By Chelsea Hensley
I am so, so glad Still Star-Crossed is over.
No shows come to mind that managed to squander its initial good will so thoroughly. Sleepy Hollow, of course, but it at least wrung a few seasons out before it did so. The show’s official enough cancellation means it’s going to be out of its misery, and so will I (thank goodness). For all the truth in ABC not throwing their marketing power behind the show, it’s probably better that they didn’t. All the marketing in the world can’t save a bad show (a mediocre one, sure, but we’re not even there). And Still Star-Crossed is Not Good, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone at ABC figured that out and decided to cut their losses where they could.
The show’s most promising and most exciting elements — its diverse cast and exciting premise — couldn’t salvage what shaped up to be middling execution. The finale was the show’s last hope to prove that it was capable, to go out with something resembling a bang. It can’t possibly be coming back for a season two, though ABC is still withholding the official word on it. But “Something Wicked” only makes definitive what the rest of the season was leading to: this show is a mess.
Back in Verona, Rosaline’s no longer being held prisoner so she’s free to tell Escalus exactly what happened. This is only the first logical misstep of the hour. Why would Paris think Rosaline would stay quiet when she and Escalus were out of immediate danger? Paris at least has the wherewithal to suggest killing her so she doesn’t foil his plans, but for some reason he suddenly cares a lot what Lady Capulet thinks and dashes this plan. (She’s suddenly sorry for her treatment of Rosaline and wants to take everything back.) But maybe Paris knows what’s already abundantly clear: that Escalus is deeply annoying, ineffectual, and did I mention annoying?
When Rosaline does what any reasonable person would do and tells him the truth about why she claimed Benvolio abducted her, Escalus’s first instinct is to get mad at her for using his feelings for her against him. At this point my notes were only an irritated keysmash, and Escalus goes on to tell Rosaline he can’t possibly believe her because he has more proof of Benvolio’s guilt than his innocence. I don’t know what proof he’s talking about since Verona operates only on the word of random citizens (but not Rosaline — never Rosaline), but he gives Rosaline a day to find evidence of Paris’s guilt. Enter Nurse. Who’s promptly pushed down a flight of stairs. Exit Nurse.
I’m not sure I can come up with a more wasted character than Escalus because he is wasted. Earlier discussions of his morality and what he’ll do for Verona’s safety could have wrung some depth out of him this final episode, but I’m left thinking he’s either totally stupid or extremely stupid. When Rosaline gets, you know, upset because he’s going to execute an innocent man (because Escalus literally believes everyone and their cat over her), he decides the next best course of action is to beat a confession out of Benvolio. Why this happened I couldn’t tell you, and I doubt Escalus knows either. Does he really believe Benvolio brainwashed Rosaline (JFC) or does he know Benvolio’s innocent but is ignoring it? He says more than once that Benvolio’s death is what Verona needs to heal, but no one asks him what that healing will look like if Paris steals the throne. I’d be more forgiving of Escalus if this was simply jealousy (that I could see), which wouldn’t make him any less irritating but would at least give him more depth than the willfully stupid teaspoon he’s working with.
But it’s admittedly easy to focus on these illogical offerings because there’s nothing enjoyable anymore. Rosaline and Benvolio barely feel like friends, much less like potential lovers. This show wouldn’t be the first to employ some wonky plotting in exchange for a swoony romance, but Still Star-Crossed can’t even manage that. Livia and Paris got more to work with than Rosaline and Benvolio, and they don’t make a lick of sense either. Whatever was cute and charming about them was eons ago, and even though Lyanna Lynch and Wade Briggs still look really good with their faces mushed together, Still Star-Crossed never gave them their due, exchanging it instead for trips abroad and too many scenes with Tessa (who I still don’t care about) and Lord Capulet hearing voices.
We don’t even get any payoff for these detours. Isabella’s trip to Venice could have been cut entirely with no change to the plot, same for Tess (apparently only there to drop revelations no one was curious about anyway), and what about that resurrecting cat? Why is Juliet speaking to her parents beyond the grave? Why is this damn cathedral still being talked about after it’s been burned to the ground? By the end of any season, something should be resolved, but nothin — and I mean nothing — is. So what was the point?
Judging by the cliffhanger, someone thought Still Star-Crossed would see a season two, but as it is it just looks like the network didn’t even care enough to tell the showrunners to come up with something resembling a cohesive ending. It’s disappointing that this promising (for exactly one episode) show failed, but I’m glad it’s over now. Despite the show’s good pieces, it didn’t know how to piece them together or even make them work. Here’s hoping its cast lands somewhere much, much better.
Chelsea 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.