Everything old is new again.
A fact for which I am profoundly delighted. The latest from Shonda Rhimes, Still Star-Crossed takes a centuries old play and breathes new life into it. Everyone knows how the story of Romeo and Juliet ends. The tragic end of the two heirs of the great houses and how their death ended a feud between their families. The title of the show even comes from that very first monologue. “A pair of star-cross’d lovers…”
This show takes that ending and runs with it, spinning out for us a glorious tapestry of politics, murder, intrigue, and marriage. For anyone like myself, who always wonders about what happens next, this show is an marvelous delight. It takes what we already know and elevates that knowledge from a two hour play into a larger story that plays out extraordinarily well on the television screen.
The deaths of the two heirs is simply a drop in the bucket of the much larger story unfolding in Verona. The death of the old Prince, leaving his son, Escalus and daughter, Isabella in charge of a city that is lacking only a spark to set off the powderkeg that dwells beneath it.
There are some lovely new twists as well that add more depth and intrigue to what we already know from the play. Lord Montague having known already of the marriage between his son and Juliet, and indeed, having paid Friar Lawrence to make it happen. Count Paris is not dead after all, but secretly recovering from his wounds in the basement of the Capulet stronghold. It is not said whether Paris is related to Escalus and Isabella, however there is a notable change in that Mercutio is not kin to them. They’ve slotted him firmly in as belonging to House Montague. A curious change, but easily understandable.
The show displays elegantly exactly how precarious the situation for some city-states in Italy could be during this time period. As Escalus states, there are threats within the city walls and outside of them and in order to preserve their lives as well as their seat of power, they have to walk a very tight line through all the factions.
I do wonder a little that instead of forcing Rosaline and Benvolio to marry, Escalus didn’t think to marry Rosaline himself and order Isabella to marry Benvolio and solve the issues that way. Both houses now joined with the royal one and therefore now having a greater stake in what happens to Verona. It would have allowed him to marry the woman he loved as well as solving some of the touchier political issues (and creating whole new ones as well, but there is no such thing as a perfect marital alliance during this time period). Alas, he did not. Which turns out to our benefit, as it would be a different show, if he had.
The casting for this show is lovely. It’s a similar style of casting to the 1997 Disney version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and I, for one, adore it. I wish all my favorite shows would look like this, with the care and the talent and the attention to detail. Lashana Lynch as Rosaline is absolutely perfect.
Still Star-Crossed airs on Saturdays on ABC 10/9 Central and if you enjoy period television at all, you won’t want to miss this one. There are currently only four episodes out, so it should be simple to catch up if you’ve missed the first few.