THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW FOR EVERYTHING SUCKS!
Oh the 90’s, there is so much about this iconic decade that makes me want to go back and revisit it…… but that’s mainly due to the nostalgic pop-culture of the era as certain things such as the fashion at the time should never ever come back. Everything Sucks! is a series that not unlike Stranger Things uses nostalgia for its respective decade to draw in a specific audience, and once that audience is locked in it shocks and surprises with a plot that had me so engaged I just couldn’t stop watching. This is a coming-of-age story set in Boring, Oregon about two groups of high school students in the Drama and A/V clubs who do what they must to try and survive the hell that is high school. This is much more than a 90’s nostalgia-fest as there are a number of gripping character-centric storylines in here as well as the exploration of important themes relevant to going through high school. At its core it is a very mellow, sweet, beautiful, and innocent young love coming-of-age story that covers a lot of content including but not limited to exploring thoughts and conflicts around love, sexuality, and self-identification at this age.
The series predominantly focuses on Luke (Jahi Di’allo Winston) and Kate (Peyton Kennedy), two students who strike up a friendship early on and their relationship develops a tonne from there. Their story is at the forefront of every episode and it’s phenomenally told but it isn’t the only significant character development we see over the course of the 10 episode season. There are many lovely and emotional storylines all going on at once, most of which at some points are genuine tear-jerkers and contain some incredibly powerful stuff. The series does such a great job developing characters and relationships that watching each individual person grow and power through their ups and downs is endlessly rewarding in a variety of ways. So whether the plot is following Ken (Patch Darragh), or Sherry (Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako), or Emaline (Sydney Sweeney) I was invested in their characters and seeing where certain events and decisions would take them. One of the cliches of many 90’s teen comedies/dramas were that everyone was essentially a stereotype, this series however strives to subvert those stereotypes and give characters more layers to build their personalities and make them seem more real. On top of the characters themselves I thought the performances behind the roles were actually very strong especially considering this is a cast of teenagers most have which have limited acting experience.
The lead roles Luke and Kate are portrayed by Jahi Di’allo Winston and Peyton Kennedy respectively and they are undoubtedly the standouts as they play their characters expertly and convey all sorts of emotional conflict they are going through with ease. I believed the inner conflict they were experiencing and all of their reactions and interactions felt natural and authentic in every scene. Their performances especially bring about some very emotional scenes, some of which are emotionally uplifting and some are are rather devastating… but either way they are great across all the scenes they share together and with others. Outside of Jahi and Peyton you have many supporting performances all of whom are great as they play their characters well and contribute to the series as best they can whether that be on the more comedic side of things, emotional, or both. Patch Darragh and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako who play the single parents of Kate and Luke are also very strong in their roles and I loved watching the majority of scenes that they were involved in. I am split down the middle with one or two characters (not performances) for some reasons I can’t go into entirely but it links to what I feel is my only real negative of the season.
One thing to note is that there is a certain level of quirkiness that the show adopts in some scenes to where certain things may not play out as realistically as they would in real life and may be slightly over-exaggerated. This works most of the time but when concerning the drama club led by Oliver (Elijah Stevenson) and Emaline for the first half of the season they’re a bit too extreme in contrast with everything else going on. I get it, they’re drama students so they’re going to be very expressive and also being on the outskirts of the high school social groups they’re going to deal with things in their own way. But I didn’t connect with these characters initially. With time though as they develop I found myself liking the characters more and more…. and I really don’t want to go into anything else here just to avoid spoilers etc. But in the first half of the season this drama student element I wasn’t a huge fan of and it led to a significant drop in the pacing for episode 4 which was very jarring considering the rest of the season is constantly moving.
Now lastly, the 90’s references in the end aren’t the focus of the series at all but they do reel you in to the show in the first place and there are a lot of them spread throughout to really successfully transport you back to that era. As someone who was born in the 90’s and was subject to what it had to offer, a lot of the pop culture references and 90’s iconography I loved experiencing here and were nice callbacks to a time that was in some ways better and in some ways not-so. The time period setting also makes room for a killer soundtrack including ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, ‘Oasis’, ‘Ace of Base’, and many others that help to capture the essence of the 90’s. Some of the references are blatantly obvious and some are quite subtle giving the series that angle of having you try to figure out which 90’s TV or film properties they’ve drawn inspiration from.
So in the end I fell completely in love with Everything Sucks! a lot more than I thought I would before I started with it. It’s a very sweet and beautiful coming-of-age story being told that has its abundantly happy moments but also its rather crushing emotional moments too. The emotion works as it had me caring so much about the characters that I was getting genuine anxiety later on in the season because I wanted certain things to go certain ways for the good of the characters. I will be doing a more spoiler filled review for this season as there is still quite a bit I want to touch on that I cannot do here so stay tuned for that. I will also say, if you haven’t already, DO NOT watch the trailer for this season, I checked it out after watching the series and it is definitely more rewarding going into and experiencing the series without the spoilers from the trailer.