Degrassi: Next Class Review (Spoiler-Free)

We have a completely spoiler-free review of Degrassi: Next Class, now on Netflix!

This spoiler-free Degrassi: Next Class review is based only on the first five episodes. Once the whole series drops on Netflix we’ll be going in depth. Or should we say, we’ll be going there?

If you’re reading this review, you’re one of three kinds of people.

  1. Someone wondering if they should check out Degrassi for the first time.
  2. A former Degrassi fan that probably quit the show after the original TNG cast left.
  3. A hardcore Degrassi fan who’s seen every damn season of this show.

For the first person, welcome! You’ve made the right choice. You know Degrassi has been around forever but you’re not sure if it’s worth your time. I assure you, it is.

For the second person, I’m glad you’re thinking about coming back. I know you loved Emma, Paige, Manny, Spinner, Jimmy, and the rest. When they left, you felt like the show was missing something. Maybe the plots just weren’t doing it for you. I understand.

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For the third person, you’re a Degrassi addict for life. I get you. But how does this season compare to the others? Does it build off what we’ve previously seen?

Trying to appeal to all three of these people is a tall order. Degrassi: Next Class knows this. It has to be a jumping on point for new fans, especially since it’s moving to Netflix. It doesn’t exactly have to cater to old fans with things like fan service, but it does have to up its quality if it wants people to check it out again. It needs some buzz. Finally, it has to keep the continuity of the series going. Long time fans would riot if they full on rebooted the thing.

Smartly, it manages to balance all three. It quickly reintroduces the characters from last season without needless exposition dumps so new viewers aren’t confused, it takes on big issues that are incredibly relatable, and it keeps the old plotlines going and takes them to the next level.

In fact, I’d argue that Degrassi: Next Class has the potential to blow the lid off every previous season in the franchise. How? Let’s look at what’s on the table this season.

Right from the opening theme, social media is the biggest influence on the season. Every episode in the first chunk of the show has social media as a key factor in at least one of its plots. While Degrassi has tackled social media in the past, it’s never done it to this degree and it pays off. They mine how social media effects teenager’s lives today in both big and subtle ways. One of my favorites was when grade 12 characters mocked a grade 10 for using the equivalent of Snapchat. Generational divide in social media usage? Brilliant!

Even the topics they’ve mined from the headlines are becoming more and more prevalent because of social media. Feminism is the big one that looks like it will run over the course of the season. Even GamerGate could be coming up! (Oh yeah, Degrassi goes THERE.)  We’ve got drugs, butts, micro aggressions, masturbation, jealously, consent, catfishing, and more.

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A lot of eyebrows were raised when Degrassi would be on Netflix. Would there be nudity? Swearing? How far would they be going? Well, I can report that it isn’t going to go THAT far. After all, this does still air on TV in Canada. It can’t go too wild, but it does take things farther. We’ve got more innuendo and frank talks about sex. Even some swearing!

The biggest accomplishment of the new season is finally making Zig and Maya likeable. When last season ended and Claire/Eli finally departed the show, I was worried. For too long Degrassi had relied on that ship and the only couple they were  left with was Zig/Maya, who were terrible. They were saddled with this boring plot about drugs or something?  Maya was whiney as hell and Zig was just idiotic. This was the couple that was going to carry the show?

Well I am very happy to report that the writers have finally fixed them both. Maya and Zig feel more believable and less like whiney brats who need bad things to happen to them because plot. The bumps in their relationship stem from legitimate plot. They argue over things adults deal with! I’m going to have a lot to say about them once I can talk about it in full spoiler mode. Really though, I think I was won over when I saw this.

That is the greatest face ever. I dub it, #ZigFace. Let him make more faces like this, Degrassi.

The other returning main characters are also given slight readjustments to make them more likeable and relatable without totally destroying their old personalities. I especially dig Tristan’s “bitchy white gay” thing going, and how he’s not so subtly got some biphobia going on. Is that terrible of him? Yes, but it’s so real.

Some of the minor characters are thankfully promoted to full on regular cast with storylines to match. Shay is the breakout star of the new main cast who has the best acting chops in the bunch. Tiny has also received a complete character makeover and is 100 percent more fun to watch. Watch for his newfound love of marine life.

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Most of the new cast members don’t get much time to shine in the first five episodes. They’re mostly there to support the returning cast, but that’s a smart way to introduce them. They’re all fairly rough, acting wise, but most Degrassi cast members start that way and even over these first five episodes they’re improving. I’ll single out Goldi as my new favorite, if only because she’s a kickass feminist and brings some new diversity to the cast. Thankfully she’s also got a bunch of flaws that will probably come to bite her in the ass soon. Multi layered characters?! I love it!

Everything about this season is just so good so far. Each episode has a solid A, B, and C plot that get equal focus. No idiotic two parters! The plots can still make you squirm with second hand embarrassment. The jokes are well timed and laugh out loud funny. Everyone has unique relationships with each other. Lots of diversity!

Degrassi: Next Class is bold and confident. I can’t say there’s one plot I’m not enjoying. I don’t know if the series hired new writers or if everyone just committed themselves to doing even better, but I applaud it.

If you’re someone looking to get into Degrassi? This is perfect. The show hasn’t been this good in years. Just start with what Netflix puts out and you’ll have a great time.

If you’re an older fan who gave up on the show? It’s worth giving another shot. This really is everything you loved about Degrassi, albeit it with some new fresh faces. Give it a few episodes and you’ll fall in love with these kids.

If you’re a long time fan? It’s more of what you love but even better. You don’t have to whine and complain about certain plots sucking. They’re all great. They’re all wonderful. This will keep you watching for years to come. Let me also reiterate, Maya is amazing now!

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If you want to read more about Degrassi: Next Class, and in particular the opening theme, check out my article on The Evolution of Degrassi Opening Themes.

Shamus Kelley also loves the new teachers, particularly the science one. Follow him on Twitter!


5 out of 5