Tackling familiar themes with an interesting cast and a refreshing frankness, The Hockey Girls Season 1 might be a low-key coming-of-age hit for Netflix, even if it’s an episode or two too long.
The Hockey Girls, now available on Netflix, isn’t really about hockey. But it is about girls — specifically the seven members of Club Pati Minerva’s financially-strapped female roller hockey team, as well as their new coach. Hockey in this series is just an excuse, really, a way to hone in on girls coming of age in a male-dominated society, trying to find a place not just in a team but outside in the wider world. It’s a reasonably well-executed show with some interesting characters but a few too many played-out ideas, all executed inconsistently. The highs are high. The lows are low. In that way, The Hockey Girls Season 1 isn’t entirely dissimilar from teenage life, though it’s doubtful that vein of irony is intentional.
Where this 13-episode Catalan series excels is in its characters. The titular hockey girls are a diverse bunch in terms of appearance, personality, and sexuality, but they’re united by a shared desire to prove a point, both to their much better-funded and more successful male equivalents and often themselves. The show is comfortable in its own skin even if the girls sometimes aren’t in theirs; its laidback approach to identity and expression means that it takes six episodes to even bother mentioning that one of its major characters is gay, and nobody acts like its a big deal when the information eventually comes to light. This is how it should be, allowing the emphasis to fall on the emotion, not the optics.
Romantic relationships are just one aspect of The Hockey Girls Season 1. Familial ones — sometimes surrogate, sometimes biological — are just as important, and since the show is set in a bizarre community where everybody seems to know or be related to everyone else, these relationships also form the meat of the drama. Returning from a successful hockey-playing career in Lisbon, Anna (Iria del Río) returns to her hometown with a torn meniscus to find her mother (Àgata Roca) cheating on her father (Juli Fàbregas) with the father of another girl who is on the hockey team alongside Anna’s own adopted sister Emma (Dèlia Brufau), and that’s just the start of the confusion. While it can occasionally feel like homework keeping track of how everyone relates to everyone else, once you’re used to the dynamics the show settles into a comfortable, easy-to-follow rhythm which is well-suited to the binge-watching crowd, even if 13 episodes is undeniably a couple too many.
There are several sporting successes and failures which hit the expected beats, but what’ll keep you watching The Hockey Girls Season 1 is its honest and engaging portrayal of teenage angst, patriarchal pressure and the desire to find oneself in an ever-shifting, social-media-driven teenage climate. You’ve seen shows like it, probably many of them, but there’s always room for another on the bench.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.