Spoilers for Degrassi: Next Class season 3 within.
I am a little ashamed to admit that I’ve once again watched the latest season of Degrassi: Next Class as soon as it was put on Netflix.
I genuinely think that the original Degrassi series, with Degrassi: The Next Generation (just like Star Trek) being the stand-out star. However, for the past three seasons, Next Class has been a ghost of its predecessors. Degrassi is always at its worst when it’s trying to be hip and at its best when dealing with universal, timeless issues teens face in high school. Perhaps I’m giving the show too much credit, but Degrassi is great at representing the time in everyone’s life where things are black and white anymore. High school is like the tutorial for adulthood: your actions are no longer as simple as good or bad.
However, this season, it was easy to judge character’s choices as the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. Frankie is the worst offender of this. She just doesn’t have anything going for her. Every season, she makes the wrong choice in a big way. What’s more, she knows it’s wrong, but does it anyway. This would be compelling if she was better written. Lola, for instance, makes many impulsive decisions, but she genuinely tries to be a good person, and once she realizes/admits she made the wrong choice, she does everything in her power to make it right. In contrast, Frankie just seems to cry a lot and wait for everyone to forgive her.
Speaking of Lola, her abortion subplot this season was… interesting. I hate the once-and-pregnant trope, personally, but I have to admit that I like that Lola feels confident that she made the right decision by having an abortion. So many representations of abortion include the person having a breakdown or regretting the decision (at least partially), so it’s oddly refreshing to see that Lola doesn’t feel that while not giving her reaction or anyone else’s reaction to having an abortion a value judgement. I do wish however, that there would have been more of a reaction out of Miles. There was an opportunity to develop both characters and their relationship rather than ending everything nicely and permanently.
For the other characters, I think that Maya’s depression storyline was sloppy at best. We were told a lot of things about how she was feeling, but not shown much. And everything that was shown was shown without subtlety. We got a lot of morbid images with Maya with only a vague explanation of survivor’s guilt as a reason for her actions. And then Saad’s inclusion was confusing. Is he going to be bigger character later? Here, we have a character who clearly has unresolved issues stemming from fleeing Syria, but we focus on Maya? Maya’s story has been told many times already, and it’s been told better. Saad’s has not.
Clearly, the show does want to focus on Syrian refugees and Muslim characters. Goldi had more screentime this season than I think she ever has, and she was developed well. Though I do feel that everything was done a little too neatly. She comes to the exact “right” conclusion a bit too quickly for my taste. I do love her relationship with Rasha. It’s interesting that the show has given these characters the opportunity to explore what it means to be Muslim. No longer is Goldi confined to be a token character, appearing only when the show needs more diversity and never fighting back against prejudiced things said by the other characters. I hope this continues.
As for Tristan, a character I was beginning to warm up to, I’m sad that I correctly predicted his fate at the end of last season.
Last, but certainly not least, Grace. Grace is by far my favorite character. I think that she is the best developed and the most interesting. She was presented with a good (writing-wise) dilemma this season: to get a transplant and possibly live longer but also possibly die, or to have a guaranteed few more years. She and Jonah had sweet moments while this was being developed, but, like most things this season, it ended too quickly (probably to make time for Maya’s storyline, which ended the season). I just wish that they would have given her story more time. She has more story potential than most other characters. I don’t want them to minimize her to being the “sick girl” in her subplots. This is something that the character has fought against for the duration of the show so far.
Even for this incarnation of Degrassi, this season was a low-point. There was a lot of missed potential from rushed storylines, and it seems like the series has picked Maya as it’s main character, or one of its few main characters, and I’m just not sure why. We’ve driven her character’s story into the ground season after season. It’s time to change focus. I predict that the next season will mainly be focused on rehabilitation (particularly for Tristan, Grace, Maya, and even abstractly for Zoe). Hopefully, everything will slow down and let these characters (and story) recover.