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School Spirits is finally balancing its laughs, tears, and mystery in a season highlight.


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School Spirits is finally balancing its laughs, tears, and mystery in a season highlight.

Aired (Paramount+) April 6, 2023
Director(s) Hannah Macpherson
Writer(s) Megan and Nate Trinrud, Maria Nguyen
Previously Noted Characters
Maddie Nears Peyton List
Simon Elroy Kristian Flores
Xavier Baxter Spencer Macpherson
Nicole Herrera Kiara Pichardo
Wally Clark Milo Manheim
Charley Nick Pugliese
Rhonda Sarah Yarkin
Sandra Nears Maria Dizzia
Mr. Martin Josh Zuckerman
Mr. Anderson Patrick Gilmore
Claire Zahler Rainbow Wedell
Dawn RaeAnne Boon

Recap

This content contains pertinent spoilers. 

Who is Nicole? Until now, we’ve understood her to be Maddie’s best friend and confidant. But “Séance Anything” starts by making us question her relationship with Maddie. What was Nicole burying that night? Why isn’t she telling Simon the truth? And why does she have so many photos of Maddie? Nicole is clearly feeling increasingly guilty about something. But we don’t know what.

Maddie is apprehensive about the news that the janitor, Mr. South, had a part in her murder. As Mr. Martin tries to get the spirit students excited for the school’s mock trial, the ghost gang is more curious about the details of Maddie’s death. Meanwhile, she still doesn’t remember a thing.

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Simon, Xavier, and Claire equally doubt that Mr. South murdered Maddie. But Xavier explains once his sheriff father is fixated on a suspect, he bullies them into submission. Claire believes the only way to discover Maddie’s murderer is to discover who took the video of Claire and Mr. Anderson conspiring long ago. The game plan is to break into the sheriff’s office to review his evidence.

The ghosts try to help Maddie conjure a few memories in the library but to no avail. They meet Dawn again, who suggests an anti-séance/hypnosis session to take Maddie back to her last moments alive.

Maddie sees Simon in the middle of a college interview. While this is a college Simon and Maddie wanted to go to together, Simon repeatedly self-sabotages the interview with short, vague answers. 

Claire proves herself a valuable asset to this Scooby Doo team of investigators by breaking her own car window and distracting Xavier’s dad while Xavier and Simon look through all the evidence of Maddie’s case. This is when Simon learns that the shoeprint initially in the forest wasn’t Maddie’s, and maybe Nicole knows more or is covering something.

Later, Maddie confronts Simon about sabotaging his interview. Simon is defensive and explains there’s no reason to go to college now that she’s gone. Simon is more occupied with suspecting Nicole of something horrible, reminding Maddie of when Nicole seemed obsessed with her. But Maddie is unsure of one of her best friends as a suspect.

ssBecause of this, she tries the anti-séance with her ghost friends. They sit in a circle, burning broccoli in substitution for sage, and Dawn leads the session by explaining to the group they have to think about their death days. Dawn shares her tragic story about overhearing her supposed friends make fun of her on the day that she died. Just remembering the story makes Dawn break down and cry, and Maddie gently suggests ending the session early.

Simon is confident Nicole shot the video of Claire and Mr. Anderson, and when he explains this to Maddie, she questions who she could trust, alive or dead. Simon shares with Maddie that she can trust him, that he loves her and can’t imagine life without her, and that he wonders why he’s even helping her if they both know it could help her cross over and leave forever.

When Nicole is cornered about the video and money by Simon, Nicole confesses that she only wanted Mr. Anderson’s money to get into a school close to Maddie and Simon. She shares she didn’t get any scholarship to attend college and was desperate for money but didn’t want others to know.

Teens will do some wild things for college tuition.

After the confession, Nicole and Simon agree to dig up the money. As they go to the burying spot, Maddie runs into Dawn again. She informs Dawn that she’s a good person and a good friend. Due to Maddie’s comfort, for the first time, we see a ghost “crossover” and leave the campus.

By the end, Nicole and Simon are trying to find the buried money, but someone else is watching them in the woods. Maddie tries to warn Nicole and Simon but is also interrupted by flashbacks to the day she died. She starts to remember getting in a fight with her mom. This episode also shows Maddie’s mom spiraling with alcohol again, carrying a mysterious envelope, and suddenly Maddie has an epiphany: she thinks her mom killed her.

Things To Note

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Ghosts can eat food?!
  2. How do these kids have time to break into the sheriff’s office and then return to class? This school must have very long days, and not even the sheriff seems to mind that they’re not in class. 

What Could Happen Next

  1. With just one episode left, I doubt they would reveal Maddie’s killer as the mom. But it must be someone we’ve already been introduced to, which only leaves us with the Sheriff and Simon as possibilities. And who knows, Simon- while being Maddie’s closest friend, also shows a deep intensity for her. 

Review

Notable Performances

Kristian Flores shines again as Simon. He locks into Simon’s pain with a fierce focus that elevates the material. While his standout scene is confessing his love for Maddie, he shares an equally powerful moment with Kiara Pichardo as Nicole. They each shift control of power like a classic noir mystery; at each character’s core is hurt and eventual healing.

Highlights

School Spirits Embraces More Humor in their Penultimate Episode

From trying to play Maddie’s last-heard song to burning broccoli as a sage replacement, this episode finally rises to the humor in its titles. While the stakes grow with every episode, each character has a quip and now established chemistry that allows the release of the tension. 

Flashbacks Convey More of Maddie and Friends’ Relationship

I critiqued the lack of Maddie’s identity and motivations in the last episode. While this episode still leaves a lot to be desired regarding its protagonist, we see a brief glimpse of Maddie alive with Simon and Nicole, which helps us relate to the friendship and dynamic these characters shared.

A Pause on the Love Triangle

While there was some fun commentary on Wally upset at hearing Simon’s name, there was no real follow-up to last week’s kiss. Fine by me! If the show were to continue, this seems like a plot point they wish to continue. 

On The Fence

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Maddie Needs More to Do

If I had a penny for every time Maddie had to stare off as the action happened around her, I would still be broke – but with plenty of pennies. Maddie needs a more active role in her own mystery. She has spent this season listening to others delve into their personal story, question each other, and form teams, but she’s restricted on what to do besides watching it all happen.

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School Spirits: Season 1, Episode 7 “Séance Anything” Review/Spoilers
Overall
In its penultimate episode, School Spirits seems to finally be finding its groove but needs to give its protagonist a more active role.
Highlights
Embraces More Humor
Welcome Flashbacks
Kristian Flores and Kiara Pichardo's Acting
Disputable
Maddie Still a Spectator to Her Story
78

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