Boarding School Juliet
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Boarding School Juliet ?
Going into Boarding School Juliet's final episode, I was wondering just how the show was going to handle the inevitable convergence of the Great Pie War, Romio and Juliet's secret rendezvous, and big brother Airu's suspicions of Romio's romantic subterfuge. “Romio and Juliet” fittingly manages to bring everything back around into a surprisingly high-stakes climax that reinforces the more dangerous elements of our heroes' romance. This not only ties nicely into Shakespeare's source material, which uses violent stabbings to capstone most of its major plot points, but it gives the entire story a thrilling conclusion that also sets up some interesting paths for a potential second season.
After concluding Cait Sith and Rex's shenanigans in a somewhat clunky opening round of gags (Rex and the Black Doggie Boys get into a random cuteness contest, while Cait Sith shows off his Michael Jackson-esque dance moves), Romio and Juliet finally reunite after she rebuffed him and got trapped in a broom closet. It's a cute scene, especially with Juliet tearfully and unambiguously admitting her love for Romio. The two even manage to bring the pie fight to an acceptable end by making a show of nailing one another right in the face with a creamy confectionery. However, nothing is ever simple for these two, because right when things seem to be calming down, Airu comes in to try bring the lovers' affair to an end once and for all.
If there's one thing I wanted this finale to give me more of, it would have to be some character development and screen-presence for Airu. He's a decent enough antagonist from a plot perspective, functioning as a living manifestation of the societal pressures being put on Romio and Juliet, but he's lacking as a character overall. The stoic authoritarian sibling is a trope that's been beaten to death countless times over the years, and when such a character is lacking in complex characterization or interesting motivations, they end up being little more than glorified speedbumps in more interesting characters' journeys. His grilling of Romio and Juliet was a solid way to bring their secrets out in this finale, but there wasn't much tension to be felt, since we don't care at all about Airu's personal investment in the proceedings, and it's obvious that Romio and Juliet will find a way out of it somehow.
It's an instance of the “how” being much more interesting than the “what” or the “why”. In order to convince both of the houses that they aren't canoodling around like lovesick puppies, Juliet engages in a duel with Romio, mirroring the big fight that brought them together in the first place. The only difference is that now they're performing for an audience, so Juliet forces Romio to take her on with a real sword in what looks like a fight to the death. It's a ruse of course, and the fight isn't quite as flashy or exciting as that inaugural duel, but it's thrilling enough to see Juliet be the one to use her wits to devise a dangerously clever exit strategy. Airu already reminded our heroes (and the audience) about the rosaries that they both wear, and in a final flourish of their blades, both Romio and Juliet manage to strike each other's pendants exactly. This leaves them both without a scratch, while managing to convince the White Cats and the Black Doggies that Romio and Juliet would rather kill one another than engage in a clandestine affair, effectively returning the story to its status quo while reinforcing our young protagonists' dedication to see their love through to the end.
It captures Romio and Juliet's hardheaded commitment to their relationship while allowing them to stop just short of actually killing one another, giving them a distinct advantage over their Shakespearean progenitors. The climax also offers Boarding School Juliet one final opportunity to see these lovers off while leaving the door open for further adventures down the line. Romio is committed to improving Dahlia Academy's culture so that he and Juliet will never have to pretend to kill each other again, and to that end he will be pursuing prefecthood in the Black Doggie house, so he can gain the power and status he needs to change things. In the meantime, he offers Juliet a ring as a token of his promise to stay by her side no matter what, and the series ends with them taking a nighttime row out on the school's lake, the moonlight glinting off their bands.
Boarding School Juliet was not a perfect series, and its back half especially suffered from lackluster visuals and inconsistent storytelling. (I still think the story would have been better off without spending so much time on extraneous characters like the Wan sisters.) In the end, this romantic comedy managed to make me laugh and get me on board with its adorkable heroes; their relationship was well-written, earnest, and heartwarming, keeping me invested even through the weakest episodes. I would love for this show to get a second season, because I want to see how Romio and Juliet will survive the perilous deathtrap of adolescence, and if they manage to change the world enough to allow their love to flourish.
Boarding School Juliet is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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