ABC’s new series, Still Star Crossed, presents a refreshing twist on the Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet. The show follows the Montague and Capulet families after Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, deviating from the original ending of the play and creating a dramatic spin on how those deaths affected the entire city of Verona. Here’s the scoop we’ve gotten so far:
Romeo and Juliet are up to their usual teenage antics in the beginning of the series: getting married in secret, insisting that they know what they’re doing, etc. We see Benvolio witnessing for Romeo, and Rosaline for Juliet, during the ceremony conducted by Friar Lawrence. And, of course, there is the ominous line, “who’s to say that love won’t succeed where violence has failed?”
Spoiler alert: It won’t.
Then we have Prince Escalus, who recently returned to Verona upon hearing of his father’s poor health. The king is adamant that once Escalus is on the throne he “must always put Verona first”. Which begs one question: what could cause Escalus to put Verona second?
The plot then follows the typical he-said-she-said, an-eye-for-an-eye killing sequences and Juliet ends up being betrothed to Count Paris as a warped result of it all. She and Romeo plan to run away together, but, not surprisingly, they both end up wrapped in the sweet embrace of death and each other’s arms. Romeo tries to take Paris down for interfering, but Paris somehow survives.
The deaths of Romeo and Juliet spark even more unrest than before between the Montague and Capulet houses. Despite Escalus’s best efforts, things only manage to get worse. Escalus holds a joint funeral for the deceased lovers and begs the two families to end their feud in memory of their children. He brings forth a statue of Juliet as a gift from the Montagues to the Capulets, but quickly discovers that it has been graffitied with the word “Harlot”. Naturally, a full-scale riot ensues.
Rosaline tells her sister Livia they need to escape, but Livia refuses to leave the family and instead aids Lady Capulet and her nurse in healing Paris’s wounds. Rosaline doesn’t make her great escape and is instead told that she is set to marry Romeo’s cousin Benvolio.
Here’s the kicker: When Rosaline refuses to go through with the marriage and runs off, Prince Escalus runs after her. The two reminisce about their own forbidden love and he tells her that marrying her off is not his choice. A short but steamy make-out session ensues. And Benvolio witnesses it all.
In the next episode, we see some well-deserved hostility between Rosaline and Benvolio. The dynamic between these two really contrasts that of Romeo and Juliet; instead of being star-crossed lovers, they are star-crossed enemies forced to be wed. This sets the show up with tension, which is only exacerbated with Escalus thrown into the mix. The love triangle trope has been established, and we are dying to see how that unfolds!
The other source of tension comes from the influence Princess Isabella is shoving onto Escalus. She is incessantly prodding him to become a cold-hearted king who exerts his power mercilessly, which is just not who Escalus really is. His character is changing rapidly to fill his father’s shoes and appease his sister’s desire for power, which may cause other characters to change as well, Rosaline being the prime candidate because he is forcing her to marry against her will instead of taking her as his own bride.It makes us wonder what kind of future the crown has before it and how the new power dynamic may affect the kingdom as well as the actions of the Montagues and the Capulets.
Paris’s survival may also be a key to change. He witnessed Romeo at Juliet’s tomb, but he also heard Romeo declare that Juliet was his wife. Lady Capulet is in rage because she does not know why her daughter committed suicide, and if Paris tells her what he knows, her anger may intensify and be directed toward the Montague house. So, Paris may have a strong influence on how the feud between the houses either intensifies or dissipates. His savior, Livia, sister of Rosaline, may be able to sway him away from telling Lady Montague about the secret marriage. We will have to wait until the next episode to find out if the tender look shared between them results in another love affair.
Escalus and Rosaline’s love affair is also on the line after the mutilation of Romeo’s corpse. Though Escalus had told Rosalind that her betrothal to Benvolio would be cancelled and asked her to stay the night with him, he decides that this cannot be so. His need to rule his kingdom and avoid further violence by bringing the Montagues and Capulets together overrides his desire to marry Rosaline. This is another example of how is character is changing, but it is also a question about his ability to rule the kingdom. Is putting his emotions aside the best way to assert his power?
Finally, we see Lord Capulet asking for another loan to finish building Capulet Cathedral. Which means that he’s broke. Like, really broke. His debts can’t be paid, and he is relying on the marriage between his niece and Benvolio to bring in money to alleviate the loans already borrowed. The problem is, the wedding is supposed to be held in the cathedral, so unless it is finished in time, that money won’t be within reach. The architect he is speaking with wants to tell the Prince about the cathedral going unfinished, but refuses to take the fall for Lord Capulet’s lack of funds. So, like any good citizen, Lord Capulet kills him and pushes him off the partially built cathedral. The architect literally takes the fall. And Capulet must now figure out how to finish his cathedral.
After two episodes, we are left with many questions. Will the cathedral be built in time? Will Lady Capulet learn the reason of her daughter’s death? Will Escalus really let the wedding happen?