What a day it’s been for Olivia Rodrigo in particular, trending online for the release of her new single “good 4 u” just as High School Musical: The Musical: The Series launches its second season opener. And for the record, she killed it both times.
The new season opens with a holiday number and at first glance, it feels a little odd to do a New Years’/Holiday themed episode in May. However, there is something a little poetic about a High School Musical show opening with a New Years’ episode considering the first movie opened up with Troy and Gabrielle meeting at a New Years’ party in the first place.
The episode finds its footing quite quickly, introducing enough plots for all its characters that the show never really feels like it’s just “the Ricky and Nini show.” Miss Jen (who might be the weirdest TV teacher since Will Shuester) runs into her ex (played by Derek Hough) as she plans for the High School Musical 2 spring musical. This of course changes the trajectory of the show — and for the better.
When Season 2 was first announced, everyone thought High School Musical 2 was the obvious route to take the show, but this episode changes that. Miss Jen’s ex is the showrunner for North High’s play and is setting up a show for The Little Mermaid, which puts them in the running for a Menken award.
This becomes the crux of Season 2, as Miss Jen drops her plans to do High School Musical 2 and instead, puts up a bid for the Menken awards by doing Beauty and the Beast. This saves the show from becoming a rehash of High School Musical plots, giving the cast opportunities to do more with the show instead of just doing a new High School Musical movie each season.
It also gives the show a chance to really step outside its current net, interacting with characters from other schools and creating a sense of competition. This is one way the show really cements itself as a teen drama despite its more wholesome demeanor, creating that school competition feel that was so central to other teen shows like One Tree Hill‘s early seasons and even Glee. A move like this speaks well to the show’s longevity.
Fortunately, the show still gives the cast the chance to perform some High School Musical 2 classics regardless, including “You Are the Music in Me,” “Bet on It,” and “Fabulous.”
The highlights of Season 2 thus far include Ashlynn and Gina’s burgeoning friendship, Courtney getting more focus, EJ becoming more of a character you can laugh at, and, of course, Ricky and Nini’s relationship. Ricky continues to get life-changing news on top of his parent’s divorce as his father announces they’re moving out of the family home.
This change hits Ricky hard, and Nini isn’t quite ready to deal the blow to him that she’s moving to Denver because of it. This tension over Nini telling him the truth plays throughout the entire episode, finally culminating at the party when Nini tells him in front of everyone. It’s pretty good drama and very fitting for the type of show High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has set itself up to be.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series sets itself apart from many other teen dramas because it’s just wholesome. The kids may fight but they aren’t enemies for long — even when the gang throws a party and they write down New Year’s resolutions instead of doing something like truth or dare. And yet, this really PG atmosphere is surprisingly never boring because of how the show works its plots.
There’s tons of drama and it’s easy to get invested in each of the character’s lives. It’s because of that that High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has been able to position itself as a really unique show, balancing more wholesome drama with humor.
Season 2 is already off to a super strong start and with the drama just kicking up, it’ll be interesting to see if the show can continue this trajectory.
New episodes are released Fridays on Disney+.
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