‘Monarch’ Premiere Recap: Everything That Went Down on the Susan Sarandon, Trace Adkins Series Debut

by Suzanne Halliburton

The premiere of Monarch celebrated Dottie and Albie Roman and their kids, setting up this deliciously dysfunctional drama about the country music world.

But really, it was all about Susan Sarandon’s Dottie, the queen of country. After four decades of superstardom, she’s dying of cancer. And Dottie wants to pass her crown, in this case a white Stetson studded with crystals, to her oldest daughter. And like the queen she is, Dottie plans her final act to the last detail. It’s a daughter-assisted suicide, but it’s all OK, she tells Nicky.

“God is killing me, Nicolette,” Dottie says in her sassy southern accent. “I just want to get it done on my own terms. Now I want to die the way I live: With a smile on my face, and perfect hair.” 

So that’s Monarch in a nutshell. It’s about family and a manipulative mother everyone adores. Trace Adkins plays Dottie’s husband, Albie. And he mostly takes a backseat to Dottie in this first episode, save for a few big moments. He punches a reporter in the face for asking his wife if she’s dying of cancer. And then he begins and ends Monarch by shooting someone, then burying the body. We have no idea who this dead person is or what he or she did to make Albie so mad.

Monarch also introduces the other characters in the show, which premiered Sunday night. There’s Nicky, the oldest. She’s the beautiful daughter who can sing. But she’s just not good enough for a solo career. The CMA producers don’t want her singing by herself during the awards ceremony. Rather, they prefer her doing a duet with her dad. Nicky is married to a British actor named Clive. Of course, he’s cheating on her. Cheating is a Roman theme.

Dottie demands that Nicky help her commit suicide. That’s after Dottie leaked the news of her terminal illness to People magazine. They’ll be one big, family concert, then Dottie will take a handful of pills and pass away peacefully, with Nicky making sure it all goes as planned.

Dottie presents Nicky with the outfit she’ll be wearing to perform at the concert. Then she hands her the hat. Dottie tells her “heavy is the head that wears the crown, baby.” If you’ve seen any of the Monarch promos on Fox, you’ve heard this line. And now you know the context.

Then there’s Luke, the CEO of Monarch Records. Albie doesn’t think much of his only son. Father tells son “most CEOs aren’t hand picked by mommy.” So Luke threatens to walk. He is also having an affair with a woman named Kayla, who is in the music business. But wait, Kayla is his younger sister’s wife.

Gigi is the youngest in the family. And she’s the most talented. However, Gigi never wanted to compete for the spotlight with Nicky. So she owns a club and lives happily with Kayla.

Monarch is about country music. You can hear Albie as he sings “Good Hearted Woman,” before the show cuts to another scene. Adkins tweeted a link to the full version on Spotify.

You also can hear Nicky and Gigi perform a duet, singing “How Can I Live.” It’s obvious Gigi has oodles of talent. Nicky asks her sister where’s she been hiding that voice of hers.

“Well there could only be one queen, isn’t that what momma always said?” Gigi tells her. That’s when Nicky realizes this might be a sibling competition for the Roman spotlight.

“You want to be a star,” Nicky says. “Bring it on, sister.” But first, listen to them sing together.

And then we get the final Monarch act. Albie comes home after the concert instead of partying with his friends. He looks at Dottie and tells her that he cheated on her four decades ago. But after the “barn fire,” he never saw the woman again. Dottie cusses him, but said she’s known for years that he had an affair. She loved him anyway.

Dottie goes up to her room. She puts on a fabulous night gown and her makeup and hair look perfect. Nicky hands her a whole bottle of pills. It doesn’t take long for Dottie to die. But Dottie goes to her grave with a secret. She might’ve set the barn fire. Earlier in the episode, we see a younger Dottie standing in front of a burning barn. It’s all a tease for future episodes.

Gigi comes into her mother’s room and sees Dottie. She demands of Nicky “what have you done?” And what did Albie do?

Monarch returns to its normal Tuesday time slot, Sept. 20. Stick with Outsider for more details.