More than 400 years after William Shakespeare’s death, one of the playwright’s most beloved works is at last being given the sequel treatment in the form of an ABC drama series.
Based on Melinda Taub’s 2013 novel, ABC’s Still Star-Crossed strives to answer a whole bunch of questions no one asked about the extended Romeo and Juliet universe, including how its members fared after the titular lovers’ deaths.
Monday’s premiere spun the mostly familiar tale of forbidden lovers who defied their feuding families’ wishes by wedding in secret and, ultimately, dying in each other’s arms. I say “mostly” because, like Once Upon a Time before it, Still Star-Crossed revels in the details omitted (but, you know, not really omitted) from Shakespeare’s original text.
For example, the guest list at Romeo and Juliet’s wedding was a little longer than Shakespeare would have had you believe; along with Benvolio, whose half-baked efforts to stop the ceremony proved futile, Juliet’s cousin Rosaline was also in attendance. As two of the only people privy to the forbidden marriage — along with Friar Lawrence, reimagined by Still Star-Crossed as a shady practitioner of the dark arts — Benvolio and Rosaline ultimately blamed themselves for not speaking out, potentially preventing much bloodshed on both sides.
That collective regret only increased when Prince Escalus, as a last-ditch effort to make peace between the Capulets and Montagues, ordered that Rosaline and Benvolio unite the families in marriage. But soft! Rosaline is already entrenched in a secret affair all her own — with the very prince who doomed her to marry a Montague!
You know, it’s probably a good thing Romeo and Juliet are already dead — fair Verona is only big enough for one pair of star-crossed lovers. (Oh, Still Star-Crossed. I get it now.)
* Having played Paris (portrayed here by Reign‘s Torrance Coombs) in my own high-school production of Romeo and Juliet, I appreciate that Still Star-Crossed decided not to kill him off, finding a way to keep him alive after his encounter with Romeo in the tomb. I’m curious to see how he factors into the story now that his betrothed is dead.
* This might be nitpicky, but here goes: In the play, Romeo drinks most of Juliet’s poison, which leaves her with no other recourse than to stab herself with his dagger. In this version, there was apparently plenty to go around, with both lovers having a drink before dying. So here’s my question: If only one drop was needed to fake Juliet’s death, why did Friar Lawrence give her the whole damn bottle? Surely, he could have foreseen that this wouldn’t end well. [UPDATE: As several commenters have pointed out, I mis-remembered the situation. Romeo, in fact, got more poison from an apothecary in the original text.]
* Another nitpick: If Lord Montague wanted his son to marry Juliet, as alleged in the Still Star-Crossed premiere, why the hell didn’t he say something sooner?
* From Scream Queens to The Bye Bye Man and beyond, I feel like I’ve seen Lucien Laviscount (Romeo) die a lot, on screens both big and small. (Also, hi, I watch a lot of bad movies.)
* Lady Capulet, whose first name is apparently Giuliana, is giving off major Victoria Grayson vibes. (Shocker: She’s already my favorite character.)
* Who do we think wrote “HARLOT” on Juliet’s statue? My guess is Lord Montague. I suspect he also wrote “Go to Hell, Serpent Slut” on Betty Cooper’s locker on Riverdale.
OK, let’s talk: Did you enjoy your trip back to Verona? Personally, I feel that Monday’s premiere was mostly set-up, so I’m reserving my official judgments for another week. Grade the premiere of Still Star-Crossed below, then drop a comment with your full review.