Pilot Review: Still Star-Crossed

Romeo and Juliet is one of history’s most enduring stories and adaptations are never in short supply. Few adaptations want to move past the tale of the two lovers, but Still Star-Crossed takes the deaths of those characters as the inciting incident to tell it’s story about what happens afterwards.

To be honest, I hate Romeo & Juliet, it’s my least favorite Shakespeare and I’ve only enjoyed two of the adaptations, the Baz Luhrman version and West Side Story. But I do love a good messy period drama so I thought I’d be able to enjoy the palace intrigue.

Still Star-Crossed does have some elements going for it, but it needs to make stronger decisions about what it wants to have in the subtext and what it wants to be overt, because by pilot’s end, it was on the wrong side of the balance. There’s no nuance amongst any of the characters or the storylines and while it’s nice to know exactly where the show will go, I want to discover it along with the characters. Even the most interesting moments are played so broadly that you can’t sit with moments

The only moment that really stuck with me was Ebonee Neal and Lashana Lynch who play Livia and Rosaline talking about what they will do now that the famous lovers are dead and chaos is reigning down. It was the show at it’s most feminist, a wonderful exploration of women and their choices, however the show moves past it to foreshadow heavily what will happen. There aren’t many moves the show can make that would genuinely surprise me, and that’s a sad thing to say whn you’re only one episode in.

What will appeal to most people is the diverse cast and ABC themselves certainly want you to know about it, given that they mention the racial make up of actors where they can on their bios in the press site. Indeed Still Star-Crossed does benefit in someways from this, particularly with regards to Rosaline and her sister’s plight. Having these characters played by Black women who are capulets but due to the death of their father have been taken in by their aunt and uncle only to be made servants is a striking storyline. It hews close to Cinderella but by having women of color in the roles you get an additional layer of subtext and it is also wonderful to see two enterprising women played by women of color being given full lives, even in a lowly station.

The same cannot be said for the Montagues. While Romeo is black (played by the always welcome Lucien Laviscount), he is the only Black Montague that we have met in the pilot. This plays like a weird bit of stunt casting and actually threw me out of the story, particularly given that his father is played by Cooter from True Blood (I still found Grant Bowler to be one of the best parts of this pilot despite this).

Still Star-Crossed premieres on Monday, May 29 @ 10pm.