We begin episode 1 of Tiny Pretty Things up on the rooftop as a man holding a white rose whispers something in ballerina Cassie’s ear. Then, he pushes her over the edge and watches as she falls to the ground below.
We then cut to a Neveah rhythmically pounding her shoes on the ground. However, she’s interrupted by her teacher who tells her that Chicago have changed their mind and she’s being relocated. This happy occasion is of course mired in misery. As Neveah arrives at her new school, she’s wished luck by Officer Cruz who happened to have found Cassie on the ground the previous night.
Neveah has been recruited to the Archer School of Ballet but despite the façade of everything being okay and on the up, it’s clear secrets and deception lurk in the dark corners.
That’s ignored for now though as Neveah arrives and greets the woman in charge, Monique DuBois. She’s confident that Neveah can take Cassie’s place, as we’re graced with narration from Cassie interwoven through this series regarding the hardships of dancing.
Neveah is shown her room but there’s no time for greetings given she has practice – which she shows up late to. She’s immediately grilled by her teacher, Topher, who gives constant feedback and hangs over her, critiquing Neveah’s every move. Neveah is saved from embarrassment – for now – but she’s told to get better.
While the boys twirl, Neveah learns that some of the dancers believe Nabil was the one who pushed Cassie – a boy who happens to be Cassie’s boyfriend. Shane takes Neveah under his wing though and helps to dull the blade of sharp wit from June and Bette who show to greet her.
As we soon see, Cassie’s death may have been a collaborative job between Oren and the other boys. Nabil however, comes to blows with Oren telling him “you don’t belong here.”
Well, Neveah soon learns that she too doesn’t belong there as the girls check Neveah’s old videos and laugh at her dancing style. When Neveah sees, she warns that she’s coming for them. Before things can blow up, she’s called into DuBois’ office. She’s pretty frosty toward Officer Cruz who happens to be there, before greeting Neveah properly.
Monique gives Neveah her story to follow and calls her to “product” of the future.
That evening, Neveah shows up and meets Alan, bemoaning her teacher Topher and how much of a jackass he is. Only… it turns out Topher is his husband. Woops! This is only made worse later on when she goes off-script and doesn’t follow DuBois’ words in her interview.
DuBois puts businessman Ramon on the spot and tries to bring him in to her ballet project. Ramon is distracted though when he begins receiving threatening messages telling him he’s finished
Meanwhile, Oren and Bette’s future has already been determined as her Mother bullies Topher into submission. That’s not the only dominant Mother here though, as June’s pressures her daughter to get a lead role in the ballet. June’s Mother doesn’t think she’s good enough and certainly not a better dancer than Cassie.
“Well she’s not better now.” June bites back bitterly, immediately putting her in the spotlight as a possible suspect. Anyway, she runs into the Officer outside and learns there’s scuff marks on the roof; this backs up the theory that Cassie was pushed. She hands over her card to June and asks for help. Only, June is in no position to break the rules.
Neveah starts to give up on her dream and phones Ty, asking to come home. She wails to him down the phone, telling him that she doesn’t fit in. Nabil and Shane approach though and reveal that not fitting in the mold is a good thing.
Neveah has a nightmare about ballet that night, eventually awakening in her room with a start. Unable to sleep, she heads out to practice but finds Bette already there, berating her own dancing in the mirror. She approaches Bette and after some initial hostilities, gives her some advice – or “dance hacks” as she calls it.
After this brief lesson, the dancers start stretching as Topher pairs them all up. Neveah is partnered with Oren while June is paired with Nabil – much to Bette’s dismay. Shane hears all this this though and as they start dancing – grilled heavily the entire time – Bette takes a nasty tumble.
Determined to show them up, Neveah heads out to dance with Oren and together they flawlessly deliver. Inspired by their moves, Ramon decides to start a new ballet, something based on Jack The Ripper. Auditions are coming up and despite the clear favourites, he decides to upset the current establishment.
As the episode closes out, we see Officer Cruz at the grave of a girl called Zoe Estrella while Oren and Bette start to see fractures in their relationship open up. Nabil meanwhile shows up to see Cassie, who’s in a critical state in hospital but still alive.
The Episode Review
Neveah’s character is, so far at least, a little stale and not all that likable. I’m all for a fish-out-of-water storyline but surely being from a ballet school before she’d be well aware of the hardships dancers go through. So why would she not be happy that others don’t like her?
Anyway, it’s still early days yet and lots of time for her character to grow and evolve. After all, Queen’s Gambit is a great example of a genius character eventually going through the trials and tribulations, showing a darker and more flawed side. While there are some good themes discussed and brought to light, it’s mired slightly by over-acting. This could just be early-season cobwebs though so we’ll have to wait and see with that.
The narration woven throughout feels like a nod toward Gossip Girl which is okay but doesn’t quite fit with the darker themes this show is trying to portray. Tonally, you can already tell this series is going to be torn between a more melodramatic, campy set-up and a darker, more edgy storyline. Let’s hope the series can pick which one it wants to be sooner rather than later.