“Dare Me,” as it explored the intimate relationships between a small town’s cheerleading squad, provides some of the best teen drama, not (originally) on FreeForm or Netflix.
|Creator(s)||Megan Abbot, Gina Fattore|
|Aired||12/19/2019 – 3/8/2020|
|Genre(s)||Crime, Drama, Romance, Young Adult, LGBT|
|Coach Colette French||Willa Fitzgerald|
|Michael||Antonio J Bell|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Season Plot Synopsis
It is between Addy and Beth when it comes to who leads the show. Beth is the wealthy white girl who holds a lot of power and influence, and Addy? Well, you can see her as someone who is trying to make it out of town and will manipulate who she needs to. However, as Beth tries to figure out if Addy’s loyalty is conditional, Addy latches onto a woman named Coach French. Someone who is a hotshot cheer coach that damn near seduces Addy into covering up all of her wicked actions. Leaving us to wonder, as Addy sometimes gets in too deep, can Beth save her, will she want to, and is Addy in over her head or knows what she is doing?
The Complexities of Addy
When it comes to Addy and Beth, they handle this show as co-leads, and since our familiarity with Guardiola was the original hook, we saw her as the star. Which, she honestly lived up to for there were layers to Addy. First, there was her pursuit of getting out of Sutton Grove, which makes you want to root for her. Following that, you have her relationship to Beth, and Coach French, which makes you wonder, is she perhaps gay for power, influence, maybe safety, or queer no matter the circumstance? And then, by the end of the season, you’re left wondering what is Addy really? Is she as manipulative as she comes off, or is Addy so desperate for approval that she’ll align herself to whoever she believes can help her reach her goal?
How It Handles Sexuality
Sexuality in “Dare Me,” at times, could be seen as titillation without nudity. Especially as the camera lustfully focuses on the bodies of the cheerleaders as they practice and sweat. However, more often than not, the dynamics leave you believing you are seeing people, specifically Addy and Beth, exploring their sexuality. For while both Addy and Beth entertain men, as noted in the Addy highlight, it isn’t clear if sex is just another means for power or the intimacy is genuine.
With Addy, for example, whether her relationship with Beth is sexual in a romantic sense or an expression of love, it is hard to say. Particularly as Addy latches onto Coach French and seems to be pulling tricks you can imagine her using on Beth. Now, mind you, they don’t lead to more than the appearance something could happen, hence the need to note titillation, but one could submit the intimacy of the team was not made for that.
If anything, the intimacy could be akin to what most sports have. For relying on someone to protect your body, hold it, and strengthen it, that leads to a level of trust that easily can become misconstrued. Especially considering the requirement of touching involved in order to learn new moves or keep each other safe. So for someone like Beth and Addy, you can see how power dynamics can muddle what feelings are pure and what are a ends to a mean.
Beth Grows On You
Upon first meeting Beth, she may give off privileged rich girl, used to having her way, so she is a brat, kind of vibes. However, looks are deceiving, and as we get to know her, her father Bert, and understand her relationship with Tacy and Beth’s mother, Lana, it comes together. In fact, as Addy reveals more of herself, the love you have for that character will begin to switch to Beth.
What triggers this is, despite how much Beth values and needs her power on the squad, you can see she wants and needs Addy more. So as Coach French asserts herself, it leads you to take note of how Beth’s life is a house of cards. One in which, Tacy easily can snatch away her father’s attention and as for Lana? Well, despite Bert’s affair, you can tell she still harbors something for him. Hence the hate and her habits.
Beth’s Relationships (Addy and Faith)
Which is why Beth’s relationships become such a draw. You can see she gets a sense of love, validation, even family, from both Addy and Addy’s mother Faith. Someone who doesn’t play much of a role on the show, until a murder happens, but with said murder being lackluster, mostly due to who dies, it is Faith’s role in Beth’s life that makes her relevant. For you can almost see, as much as Beth has feelings for Addy, it is Faith who really sealed the deal. Having a maternal figure who cooks for her, worries about her, and sees something good in her, how does one give that up?
Heck, then with Addy, as much as Beth can come off as a tyrant, or someone who fears coach stealing her power, with Addy, there are times you can see she is just trying to live her best life. She wants to give Addy the world, but Addy only returns those feelings when it is necessary or convenient. Thus creating probably one of the most complicated teen romances you may ever watch, yet still, wholeheartedly ship.
Whether you are talking about Michael, who assumingly is Addy’s childhood friend, Will, Matt, or even Bert, the men are a lackluster part of the show. Now, we will say, Michael and Bert had potential, through their relationships with Addy and Beth, respectively. However, Matt and Will wholly relied on Coach Colette French, and they floundered because of it.
When it comes to Matt, honestly, with Colette cheating on him within a few episodes, and the intensity Fitzgerald has with Roerig, you may often feel like Colette should just leave Matt and get her happily ever after. But, the complication is Colette is a mom, and with her coming from a broken home, she doesn’t want her daughter going through that. Which, unfortunately, often makes Will a piece of meat. And while he does try to play a role in Michael’s life, and other members stationed out at Sutton Grove, there is something so dry about the character that gaining and maintaining interest is hard.
On The Fence
Though, it could be because Coach French isn’t necessarily the most interesting of characters. She is propped up due to Addy’s idolization of her and Beth desiring to take her down. But if you remove those two, she is very dry and as dull as the men she has an interest in. Granted, they try to build her up with a bad childhood, her work ethic and showing that, as manipulative as Addy appears, Colette has been doing this longer. However, the development never goes beyond shallow words and writing in the script.
Tacy and Beth’s Beef
At times, it is interesting to see Beth and Tacy face off. Tacy clearly wants to show Beth she is her equal and not in terms of earning her big sister’s respect. I think she is fully aware she was born from an affair, and Bert stays with her mom partly out of guilt, and because of how much of a mess Lana has become. But, with never meeting Tacy’s mom and Tacy lacking complexity, she becomes a jobber for when Beth is unable to take on or take down Coach French.
There is something about Riri that made us wish she was utilized more. Be it her having her own perspective on Addy and Beth, her mother, J.J., being the most notable parent on the show, or just this vibe she gave off. One which, similar to Addy, made it seem the person she presented to most was not all she was. Thus making her yet another character who shows potential untapped.
The Cheerleading Aspect
Weirdly, cheerleading is such an essential thing to the girls, yet that doesn’t make it one of the most important things for you to care about. Prime example, Coach French was hired to get these girls into regionals, state, and etc., and while we see them work to that, and even qualify, it doesn’t ever feel like the big deal it should be. Instead, it helps you note how much time has passed and makes for a decent, B, or C storyline. Which, when you think that all Addy does is to win and get out of Sutton Grove, and is the pillar of what makes Beth feel powerful, the fact the cheerleading aspect almost becomes an afterthought seems off.
Review Summary: One and Done
Rating: Mixed (Stick Around)
When it comes to creating complex, possibly problematic, female relationships, “Dare Me” took things to where many YA shows don’t. For when it comes to Addy and Beth, they are probably the best female co-leads in recent memory. The problem is, their supporting cast doesn’t necessarily match up, and while Coach French brings some good drama into their relationship, as she is shown to have a life outside of Addy and Beth, you see more and more issues that bring the quality of the show down. Especially as a murder mystery is established that makes you wonder why couldn’t they drop that aspect from the book?
But, overall, it is worth sticking around to see, even though the possibility of a second season is shaky.
Season 2 of Dare Me
Has Another Season Been Confirmed?
It actually was cancelled by USA Network but, it was co-produced by Netflix. So, while not available on Netflix US yet, it is internationally, and there is always the chance Netflix could decide to outright product it themselves. Netflix has shown itself to love queer teen shows and found itself a hit with “Cheer” earlier this year. So, why not combine the two?
What We Expect From The Next Season?
I would love it if Addy and Beth can stay the course they’re on while we develop the other characters. Also, either beef up the men on this show or, as what happened to Matt, have them only show up when necessary. This is a female-driven show, and it seems whenever the focus allows the men some spotlight, it falls off a little bit.