The Chair season 1 review – a dramedy that benefits from irony

By Daniel Hart
Published: August 20, 2021 (Last updated: January 26, 2024)
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Netflix series The Chair season 1


It’s wise to accept that The Chair is closer to truth and further away from comedy.

This review of Netflix’s The Chair season 1 does not contain spoilers.

Read the ending explained for season 1. 

There are so many ways you can look at The Chair, as it tackles more than one story. The core story is about the first woman of color taking a chair position at a major university, which brings challenges, opportunities but a dizzying issue of saving the English department. The Netflix series tackles the ironies of taking such a position, angling it with the expectations of needing to make a change in a white populated environment. The dramedy balances the tone evenly, ensuring the progressive idea shines through and toils with the character’s personal anguish.

Ji-Yoon Kim (the chair — player by Sandra Oh) plays the role marvelously. It helps that the script understands the social nuisances at stake. While the comedy shines through, the themes remain a burden for the character, who is challenged to keep her colleagues happy while making much-needed change. She’s a likable character, but one where you can understand her pitfalls. She makes audiences understand how leadership can be so easily derailed by the easier decisions rather than the most difficult (and needed). Ji-Yoon Kim is half well-intentioned and a half walking-contradiction, which the writing sells rather well.

But also, Netflix’s The Chair battles with the irony of divisiveness within the education system. The desire to make universities an open space for ideas takes center stage in Ji-Yoon Kim’s world. The power of the students becomes the story’s mask; underneath it, there’s this mix of activism and an abundance of triviality that scores the very make-up of intellectual malleability. All this is tied up in chuckling comedy, but there’s truth behind the script’s purpose.

Delving even further, The Chair ventures into the insecurities of later life; how old age can succumb to accusations that you can not sustain new ideas, battling the notion that the older you get, the wiser you become. How does knowledge transfer from generation to generation? Do theories and ideologies age differently or stay on course?

As I finish this review, it’s wise to accept that The Chair is closer to truth and further away from comedy.

What did you think of Netflix’s The Chair season 1? Comment below. 

Netflix, TV Reviews
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