A decent if functional opening episode gets Dare Me off to a solid start in “Coup D’état”.
This recap of Dare Me Season 1, Episode 1, “Coup D’état”, contains spoilers.
The obvious comparison point for the USA Network’s (and now Netflix’s) stylish teen drama Dare Me is HBO’s Euphoria, and it isn’t always a comparison which does this safer, tamer sister series any favors. Adapted from the book of the same name by executive producer/writer Megan Abbott, its focus on a small-town high-school cheerleading team feels smaller in scope and pettier in tone, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing – at least not all the time.
Dare Me Episode 1, “Coup D’état”, introduces the primary players in this (sometimes literally) teetering social pyramid. Voiceover and audience POV duties belong to Addy (Herizen Guardiola), cheerleader and sometimes reluctant best friend of the squad’s endlessly antagonistic queen bee Beth (Marlo Kelly). The narration is suitably ominous, flashing forward to some indeterminate point and insisting that Addy was simply unable to stop whatever nebulous, bloody event is in her future. This technique can come across a bit try-hard and obvious, as can some of the show’s dialogue, such as the girls describing their potential new coach as an “ancient” 28 years old.
The coach’s age, as it turns out, is the least of their problems. The new coach, Collette (Willa Fitzgerald), is a no-nonsense former pro who immediately arrives with the intention of shaking things up, mostly by demoting Beth from the team’s top spot, literally and figuratively. “Coup D’état” is quick and eager to highlight how much Beth despises that, as well as what Colette potentially represents to someone like Addy, who could presumably go far with the right guidance – supposing she can escape from Beth’s influence long enough to find out.
That proves easier said than done in Dare Me Episode 1; Beth has a litany of issues, including a dad, Bert (Paul Fitzgerald), who lives across the street with his new wife and Beth’s now half-sister Tacy (Alison Thornton), who is also on the cheerleading team, and an obvious fear of change, and a pathological need to be the center of attention. When Addy begins to gravitate more towards Colette than her, Beth flips out during a woodland party and dangerously waves a gun around before finally being calmed down.
This, one of the big moments in “Coup D’état”, leads to a cliffhanger ending in which Addy and Beth spot Colette having sex with Marine recruiter Sarge Will (Zach Roerig), despite being married to Matt (Rob Heaps). That’s juicy gossip in the worst possible hands, and presumably the beginning of the downward spiral for everyone.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.