I wrote this post after the pilot and then internet weirdness wouldn't let me post it. I tweaked some bits, but the only "spoilers" are from the pilot."Romeo and Juliet" exists as a timeless piece I suspect in part because it is a great example of a story that can viewed as grand love ended to soon by circumstances and petty familial squabbling, or as selfish teens who dragged family members and servants into something that by all rights should have made the war between the families worse. In fact, in a high school English class, we were assigned snippets to act out in front of class, and my group got the end, and I had the worst time not snickering because it is the only, in my opinion, false bit in the play. Sure, standing over the graves of your kids should provide perspective, but, well, Romeo and Juliet aren't even the first dead people in the play. To say nothing of the years of strife leading up to it.
"Still Star-Crossed" covers the highlights of the play in the first episode. So, if you are in the Romeo and Juliet are whiny brats camp, good news, they're dead. Like several other spinoff versions - Rebecca Serle's YA When You Were Mine comes to mind - the show is concerned with the rest of the family. I think it fits nicely into what I wanted "Reign" to be, a historical soap, "Reign" just ultimately for me at least, was stymied by having picked real people but yet not wanting to be constrained by history. With all due respect to the nice folks of Verona, my familiarity with their history is pretty minimal, so, they could be getting this terribly wrong.
But, Capulet, Montagues, they hate each other. The moment in the pilot that sealed it for me, was early on when swords come out, and the other townspeople all drag each other out of the way. Because isn't that the part that's easy to forget. As the Montagues and Capulets set fire to each others fields, and fight each other in the streets, other people are just trying to not be the fallout. And that is pretty much the conclusion Prince Escalus has come to. Sure, it seems he and Rosaline (now an orphaned Capulet cousin, forced with her sister to work in the Capulet household) had a little balcony moment themselves back in the day, but now that his father has died leaving him in charge, well, it is time to solve this family warfare so that Verona won't fall pray to one of the neighboring power hungry principalities.
Rosaline and Benvolio are the only two (well, so they think) who know that Romeo and Juliet were married, not just dead and in disgrace. They were both against it, but unable to talk their friends out of it, and now quite convinced that it's the other's fault that things went so badly.
Escalus decides that to solve this family warfare they need a union between the families. And so he's decided that..Rosaline and Benvolio should get married. They are not thrilled with this plan. There's other intrigues and such, Lady Capulet hates Rosaline for not being grateful, Rosaline's sister Livia has marrying up plans, and Paris is only mostly dead since Romeo ran him through before taking the poison. So, the scene has been set, lots of people love and hate each other and are scheming for power. The sets and costumes were amazing, and while again, I cannot speak to the specific costume authenticities, there is no glitter.
While I ultimately bailed out on "Reign", I still think it will appeal to those who liked "Reign' for the soapy historical intrigue. I imagine they will not sustain the number of sword fights found in the pilot, simply because they are going to need to hang on to more of the cast going forward, but we all know Shondaland shows will kill your faves, so probably not everyone is safe.