With so many different versions of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Still Star-Crossed isn’t an exact rehash of the popular story and nor does it aim to be. Rather, it manages to give us the abridged version of Romeo and Juliet, but only so that it serves as setup for the proper introduction of the show’s primary characters. Still Star-Crossed feels fresh, even while being busy and full of characters you won’t immediately get to know very well in the series premiere. There’s definitely a lot the episode has to get out of the way in order to get to the core of its central story, and because of this, it sometimes feels bloated. However, this doesn’t completely take away any of the intrigue from the unfolding story.
As Juliet’s (Clara Rugaard) nurse, Rosaline (Lashana Lynch) is absolutely against her marriage to Romeo (Lucien Laviscount). Once word gets out that Romeo and Juliet are married, the possibility of bringing the two quarreling families together grows further out of reach. After the couple’s death, things grow more dire for Rosaline as she’s forced into a marriage with Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs) by Prince Escalus Capulet (Sterling Sulieman). Escalus believes this is the best way to help unite the families. Part of the storyline is a bit of a cross with the Cinderella story because Rosaline is forced to serve her aunt, even though she’s a member of the Capulet family. Rosaline’s aunt is very much like the evil stepmother in this particular story.
To start with, there are a lot of characters and although all of the relationships are sorted out by the end (who’s related to whom, etc.), it does become a bit tedious trying to keep up. Obviously, it’s Lashana Lynch’s Rosaline who is easily the most intriguing character. She has a fascinating backstory and a lot of gumption, but it’s also quite easy to see her vulnerable side as well. Her heart’s desire is to escape her life and be treated with fairness, but she isn’t afforded that by anyone, no matter how well-intentioned some may seem. What the episode does do fairly well is set up the world in which Rosaline and the rest of the characters live. It’s able to build and populate the city of Verona that feels more intricate and full.
Still Star-Crossed plays out in a way that’s a bit opposite than the Romeo and Juliet storyline. House Montague and House Capulet are still very much feuding, but the primary character pairing is between two people on opposing sides who have absolute disdain for each other. Benvolio doesn’t immediately come off as sympathetic, but it’s clear that he is also hesitant about getting in the way of all the drama going on around him. As a man, he is at least asked and then agrees to enter into a marriage, while Rosaline isn’t given much of a choice in the matter. Things become even more complicated when the show introduces a love triangle which, if done right, could see all three characters grow and develop. As it stands, it only serves as another layer of drama in an already overflowing story.
Romeo and Juliet’s story takes up the first twenty minutes or so of the episode and doesn’t do much except provide further backstory about why the families came to hate each other so much. There are certain aspects that feel rushed and the episode could have benefited by slowing down a bit. There’s quite a bit of violence and an air of dramatics, but it’s the latter half of the episode that’s worth watching, once Romeo and Juliet are no longer central to the episode. Without a doubt, it’s Lynch who is the standout among the cast, but they all do a good job with the material they’re given. It might take awhile for the story to sort itself out in a way that will provide some proper character development, but so long as most of the focus remains on Rosaline, then Still Star-Crossed shouldn’t have any major issues.
The show stars Lashana Lynch, Wade Briggs, Dan Hildebrand, Ebonee Noel, Medalion Rahimi, Sterling Sulieman, and Anthony Head.
Still Star-Crossed premieres on Monday, May 29 at 10/9c on ABC.