BY KAREN SUROS
This article contains spoilers
Going to high school is tough. Pressure culminates in the last four years of government-mandated education and teenagers struggle to find themselves amidst confusing hormones, classes and societal pressures. It’s enough to render a perfectly mentally-stable individual totally insane. However, going to high school and finding yourself in lockdown after a terrorist attack occurs a block away– well, that’s something else entirely.
This is what students at Grand Army High School find themselves facing in the new Netflix original drama “Grand Army,” which premiered October 16. The show skillfully delves into a multitude of issues ranging from racism to rape to sexuality, capturing a uniquely teenage experience as it follows five main characters around Brooklyn, New York.
The show’s actors make it the masterpiece it is; they excel at playing their individual roles so that watching the show is not merely a visual experience, but an entirely visceral one as well.
For instance, in her role as freshman Leila Kwan Zimmer, actress Amalia Yoo evokes frustration and some very minor sympathy in viewers as she indulges in herself and is inconsiderate of her fellow peers, but veils her self-absorption with the identity crisis she has as an adopted Chinese kid in a non-religious Jewish family. Joey Del Marco (Odessa A’zion), on the other hand, causes some confusion as she grapples with a promiscuous representation and harsh judgment she faces from her peers as a consequence.
The show’s actors make it the masterpiece it is…
Dominique (Odley Jean) has big dreams, but is held back by her family’s financial burdens as she must balance her ambitious goals with her responsibilities at home. Jayson (Maliq Johnson) and Owen (Jaden Jordan) are best friends who land themselves in trouble, jeopardizing their careers as saxophone players in the school’s band. Siddharta Pakam (Amir Bageria) seems to have his life together, with his steady relationship and being a student athlete. But behind the scenes, he struggles with being honest about his sexuality.
Through the exceptional acting and well-rounded characters, the show is able to address several issues that aren’t always discussed in the general media. Jayson and Owen pull a prank that is made out to be a crime, and Grand Army’s Black Student Union argues that this is due to the color of their skin. In this way, systemic racism is confronted amply.
Through the exceptional acting and well-rounded characters, the show is able to address several issues that aren’t always discussed in the general media.
Furthermore, Joey’s involvement in the incident and her general interest in being a social justice warrior comes off as performative activism, something that is seen very often in teenagers today. Her intentions are good, but she fails to apply her values in ways that really matter. While she preaches about right and wrong, the rowdy boys she calls her friends do not hesitate to reduce others to worn-out stereotypes and treat girls like objects.
Seniors might find Siddharta’s struggled with writing his college essay relatable. As a model student, it shows that he is not often stumped, and having to be vulnerable in order to stand out in his Harvard application throws him for a loop. He is sent into a journey of soul-searching, and comes out on top.
“Grand Army” addresses all these issues and more in its raw exploration of reality as a teenager. It stands out from other teen dramas thanks to this theme, as well as its R-rating and intensity. If you’re looking for a show that will make you feel every range of emotion, look no further than “Grand Army.”
- Stellar acting.
- Honest exploration of real, raw themes.
- Well-developed plot.
- Inappropriate for younger audiences.
- Only nine episodes long.
Photo courtesy of Netflix