Beginning your television series with a shot of a teenage girl running through the streets, wide eyed and covered in blood, is definitely going to get you some Carrie (1976) comparisons. When the trailer was released a week ahead of the show itself, there were cries on the internet of I Am Not Okay With This being another cookie-cutter crowd-pleaser that’s dripping with 80’s nostalgia. While the first few episode’s definitely feel like this, the series eventually proves that it’s doing something different, as the episodes get darker and darker. I Am Not Okay With This is a solid mixture of Perks of Being a Wallflower and any coming-of-age Stephen King novel, as it delves into the true horrors of growing up.
The series stars Sophia Lillis as Syd, a teenager who’s juggling a complicated home life, and burgeoning supernatural powers. Syd is one part Jean Grey and one part Lady Bird: she’s all rage, confusion and boredom. After the opening shot of her fleeing a school dance covered head to toe in blood, we meet Syd in a guidance counselors office. She reveals to the audience in voice-over (an annoyingly prominent aspect of the series) she’s been having mood swings, and oh yeah: her father committed suicide the year prior. From here on, we watch as Sydney’s powers grow stronger, as do the problems in her life.
I Am Not Okay With This is the most captivating when it delves into the complexities of Syd’s emotions and her powers. At the heart of her struggles, is her relationship with her best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant). Dina is the only person who can make Sydney laugh, and it appears that she feels more at home with her than she does in her house with her actual family. Bryant and Lillis have great chemistry, and perfectly display the awkward navigation of falling in love with your best friend. In fact, Syd’s relationships with the two people closest to her are the strongest aspect of the series. After Dina, Syd’s only other friend is Stanley Barber (Wyatt Oleff), an eccentric stoner with secrets of his own. Where Lillis has had time to shine on her own in previous projects like Sharp Objects and the It franchise, Oleff’s previous endeavors have never utilized his full potential. With the character of Stanley, Oleff is finally able to display his acting chops, delivering perfectly timed comedic relief and surprisingly tender moments as well.
The series’ biggest weak spot is its script: dialogue that is trying too hard to be quirky, perspectives of people that we don’t spend enough time with, and threads that are left loose. The tone is also something it fails to juggle, as I Am Not Okay With This bounces back and forth between being comedic and displaying the grief that Sydney is facing. Sometimes, the series feels like it might finally do something unexpected, but succumbs to trying to please its audience. While it’s not exactly cookie-cutter per say, it sometimes feels as if the writers found an abandoned John Hughes script right after watching the newest season of Stranger Things, and blended the two ideas together. The series will definitely be a hit with the younger generation, as it’s perfect for the “YA Renaissance” that streaming platforms are going currently through.
While at time’s it’s too perfect, the last episode “Deepest, Darkest Secret,” showcases everything great about I Am Not Okay With This. It’s charming and heartfelt, but takes an unexpected turn down a dark winding road. At the heart of the series is a teenager dealing with grief, and dealing with the people around her not being able to operate around her emotional outbursts. The show never outlast it’s welcome though, as each episode runs for less than 30 minutes, allowing the story to breeze by. In an era of episodic television this is the most refreshing thing the series has to offer. It may not have been the perfect watch for a 21 year old, but there is no doubt that I Am Not Okay With This will find its audience. A show that harnesses a girl’s anxiety and depression and uses it to display her supernatural powers is definitely something worthwhile, but it feels like this show is a bit late to the game. While it’s cliche at times, I Am Not Okay With This has a stellar cast, a great soundtrack, and ends with an intriguing cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more.