By Chelsea Hensley
I didn’t expect Still Star-Crossed to become such a slog, but here we are, slogging along. “Nature Hath Framed Strange Fellows in Her Time” isn’t as poorly executed as last week’s episode, but it’s not having any more fun than we are. As quick as Still Star-Crossed was to solve its mystery, at least it didn’t drag out Benvolio and Rosaline figuring out the answer, too. It all unfolds a bit too easily (Rosaline and Benvolio go to the friar’s new abbey to hear him say two sentences about who’s really behind all this and then that’s it for their investigation), but I’ll accept it because the alternative would be making it go on longer.
The episode isn’t all bad. Removing Benvolio and Rosaline from Verona means they don’t have many scenes with characters that aren’t each other, and if there’s anything this show has going for it, it’s Benvolio and Rosaline. And they’re running out of time to build the two into a believable couple, or at least believably into each other. As iffy as this mystery is turning out to be, the show at least manages to fulfill required pieces of the enemies-to-lovers trope (it’s not lost on me that it’s only any good at doing things that have already been done). On a cold night, Rosaline and Benvolio huddle for warmth, and on the run they’re stuck in the same bedroom together. Cue bath time for Benvolio and Rosaline sneaking a peek as he gets out. It’s delightful.
It’s delightful in the same way fluffy fanfiction is delightful when it’s often interrupted by a boring plot no one asked for but the author included because someone made them think they needed one. So you’re constantly scrolling until you get to the good stuff. Obviously, Still Star-Crossed isn’t fanfiction (Shakespeare would disagree) so conflict is needed, but it’s so boring I can’t believe it even enjoys it. This episode, in particular, takes way more joy in Rosaline and Benvolio than their half-hearted investigation. The show could have floated along on its romance angle and done a better job of it, but since it’s intent on inserting courtly intrigue, ghosts, conspiracies, and traitors, this is our finished product: a bunch of so-called important things that are hard to care about because their importance doesn’t translate.
This is no more apparent than in Isabella’s trip to Venice, where she takes on the lecherous doje and his favorite courtesan. This could have been a great moment to see Isabella coming into her own and using her wits to get out of Venice with her virtue, and Verona’s security, intact, but it’s muddled by the show’s weak attempt at court intrigue. It starts off somewhat promising, with the cold open of Isabella being dressed by her ladies, going from fresh-faced young woman to composed princess and negotiator. She’s young and inexperienced, but determined, and she runs into a number of stumbling blocks before getting her way. To watch her evade them could have been well done, but it’s just. So. Boring.
I said last week that the show may not be smart enough to do everything that it wants to do, and Isabella’s time in Venice made me think the same thing. There’s a moment of cleverness where Isabella cuts her leg, staining her bedsheets with blood and convincing the doje she’s on her period, disgusting him enough that he’s momentarily uninterested in sleeping with her. But that’s the only one we get. The rest feels sloppy, like Isabella attempting to convince the courtesan to betray the doje and eventually deciding the key is finding damning info in her journal. And it all comes down to this courtesan being a (bad) spy for Milan.
The best part is easily Isabella’s flirtation with a lady-in-waiting, but of course, that’s not likely to go anywhere.
- Did Rosaline and Benvolio plan on sleeping upright or what?
- “You could have just given me the cloak.” “Then I’d be cold.” Yes, this is true. Cuddling is better.
- It’s odd to have an episode that doesn’t even bother trying to connect to last week’s. Paris goes from bedridden and in hiding to in charge of the search for Rosaline and Benvolio. And who knows what anyone else is doing because no one shows up. I’m not necessarily complaining about this (because everyone else is boring), but after spending time building up Montague, Capulet, resurrecting cats, etc, to have an episode that features none of that feels weird.
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.