Friday, October 16, 2020

REVIEW: 'Grand Army' - Joey, Dom, Sid, Jay and Leila Have Different Reactions During a Bomb Threat in 'Brooklyn, 2020'

Netflix's Grand Army - Episode 1.01 "Brooklyn, 2020"

A bombing blocks away sends Grand Army High School into lockdown, building pressure that spills over at the "party of the century" that night.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's Grand Army.

"Brooklyn, 2020" was written by Katie A. Cappiello and directed by So Yong Kim

The prestige teen drama is one that defines itself by tackling serious issues. The behavior of the core characters isn't meant to be emulated or revered. However, it shines a light on the complexity of coming-of-age in a time where so much is changing and darkness is easy to consume one's life. As such, the format can very easily be overwhelmed by the seriousness of it all. It can be burdened by the responsibility to deliver a message warning young viewers of the dangers of such behavior. That seriousness can quickly grow monotonous. HBO's Euphoria and Netflix's 13 Reasons Why are prime examples of shows in this genre breaking out despite some issues that continually plagued them. The grim nature of their stories was tiring and expansive. Every plot detail had to leave the audience very concerned about the safety of the main characters. It was a kind of existential dread that permeated throughout the audience. That was the desired effect. If it's done in a stylish way, then the audience can be willing to endure a lot. 13 Reasons Why had a solid first season before completely going off the rails. Euphoria had such a specific vision that it was fascinating to see the production work despite every decision by every character being absolutely maddening. In Grand Army, it's clear that these impulses are already apparent. The premiere is largely built around the central high school going into lockdown after a bomb goes off in the neighborhood. It's a scary experience. One that propels headlines about a terror attack. The media questions if it detonated prematurely and if the target was suppose to be a bigger crowd of people. And yet, the focus is on the teens at school. Their parents are freaking out because they just want to ensure that they are safe. Their responses to this lockdown are very telling. They reveal so much about how they react in times of great stress and pressure. Joey is the commanding force. Sure, not everyone always appreciates her getting involved in every situation happening around her. However, she is more than willing to pull a condom out of a friend's body. She jokes about it too. But that's a groundswell of support that is refreshing and honest. Sure, she has her own melodrama of her parents being divorced and not really liking her father anymore. As such, she looks for ways to let out her emotions because she simply can't sit still. Meanwhile, Dom feels the burden of providing for her family. It's a devastating loss when two hundred dollars is taken from her wallet because Jay is playing around with it during the lockdown. He may want to make things right later on. However, he truly doesn't respect the pressure she's under and her own desire to succeed no matter what. She projects a sense of self-sufficiency. But that may only be setting her up for a massive downfall later on. These characters place so much pressure on themselves to succeed. Their lives are dictated by what they must accomplish and the obstacles that they currently place in their ways mentally. Their lives could be threatened during this lockdown. And yet, they are never in any true danger. It's just a way to bring some anxiety and dread to the proceedings while revealing details in a matter-of-fact way. This has become a casual part of their lives. They can joke about the trauma knowing that may be the only way they can process all of this. The concerns they have are real and legitimate. But there remains the need to project a certain image. Sid acts a certain way with his teammates on the swim team. He tells them when they are being sexist jerks. He still engages with them though. It's all a front it seems. He still feels the responsibility to do so. It's the image that he must project. Similarly, Leila feels that she doesn't fit in no matter where she currently occupies space. That is isolating and leads her to enact a vivid imagination. These story threads are very disparate at the moment. They hope to paint a broad canvas of life as a teenager. It could relax a little further into this world. The ambitions and desires of the characters are necessary beyond their basic functions as storytelling delivery mechanisms. The pacing feels a little too relaxed and not really in a rush to get to something more. That too highlights the casual way all of these concerns define the lives of these students. However, the natural acting from the leads allows the audience to go along with what they are up to. That will be a huge benefit moving forward if it maintains that quality and style.