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Deepest, Darkest Secret – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Being a teenager is a confusing, messy, emotional time. From being consumed by fits of inexplicable rage over the smallest of things, through to riding those euphoric highs with friends, teen years are a turbulent time in one’s life. Attempting to survive the dog-eat-dog world of secondary school (high school) without being bullied or standing out is made even worse by physical changes to your body that make you feel like a complete freak. It couldn’t get any worse…could it?
This is exactly the dilemma our teen protagonist Sydney faces in Netflix’s latest teen drama I Am Not Okay With This. Juggling her Father’s death, her estranged relationship with her Mother and her best friend finding love and drifting away, Sydney is overcome with emotions.
When this spills over in the form of inexplicable supernatural powers that sporadically appear during particularly stressful moments, what follows is a journey that sees Syd grapple with the usual high school woes while running a superhero origin story in the shadows. All of this builds up to the finale where secrets are revealed and a big ol’ Netflix cliffhanger leaves things agonizingly open for a second season that dives a lot deeper into the background and origin of these abilities.
I Am Not Okay With This is far from an original concept – and it’s okay with this. In fact, it actively embraces these cliched tropes, twisting and distorting them to fit a rebellious vision of its own. From the “Dear diary” segments reminisce of teen rom-coms, through to the clear Stranger Things influences emanating from the superpowers, Netflix’s latest show feels like a Greatest Hits compendium, but it never once feels like a parody of what’s come before.
Part of that allure comes from just how raw and honest the show manages to feel. The characters may seem like archetypal stereotypes but the way this ensemble is utilized throughout the show makes for a perfect cocktail of ideas and evolving character arcs that keeps things interesting.
Sydney’s deadpan (and outright weird) neighbour Stanley is the perfect counter-balance to her own isolation and despair while Syd’s best friend Dina adopts all the best and worst tropes a best friend can have. Syd’s estranged Mother offers an eye-opening examination of a broken home following a tragedy, while her brother Liam feels like the innocent victim caught in the crossfire of this volatile familial minefield of emotion.
Yet within this framework are numerous instances of characters changing and evolving across the course of the season, changing as Syd’s vision of her own life changes. It’s a really clever narrative device and one that harmonizes itself beautifully with the story.
I Am Not Okay With This adopts a pretty formulaic style for a show like this, complete with monologue narration from Sydney over dialogue and a slight distortion of the timeline courtesy of teasing images of the future at the start of some episodes. The humour swings between deadpan and black comedy, seamlessly weaving into the story that touches on some pretty dark subjects – with Syd’s Father casting an ominous cloud over the entire show.
With each episode clocking in at around 20 minutes (with episode 3 the longest at 27), I Am Not Okay With This is an easy show to sit through and it’s one that certainly makes the most of its limited screen-time. You could easily write this off as “just another teen flick” but as the show progresses, the story opens up and suckers you in, keeping you hooked until the final moments. Given the comparatively short run-time, the cliffhanger at the end doesn’t feel like too much of a low blow and certainly gives the show more promise to be renewed.
I Am Not Okay With This is not the perfect show but it makes the most of the tools at its disposal to produce a raw, emotional look at the life of teenagers, complete with some honest dialogue and surprisingly well rounded characters. Yes, the superhero subplot is thrown on the back-burner for a lot of the season but to be honest, there’s enough in the teen drama to make this one worth sticking with. Whether Netflix renew this or not remains to be seen but for now, I Am Not Okay With This is certainly worth a watch.