There is no doubt that “Grand Army” is doing its best.
Adapted by KatieCappiello from her 2013 play “Slut,” Netflix’s shiny, grainy new teen drama (now streaming, (of four) tries to say big things about race, gender, classism, and poverty. He also tries to turn an introspective play into an ensemble drama, and to create a teen soap opera out of all the politicians and all the public service announcements. He tries to do so much that he sometimes gets on with it. his way and gets bogged down in foreign stories and buzzwords.
If you take some of the excess off, there’s some exciting teen drama out there. When you find it, “Army” is exquisite. But the show can be a slog when it loses its way.
“Army” follows five teenagers to the fictional Grand Army High School, which brings together a diverse collection of students from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Joey Del Marco (OdessaAzion), a white fire brand feminist with a kind of self-centered activism (who is the main character of “Slut”); Dominique Pierre (Odley Jean), a black student who has enormous potential for success but who is held back by her need to provide for her Haitian family, Siddhartha Pakam, (Amir Bageria), an Indian-American who struggles with his gender identity; Leila Zimmer (Amalia Yoo), a Chinese-American girl adopted by white parents who is desperate to integrate; and Jayson Jackson (Maliq Johnson), a child of the nave group.
More:‘Grand Army’ 6 New TV Shows To Watch This Fall (Yes, There Are Still New Shows Even During COVID)
In the first episode, which takes place in January, the student world is rocked by a terrorist attack just steps from the school, which sets off a chain of interpersonal events that shape the narrative of the season. Joey is criticized by a teacher for wearing revealing clothes; Leila is secretly thrilled when she is added to an obscene list of hot girls, Jayson and his friend Owen (Jaden Jordan) are in trouble; Dominique sees the $ 200 she needs to help her family steal, and Sid fears being considered a terrorist because of his race.
From there, the plot becomes more complicated and darker. The undertones of “Degrassi,” and more recently, HBO’s “Euphoria” are here, as the series attempts to enter the lives of its teenage characters. Like “Euphoria”, “Army” doesn’t shy away from the intricacies of modern teenage life, including drug use, sexual assault, bullying, pornographic revenge, and other risky activities that terrify generation parents. Z.
Jean and A’zion, daughter of “Better Things” star / creator Pamela Adlon, perform in star-making performances as Dom and Joey, the strongest characters with the most effective storylines. A’zion balances out a character that is both infuriating and somehow always sympathetic, while Jean deftly handles Dom’s inner struggle, who must constantly adjust his mood and demeanor to satisfy his family, the white teachers at school, or his friends.
Outside of these stories, this is where the “army” falters. Leila is so unnerving that her appearances stop the series in its tracks (especially when her animated fantasies provide a shocking contrast to the rest of the series). Sid talks about platitudes and buzzwords about race and sexuality that don’t feel natural. Jayson’s encounter with school disciplinary action feels more like a moral piece than anything to do with him or Owen as characters. Here big ideas about race and the “school-prison pipeline” are meant to come out, but there is an inauthenticity in the portrayal.
It’s frustrating when the writers of “Army” get in their way. But when A’zion or Jean are on screen, the show instantly straightens up, guided by the charisma of the two young actors.
Like so many high school students, “Army” does not sound directly the first time around. But there is room to try again.
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