Film and TV

Degrassi: Next Class Recap: Is it Better to Be Dead or Haunted?

Unfriended. DHX Media Ltd.
click to enlarge Unfriended. - DHX MEDIA LTD.
DHX Media Ltd.
Every week, we're recapping season three of Degrassi: Next Class. Hello, darkness.

Maya has been a bit of a mystery so far this season. It was clear, even in the season trailer, that she made it out of the bus crash physically but not mentally unscathed. She skipped the first week of school, and once she got back to her routine, she just seemed to be gliding through the motions. Her friends can't count on her for the play, and even the prospect of university applications seems daunting. This episode kicks off with her practicing for her upcoming audition for SoCal Arts, a school that only admits 40 students per year. She can't even make it through one song without a reminder of her tragedy: a text from Miles with a photo of a comatose Tristan.

Her mom comes in to tell her goodnight and wish her luck for the next day. She gets into bed and pulls out her phone. She immediately searches for the bus crash, watching the news report we saw at the end of season two. It autoplays into another video, a boat caught on fire. We speed through her jumping into a rabbit hole of watching "disaster porn," including hurricanes and terror attacks, that ends with a video of a teenage girl being hanged. We don't see the video, but we see her face: Something has unlocked inside of her. Her mom comes in again, and she realizes that it's morning.

She didn't sleep all night.

That morning at school, she's propped up against a staircase railing, falling asleep while attempting to read. Grace wakes her up, wanting to discuss the play. She can't focus though, wanting to talk about the death she saw online. Grace reminds her that she has cystic fibrosis, so yeah, she thinks about death a lot - so let's not. Maya notices one of the new Syrian students, Saad, taking a picture of them. She chases him down, furious about the invasion of privacy. She grabs his camera to delete it, but scrolls into some of the photos he took before he left Syria. Soldiers on the ground, children covered in dirt, wreckage all around. He describes the invasion of Douma, and then men, women, and children he saw suffer there. Maya tells him how people have died around her, too, and that being alive means they're the "lucky ones," or so she's heard.

click to enlarge Maya's on a morbid mission. - DHX MEDIA LTD.
Maya's on a morbid mission.
DHX Media Ltd.
Okay, stop right there a minute.

This is the second time this season a character has tried to commiserate with another who is experiencing something vastly more traumatic. It started with Lola, who was relieved to hear that Miles — whose boyfriend Tristan is in a coma — shared the same grief she had about breaking up with her boyfriend. Um, no, not the same.

Has Maya experienced tragedy? Absolutely. In fact, she decides to walk Saad through her journey, quite literally taking him to the steps where she was supposed to meet her boyfriend, Cam, the day before he killed himself. She also talks about Adam, who died in a texting and driving accident. Then there's the bus crash.

Again, these are all terrible things, but she seems to feel zero empathy for Saad — who had to flee his country — other than appreciating his candid wartime photos.

During the tour, they get on a school bus, where she admits that she feels like she's bad luck and Tristan is in the hospital simply because she was there. He asks how Tristan looked when they flipped over, and she climbs up to the roof, twisting into herself as she described him, while Saad takes a few photographs.

Maya goes on to have a lackluster audition for SoCal Arts, which included the admissions counselor telling her — with zero sympathy after learning about her accident — that nothing should stop her from writing. Maybe she meant well, but it only made her writer's block worse. While she's tinkering away in the music room, she gets an e-mail from Saad with the bus photos and the subject, "Is it Better to be Dead or Haunted?" CREEPY. Morbid Maya, floored for the first time in months, asks him to meet her after school.

They go to the hospital where Tristan is and see him lying there. After staring for a minute, she sees a hospital gown on an empty bed next to him. She admits that seeing Saad's photos was the most alive she's felt in a long time, and she needs more pictures to keep feeling it. They stage a set of photos with her lying in a bed, wearing an oxygen mask, pretending to be in a coma or dead while her friend is in the next bed in an actual coma. Gross. Later on, after Grace calls to relieve her of her duties with the play, she seems unaffected and only interested in these photographs. The look on her face is chilling, and it's hard to tell exactly where this story is headed.

Is Maya Degrassi's first sociopath? If she is, what will it mean?

click to enlarge Frankie + Jonah = Together Forev ... now. - DHX MEDIA LTD.
Frankie + Jonah = Together Forev ... now.
DHX Media Ltd.
On a lighter note, we get to spend some quality time with Frankie for the first time this season, as she learns how to drive with her boyfriend, Jonah. She asks him to meet her after school for one last cram sesh before her driver's exam later that afternoon. He reminds her he can't, because he has play practice. A few seconds later, he gets a text and laughs. Frankie asks who it is, and when he says it's Grace, she asks to see the message. At first, it's playful, but when she actually gets a hold of his phone, he freaks out. She tries to play it off, but clearly, she thought she was entitled to it.

She asks Shay and Lola what they think. Can boys and girls ever just be friends? Shay says yes, on account of Lola's friendship with Baaz, Hunter, and Vijay. Lola says no, on account of Shay's found, lost, and found again relationship with Tiny.

The one thing they can agree on is that Jonah and Grace have a lot in common, and could actually be a good match if he wants it. Paranoid as ever, Frankie asks her nerd king brother, Hunter, to hack into Jonah's phone. He manages to pull his FaceRange password off some sort of uber-nerd password collector he has on their home Wi-Fi and sends it to her. Yael tries to talk her out of it, urging her to trust him. At first, she seems to change her mind and decides to trust him after all.

That is, until that afternoon.

Before her driver's test, she's texting with him about being nervous. She asks for luck, and sees the "typing" bubble pop up. A few seconds later, it's gone: no response. Frankie, we'll give you this one, we've ALL been there. Frustrated, she decides to log in to his FaceRange profile after all. It's there she sees a pretty devastating blow. The first, a message from Grace: "Is she your girlfriend or a puppy?" Then, his response, "She's just ... immature." She gets understandably flustered, just in time for the driver's ed teacher to arrive (classic teen television trope!). She nearly backs into the car behind her before she gains her composure.

Back at school, she unravels in front of Lola. What does he mean by immature? Her clothes? The way she talks? Lola — ever so helpful — is certain that when a guy says that, he's talking about the deed. She throws her a condom (located in a vending machine in the bathroom — way to go Canadian public schools). This adds a whole other layer of stress for poor Frankie. She comes up with another plan, which is to offer him tickets to see the hyper-political punk band Anti-Flag. "They're mostly a gift for me," she lies. Jonah is surprised that the mayor's daughter would be into songs about anarchy, but she insists that they "say some smart things."

Once again, he reminds her that he has to work on the play and she continues to be a wreck.

A little later that day, he finds her in the hallway and apologizes for being aloof. He has a lot of pressure on him to figure out his future, and the play is really good for college applications (yet another classic teen television trope). "So you don't think I'm immature?" she asks. "I like you exactly how you are," he replies. Did he not put together why she said "immature?" Did that last line feel totally fake? Is their relationship doomed? Yes. The answer is yes.

click to enlarge Rasha's not throwing away her shot! - DHX MEDIA LTD.
Rasha's not throwing away her shot!
DHX Media Ltd.
As was a theme throughout the episode, the entire school is fixated on the new play based on the bus crash/Miles and Tristan's story. However, there are only three roles to fill: Hero (the lead), Hope (his confidant), and the boyfriend in a coma. Rasha, a Syrian student, decides to audition for Hero. As she starts the monologue, Miles chuckles a bit. She pauses, but he tells her to continue. She finishes the speech, although he keeps cracking up throughout, giving her a cryptic "we'll be in touch."

Back in the student council office, Rasha tells her housemate Goldi all about the play. She describes it being about a girl who has a boyfriend in the hospital after the crash. Zoë overhears, and chimes in that it's a story based on Miles' life, so it's two boyfriends, they're gay. She's shocked to hear that Miles would let her audition to be the male lead and not say anything.

She finds Miles after school and asks him why he didn't stop her. He says he felt like she had been through enough. "I didn't escape a firing squad to look like an idiot," she snaps. He offers to let her audition for the female role, Hope, and although uncertain about learning a whole new part in an afternoon, she agrees. She shows up to auditions, but proclaims that she's back to read for Hero. She doesn't care that he's supposed to be a guy. These feelings aren't exclusive to boys. She shares that her best friend in Syria is missing — don't you want someone who deeply understands the material? He decides to let her continue auditioning for the male role.

Back in class, he walks in to talk to her, particularly upbeat. He thought about what she said in regards to someone who deeply understands the material, which is why he's decided to cast himself in the role. Seriously, what a classic Miles move! He's probably right, but it feels par for the course that he'd decide to just do it himself since he has a hard time relying on anyone else. He offers her the role of the boy in the coma, which she gleefully accepts. Considering how seriously Degrassi has taken their plays in the past, this one may have the highest stakes of all.

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Ashley Harris is a longtime professional fangirl. You can usually find her out at concerts, movies, and live theatre, or glued to the latest Netflix revival.
Contact: Ashley Harris