What you essentially have with Grand Army is a case study of raw teenage experiences that is directed with naturalness in mind.
This review of Netflix’s Grand Army season 1 contains no spoilers. The teen drama series will be released on the streaming service on October 15, 2020.
We recapped every episode and broke down each lead character — check out the archive.
Let’s make no mistake that 13 Reasons Why was a teen hit, regardless of the droves of older demographics looking down on it. It resonated with teens and raised issues that are important. It was also controversial due to the infamous suicide scene — from here, the series did everything to create shortcuts and make the issues afflicting the students seem lighter. The Netflix series instead opted to pile in as many issues as possible and the day to day lives of the characters felt nonsensical and unrealistic. Netflix’s Grand Army is a teen drama that takes no shortcuts and it can be embraced with open arms.
Season 1 of this new teen drama makes sure that the experiences feel as authentic as possible. It wisely follows the students on a daily, refusing to get drawn into complicated timelines and “whodunnit” type narratives. It works on the basis that we can imagine and relate to the day to day grind that a teenager has to endure — not every day is intense; some are, fortunately, very ordinary. What you essentially have with Grand Army is a case study of raw teenage experiences that is directed with naturalness in mind.
Grand Army season 1 presents five lead characters all representing their own subject matter; an Asian boy battling with his sexuality, an Asian girl battling with her identity and race, a black girl dealing with poverty in the black community, a white girl dealing with feminism and activism and a black boy dealing with the suppressing relationship between authorities and the black community while trying to pursue a music career. The Netflix series is a welcoming multitude of diversity and issues that constantly need to be pushed as a conversation.
Grand Army initially struggles to implement the characters with separate stories that do not strongly interlink despite all characters attending the same school. Once the Netflix series reaches the third chapter, the audience has a viewing experience on their hands — Grand Army does not fear pushing the boundaries; it says what it has to say in order to make a point. While there will be many conversations had regarding this series, its bravery to face the topics head-on rather than hide behind soft subplots is something to be admired, not criticized. There’s an understanding of how adults think and act today, rather than skirting it over with a “they are our future” type of narrative.
Perhaps this is the way to go with teen dramas in the future — presenting the rawness and realness of what a teen endures. It’s likely that PEN15 has had similar success for the same reasons — while it’s traumedy and extremely quirky, there’s some truth to it. YA series at present tend to lean towards platforming the next Instagram celebrity and the story often becomes a strange universe of fan clubs for specific characters — it becomes an idea of what we’d like our teenage lives to be rather than what it really was. Grand Army purposefully distances itself from the YA feel.
Ultimately, the success of the series and it’s potential continuation will boil down to the reaction of the teen community and whether they glaze Netflix with good numbers. It would be a shame if Grand Army is discarded on the Netflix “Nope’ list because there’s much more of a story here than 13 Reasons Why. But at the same time, we need to appreciate the times — teens matter, and with Outer Banks renewed almost instantly, I cannot help feel bad if Grand Army is given the opposite treatment.