Grand Army is a drama TV series which is loosely based on Slut: The Play by Katie Cappiello and stars Odessa A’zion, Odley Jean, Amir Bageria, Maliq Johnson and Amalia Yoo. The series has one season consisting of 9 one-hour-long episodes.
Heavy, heavy themes
Grand Army is a show that you should probably not watch to have a light-hearted good time. It is a teen drama, true. But there’s just absolutely so much going on in this show that it looms large and heavy on the brain. The show starts off with a terrorist attack. Then there’s rape, racism, Green Card marriage, homosexuality and a plethora of other things. There’s literally so much to unpack that at one point you just feel like keeping everything wrapped and going to sleep.
So, Grand Army takes place in Grand Army high school and follows the lives of Joey, Dominique, Siddhartha, Jayson and Leila. We meet all of them while a terrorist attack nearby rocks the school. Joey is a white feminist who is all about doing what’s right and hangs out with three douche friends who have a false sense of “wokeness”. One night, however, some seemingly harmless drunk fun turns horrifying for her, and then her world turns upside down.
On the other hand, we have Dom, who has to take on the responsibility of her poverty-stricken household after her sister injures herself. She tries her hand at a side business, but when that doesn’t work out, she agrees to marry a Haitian cousin to give him a Green Card in exchange for money. There’s also Leila, who is going through severe issues when it comes to finding herself. Her mind’s inner workings are portrayed through animated portions, which are honestly confusing and annoying. Grand Army also pulls up oral sex whenever the word feminism is uttered, which is fine, but there’s honestly more to that word than simply receiving head.
Siddhartha’s character is severely underutilised. He has two things which define his character: Indian and gay. That’s probably a huge problem with Grand Army – since it has such a huge number of plots, it forgets to give the people it introduces equal amounts of time and backstory. Like Tim – he is apparently Joey’s kinda-crush but he doesn’t have any other backstory to him. There are loads of such people who are just there to push the principle characters forward (like Dom’s friends and boyfriend) but are themselves just there.
Because of the absolute vast range of things Grand Army covers, it fails to truly get into the heart of any subject, and thus provides us with sort of a half-baked situation. It focuses on Joey the most, and I have to say it was quite a satisfactory story and arc. However, everything else felt not delved into enough. Everything related to Black people’s problems felt cliched and half-baked and, honestly, just there. On the other hand, Leila and Siddhartha’s arc was added to the story just for the sake of it. I thoroughly enjoyed Joey’s story though and was quite touched by it and wish Dom received as much attention as her when it comes to character and story.
The screenplay is fast-paced, considering there’s so much to push through. However, there are extended scenes which can feel tedious and boring, especially the later episodes. The show is filled with monologues of these kids that feel like they are not required and tends to drag. The camerawork is often-time shaky and zooms into people’s faces a lot. Cinematography is fine, albeit plain, but the production value is quite good so it’s not cheap-looking.
Grand Army features good acting from all of its cast members, especially Odessa A’zion as Joey. Since her character is the most fleshed-out, A’zion portrays her character’s helplessness, sadness and desperation very well, which helps you empathise with her. Odley Jean’s Dom is also great and you feel invested in her for most of the show.
Summing up: Grand Army
The makers could’ve probably made separate shows focusing on each other these characters. There’s so much going on that it feels like pandemonium after a while. We don’t see Dom or Joey interacting at all, although that was a development waiting to happen – it’s a shame. It’s an enjoyable show, but Grand Army just has a lot of clichés, even with somewhat realistic characters, and can be too much after a while.
Grand Army is streaming on Netflix.
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