In Fair Verona, Betrayal is Everywhere (Still Star-Crossed, Episode 2 review)

rosaline and escalusAt least this episode is better than last week’s episode was. Many of the positive things I had to say about Still Star-Crossed are still very much applicable, but a lot of the negative things I had have been rectified at least a bit. As I’d hoped, this show seems to be one of those that has an awful first episode and then slowly finds its feet and its own voice. That’s not to say it fixed all of its problems; on the contrary, the problems it still has are only more blatant this week, but overall it was a much more enjoyable outing. The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth picks up exactly where last week’s left off, with Benvolio (Wade Briggs) discovering Escalus (Sterling Sulieman) and Rosaline (Lashana Lynch) locking lips. With Verona in crisis, Rosaline and Benvolio have no choice but to follow Prince Escalus’ decree to marry one another in an effort to restore peace, which Rosaline struggles to accept. Lady Capulet (Zuleikha Robinson) continues to mourn Juliet’s death but, unsettled by the way she died, is determined to figure out what or who influenced Juliet’s decision. Meanwhile, Livia (Ebonee Noel) and the nurse (Susan Wooldridge) work tirelessly to revive Count Paris (Torrance Coombs), hiding a secret of their own. 

escalus_1

Sterling Sulieman as Escalus.

So, if you remember from last week, my biggest problem was that this show felt like a soap opera. I still feel that way, but it’s a bit less bothersome. That’s not to say that the soap opera elements have gone away, but they’ve been developed a bit better. It definitely helps that half of the episode didn’t have to be devoted to a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. With the full runtime of the episode, the plots that were established last week were given the time to organically develop and grow. The love triangle between Benvolio, Escalus, and Rosaline is still annoying, but I’m kind of digging the way it’s unfolding. So far, Rosaline and Benvolio still have no interest in one another (I fully expect that to change at some point, but I’m more than willing to celebrate until it does change); instead, Escalus is merely trying to fool the public into thinking he’s forcing the two of them to marry as a show of force. So, this concept is one that interests me. At this moment, it’s not really a love triangle as much as it’s kind of a classic medieval trope of true love versus obligations to the family name and house. Though by the end of the episode, this has seemingly changed as something has caused Escalus’s heart to harden (which I will discuss further below), I’m still hopeful this is the direction the show continues to go in.

 

capulet and benvolio

Grant Bowler as Lord Montague and Wade Briggs as Benvolio.

While all of that’s going on, Lord Capulet (Anthony Head) is facing complications with the completion of the construction of his family’s cathedral. Capulet is broke, so construction has stopped until Capulet can pay his debts. Lord Montague (Grant Bowler) notices that, for the first time in nearly a century, construction on the Capulet cathedral has stopped. Montague tasks Benvolio with finding out why, which Benvolio successfully does, and then utilizes that information later in a dinner hosted by Escalus (to announce the marriage of Rosaline and Benvolio) by suggesting that the wedding be held in the finished cathedral, knowing that Capulet didn’t have the money to finish it, as a way to embarrass Capulet. It’s a very petty thing to do, but I’m a sucker for medieval families doing nonsense like this, and if I’m gonna be watching a Shakespearean-based soap opera, this is definitely the kind of stuff I wanna see. Plus, it leads to a really cool scene where Lord Capulet literally throws the architect off an upper floor of the cathedral, killing him instantly. It gives Anthony Head a moment to really show just how sinister he is as Capulet, and I love when Anthony Head gets to be sinister; that’s always fun to watch.

 

 

capulet lady

Lady Capulet (Zuleikha Robinson) confronts Friar Lawrence (Dan Hildebrand).

Meanwhile, Lady Capulet has tasked the Nurse and Livia with keeping Count Paris alive, which they manage to do with an old trick Livia’s dad used to use to help wounded soldiers. This begins a plotline that I’m very interested in which Livia and Paris develop a bond. The show has established that Livia wants nothing more than to be married to a nobleman, and the show is very quickly setting up the possibility that Paris will fall in love with her since she’s the one who saved his life. While that happens, Lady Capulet continues to try to come to terms with Juliet’s death. She is seeking answers wherever she can, running into Friar Laurence (Dan Hildebrand) in Juliet’s tomb where he suggests that Juliet did not come up with the idea to kill herself on her own. He, obviously, is referring to himself, but Lady Capulet interprets it as him referring to Rosaline, which leads to her tearing apart Rosaline’s room in search for any shred of evidence to prove her theory. The Nurse discovers Lady Capulet in the act, which gives Lady Capulet a lovely moment where she just crumbles under the grief. It’s nice seeing her given something other to do than just be catty towards Rosaline. Her behavior is given a valid and understandable motive with this development. Obviously, the audience knows that she’s chasing the wrong rabbit, but it’s still enjoyable seeing her given something to do.

 

 

death to all montague

“Death to all Montague” painted in Romeo’s blood on the inside of his mausoleum.

Underneath all of this, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s some kind of conspiracy at work dedicated to keeping the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets alive and well. Between the defacing of Juliet’s statue from last week’s episode and the mutilation of Romeo’s corpse and the message left on the wall of his mausoleum in his blood, it’s very clear that somebody is trying to provoke the two families into an increased conflict. Who is plotting against the two families? Will it tie in with the creators’ implications that characters from some of Shakespeare’s other plays will factor into the show? I don’t know, but it’s definitely the most interesting part of the ongoing story. I’m a fan of secret conspiracies manipulating the events in TV shows, so I hope this one pans out into something interesting and satisfying.

 

Overall, this episode was definitely an improvement over the first. The writing is a bit better; still far too melodramatic and over-the-top, but better. The directing is good, the scenery is beautiful, and all the actors give strong performances. The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth has given me hope that this show many not be utterly awful. So, for that, I give the episode three and a half out of five wands.

Still Star-Crossed continues next week with All The World’s a Stage, airing at 10:01 pm on ABC.

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