School Was My Happy Place – | Review Score – 3/5
Game On! – | Review Score – 3/5
What Goes Around, Comes Around – | Review Score – 3/5
Broken Glass – | Review Score – 3/5
And She Became a Stranger – | Review Score – 3/5
Calm Before the Storm – | Review Score – 3/5
The sad truth is that one third of the globe’s youth experiences bullying. Whether physical, mental or psychological, this can take on many different faces; each more grotesque and obscene than the last. As someone who was bullied for 5 years at school and attempted to commit suicide because of it, the harsh reality is that bullying can feel like the end of the world. You feel trapped, stuck in a black hole of misery that appears to have no clear way out.
When it comes to big and small screen media, there’s a reason why high school revenge dramas work so well. They resonate with a wide number of people and seeing the bullied rise up against the bullies is undoubtedly satisfying. Whether it be Dare Me , 13 Reasons Why or the excellent Thai anthology Girl From Nowhere, there’s certainly no shortage of choice.
AlRawabi School for Girls wisely chooses not to reinvent the wheel in this respect. Instead, the story here plays out in a rather simple and straightforward manner, only stopping to flesh out its ensemble of characters. And that’s really where this show stands out.
At the center of this whole conflict is a girl called Mariam. The series wastes absolutely no time either, opening with a shot of this poor girl being bullied. She’s left in a bloodied heap on the ground. Her bullies happen to be a trio of girls, Rania, Ruqayya and Layan. The first episode essentially serves as an introduction to this hierarchy, as Mariam then sets to work getting revenge on her bullies.
As the episode progress though, the focus shifts from Mariam across to her bullies. It’s a subtle but clever jump, one that starts to show layers of depth to these girls beyond “evil bully”. In fact, by the end the sixth episode, the show does a great job blurring the line between right and wrong. It’s an ingenious move in truth, one that actually asks challenging questions about the nature of bullying and whether revenge really does taste as sweet as one may expect. As you drink these six episodes down, there’s undoubtedly tangs of sourness to the way things transpire.
While the characters are well written, Mariam however sticks out like a sore thumb. In fact, for most of the season she remains incredibly one-note. There’s really not a lot of substance to her persona beyond being desperate for revenge. There’s a moment in the finale that offers up some good growth but the show decides against exploring that, which on reflection is a bit of a shame.
Overall though, AlRawabi School for Girls is a simple but effective revenge drama propped up by well written characters (for the most part). While the show is unlikely to win any awards anytime soon, it does have a compelling hook and enough in the tank to warrant a second season.