Rise hasn’t been the most engrossing new show this midseason, but What Flowers May Bloom does a few things right that the past two episodes did not.
Positive Vibes, For Once
One of my biggest complaints about the pilot two weeks ago was its dry, humorless tone. Granted, not everything has to be as funny as The Good Place or Santa Clarita Diet, but a show about teenage kids at a high school needs some positivity. Luckily, there’s a lot to be optimistic about this week as Gordy, who had been saddled with an unexciting addiction subplot until now, plays some hoops with his family at the end of the episode. It’s a simple gesture that could have easily been dramatic or overplayed, but it’s nonetheless a huge relief to see that the writers aren’t planning on keeping this too gloomy all the time.
A Crisis of Beliefs
With news that Simon will be transferring to another school, Tracy begins to question Lou’s vision for the drama club while Lou questions the real reason his student is leaving. Handled with extreme nuance and a whole lot of subtlety, Rise gives us the opportunity to see Simon’s mother’s point of view for once. Her tear-jerking speech to Lou at the end when she says he needs him to believe in something is quite riveting. This entire crisis of faith could have easily been tackled in a clichéd matter, but luckily the show rises above all that in the most unexpected way.
Too Many Characters?
One thing that this show hasn’t handled smoothly is giving the perfect amount of screen-time to each and every character. At this moment, it seems that the show is a bit overcrowded. Take Maashous, for example, who is integral enough to the story that he is living with Lou’s family now, but sadly Rarmian Newton (who was excellent on The Family) isn’t getting enough material to work with. Let’s hope the show figures out a better formula to involve every character in the future without compromising the narrative.
– Coach Strickland telling Gordy to “forget about it” after he sees him flirting with his daughter Gwen is admittedly funny. This is actually a pairing that might work.
– I’m becoming less invested in Lilette/Robbie now, but it was still nice to see him introduce her to his mother.
– Very moving speech from Tracy about how the kids and the theatre always come first to her.
– Simon’s tearful solo “Left Behind” is heartbreaking.
Quips from the Drama Club
Gail: So what’s it like?
Maashous: Being a foster kid?
Gail: Yeah. If you don’t mind.
Maashous: Pretty much 24/7 awesomeness. I don’t know, I guess you get used to living a certain way. You know, just not letting yourself get too comfortable, too dug in. My whole life’s in my backpack. I kind of like that. You just learn not to expect much from anyone, I guess.
Tracy: I know every single prop in here. My life’s in here. And yeah, maybe I should have more of a life, and maybe this is too much of a family for me, but it is my family, and you are messing with it with your “vision,” which I tried to support you in, even though you walked in here and took a job away from me that I wanted, that should’ve been mine! But I sucked it up because the kids and the theater come first. But I got one more thing to say to you. And we’re gonna put this away and never talk about it again. It’s your fault that Simon is leaving. You know it, and I know it, so let’s just say it. You gave him this role. You knew what you were stirring up. And now he’s leaving. This isn’t just about your vision, Mr. Mazzu. These are people’s lives you’re dealing with.
Patricia: My grandmother used to say, “I don’t care if you don’t believe in the same thing as me, but you have to believe in something.” And I need to know what you believe in.
Lou: I believe in the kids I teach. I believe in the truth. I believe in helping them to grow up in the sun and not in the shadows.
Patricia: Okay. Okay, thank you.
Another solid entry from NBC’s freshman musical drama, thanks to a more hopeful and uplifting ending.