isabella comes up with a plan that I had to applaud; she uses the doge’s fear of women to have him refuse to bed her by pretending that she’s on her period. Never mind it being badass in that she had to stab her own leg to get blood on the sheets, it’s a psychologically cunning move that used the doge’s own desires and fears against him – I think Tessa would have been proud. Unfortunately, the doge’s “adviser,” Valentina, sees straight through it, leaving Isabella to come up with another plot. Fortunately, one of the ladies-in-waiting, Helena, helps her, and they manage to blackmail Valentina into preserving Isabella’s honor by promising not to reveal that Valentina is spying on the doge for Milan. The day is saved, and Isabella can leave Venice an honorable woman.
I wish I could say I trust Helena, but who knows; in this show, she’s just as likely to return and stab Isabella in the back (literally or figuratively). It’s sad, because it seems like she’s one of the only friends Isabella has, and it was lovely to see the two of them working together. I believe Helena is supposed to return; we’ll see if she’s truly on Isabella’s side, although I’m a little suspicious of her giving Isabella that Milanese coin.
Next week we’ll presumably be back in Verona; I hope we see Montague again, as I miss his smirky face. Paris just revealed his continued existence to Rosaline, and Benvolio is still on the run for murder. Whatever happens, it won’t be dull!
Season 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
Still Star-Crossed airs Saturdays at 10PM on ABC
Cailin is a screenwriter and an aspiring TV writer. When not writing, she’s busy convincing random passersby that Firefly was the best show ever, converting her co-workers into Whovians, and waiting for the next season of Sherlock.
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Cailin Coane | Contributor