Review: Shakespeare and Shondaland Don’t Make a Strong Marriage in ‘Still Star-Crossed’

If you’ve ever read Romeo and Juliet and wondered what happened next, Shonda Rhimes latest drama Still Star-Crossed has the answer.

Unfortunately that answer is a boring, predictable drama who’s only purpose seems to be filling time during the summer.

The series examines the effect the Montague/Capulet rivalry has on the rest of Verona and how the families cope following the couple’s tragic death.

ZULEIKHA ROBINSON, ANTHONY HEAD, LASHANA LYNCH, EBONEE NOEL, STERLING SULIEMAN, CLARA RUGAARD, MEDALION RAHIMI, LUCIEN LAVISCOUNT
In the wake of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic deaths, the Montague and Capulet rivalry escalates in ABC’s Still Star-Crossed. (ABC/Manu Trillo)

Of course everyone isn’t into Shakespeare, but don’t worry it’s been given the Shondaland treatment.

The first episode opens with Romeo and Juliet’s wedding. The series main focus Rosaline Capulet (Lashana Lynch) and Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs) are present as witnesses.

Viewers are then given a few aspects of the story they’ve never seen. The King is on his deathbed, however, before he dies he reminds his children that Verona must always come first.

The king’s death is followed by the prince’s death, so now young Prince Escalus will rule. Both houses see this as an opportunity to increase their power.

At this point in the episode the full scope of the show becomes apparent. ABC really went all in on the period piece. The only glaring mark is the weird special effects that accompany wide shots of the city. They are so out-of-place, they’re jarringly distracting every time they pop up.

The first half of the episode is basically the finale of Romeo and Juliet. It is at the halfway point that the couple dies and a huge battle breaks out at the funeral causing riots to erupt throughout the city.

It is also at this point that it becomes apparent the writers are determined to cram as many plots as possible into the story. It’s their way of screaming this isn’t your parents Shakespeare.

Though Rosaline and her sister Livia are Capulet servants, they are also Juliet’s cousins and were once nobles themselves.

Romeo and Juliet’s deaths have suddenly made Rosaline and Benvolio the heirs to their families.

Despite its Shakespeare origins, this show has all the Shondaland trademarks. Families full of secrets, an impossibly good-looking, diverse cast and an unsure feeling of whom to root for.

For her part Rosaline is a textbook Shonda heroine. Independent woman ahead of her time. Check. A forbidden love. Of course. Family responsibilities she must put ahead of her own life. Naturally.

The pilot spends more time with the Capulets so hopefully the rest of the episodes are a little more balanced. Yes, it’s Rosaline’s story, but we also need to care about Benvolio.

WADE BRIGGS
Wade Briggs plays Benvolio Montague in Still Star-Crossed. (ABC/Manu Trillo)

Briggs’ portrayal of Benvolio as a misunderstood, black sheep of the Montagues keeps his few scenes interesting.

Lynch and Briggs chemistry is what will carry this show through the early set up episodes.

Other than the always magnificent Anthony Stewart Head as Lord Capulet, the rest of the cast isn’t given much to do in the first episode.

ANTHONY STEWART HEAD, LASHANA LYNCH
Anthony Stewart Head is Lord Capulet and Lashana Lynch is Rosaline Capulet in Still Star-Crossed. (ABC/Manu Trillo)

In fact so much time was spent on replaying the sad story of Romeo and Juliet, it was hard to get a feel on where the show is actually headed.

It has the potential to be a fun summer show to pass the time until Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder come back but frankly it doesn’t have the same “oh my god, did you see that” feeling as the rest of the Shondaland lineup. It also lacks the unpredictability, so even if you don’t watch, chances are you can figure out what’s going to happen.

Ultimately the show suffers the worst fate in television. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just there. It’s the kind of show you have on in the background while folding laundry or vacuuming.

Still Star-Crossed airs Mondays at 10 pm on ABC.

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