Superman This S**t
At first glance, Grand Army looks like “yet another teen drama” popping up on Netflix. Between Trinkets, 13 Reasons Why, Elite, Outer Banks and Sabrina to name a few, Grand Army has a grand mountain to climb in order to stand out. That’s a problem because Grand Army actually isn’t half bad.
While it’s not as visually striking or emotionally raw as Euphoria, this one is a lot more grounded compared to 13 Reasons Why. What we have then is a teen drama that’s certainly worth your time, if you’re willing to stick with this for the long haul.
The first episode essentially acts as a platform for the rest of the series to perform. Grand Army High School and its various colourful characters are thrown into lockdown thanks to a bomb blast several blocks over. Heralded as the worst terrorist attack since 9/11, the teens deal with the aftermath of this while mixed up in their own problems.
You’ve got Sid, an athlete with aspirations of going to Harvard with bright prospects for the future. Only, he holds a secret that could spell disaster if it leaks out. Dominique is a hardworking basketball star who juggles familial problems with wanting to become a psychologist.
You’ve also got talented musician Jayson, feminist Joey and insecure Leila who all have their own quirks, issues and aspirations. While most of these characters have their own sub-plots to play with, Joey is ultimately the one who stands out as the central figure here, especially around episode 3 of so.
Much like Euphoria and other teen dramas of its kind, Grand Army does not shy away from big issues. Some of these do feel a little on-the-nose but for the most part it’s actually handled quite well. A sexual assault sub-plot is incredibly well handled and seeing the difference in character to that person affected (no spoilers here) before and after is really quite moving.
There’s also some pretty shocking racism at play, along with topical social issues that feel like they’re geared directly toward Gen Z. As an “old millennial”, this show is clearly not geared toward me but it definitely has some compelling elements to suck teens into this.
This is where Grand Army is at its strongest, when it just lets these teenagers live out their lives. There’s obvious ups and downs for them all; equal doses of euphoric highs with dizzying lows and a general desire to tell a diverse range of stories.
As a melodramatic teen soap opera, this one is actually pretty good although soap opera may be doing this one a disservice. There’s a lot of raw emotion here that’s only undermined by a bizarre stylistic choice of including a sort of “mystery” element at the beginning and end of every episode.
Computer typing slowly becomes more urgent and frantic as the season progresses, leaving you to try and guess exactly who’s responsible for this. While the final reveal is intriguing, it’s actually not needed to sustain interest with this one.
Unfortunately the show does also use the usual Netflix trick of leaving lots of issues unresolved when the final credits roll. And that’s after a 75 minute finale! There’s an abundance of loose ends for the different characters and given Netflix’s trigger-happy cancellation rate, that’s a problem.
It also doesn’t help that Netflix’s abundance of teen dramas threaten to push this into obscurity, making it a tough sell next to so many others wrestling for streaming space. That’s a shame because Grand Army definitely has its moments. While it’s a far cry from the dizzying heights of the genre’s elite, this one’s still a solid choice nonetheless.
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Verdict - 7/10