And so, after seven episodes, thus ends STILL STAR-CROSSED.
“What?” you say. “Only seven episodes?” Yep, only seven. From what I can tell, the creative team was planning on more, but ABC decided to give it a limited release, so we end up with a seven-episode season. But Breaking Bad Season 1 this is not.
Personally, I think Shakespeare would be disappointed at what his work’s been made of in this show. Yes, it’s high drama, but where are the stakes? Where is the emotion? Shakespeare wrote for the stage, so the characters and plot lines would be a little over-the-top, but what’s made them last is that, despite theatrics, they feel real. Their plight grabs you by the heart and is designed to make you feel deeply – group catharsis, as Aristotle said when discussing theater. This show doesn’t do that.
I know that may be asking too much of a soapy TV show, but the most basic ask of good entertainment is to make the audience care. You don’t need to bring me to tears every episode or elicit a belly laugh from me every other line – but we expect something!
It’s a pity, because this show seriously had potential. You can tell the time and effort that goes into making this show look amazing – Rosaline’s dress this episode was especially gorgeous – but I wish half that effort went into creating characters that are three-dimensional and plot lines that make sense.
Benvolio is sentenced to be executed for murdering Grammio and kidnapping Rosaline. While Rosaline tries to prove the truth, all kinds of nefarious plots are playing out behind closed doors.
It turns out Montague killed his brother (gasp!), who was Benvolio’s father (gasp!), which explains all the needless abuse from Montague towards Benvolio. And Tessa Montague was in on the plot, too (double gasp!)!
…Wait, why do we care? We never knew Benvolio’s father. He never really came up until this episode; there’s no investment to get worked up over. Also, how is it shocking that Montague and Tessa committed murder? We’ve established from the first episode that these people – whether Montagues or Capulets – have no morals. Murder to them is Tuesday afternoon.
The villain (and yes, he is a villain) I hate most in all of this is Escalus, mainly because the show still tries to paint him in a heroic light. How exactly is Escalus someone to root for? Apologizing every time he does something terrible doesn’t seem to matter, as he continues to keep on doing terrible things! I’d argue he’s even worse than Capulet or Montague, as they at least don’t pretend to be good – they’re honest about how evil they are. But Escalus still tries to present himself as one of the good guys – nope, sorry. Cruelty doesn’t make you a good king – conviction does. You either stand firm or you step down – I feel like Isabella would be a better ruler, anyway.
Unfortunately, we’ll never get to see her reign, because Paris finally unveils his plot and takes over Verona in the last scene of the show.
That’s the problem with having the season cut short – this takeover feels like a mid-season finale, or the penultimate episode, not the finale.
I do have to say, it was a pretty cool scene. It was the first time in a long time the show actually felt serious, not just some lightweight dramatic fluff. I feel like, if there was a Season 2, it could have some potential – Paris’s court would be something to see, and Isabella challenging him and taking over at the end would be awesome, since we’re assuming Escalus is dead. But, obviously to the ABC execs, there’s not enough potential there to warrant a second season, and I can see why.
I’ll give the show this: for all its flaws, it’s finally made me understand why Romeo and Juliet would fall in love in the first place. When you’re constantly surrounded by back-stabbing, lying, murdering, deceitful people, of course the person you’re going to fall for is the one person who doesn’t deceive you. And in that sense, the romance of Benvolio and Rosaline worked. So, one point for the writers there.
(You can take some clues from production design – when the prison bars are wide enough to fit your head through, someone’s going to be kissing through them. And who else would be kissing Benvolio but – of course – Rosaline.)
As for Benvolio’s execution, I was kind of intrigued as to if they would actually kill him. I was almost wishing they would! Not because I hate Benvolio – I thought the actor did a good job throughout the show – but because it was a consequence that would have actual emotional weight. But, Escalus has one of his inconsistent lapses where he remembers he has a heart and stops the execution, but hell rains down anyway as archers descend on Verona proclaiming “The new prince is coming!” And there’s Paris, smirking, on the horizon with his army, ready to attack the city.
If only the rest of the show had been as good as this final scene!
I almost wish we’d had a different show – Rosaline and Livia Capulet as servants in the Capulet household, working out Paris’s conspiracy behind the scenes, saving Verona and being restored to their noble titles as ladies; meanwhile, Rosaline also happens to fall in love with Benvolio. I’d watch that. And frankly, I think the actress playing Livia, Ebonee Noel, deserved way more screen time than she got!
I hope all the actors go on to other, better shows after this – Ebonee Noel, Medalion Rahimi as Isabella, Lashana Lynch as Rosaline. They’ve got the chops to play good parts; it’s just the writing that let them down.
Well, time to end these reviews the only way they could ever end:
“For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Rosaline and her Benvolio.”
Season 1, Episode 7 (S01E07)
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 pining for Season 3 of Agent Carter.
Follow Cailin on Twitter: @sherlocked1058
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Cailin Coane | Contributor