Monday, December 14, 2020

REVIEW: 'Tiny Pretty Things' - The Archer School Accepts Neveah After a Mysterious Tragedy Happens to Cassie in 'Corps'

Netflix's Tiny Pretty Things - Episode 1.01 "Corps"

Ballerina Neveah arrives at Chicago's famed Archer School to find cruel new rivals - and the disturbing truth behind her surprise acceptance.

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 Tiny Pretty Things.

"Corps" was written by Michael MacLennan and directed by Gary Fleder & Samir Rehem

This drama is equal parts murder mystery and athleticism. At its core, it highlights the physicality of ballet as well as the hard work and brutal nature of achieving success. But it also opens with Cassie being pushed off of a roof. The crime is essentially being covered up by the Archer School as well. Madame Dubois doesn't want anything to jeopardize her program. It's a place with rigid rules. However, it has a proven track record of producing successful stars in dance. It's a prestigious academy that people are desperate to get into each year. Neveah may only be accepted because of Cassie's tragedy. Dubois wants to pivot away from the scandal by highlighting a different piece of news. She picks Neveah not only because she is talented but because she can fulfill a certain story. It's essentially the feel good narrative of a young person of color being plucked from poverty and given the opportunity to succeed. It's the story that Dubois and the donor class are capable of tolerating and accepting. It makes them feel good. It's an easy story to tell because it is familiar and known. It isn't Neveah's story though. She approaches dance differently than the other students do. It may make her succeed in some ways. It certainly brings attention to herself. Standing out helps her make a good first impression with the people who are making the decisions. People are competing for the best roles in the upcoming production. They need to be the leads in order to show their worth for those elsewhere eager to tell them their place in the world. At times, Neveah is terrified by these expectations as well. She feels like she has to fit into a certain box in order to make it in this environment. The other dancers try to break her down. The administration only wants her to speak what they have scripted for her. It's agonizing. She is without her normal support system. But she can still shine brightly in this world. She can do so through the wonder of dance too. Only the best may survive this program. Cassie is gone and everyone is scrambling to fill that power vacuum. They don't want to believe that Neveah is competition. That can improve their odds. And yet, Ramon only agrees to return to the school to choreograph a new piece after seeing Neveah and Oren dance. They are forced together as partners. Bette eagerly wanted to be paired with her boyfriend. She is upset when that doesn't happen. She falls on her face. Meanwhile, Neveah gets to shine. Bette doesn't see that as fair. She knows she has to work harder than everyone else to prove she deserves her slot in the program. People are still quick to dismiss her. Everyone is struggling with their own inner demons. That makes this premiere a little heavy handed as well. It wants to provide everyone with these little glimpses of strife that can potentially make their lives more difficult. Some of these concerns play specifically for the field of ballet. The specificity in that genre makes the show unique. But the narrative also seems to believe that the heightened mystery of what happened to Cassie will be the reason why the audience keeps watching. It's too early to say that for sure. It's just a little more mesmerizing to see the dance and how far people will go in order to succeed. With Cassie, everything feels too melodramatic and manipulated. The show asks the viewer to be suspicious about a few characters because of some vague and cryptic details about them. Ramon is being targeted for something that happened in Paris. It's written towards the scandalous. It thinks that heightened sense of drama will create compelling stakes. Again, it's too early to dissect all of this. It just ensures that the narrative is split a little bit with its concerns. The way the two marry will determine how successful this first season will be. It can easily make the narrative feel overstuffed. It's already outrageous when the final reveal shares that Cassie is still alive. She just happens to be hooked to a ventilator. She is the one narrating this story - which adds absolutely nothing to the inherent drama of the series. But it's also rousing watching Neveah perform and actually believe in herself in this school. That character journey will be the most fascinating especially since she should be entirely removed from the Cassie of it all - which again, may make that mystery seem misplaced if the lead can't engage with it.