Before I start my Spinning Out review, here’s a bit of background information. One of my all time favourite romance novels is From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata. It tells a story of Jasmine, an ice skater who is suddenly given an opportunity to skate competitively again. The catch, she has to partner up with her enemy, Ivan, and learn to skate in pairs. I love this book and going into Spinning Out I hoped this show would bring part of that book on screen for me!
Spinning Out is about a figure skating Olympic hopeful Kat Baker who struggles to balance love, family and fragile mental health as her dream of winning takes a dizzying hold. The show begins after she has had an accident and is now struggling to do the jumps she was once so great at.
Kat (Kaya Scodelario) lives with her mother Carol (January Jones) and little sister Serena (Willow Shields). She has inherited her moms’ bipolar disorder and is struggling to cope with everything that’s going on. Part of me connected with this character but a huge part of me didn’t. I don’t know if it’s the script or Scodelario herself but I felt distant.
Jones is actually good here as the crazy mom. If anything her meltdowns were believable and her constant mood swings felt very real. Shields starts off strong but in the end I think she just got dealt the wrong cards. I didn’t like where her character was taken, even though it seemed rather likely to happen. Part of the disbelief was probably the lack of screen time this situation had and how the crucial moments were kind of brushed over.
Evan Roderick as Justin Davis though! It’s actually a bit funny how at first I didn’t like him at all and how the entire character arc just opened him up and suddenly I was like, yes, Justin! He also reminds me of a crush I had AGES ago and it’s not even the similarity as much as it’s the attitude. His dynamic with his family is brilliant and I love how easy it was to like them all.
There are many supporting characters here and honestly, the show doesn’t do them justice. You have Amanda Zhou as Jenn and she feels like a fill-in character. Her story arc started off so strong and then it got so sidetracked. I wished her drama was her own and it wasn’t as mixed in with Kat’s. I would have loved to see more personal arcs of her character.
By the way, the way they handled Will Kemp’s character Mitch was so rude. But honestly, it may sound like I hated everyone but like.. it’s just more about the writing than anything. The level of TV shows is so high now that I expect a lot more. Less messy, more intrigue, a bit less melodrama and a lot more actual well crafted drama.
BASICALLY JUST MORE FLAWS
Now, this show is by no means perfect and that much you can tell already. But there are still a few things left to say. First off, it was very hard to wrap my head around the fact that Jones was Scodelario’s mother. The two looked basically the same age to me.
For my dismay, the focus of the show also shifted more towards the drama outside the rink. That in way was a shame because I would have loved a more contained story specifically revolving around figure skating. But instead the show was less focused on sports and more focused on personal struggles.
Mental health, sexual harassment, cheating, family problems, rivalry, acceptance – there’s a lot going on in Spinning Out. That ultimately is the shows downfall, not missing the pun here, the show sort of spun out of control a bit. It was trying to do so much while not really going deeper. Time jumps didn’t help because it felt like we kept missing out on things.
Ultimately it felt like there was a lack of consistency in the character development. Some things were too rushed, others felt like they took forever. I want to specify that in no way do I think that the mental health storyline was a flaw. But I think in this particular show the flaw around this very complicated and important topic is that the story was a little off the mark.
I also can’t comment about how real or authentic the portrayal of bipolar disorder was in Spinning Out. Things I do know is that bipolar is different from depression because a person can not only have very low lows (depression) but they also experience very emotional highs (mania). Spinning Out focuses a lot more on mania and I’m not entirely sure if that’s the most honest way to do so.
Finally, as a huge flaw in general was the writing. There was just too much going on. We have all these characters and literally everyone has this HUGE thing hanging over them. Every single character had something sh*t going on in their life. I get that people have problems but with a show that has 10 episodes of 50 minutes you can’t expect to give all these problems a justified storyline.
In the end, Spinning Out wasn’t grounded enough. There are very important themes it tackles from mental illness to sexual assault to racism to grief to injuries to long lost love. There is no way a show can focus on all of that and then throw in some skating competitions and training and all that. It’s just too much of a big bite to chew.
Is Spinning Out a great show? No. Is it something good for binging? Maybe. I went in knowing that I was getting a version of From Lukov With Love but I don’t know if the differences disappointed me or just surprised me towards being so negative.
Of course the book I love and Spinning Out were going to be different but what I mean is – I expected a more focused sports story. Not that there’s anything wrong with portraying mental illness and the struggles that come of it but… there’s just not enough time to give all those important topics a well thought arc. Eventually it just feels too scrambled.
I’m being a little too harsh though because I clearly put my expectations on the spot. Anyway, this is a mediocre Netflix show that might not leave a strong impression but the feat of capturing ice skating that way is applause worthy! If they had focused on making the story as smooth as capturing those doubles skating, Spinning Out would have been a better fit for me.