Will on TNT: Stream-of-Consciousness Recap


I watched the first episode of Will on TNT, and here’s what I’ve got. I make no promises of coherence, cleverness, or brilliant insights (but neither does this TV show). There were a lot of cocktails, a lot of messy screencapping, and some unclear conclusions, late on a work night, oh the things I do for you people!


Will (2017)

OK, they got it right that 18-year-old Will married an older Anne — at 26, she might as well have been dead, apparently.


Will (2017)

Setting up Shakespeare as a Catholic — let’s go right for the scholarly debates from the start, whoo-hoo! (Tho’ I’ll note that this is a pretty modern-looking rosary.)


Will (2017)

3 minutes in, we’re hit with “London Calling” by the Clash. A bit obvious, no?


Will (2017)

This obnoxious kid will be a plot point. Meanwhile, exotic animals and people roam the streets of London 1589.


Will (2017)

Also, this torturing / tortured Catholic stuff is going to be a theme.


Will (2017)

Quick, switch the soundtrack to the Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” and head to the Globe Theater.


Will (2017)

Enter Christopher Marlowe, super spy. No, really, that’s his role in this show, because there can only be one playwright (it’s like Highlander).


Will (2017)

WTF is up with this woman’s halter top? Also, Colm Meaney is wholly unrecognizable to me here as James Burbage, the theater manager.


Will (2017)

Actors getting jiggy backstage. As you do.


Will (2017)

The play sucks, the actors attempt to jazz hands their way out of it, and everyone riots. As you do.


Will (2017)

Will gets the hots for Alice Burbage, fictional daughter of the theater manager. As you do.


Will (2017)

I think I went to high school with that chick. And dated the guy on the left.


Will (2017)

This is me when I have to get up early to work renfaire. Just ask Kendra.


Will (2017)

I’ll give you the accurate recreation of the Globe Theater, but the skinny jeans? No.


Will (2017)

“Live fast, die young, and leave a pox-ridden corpse,” — You’re not that clever, Richard Burbage, nor that hot.


Will (2017)

Will is challenged to an actual battle of wits, in iambic pentameter by this Greene character. Pretty sure I saw him do it at a renfaire.


Will (2017)

In fact, this is one our standard gigs at renfaire. AND YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE SO CUTE, HAH.


Will (2017)

In addition to the startling lack of chemises, I’m irritated that the show uses people of color as so much set dressing. All the named characters on IMDB are white, while the crowd scenes are distinctly multiracial.


Will (2017)

Obvious love interest goes obviously awry when Will mentions his wife.


Will (2017)

Meanwhile, the play’s the thing, and everyone loves a cliche Scottish joke, amirite?


Will (2017)

This theater is underwritten by the generous patronage of Lord and Lady ShinyPants of Dead Dino Manor.


Will (2017)

Somehow, Will makes a real actor out of his loudmouth pal.


Will (2017)

Oi, we’re really soft inside, don’t judge.


Will (2017)

Marlowe decides not to take credit for the play and not to turn in Will — because he’s a sneaky bastard.


I don’t know what to think about this show. Will is not as 100% terrible as it looked in the previews — and it’s just not as train-wreckingly awful that makes for good fun either. The visuals are over the top, to be sure, and I can’t quite tell, yet, if the costume design has a real internal consistency. I’m getting 1980s punk on top of 16th-century renfaire mixed with a bunch of random modern 21st-century bits, so the look is a hodgepodge. Especially when you consider that the stage costumes (which make up a bulk of the visuals) bear a strong resemblance to what would have been used as renaissance stage costumes. If you’re a purist, there’s plenty to snark, but the more I look at it, the more I think, yeah, that’s my kind of style. Except the punk theme is inconsistent as far as the soundtrack goes — a mere three modern tunes in the whole episode. C’mon, Sophia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette did better.

Then there’s the story — there too, Will is almost, but not quite, outrageous. The plot draws from Shakespeare’s already sketchy biography and includes some of the rumor and innuendo about him. The dialog even weaves in a hint of Shakespeare’s text every so often. Fair enough, plenty of biographical adaptions have done these things. Nothing is super soap opera-y, unlike, say Still Star Crossed, in terms of plot points, although nothing has been insanely original either. The acting is a little uneven, but it’s not bad, though I fear that there won’t be much for the female characters to do of interest.

TNT actually ran a second episode after this on Monday, but I didn’t have the time / energy / give-a-fuck to watch it yet. #SorryNotSorry. Maybe watching it will help me decide one way or the other about this show? I CAN’T TELL.


What about you? Are you on the fence about Will or in full hate-watch mode?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

25 Responses

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Dame Vivienne would have done a better job! This isn’t quite ‘hot mess’ territory, but it’s not fashion-forward either. I guess that’s to be expected for network TV. sigh

  1. picasso Manu

    “Nothing is super soap opera-y”
    Nothing was soapy, period. Honest, do we really need the universal greasy hair, uncombed to boot, and all that dirt? Your ex-boyfriend torso looks like it’s moldy.

  2. Athene

    I’ve lost patience with it already. You’re right about it being not good enough to be interesting, and not quite bad enough to be fun. I mostly found it head-scratching, although I did spend a lot of time wondering how all those groundlings could afford that high-quality ink.

  3. Adina

    Oy vey. I’m too young to drink, but I need alcohol after seeing this.

    (Though you mentioned Highlander, will we ever see a post about it? Sure it was kinda goofy, but I loved that show.)

  4. Susan Pola Staples

    Will avoid it like the plague. Ghod, Reign was totally accurate compared with this travesty. Let’s see I’ve already filled the bingo card up on the pics, where to go from here (she ponders grinning evilly)
    And WTF with Anne’s nightie thing?

  5. ladyaquanine73551

    Wow…just…wow. I haven’t seen that much drug-addled garbage since the last time I watched “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” Either that, or it was when my family took our trash cans to the dump because SOMEONE (a brother who shall remain nameless) forgot to take the cans out the night before and we were desperate. Thankfully, that was nearly 20 years ago.

    I’m not surprised you drank while watching this show. I’d drink until I fell asleep before watching this monstrosity. However, the producers, costume designers, and everyone else involved in making this freak show probably had enough alcohol and drugs in them to compete with Kieth Richards while putting this hideous mess together. Frankly, I think the only reason anybody even showed up for casting was because of the paycheck offered.

    I don’t see this gross mess having any more survival chances than “Still Star-Crossed.”

    There are just SOME lines people really should not cross when trying to make a historical fiction tv show for the younger generations. This is one of them.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I swear I read somewhere that they had filmed the one season of Will & shit-canned it a year ago, with no intention of ever airing it. Then the production company found a buyer, TNT, that needed a summer replacement series. So I don’t think we’ll ever see a second season, thank the gods!

  6. mmcquown

    You couldn’t pay me to watch that mess. But I will comment that there have been persistent rumours that Marlowe was a spy, probably in the pay of Walsingham. This may have been the cause for his death by being stabbed in the eye in a tavern brawl. Or maybe he saw a future vision of this show and did it himself.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      It’s the spying on Shakespeare that seems dumb — who cares? Marlowe should spy on something more useful than random theater punks!

  7. Cassandra

    I have it on the DVR, but the previews were already making me a bit flummoxed …it looked to me as if Will was writing with a metal quill on his pen??? I know it’s a little thing, but need to discover if it was true. Thanks for the review!

  8. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Since this reminds me of a cross between Burning Man, Mera Luna festival, and Pennsic War (especially the Bog), I’m going to wait until I need a boost around January. When Events are scarce and I need to get a fix to carry me through until the season picks up again.

  9. Jen in Ypsi

    Ok, after seeing this, I might have to go and rewatching Upstart Crow on BritBox again. Somewhat the same characters, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Burbage, Greene, et al. But the writer is Ben Elton, so it’s Blackadder levels of snark. (And the costuming isn’t terrible, but not spectacular. But not Pennsic “it’s an attempt, not sure at what, though”)

  10. Cheryl from Maryland

    Will was totally attempting to pander to the “young” audience, and that sucketh. But I’m going to keep watching — for Colm Meany, who can rock bad makeup and wigs like no one else and for the graphic artist who did the play posters. Those are fabulous. Heck, that ‘s the image chosen for this post. Also, that “green’ character is Robert Greene, so famous with us anti-Oxfordians as one of the few contemporary references to Shakespeare. That he was there using words Robert Green actually published to give Shakespeare the side eye is great!

  11. Sarah

    I’m only tuning in when they acknowledge Marlowe’s open homosexuality and/or Will’s queerness. I mean, they’ve already dashed my hopes for compelling female and/or nonwhite characters, costumes that at least have a consistent vision even if not historically accurate, and a well-researched look at Elizabethan theatre. Otherwise, I will be looking if frockflicks does any more recaps, but this show seems like a definitive Hamlet, act III, scene III, line 92 to me, for those up to date on their Shakespeare memes.

  12. mmcquown

    Back to the hair issue: all the busts of Shakespeare show him with well-combed locks, regardless of how scant they might have been.

  13. Lauren

    I could behind the costuming and such if this was like an adaption of one of the plays, it’s not far off from the 80s punk-inspired costume treatment I devised for ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ for my college thesis….
    But as a fictional show about Shakespeare himself? Lolnope.

  14. MrsC (Maryanne)

    I’m having a moment. I love Lady Hawke, Plunket and McLean and to a lesser degree, Knight’s Tale because of their deliberate anachronisms and consistent vision of an alt world. But neither are dealing with actual real and living historical people like Will S and Liz 1 and Mary QOS, and these flights of fecked up fantasy just grate at my brain. I would love to see a film of a Shakespeare play set in this alt punk 16th C London, but I hate this twisting of history. And as for the life sized Nac Mac Feegles doing what I can only assume is MacBeth? Oh FFS!!!!

  15. Lily Lotus Rose

    Ok, so I’m writing this 2 1/2 years ex post facto…The costuming was atrocious, but it is EXACTLY what they wanted. I watched a featurette on the costumes and was shocked to learn that Caroline McCall, who was Assistant Costume Designer and then Costume Designer for Downton Abbey, designed the costumes for this TV show. She is someone who knows what she is doing. So, in the producer’s ill-conceived notion of being (in their minds) “punk rock-esque and edgy” they went all-in on this look.

    Now for the show itself, I watched all the episodes and it remained maddening throughout. The costumes and soundtrack were distracting. The plot points were inane, unnecessarily violent, vulgar, and sometimes interesting.

    This entire concept desired much better treatment. And what hurts is that they had talented people working on this project–including Caroline McCall–and many of the actors.