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Rosaline and Benvolio play pretend in a wobbly episode of Still Star-Crossed

Rosaline and Benvolio play pretend in a wobbly episode of Still Star-Crossed

By Chelsea Hensley

In the interest of research, I read the Melinda Taub novel on which Still Star-Crossed is based. I won’t go into any spoilery details, but it’s interesting to think of the show after absorbing the source material. It leans just as heavily on Shakespearean tradition as the show, which is now playing with Shakespeare’s love of ghosts by introducing Juliet’s. The show, however, doesn’t use Shakespearean dialogue like the novel (and now I kind of wish it did?). There have been some pretty big changes, but it’s easy to see why Shondaland adapted it. Unfortunately, it’s impending move to Saturday (starting July 8), doesn’t bode well for the show’s future (it has not been officially canceled yet so ignore TVLine, which only says that it’s as “good as canceled”). In any case, there’s still a whole season ahead of us.

“All the World’s A Stage” moves up Rosaline and Benvolio’s betrothal ceremony, all so Escalus can prove to visiting ambassadors that Verona isn’t in immediate danger of falling apart at the seams. The unhappy couple is tasked with making their romance look real, and Rosaline’s all too happy to put on a show for Escalus and pretend that Benvolio’s not so bad (Escalus is very annoying in his annoyance about this). Their feigning love makes for some amusing scenes, coupled with Rosaline’s annoyed expression every time someone mentions “the Montague” to her, and I laughed every time someone quoted Benvolio’s sonnet to Rosaline.

Rosaline and Benvolio put on quite the show, but it doesn’t matter a whole lot because their ceremony is attacked. I didn’t expect any explosions in this show, but it definitely works after last week’s ho-hum episode. That being said, I was really confused about what Benvolio and Rosaline planned to do if/when they caught up with the bomber. I wasn’t under the impression Benvolio’s swordsmanship was anything to write home about, but it’s good enough to get a one-up on Trucchio, the Montague who tried to rape Rosaline in the series premiere (who allied with some mysterious someone stoking the conflict between the families) and is now dead. No one cares that he’s dead really (I mean, I don’t), but it means Rosaline and Benvolio have a new plan for avoiding marriage: giving their families a common enemy to fight.

That’s not a bad idea of course, though I’m not sure why we think it would be as permanent as Rosaline and Benvolio’s wedding is supposed to be (wouldn’t they just go back to hating each other as soon as they get rid of this new threat?). I’ll forgive Rosaline and Benvolio this, since they’re desperate, and this alliance means more time together.

Despite Benvolio’s suggestion to spirit Rosaline away to a nunnery, Rosaline stays in exchange for Livia’s elevation to lady. And Benvolio’s chat with his favorite prostitute makes him back down from his own plans of fleeing Verona. I know why both of these things happened, but why they happened the way they did is beyond me. Why did Rosaline wait until the exact moment she was supposed to leave to demand Livia become a lady? How did Benvolio’s lady friend’s speech manage to discourage him so completely?

But they can’t fall in love if they’re not in Verona, can they?

While Benvolio and Rosaline have their slow burn happening, Livia and Paris are zooming toward the finish line (or at least some kind of milestone). I’m not sure if I should be annoyed by the speed of their relationship or not. It’s definitely Shakespearean to have them go from nurse-patient to almost-lovers in the span of an episode, but I’m not quite buying their affection aside from both of them just thinking the other one is hot. Which could also work just fine (hot people hook up all the time just because they agree that they’re hot), but since I foresee some kind of great love storyline coming, I’m gonna need more.

In other corners of the show, I’m increasingly confused by Lord Montague. Despite his feud with the Capulets, he’s been angling for an alliance of their families even before Escalus commanded it, supposedly for their longevity, but that doesn’t quite gel with his familial pride. Why would Montague seek to cement his family’s legacy by tying them to their worst enemy, especially when he knows the Capulets would happily destroy them if they could? And if he wants them to ally so badly, why does he keep poking at Lord Capulet with this cathedral?

After the architect’s unfortunate demise, the cathedral’s construction is halted indefinitely so Montague enlists Isabella to finish it himself. This surely means something bad, but we’ll see. I’m more invested now that Isabella, endlessly intriguing, is involved. Her pragmatism borders on ruthlessness, and she’s not as easily manipulated as Escalus, as she’s immediately suspicious of Montague’s interest in the cathedral. In some ways, she’s tiptoeing into Lady Macbeth territory (I’m waiting on that “out damned spot” moment). She’s clearly an astute person, equally if not more knowledgeable in matters of diplomacy as Escalus, and she steers him in the “right” direction more often than not. And though she’s shaping up to be a confidant for Rosaline, she never voices her support for the marriage. But she doesn’t encourage Rosaline’s defiance either. Isabella’s character in the novel is entirely different (not to mention only appears on maybe ten pages) so there’s a lot of creative license being taken, and I’m curious to know how it’ll turn out.

But, and this opinion may be unpopular, I love what the show wants to be, but I really want it to be better. I was excited about it following the premiere, and I still want it to succeed, but I can see why it’s not drawing viewership (ABC’s meager promotion notwithstanding). It just isn’t as exciting as I want it to be. It’s not bad, it’s just a bit too wobbly, like it can’t quite follow through. If we are only getting one season, I’d prefer it be a bit better than this.

Stray Observations

  • Why does Paris have to remain hidden exactly?
  • Please let Rosaline and Benvolio pretend to be in love some more. Please, please, please. Their faces look really nice next to each other. Like, really nice.
  • I am kinda into Juliet’s ghost, if that is in fact what we’re dealing with and it’s not just Lord Capulet feeling super guilty.
  • If you want to read the source material, you can find it on Amazon.

Chelsea A. HensleyChelsea A. Hensley is a writer and blogger who recently received a BA in English from the University of Missouri. Besides television, she also loves chocolate chip cookies, puppies, and Dragon Age. In between episodes of her favorite shows, Chelsea’s hard at work on a young adult novel. You can read more of her writing on The Chelsea Review and follow her on Twitter @ChelseaBigBang.

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