This Degrassi: Next Class review contains spoilers.
Whenever I start a new season of Degrassi it’s like sitting down with an old friend. Catching up on all the embarrassing stories, working through the traumas, and toasting to the triumphs! There are a lot of triumphs to toast because Degrassi: Next Class season 3 brought their A game. Sure, seasons one and two were great but season three finally has enough groundwork to start really getting deeper with the characters.
Nearly everyone gets a moment to shine. All of the returning cast get moments to show their stuff, which is impressive with how large the cast is. Some come to the forefront more than others, but no one’s forgotten about.
Let’s start off with the MVP of this season. Perhaps the MVP of Degrassi now and forever. I’m of course talking about Lola. I singled her out as my favorite character last season and that still holds up. The abortion episode alone was a tour de force by Amanda Arcuri. Not once did it come off feeling like a “very special episode” of Degrassi and a lot of that is down to Arcuri’s performance. Lola is bold in her choice and, delightfully, she feels no regret about the abortion. The only thing she feels bad about is not feeling bad about it, which is a delightful twist.
This season we got to see some different sides of Lola. Before she had been more the funny character and slightly wide eyed about the world. Now she’s more down to Earth, really going through some tough times. Even with all this opposition, she hasn’t stopped being the Lola everyone loves.
I commend the Degrassi writers for the abortion plotline because, unlike Manny’s way back in Degrassi: The Next Generation there are immediate consequences. Yeah, they did mention Manny’s abortion but it was like a season later. Here, it’s brought up in small but powerful ways. It feels organic.
That’s this whole season. Organic. Unlike last season where the plots felt a little all over the place, this season is able to weave the plotlines in and out of each other. Some characters may never cross paths but the plots do effect each other. Lola accidentally gives Hunter a boner (HOLA FOR LIFE). Tiny helps Zoe and Rasha in their scheme (best scene ever). Esme is mean to everyone (of course).
Can we talk about Esme for a minute? The past two seasons I could never quite get a handle on her and wanted to know why she was such an asshole. Now we know and… She’s still an asshole.
I love it. I love that having this completely tragic backstory doesn’t change the fact she’s still a dick to people. It’s so great! Just because you have some kind of trauma doesn’t excuse your actions to others. I mean hey, Esme is certainly not THE WORST or anything, but she certainly isn’t the nicest person. It’s a great shades of gray moment.
In fact, this whole season is filled with shades of gray. Even the nice characters have unpleasant moments. It’s so easy to separate out the cast into the good kids and bad kids but Degrassi plays in a world of complexity. These are kids and they are going to mess up.
Since we’re on the topic of messing up, let’s talk about Maya! Ah yes, Maya. She had been such a big part of the last two seasons I was shocked they scaled down her plotline. It works though, even if it means her new best friend and character Saad gets the least to do. Don’t worry, in true Degrassi fashion I’m sure he’ll get more soon. As Maya falls into depression her presence decreases in the ensemble. She’s drawing away from everyone. Even the return of her sister Katie can’t help her. Nice to see a Degrassi alum back in an organic plotline by the by.
The season culminates in Maya’s attempted suicide. While not as explosive as Hunter’s gun at the end of season one, it ties the whole thing together much better than the shock value bus crash of season two. I can see the ramifications of Zoe’s suicide attempt being far more compelling then what happened with the bus crash victims.
That’s the only small letdown of this season, that it doesn’t pay off the bus crash. I don’t mind that they skipped over the immediate aftermath since that cliffhanger was a fairly cheap one, but if you’re going to introduce a plot like that at least commit to it. Here the only ones who really had any after effects were Maya and Tristan. Maya’s depression would have been worsened by any number of things and Tristan could have been hit by a car or something. The bus crash just wasn’t needed. That’s only a nitpick at best though.
I need to give another special shout to the runner up for MVP of the season, Yael.
While Lola tempered some of her humor, Yael brings it in full force. The moment she decides to watch porn with the other guys was a comedic work of gold and her reaction was pitch perfect. Plus the imagery with the ruler flopping over was gold.
Yael critiques everything around her and that of course got her into trouble with the vlog she posted about make up. Harkening back to the old days of Degrassi, the conversation does end with her harsh take down of girls who choose to wear it. Oh no, we get to hear the other side. Some girls like putting make up on for themselves and it has nothing to do with boys. Yael is taken aback but quickly rights her wrong and gives Lola a chance to speak to that crowd.
Yael also struggles with her relationship with Hunter. It’s hard when you go from best friends to dating and navigating that provides some great fodder for the two.
I should also give the writers of Degrassi major credit for finally saying the word “bisexual.” I had continually wondered why, with a character like Miles who has clearly expressed interest in guys and girls, refused to even say the word. He didn’t have to self identify that way, it was just weird no one else brought it up. Thankfully MVP Lola saves the day.
Degrassi does not skimp on the gay drama this season, giving us a wonderful plotline between Rasha and Zoe. Since Degrassi normally introduces new characters in the background and slowly rotates them into being main characters it’s a nice change to have Rasha come to the forefront so quickly. Thank god because the plotline between her and Zoe is adorable. Rasha being a refugee for Syria is a great way of taking a now standard Degrasssi coming out plot and putting a unique spin on it. #Schemers4LYFE
This season is so chocked full of great moments I can’t go over all of them. Each and every episode has a plotline I could devote a whole article to. Degrassi is so good and if you aren’t watching it just because you don’t like soap operas, I’d check it out anyway. It might surprise you. Plus, it actually tackles hard hitting topics in thought provoking ways. It’s got its fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in our world more than many other shows out there, that’s for sure.
Shamus Kelley needs some pizza. Follow him on Twitter!