Monarch Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Stop at NothingJasmine Blu at .
Every family has its secrets, and the Romans prefer to bury them.
The season premiere of the highly-anticipated Monarch introduced us to the first family of Country. By the end of Monarch Season 1 Episode 1, it's evident that the first family is a hot damn mess.
Seriously, Dottie may be gone, but there will be no shortage of drama in her wake.
Monarch joins the ranks of series that thrive off of focusing on dysfunctional family elements and an obsession with legacy. It follows that formula almost exactly, attempting to pull from Dallas, Yellowstone, and Dynasty while also dazzling us with familiar faces like Susan Sarandon and Trace Adkins.
Comparison is the thief of joy but inevitable, so when holding this series up to the standards of, say, Yellowstone, well, it doesn't stand a chance.
It's early yet, but there's already some confusion with deciphering what type of series Monarch hopes to be.
Initially, the impression it gave was that it would be a country version of Empire, bringing the network the similar acclaim that the latter series brought in its earlier days when it was good.
We gotta show the world that the Roman family legacy will carry on beyond me. We are the first damn family of Country Music.Dottie
And it also gave the impression that it would deliver on some Nashville drama, impressive musical catalog, and general soapy goodness and appeal.
While most of the few performances and musical components were surprisingly underwhelming, Monarch brought the soap. As the season progresses, we'll likely see some of the little seeds planted in this premiere grow legs and become meatier.
But it suffered the way that pilot episodes tend to do, tossing us into the mix with these unfamiliar characters, latching onto their archetypes, and dumping in some exposition to lay the foundation.
It's the usual stretching legs for a new series before it takes off and settles into itself. The question: is there enough in the first installment to grab you and ensure you'd be returning to see more?
And on that note, I'll leave that up to you to decide. At the very least, you'd want to figure out who Albie buried. My money is already on Nicky's smarmy husband, Clive.
But as far as figuring out who the Romans really are as a family, it'll likely take more than just the premiere to get a feel for them. So far, we have the pretty standard archetypes that sometimes give way to the storytelling in country songs.
Albie seems like a rabble-rouser with a dark past, and, as Dottie affectionally mentioned, he's a liar and a cheat. Ironically, his moniker as the Truthteller of Texas is hysterical when you consider that.
But damn if I'm not a fan of Trace Adkins. His gravelly voice is like good whiskey and warm flannel, and his singing ain't bad either. So I'm committed to seeing what unravels with Albie, dammit.
A Roman never forgets a friend, or an enemy.Albie
At the center of this series, presumably, is some dark sin that must be rooted in Albie's affair with his true "rose" and what Dottie did when she learned the truth.
They give us flashbacks and flashforwards, both being a bit needlessly convoluted, but it'll obviously be a staple of the series since Dottie dies by the end of the hour. We spent more time with Susan Sarandon's character alive in Stepmom than in the Monarch premiere. Boo!
It seems Albie did fall in love or at least in lust with someone else, and Dottie may have gone to extreme measures to eliminate this woman from their lives. The barn fire may be at the root of all that, so it'll be interesting to see how that unfurls.
Dottie's deathbed confession had to be concerning that as she passed the baton and cowgirl hat to eldest daughter Nicky.
But the question is, how significant was this event? Does this mean the beloved Queen of Country didn't get to where she is now without buried bodies, blood, and turmoil?
One can never underestimate the lengths powerful families will go to protect their legacy. If Dottie and Albie were the next big thing, you can believe that she wouldn't want anything to interfere with her climb to the top.
But on top of whatever secrets were between this presumably perfect couple, there are a series of interfamilial dynamics at play too.
Luke is giving off his Jamie Dutton vibes as the underappreciated, business-minded CEO of the family empire who can't seem to earn his father's respect for anything in the world.
He wants to take the Roman family to the next level, and it seems he may know how to do that and has the means, especially working with the new, up-and-coming artist he's throwing into the mix.
But the scenes between Luke and Albie are rough because Albie doesn't even hide his disdain for his son. It makes you wonder how that relationship will devolve now that Dottie is gone.
Something tells me the only reason they managed to be cordial this long was because of her.
Luke isn't making a strong case for himself when he's carrying on an affair with his sister's wife. The initial introduction of Kayla (played by Pitch and You's Meagan Holder. Woo!) would give you the impression they were two rivals in the same industry who caught feelings for each other despite being competitive.
But it's much worse and far juicer that Kayla is married to Luke's sister. It will undoubtedly come out at any given moment, especially if things go according to plan and Gigi starts blowing up as the Country heir, usurping Nicky.
Gigi has everyone's undivided attention right now, and with attention comes a deep dive into every facet of a person's life. If your house isn't in order when that happens, then everything will come out in a brutally public way.
The sibling dynamics are such a classic, aren't they?
Each of them feels slighted in some way or another, but they look at one another like the other person got off better.
Luke has been dying for his father's approval, and while he had a decent moment or two with Dottie, it doesn't seem like they were nearly as close as Dottie was with Nicky.
But Gigi had all the tension with Dottie, feeling as if she was in her sister's shadow when it came to Dottie's love and attention. It doesn't help that Nicky appears made in her mother's image in comparison, and undoubtedly Gigi being a queer woman probably didn't help matters either.
Gigis has the traditional tension with Dottie, indifferent to doing what her mother desired, forging her own path, and rebelling from the family in that way.
It was funny to see how everyone regarded her as a "nobody." Even the public disregarded her and almost didn't let her into the award ceremony honoring her parents.
Alec: Where have you been hiding her?
Dottie: We Romans like to choose our moment.
She started the hour invisible and ended it shining so brightly that she may be the crown jewel of the Roman Family legacy. The irony is that she never would've walked out on that stage if Dottie didn't suggest she do it to support her sister.
Gigi's love for her sister surpassed her spite toward her mom, and now she's further cast her sister aside. Of course, it sounds like Gigi was holding back for some time, so the sister rivalry activated in full force.
Without Dottie there, all hell is about to break loose between these two, and years worth of childhood traumas (if you will) will probably be unleased and galvanized.
The second Gigi walked out on that stage and started belting out her part in "How Do I Live," the crowd went wild, and Alec took notice. They were chanting her name by the time she walked off that stage.
Some people have that ability and effect on a crowd, and others don't. You can't buy or manufacture it; it is what it is.
In one set, Gigi did something that Nicky hasn't been able to do in decades. Dottie may not have had faith in Gigi or believed she ever stood a chance of becoming the heir to the queen crown, but no one is buying Nicky in the potential role.
It had to be such a blow to Nicky when she discovered that Gigi had been holding back, playing the wallflower sister, so she didn't "outshine" Nicky. Gigi seemed genuine when she said that too. It didn't seem malicious at first, but now she can't put that back into the bottle, so here we are.
Nicky has her own difficulties in all of this. She's dealt with her mother's expectations that she be the next her and the rest of the world telling her that she wasn't good enough.
No matter how many times and ways she tried to go solo, do her own thing, and build a name and career for herself on her merit, her family's name cast a shadow she couldn't escape.
Even now, she thought it would be her time because Dottie told her it would be, passing down the torch to her daughter in her final days.
But when it comes to the industry and public opinion, it's not Dottie's torch to pass. Nicky can have the stamp of approval from her mother, but no one else has to abide by it, which is what Alec was getting at when he told Nicky that she wouldn't be that person to keep the Roman legacy alive.
Luke: What's your plan?
Nicky: My plan? Well my plan was to outwork everyone, have a solo career in my 20s, a hit single in my 30s and by now I would be selling out world tours but instead, I'm being told that I wasn't good enough.
It made you feel for Nicky. In many ways, her legacy name works against her as much as it works for her. She's also a woman and over 40, and we already know how the music industry (or most industries) regards women of a certain age.
Her marriage seems to be a farce too. Although, a girl got some delight in seeing her wielding that curling iron as she did while Clive was in the tub.
If he's going to be a serial cheater who does things behind her back all the time, she can at least keep him on his toes.
In no part of Nicky's life does anyone take her seriously, and now the one woman who did, to some degree, is gone. And worse yet, Dottie enlisted Nicky's help to die.
Cancer is a beast; understandably, Dottie didn't want to wait things out and waste away. She wanted to go out on her terms after her lifetime achievement award and one final concert for the masses.
Luke: What have I got to do, tell me. For you to look at me the way that you do Gigi and Nicky? When am I enough? What do I have to do to be enough? You know why momma brought me onboard? Because she needed someone to bring us into the future and stop living in the past. If that ain't working for you, maybe I should just step aside.
Albie: Yeah, maybe you should.
Albie was irate about that reporter asking about cancer, but if Dottie loves her fans and the fame the way it's implied, then her leaking the news of her grave diagnosis and getting a full and flattering People feature out of the deal was on brand.
But it speaks volumes that Dottie couldn't have these conversations with the rest of her family. In the end, she wanted only Nicky there to help her die.
She wanted the last image for her to see was the daughter in her likeness. Can you imagine how messed up that is for everyone else in her life?
None of the others got a chance to say goodbye.
She at least got to air some things out with Albie. And her moment with her assistant was sweet. But she didn't have any real goodbyes for Luke and Gigi or her grandkids either.
And now Dottie is gone, but she entrusted Nicky with the burden of being there and all that entails but secrets and now the ire of her sister, who caught her in the aftermath.
Dottie may have gone out like a vain queen, but oh, the things she left in her wake!
Over to you, Monarch Fanatics. How did you feel about the series? Will you be tuning in? Who do you think Albie was buryhing? Sound off below!
You can watch Monarch online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You'll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.