A special maternal connection between Maddie and Wally makes a poignant episode of “School Spirits.”
|Aired (Paramount+)||March 23, 2023|
|Writer(s)||Megan Trinrud and Nate Trinrud|
|Previously Noted Characters|
|Maddie Nears||Peyton List|
|Simon Elroy||Kristian Flores|
|Xavier Baxter||Spencer Macpherson|
|Nicole Herrera||Kiara Pichardo|
|Wally Clark||Milo Manheim|
|Sandra Nears||Maria Dizzia|
|Mr. Martin||Josh Zuckerman|
|Mr. Anderson||Patrick Gilmore|
|Claire Zahler||Rainbow Wedell|
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Homecoming is here, but our spirits have never felt further away from the parents they left behind. In an episode that questioned solving Maddie’s murder, the story also gave a chance to build relationships and share vulnerability between multiple characters.
Claire is now panicking over Mr. Anderson’s arrest, and Maddie and Simon persist in investigating what she knows. As the mystery pulls Maddie and Simon in one direction, Maddie’s mom Sandra gets pulled into another when she’s informed her daughter’s backpack has been found in a deserted house. Sandra’s sobriety to Maddie is tied to her hopefulness, and Maddie tells Simon she’s hesitant to investigate further, for this version of her mom surprises her. Maddie grew up with her mom often drinking, and she bonded with Claire, as children, over their parents’ destructive behavior. As Maddie’s mom would drink, Claire’s parents would fight, and they found solace in each other until Maddie refused to let Claire come over during one of Sandra’s drunken fits.
In the spirit world, the ghosts also celebrate Homecoming, but no ghost cares more about Homecoming than Wally Clark. In a heartbreaking reveal, Wally explains to Maddie that he died at the Homecoming football game. Wally continues by saying he’s not even sure he likes football; he may be good at it, but it was always for his mom, and every year since he died, he sees his now elderly mom in the crowd cheering on their team and leaving a seat open just for him.
In a flashback to Wally’s death, we see Wally being forced to play football by his mom, and in that same game, he breaks his neck. Wally frees himself of his old football jersey, just as Maddie realizes she has to free herself of the same burden with her mom. This intimate conversation between Maddie and Wally leads to a special silence in knowing they are both still looking for their mothers’ approval and well-being – even while dead.
Aside from learning more about Wally’s past, Maddie, through Simon, discovers what Claire’s present is like. Simon reveals that Claire has been turning in the same essay all school year and receiving an A on each paper. Also, she is such a wreck that she throws up at a school game. Maddie admits this is all suspicious behavior, but she’s torn about the truth reaching her mom.
The climax of this episode comes as Simon, Nicole, and Xavier all receive the same video of Claire arguing with Mr. Anderson about stolen money, with Claire saying she’ll keep Anderson’s secret as long as she gets straight A’s for the rest of the year. For the first time, Simon, Nicole, and Xavier team up and start to question who sent the video and why. After weeks of tension, Simon’s defense against Xavier slowly ebb away.
In the episode’s final minutes, Simon suspects the custodian Mr. South of sending the video. When confronted, Mr. South claims the video he watched earlier was of horrible things written about Maddie in the boiler room. As Simon and Maddie venture into the boiler room, they find a hidden door that leads through a narrow hall- but a space secluded enough to drag a body.
Things To Note
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- So far, we have three different traces of Maddie: blood in the high school boiler room, a piece of homework in the forest, and now a backpack in an abandoned house. Why is there evidence of Maddie in 3 different places after she died?
- What made Nicole so nervous? Was someone watching her at the end, or was she afraid of being watched?
What Could Happen Next
- Next week looks like we’ll finally see more of Claire’s side of events!
Notable Performances or Moments
With two brief but significant monologues, Milo Manheim changed everything we know about Wally and deepened his pathos by the end of the episode. While he may have been the stereotypical jock, Wally is now the underdog trying to find who he is in the afterlife.
The Show’s Continued Focus on Ghost Backstories Highlights Maddie’s Internal Struggle
School Spirits has been able to juggle a fast-moving plot while sketching more details of these characters each week. Furthermore, these characters’ backstories highlight Maddie’s own internal dilemma as she gets closer to discovering the truth about her death/disappearance. Covering these bases is difficult in 45 minutes each week, but School Spirits has balanced all the moving pieces and tied them together by episode’s end.
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