I love sport dramas. I’m a huge fan of anything sport-related, with Moneyball one of my favourite films, along with Black Swan and I, Tonya two of the other prolific sport movies I find myself rewatching from time to time. Netflix’s 10-episode skating drama Spinning Out gets off to a good start here, chock full of dark drama and sprinklings of thematic mental health issues but already setting the scene for the soap opera drama to follow in the coming weeks.
Episode 1 of Spinning Out begins in the blistering cold with Katarina Baker donning headphones and running. Crunching through the snow, we flashback to an important moment in her career, spinning and slamming down to the ice, her teeth banging in her mouth as a thin sliver of blood oozes behind her. It’s a moment that haunts her and as she gets back from her run, Kat speaks to her sister Serena, cooking her up a healthy breakfast and preparing for her time on the ice.
Her Mother Carol awakens and goes in hard on Serena, demanding she show her moves off. It turns out there’s a senior test coming up and with Carol unable to pay for both sisters’ coaches, Kat draws the short straw and has to go it alone.
At the ice rink, Kat’s friend Jenn shows off her scar before we learn a little more about the sisters through some exposition. Kat watches from afar, concerned as her coach Mitch appears to get a little too close to her sister. On the ice however, both girls show off their skills, with Serena’s coach mesmerized by Kat’s elegance and ease on the ice, until she tries to spin that is, prompting her to chicken out and pop the move. Serena cuts up the ice infront of her and berates Kat for not trying the jump again.
Soon after, Kat dresses up and prepares for her senior test. Carol arrives to spur her on and as the music starts, she glides across the ice. As the judges watch, she nails the first jump but as she spins backwards, flashes of the past stop her from the second, damaging the overall performance and squandering her chances. In the locker room afterwards, Dasha arrives and suggests she double up and skate with Justin. She goes on to pitch her the future concept but Kat is unsure. “You give me two years, and I will give you Nationals”. Kat deliberates, pondering over her words before rejecting the offer.
A rift grows between the sisters as they disagree over Mitch and it’s enough for Serena to storm out the house, and Kat make her mind up and leave for London with her boyfriend Dave. Just before she does, she skates for one final time, again rejecting another offer from Dasha and leaving. At the same time, Jenn learns her injury may prevent her from walking if she doesn’t ease up. Both women converge at the bar for one final drink, remembering the old times. As she sees Mitch, she tells him not to hurt Serena before leaving. On the way out though, she sees Justin and the two discuss his proposition before going their separate ways.
Back home, Carol and Kat discuss Mitch and his inappropriate behaviour. As it turns out Carol went through the same thing when she was younger with her coach. Kat hears enough, berating her Mother for everything she’s put them through. As the episode closes out, Kat prepares to leave but on her way, she snatches up her skates and has second thoughts, making a decision regarding her future, while back at the rink Justin is introduced to his new partner. It’s not Kat.
As an opening episode, Spinning Out does a pretty good job setting the scene, with enough intrigue to keep things interesting and some character drama bubbling up this early in the game. It’s not perfect, and at times it does feel a little too melodramatic but if you’re looking for a soap opera on the ice, Spinning Out is a solid choice. There’s a lot of musical montages here too and I’m pretty sure I counted four different occasions throughout the episode this occurs.
There’s some nice back-and-forth flashbacks though and slick cinematography, as per the usual Netflix standard, as well as one specific scene late on involving a mirror that shows off some nice camera work. The “call to adventure” plot trope plays out well here though and with the stage set for the drama to follow, Spinning Out is an easy show to get into but whether it can maintain a consistent balance between the sport and melodrama remains to be seen. So far so good though!
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