Last week, Still Star-Crossed suffered just a bit because it spent the majority of its episode setting up the characters and plot. But now that that’s out of the way, the second episode, “The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth,” flows much better, has gotten more comfortable in its setting, and finally allows the focus to shift to the show’s primary relationships so the characters were able to get in some good interaction.
Much of the episode focused on Escalus and the pressure of being an effective prince. He’s desperate to make peace between the Montagues and Capulets, but he also doesn’t want to rule the way his father did. His sister, Isabella, is constantly reminding him that in Verona, strength is what gets people to listen. Strength and sacrifice. Escalus clearly desires Rosaline and wants to be with her, but also wants to make his mark as the new prince and show that strength so that he’s taken seriously. He keeps changing his mind about the arranged marriage between Rosaline and Benvolio and this indecisiveness eventually distances Rosaline from him and allows his rule to go unquestioned… for now.
It’s easy to tell Escalus genuinely wants to do good, that his intentions are sincere. He doesn’t seem too keen on showing strength in the traditional sense through power and violence, but feels as though he must. He’s also been away from Verona, has seen how situations can be handled without the use of violence, but through peaceful means. On the other hand, his constant betrayal of Rosaline’s trust is exceedingly frustrating. She tries to convince him that the marriage is a bad idea and that she won’t do it, and for a moment he caves, but then he goes right back to holding his stance about her marrying Benvolio “for the good of Verona.”
“What about the good of me?” Rosaline asks. And it’s true. It’s a decision that’s been taken out of her hands, her sister’s reputation threatened if she doesn’t go through with it and Rosaline is the one who’s getting the short end of the stick. In many ways, she’s the one with the most common sense. She has anger inside of her, but it’s tempered by a quick wit and intelligence. Rosaline doesn’t have the time of day for such drama and yet she’s right at the center of it. Her sister, Livia, is helping Paris heal from his wounds and distancing herself from Rosaline, as they don’t see eye to eye on several things. Rosaline is content if she could just run away to become a nun. Her demeanor speaks of a higher class that belies the rest of the feuding families’ actions. Perhaps in the end, Rosaline will use the marriage to her own advantage and will gain far more power as someone to be listened to than the current situation allows.
Benvolio is easily the most stereotypical of all the characters. He’s much more nonchalant about everything because this is apparently not his first arranged marriage, the first one having fallen through at some point in the past. Benvolio busies himself with women and plays up his uncaring attitude to the extent that’s a bit exasperating. So far, he’s kept the biggest secret of all: that he caught Rosaline and Escalus kissing. It’s not clear if he’ll ever tell his uncle, or keep it for a more opportune moment. But it’s nice that he can at least keep this secret to himself. Perhaps it’s out of some strange respect he already has for Rosaline, but that’s speculative at this point as their interactions thus far have been limited.
I really did like the fact that they didn’t rush to get Rosaline and Benvolio married in the second episode. The story was allowed to expand, rounding out some of the more minor characters and giving us a true glimpse of what might be at stake should this marriage not happen. This episode also set up the role of secrets on both sides. Lord Montague argues that Benvolio marrying Rosaline would marry the power of the Capulet name and the money of the Montagues, so it seems he’d rather use the marriage for a different gain besides that of peace. “The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth” fared much better than the pilot and let the characters interact in a more substantial way that created more sympathy for some and less for others. It was well-paced and the characters became far more distinct. Rosaline remains the best character and as the season unfolds, I’m certain we’ll be rooting for her more and more to get what is fair to her. Hopefully, she’ll also get to make some decisions that benefit her and not just Verona.