Binge and Repeat: Student drama takes on real world issues in ‘Grand Army’

Netflix’s new teen drama “Grandy Army” tells the story of a handful of students attending a competitive and high achieving highschool in Brooklyn.

Revolving around the lives of five different students who are all working to figure out how they fit into the world, the audience first meets the students after a bomb is set off near the high school causing the school and the nearby streets to go into a lockdown.

Being a teenager has never been easy, many of us can look back on the awkward growing stages of adolescence and will probably find something to cringe about (our ideologies, our fashion sense, diet ect.). In “Grand Army” the teens are not just learning to grow into themselves, but they’re trying to do so in a world that is cruel and unfair.

I should note right now that this series is hard to watch as the characters find themselves dealing with a considerable amount of trauma. All of the kids have some level of trauma after being huddled in stairwells and classrooms after a bomb went off right outside their school. Some characters experience trauma from sexual assault, while others have to face racism and reckoning with their identity.

It’s not easy to watch and some parents might not feel comfortable allowing their children to watch it alone (or at all given that the series is rated TV-MA). However, just because it is difficult to watch, it doesn’t make “Grand Army” a bad series. It’s a gritty and palpably raw series as one character tries to reconcile his sexual orientation with who his parents want him to be, another is hustles to achieve her dreams and help her family pay the bills, another character seeks justice after his friend falls victim to systemic racism and another tries to understand where she fits in the world as it seems the groups that should welcome her keep shunting her to the side.

Today’s teens are often written off for being loud and voicing their call for a better future. They’re not wrong to demand a better future. The characters depicted in “Grand Army” each try to move forward, to find themselves and find their freedom to be who they are so they can have the future they’re striving toward.

The “Grand Army” cast provides a phenomenal performance. Odessa A’zion gifts viewers with a heart shattering depiction of a young woman who is broken but not destroyed by being sexually assaulted. She brings a fierce and tender air to Joey’s rough and flirtatious character. Amir Bageria’s performance as Sid, a teen conflicted between who he is and who his parents want him to be, is punctuated with a simmering rage beneath the golden boy veneer. Odley Jean lends Dominique's character an unfaltering strength and delicate vulnerability. Maliq Johnson carries out Jayson’s story with poise and a resilient determination. Amalia Yoo’s performance as Leila, a girl who feels lost without a community, is light and at times funny as her character tries to find herself over and over again.

“Grand Army” has one season available on Netflix. The series is rated TV-MA. Viewers looking for a similar gritty teen drama might also enjoy “Skins” a British series about a group of teens encountering life’s different hurdles on Hulu.

Grand Army

Seasons: One

Episodes: Nine

Episode length: 1 hour

Rating: TV-MA

Languages: English

Similar series: Skins