Monday, October 14, 2013

TV Series Review: Dance Academy (season two)

Today I'm continuing with my adventures in Australian tv with the second season of Dance Academy. I suppose the real reason I watched this show is a lot like why I kept watching Heros of Cosplay, I love watching dance and wanted to be lazy and not have to search all over youtube or the rest of Netflix for it. Thankfully (practically) no matter what this show does it will always be better than HoC, although that doesn't mean that I liked what it did all the time....

Dance Academy (season two)

Summary: Tara and her friends return to the National Dance Academy for a second year of ballet! Or so they'd like to say, Kat failed last year, Sammy's dad is refusing to pay his tuition so he's working at a part time job to make ends meet, and second year also has some interesting additions that are sure to shake up the group's dynamics even more.

The Good: I really liked the character arc Abigail went through, it started in the previous season and here we can see her continuing to both pull herself out and be pushed out of the destructive tendencies  (both to herself and those around her) that she had grown into to be a more stable and better person and I really liked that progression. I only really noticed it at the end of the season, when the show slightly contrasts her and new character Grace, but I think the show has done a good job at showing how she's grown a lot yet still isn't finished growing by a long shot. The other characters have grown some, new character Ben goes through a lot of character development in just the first few episodes (I think to make sure the audience didn't just start hating him) but other than that the other characters feel like they've grown far less. There is one more season to the show (I asked around and some viewers confirmed that yes that was the end, no going on forever shows here!) so I'm hoping that the writers do have good ideas for how to end the show and have the characters grow even more by the end but I won't be holding my breath for it. I will say however that I like how the overall story is structured here, the season isn't tied around one large thematic idea or even one large plot point (although the dance competition does play a huge role) yet everything manages to feel cohesive. Each episode manages to feel like just an extension of the previous and it's a nice example of how to tie together a show by being mostly character driven yet when Plot pops up it doesn't change the tone of the story at all.

The Bad: My biggest problem with the show happened very close to the end and I'm going to talk about just in a footnote which will have some spoilers because it's One Of Those Moments and I need to articulate just why I thought it was a terrible choice*. That was my biggest problem with the season, although I was less than fond of all of the romantic subplots in the show. Everyone was so confused on what they actually wanted in a relationship, with whom they wanted in a relationship, and all of those different things that they stopped feeling like "teenagers who are confused by life and trying to work it all out" and more like "characters who keep changing their lives just to keep everything dramatic." I'm also on the fence about new character Grace, on the one hand I can see what the writers were going for with her character (horribly self-destructive and emotionally manipulative towards everyone she meets, both because of her life and likely would have been that way even if she had been happier) but I think it was how the characters continuously trust her (including Tara, guys speaking as someone who was one of the more "innocent" high schoolers out there it's hard to take parts of Tara's character seriously) that broke my suspension of disbelief. I also had some trouble with another new character, pro dancer/teacher Saskia, but both of those characters apparently will be returning in the third season so I'll reserve my final judgement of them until I can see where the show decides to end. 

The Production Values: Once again everything continues to look fine with no weird audio or video snafus. There was one point where Abagail was singing and I wondered if she was lip-syncing with another actress doing the singing (or just lip-syncing to a recording of herself, I would understand why the production team might choose to do either of those two things but there was something that was just a hair off in that scene which made me wonder) and it was a bit off-putting once or twice later in the season when the show used some music, which previously had only been used by a particular dancer for their piece and never anywhere else, in a different kind of scene and it gave me an odd feeling of dissonance. It was as if I was watching a movie and they played the theme for character A when character B was having an important moment, except this was the music character A had a dance choreographed to so you wondered why everyone else even had a copy of it. All in all those are nitpicks however, just about everything was perfectly fine.

So, for that ending I'm only giving this 2.5 out of 5 stars for being overly dramatic in way too many cases for me yet when the drama wasn't as large scale I did really enjoy the show and found myself watching episode after episode the way someone grabs a bag of skittles and then discovers they already ate the entire thing. I know that the third season just finished up in Australia and when it pops up on American netflix I will make sure to watch and get my review up as quickly as I can!

*right, prepared for major, end of series spoilers? Good, the short version is that a character is killed off less than five episodes before the end of the show. This character hadn't been sick previously or raised any of what some fandoms call "death flags", they were simply run over by a car off-screen and if it wasn't for the fact that they had the character film some more scenes with them (when the others were remembering them while mourning) I would wonder if the actor had actually died in real life. My problem with this is two-fold, one, this isn't the kind of show where people suddenly die. Yes people are killed in car accidents in real life, and in other ways, but we never see shots that focus on a how busy the streets are or how dangerous the characters lives are and this is fiction, not real life, you must foreshadow these things to make it seem as if the writer has control of their own story. Yes there were one or two references to death earlier in the season but only one of those involved the character who died, I wouldn't call it foreshadowing, so instead of feeling a great loss I just felt like the writers had lost it. Secondly, the show already had a huge number of dramatic plots running at that point. The competition, the Grace vs Tara rivalry that was bringing back stuff from the Tara vs Saskia conflict from earlier in the season. The tension with the school play which was also tied into the tangled romantic plots and, I thought, was supposed to be an interesting contrast with the musical that Abigail had become involved with. There was so much to work with that they could have easily filled up the rest of the season with it. I can understand them not wanting to have the season end exactly the way the previous season had (the dreaded trilogy syndrome) but I still don't think this was the right way to do it. Finally, and this is truly spoilerly territory, it does fall into this particular death trope which I really wish would, pun not intended, die already.

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