This Degrassi: Next Class Season 4 review contains spoilers.
What can I say about Degrassi: Next Class besides that it’s one of the best shows on TV right now? I don’t just mean just teen TV. I don’t just mean soap operas. I mean it’s a legit well written, stunningly acted, and engaging drama that isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues while also being a ton of fun.
Degrassi: Next Class will make you laugh. Degrassi: Next Class will make you cry. Degrassi: Next Class will make you cheer. Degrassi: Next Class will make you think. What more can you ask from it? Well, more Snake but I’ve been saying that for the best ten years.
With this being the exit of so many characters, it’s time to return to the review format I used for my review of the first season of Degrassi: Next Class. Talking about EACH AND EVERY SINGLE MAIN CHARACTER. While I do that I’ll also hit on some of the season’s bigger plot points and how it “goes there”.
While last season Yael was runner up for best character of the season, they really pulled out all the stops and now she’s taken the crown. Yael coming out as gender fluid was a totally unexpected move but when you look back you can see the signs. Wearing the wig, their hatred of all things makeup, etc. While these could have been just your average Degrassi plot points they all tied together to bring a new level of diversity to the series. Plus, giving Yael so much focus in earlier seasons made their plot being so dominated by coming out work more effectively. We know Yael as a person so they aren’t solely defined by how they identify.
The scene where they first see themselves in the mirror (in a flawless outfit by Lola) nearly moved me to tears. You can see it all click together in their mind. Everything makes sense now. Major kudos to Jamie Bloch for that powerful performance.
The only possible downside of Yael figuring herself out is that Lola was the one to give her all the information. I get why it was done. It’d be weird for another gender fluid character to suddenly come out of nowhere and having Yael sit in front of a computer for a while isn’t as dynamic as having them interact with Lola. I get that, but it feels a little odd that a cisgender character is the one throwing down all the wisdom.
I’m not going to count this as a strike towards Degrassi though. They really gave it their all with this plotline (and it looks like it certainly isn’t done) and I will award all the points for trying. Was it perfectly handled? I can’t say, because I’m not nonbinary, but you know this episode will help a lot of people figure themselves out. It’ll help people to seek out more information about nonbinary people, whether it’s to learn more about who they are or to help a friend.
There will never be perfect representation. I’m already waiting for the blowback think pieces that slam this plotline. Maybe Yael’s story doesn’t match someone’s exact experience. That’s okay, but you have to at least give them points for attempting it and really trying their best. I’ll take that over not trying at all. I guess that makes me pragmatic about the whole thing, which leads into our next character.
Last season Saad was off to the sidelines but in that classic Degrassi way it was just to prep us for him stepping into the spotlight. Saad is at the center of Degrassi: Next Class’ other big “it goes there” plotline of the season, terrorism and how it effects those swept up in racist profiling. Saad is justifiably angry that everyone suspects he’s not trustworthy.
Even some of our favorite characters, including Lola and Yael, suspect him at one time or another. I love that Degrassi is willing to make even our favorites flawed because it’s a very human reaction. As is Saad’s outburst at the rally. He’s not wrong when he points out people die everywhere so why are they just focused on Brussels? Goldie tries to get him to be pragmatic but why should he? Why does he have to censor himself just to make everyone feel comfortable?
There’s no easy answer here, just like in real life, and I shudder to think the horrible things Saad will continue to go through if he stays at Degrassi. Even when he tries to make things right he’s afraid of retaliation. The dude can’t win and that would make anyone angry.
I’m glad Degrassi has multiple Muslim characters this season so we can get these varying perspectives. If Saad was the only one it might be too much but we also have Rasha and Goldi. Having more than one of a minority means we don’t have to put all our expectations on one character and we can have someone like Saad who voices his frustrations more.
Sidenote, in Degrassi so many things are made better just by having sex or kissing. Saad is super bummed at the end of the season but Lola’s kiss makes everything better! I mean Lola is magical so I totally buy it.
While Yael is the MVP character of the season, the best actress award is going to Chelsea Clark. Her performance singlehandedly makes you feel sympathy for Esme, even as she plunges right into the deep end. Clark nails every speech she’s given. Blows away every tirade. Chelsea Clark is an actress to watch, people.
Esme clearly has something going on in her brain. I don’t know what and since I’m not a therapist I won’t try and classify it but the girl needs help, badly. Esme lives almost moment to moment because if she stops and thinks too much about what she’s doing she’ll get overwhelmed. Look at her scene with the bike. She doesn’t want anyone to poke holes in her plans. She needs to be right all the time. (I also legit shouted at my TV, “Yeah, you destroy that bike Esme!”)
Esme wants people to be indebted to her. She does all these outlandish things for others (like making pot brownies) and expects love in return. It doesn’t work that way. Frankie was right, Esme needs to try and actually get to know people instead of trying to mold them into the type of people who will never question her actions.
With Esme not graduating I can only assume she’ll be sticking around next season which I can’t wait for. Redemption of Esme, please!
I love Zig. I love his dumb faces. I love how dumb he is. I love how much he loves burgers. He’s just your average guy but he keeps trying to do the right thing.
“If I prove I have a future she won’t break up with me!” Oh poor Zig, you need validation so bad but that’s okay. He’s grown up so much! I love how even when he doesn’t have a plan to go to college or what he’s doing with his life in the final episode everyone supports him. They’re all such good friends!
I wasn’t a super Zig/Maya shipper but I’m totally fine with them ending up together. Oh sure, it’ll never last but they’re good for each other right now and that’s what matters.
Oh Zig, I’ll probably miss you most of all. Please keep making dumb faces forever.
I was worried how they’d deal with Maya this year. After the end of last season where everyone was all, “Oh she’s not dead cool let’s get food!” I wondered if they would gloss over her suicide attempt. Thankfully that didn’t happen but they also didn’t hold up a magnifying glass to it.
Maya is struggling for sure and the depression is a near constant presence. Still, she manages to have fun with her friends, get with Zig, and even meet the ultimate Canadian, Craig! Things were tough but whatever it took she made it through. OHHHH SNAP! But seriously, I’m glad that Degrassi portrayed a character recovering from a suicide so well. It’s not going to be easy but if you work at it things will work out, even if it isn’t in the exact way you pictured.
After Lola had so many show stealing moments the last few seasons I’m glad they pulled back on her a bit. Lola is legit a show stealer but can almost become overwhelming if they use her too much. Here she came in at all the best times and her reaction to Yael kissing her was pitch perfect. “Okay, glad I could help.”
Sadly my dream of a Yael/Hunter/Lola three-person relationship seems dashed but I’ll hold out hope forever! What? Come on, you know they’d all be adorable together.
Also, Lola loves farts.
Hunter, why? Why were you the worst?! Okay, he’s not the worst and I totally get where he was coming from. Dude does not react well to change and having your significant other come out is kind of the biggest change ever. While I’m sure many will cry foul and say Hunter should have just accepted Yael, I want to see how this plays out.
I can totally imagine Hunter coming around with time. He’s just got to figure out that just because Yael changed doesn’t mean that makes him any different. Yeah, that��s totally self-serving on Hunter’s part but he’s a teenage boy. It makes total sense.
Jonah gets very little focus this season but who cares because that scene when he’s fishing with Grace is one of the best character moments Degrassi has ever given us. Jonah relates to Grace all the horrible things he did, including getting a girl pregnant, but then drops this piece of wisdom.
“I don’t wanna blame the drugs.”
DUDE, I AM ALL ABOUT THIS GUY. He takes full responsibility for what he did. He doesn’t try to blame anything else or hide it. He’s just trying to be a better person and move on from it. That’s so powerful yet super understated. I’m sad we never got to see much of Jonah in his bad decisions phase because that level of character development would have been sublime. Still though, I’m glad we have this dude being the perfect model of how these Degrassi kids should deal with their mistakes.
Ah, I’m delighted Grace is over the whole, “man, I’m gonna die” thing. Okay yeah, it is a big deal but you know what she has now? Friends who love and care about her! Just goes to show that when you open up and people accept you for who you are? That’s when you’ll be happiest.
Also she was the greatest friend to Maya this season, helping her deal with depression. You can tell Grace has struggled with that herself and wants to make sure her friend doesn’t get sucked too deeply into it again.
Yay, they keep saying Miles is bisexual and he labels himself that as well. While Miles didn’t need to give himself a label I’m glad he finally gave a reason why he’d never done it. He was still in the shadow of his father’s expectations and identifying as bi was certainly not one of them.
Man, this season did such a great job wrapping up the plotlines of all the graduating seniors. Miles and his dad have finally come to a good place! Miles and Tristan break up for totally legit reasons. This never feels rushed and is totally organic to the overall storyline of the season. While Miles was never my favorite his character growth has been solid.
If you’ve read my previous reviews you know I was never a big fan of Tristan. Dude just rubbed me the wrong way. This season though he was all right! He mellowed out (for obvious reasons) and that suits him better. Probably his defining moment was telling Miles they had to break up. Not for any over the top dramatic reason but simply that Tristan needed to focus on his recovery. He couldn’t speed it along solely for Miles. That’s really mature thinking and much like Miles, demonstrates just how much he’s grown over the seasons. My babies have all grown up!
Don’t read that hashtag as a slight against Rasha. While Chelsea Clark was overall the best actress this season, Dalia Yegavian had my favorite line delivery.
In episode three Rasha and Goldi discover a plate of cookies and Winston wanting to apologize. Rasha, knowing she needs to get out there, tries to be super cool and says that line in the hashtag. I can’t do it justice. Go back and rewatch that scene and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Rasha was just adorable this season. She was pretty much there to support Zoe and I was fine with it. It’s nice to see a couple just be happy together and not have a ton of drama break them apart.
A lot of Degrassi fans have complained that Zoe “suddenly” became a lesbian and while we’ve had a few seasons to get used to it I still had it on my mind a lot. Does it work? Did it just come out of nowhere? I finally came to the conclusion that I don’t care. It doesn’t matter if the writers suddenly decided they were going to make Zoe a lesbian. I’ll take that over not having another LGBT character, that’s for sure. Not everyone knows they’re gay right away. Some people don’t figure it out until well into adulthood. With that in mind Zoe’s story totally tracks for me.
It was a bold move on the writer’s part to resolve things with Zoe’s mom the way they did. By that I mean they didn’t resolve it at all. Zoe’s mom doesn’t have a sudden change of heart. We aren’t left with any hope she might come around. Zoe is truly cut off from her family. That’s all right, she’s found a new one. Her friends.
Oh, Frankie. Even after you learned how racist you totally were in season two you’re still just a rich white girl and aren’t totally aware of how privileged you are. I’m fine with that because she wasn’t just going to suddenly change over night and recognizing your privilege is an ongoing process. Plus it was nice to see her drift into the Zig/Esme sphere for a while to get her interacting with a new group of characters. I like when Degrassi mixes up the pairings and Frankie was a welcome addition to the older kids gang for a while.
Shay’s whole “bro, I totally need those pills” plotline kinda fizzled out and was one of the few plots that didn’t really carry over across multiple episodes. There’s just a throwaway line about the running season being over. What?! She did so much to try and get the money for those pills, at least give us a better pay off!
Oh well, I understand it. Balancing twenty main characters is a herculean task other shows would crumble under and if a few fall through the cracks I get it. Still, I hope Shay gets a longer running plot next season that is squarely focused on her.
I love Tiny like you don’t even know. It’s a bummer the dude never gets his own plotline but whatever! Dude has such a great outlook on life. When be wonders how he’ll pay for college he quickly shrugs it off.
“That’s a problem for Future Tiny!”
He’s so understanding of Shay being apprehensive about sex. He organizes a giant dance number to ask her to prom! Yo, Tiny. If you and Shay don’t work out give me a call. You’re the best boyfriend!
Also, he has the funniest line in the whole season. As Zig recounts sleeping over at Maya’s…
“We… cuddled.”“With the arm all the way around? Did you use protection?”
I appreciate Degrassi decided a long time ago Winston was never going to get a focus episode. I don’t mean he didn’t deserve one, but with such a full cast you need to pick and choose who will get the focus. Around seasons 6-10 Degrassi TNG would give nearly every character introduced at least one focus episode but then most of them would fade into the background. I’d much rather they decide who will get the focus or won’t and not try to make everyone seem important.
Winston is the equivalent of that friend you had in high school that was always around and was totally a great guy but you never talked too much. We all have people like that in our lives and Winston is that guy for Degrassi.
At least he was more than just “white guy’s best friend” this season. His subplot of maybe sort of flirting with Goldi was adorable. He even got some good material to play with when he regretted not standing up for her when she got harassed. Little moments like that go a long way, especially for a supporting character.
I’m legit bummed out Goldi is graduating. It feels like we just met her! She got some fun moments to play (the cookie bit was super cute) but overall she never had enough focus to make a strong impression. Still, she rocked her prom outfit. Did you see that? Give that girl a best-dressed award!
So is Baaz there solely to be a dick? I mean if so he does a really great job at it. Maybe he’s just a supporting character, which I’m fine with, but wow… What a dick!
Man, this dude had some great hats.
Yeah, that’s all I’ve got.
Mrs. Badger: #OurLordAndPunMasterHasReturned
My actual note when I spotted Mrs. Badger in episode five.
-YO WAS THAT MRS. BADGER? She totally just laughed up a storm at that dumb Milky Way joke. YESSSSSSSSSSS. HER DUMB JOKES ARE BACK!
You all don’t understand how excited I was to see her again. What’s she been up to? Well, getting married apparently. You see, in season one she was Ms. Badger. Now the credits for this season has her listed as Mrs. Badger. I’m so glad she found someone! Clearly they appreciate a good pun.
Oh Mrs. Badger, never leave Degrassi. I want you to be the new Coach Armstrong where you are literally on Degrassi forever. The kids need your puns.
He’s still sorry. So sorry.
(Okay but actually it was great to see him again.)
Snake, where were you this season? We need your wisdom or lack thereof!
This is the end of an era for Degrassi. A huge chunk of the cast has graduated. The only characters left over are Baaz, Frankie, Hunter, Lola, Rasha, Saad, Shay, Vijay, Yael, and maybe Esme. That may sound like a lot but for Degrassi it’s basically a clean slate. I’m really going to miss all the old characters. Out of nowhere this season I realized just how much I love them all and the fact we won’t see more of them again is, to use an old Degrassi quote, a “super bummer.”
Still, that’s part of life as a Degrassi fan and just life in general. People move on but their stories will continue even if we don’t get to see them. We don’t need to follow them (and if we did, we’d get seasons 6-9 of TNG where they kept shoehorning in all the old cast and ugh no). Let’s just have a clean break and say goodbye while they’re all at their highest points and welcome our newest class of characters next year.
Speaking of which, is season five of Next Class going to happen? It would be a shame if it doesn’t. I want to see Yael become comfortable with themselves. I want Hunter to get over himself. I want to see them all continue to grow as our graduating characters did. It might even be a good time to keep the cast small like it was at the start of TNG. With only ten episodes a season we could do with a few less main characters.
Even if Degrassi doesn’t come back next year or anytime soon, that’s okay (although not preferred). The series has been running non-stop for eighteen years and is a franchise that’s lasted for over thirty. It’ll never truly go away. It might take a rest but one day we’ll come back to the kids of Degrassi and the curse that reigns over that school.
Until we get some news, at least we have this season. It was a blast.
Extra Thoughts AKA Just A Bunch of Quotes I Loved
-“Oh hell no, you’re terrible.”
-“You have nothing to worry about”
-“Wait, mom bought those?”
-“Just because you’re dating Grace doesn’t mean you get to talk.”
-“Are those orgy cakes?”
-“What do you think of farts?”
-“Lola, not everything calls for a makeover.”
-“Are you asking me to open for you?”
-“Oh, Lola. Back at it again with the problematic crushes.”
-“Do you want to go to prom together?”
-“I was wrong… and probably racist.”
Shamus Kelley will be the best the best that he can be. Whatever it takes. Follow him on Twitter!