Spinning Out is a messy, dramatic look at mental health issues, with the backdrop of skating. Somehow, it works.
Yes, Spinning Out is incredibly dramatic. At any given moment anyone can be yelling at anyone, or walking away, or, you know ignoring each other. And this isn’t just your regular sports drama, either. It’s teenage drama and family drama and sports drama, combined.
And yet, though skating Twitter will tell you the show doesn’t get everything (or most things) about competitive skating right, one thing the show does do is suck you in.
Me, for example, played the first episode feeling a bit meh, ended it a tad more interested, but in no way needed to continue, and yet, here I am, having binge-watched the entire season, and actually looking forward to more.
Maybe I would be tempted to call the show a guilty pleasure, except I didn’t enjoy it the way I enjoy shows who definitely fall under that category: The Amazing Race, or even The Bachelor, the type that don’t require any thinking, just investment.
Spinning Out isn’t that kind of experience. Watching it is all emotion, for the characters, as well as for the viewer. There are times when you want to yell at the TV, and times when it all gets too much.
And yet, in a day and age where we continually ask more of TV, this doesn’t feel like a bad thing. Sure, we’re here for entertaining stories, but we’re also here for the type of stories that make us feel, the type that make us think, and hopefully, the type that makes us understand.
The show especially succeeds in its portrayal of mental health issues. A show with a backdrop of professional skating didn’t seem like such a huge bet, movies like The Cutting Edge have become cult hits, and we all followed Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir through their last Olympics. And yet, this show is only about skating in name.
Instead, the show is truly about dealing with mental health issues, and about how those issues affect everything in your life: your relationship with your family, with your friends, and even with your potential romantic partners.
Now that is groundbreaking.
We’ve had bipolar characters in entertainment before, but we’ve never had two main bipolar characters in a show that’s so much about how their mental health issues manifest, and what it means to be bipolar.
And, as hard as it is to watch at times, we’ve never had a show tell this story in such a raw and realistic way.
Considering this, I’m willing to be very lenient with the level of over-the-top drama the show delivered in almost every moment. This isn’t the first show to go all-out in that respect, and it won’t be the last. The measure of whether a show is worth watching, despite that, is in its characters, in the message it’s trying to send.
Spinning Out is saying hey, mental health issues don’t mean you can’t do things. They don’t mean you can’t succeed, you can’t fall in love, or you can’t be the hero of your own story.
We all have our own path. Spinning Out is about Kat’s journey, but yours is just as important, just as valuable and just as interesting.
Likely less dramatic, too.
Spinning Out is available to stream on Netflix.