It’s been a good day for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series fans, between the release of Olivia Rodrigo’s new album Sour and the release of the new episode, we had a lot of good content to look forward to.
Season 2 started off on a really strong note last week and although this week doesn’t quite hit the highs of the season opener, there’s still a lot to celebrate in the second episode. Now that we know the musical is Beauty and the Beast, we finally got to see the auditions go underway.
There’s a sweet subplot involving Ashlyn, Gina, and Kourtney before the auditions, which might just be the highlight of the episode. Ashlyn asks her friends to do a Spice Girls-esque group audition with her and Gina initially refuses, wanting to continue her solo audition. When the auditions are finally held, Gina gets fed up with mean girl Lily’s attitude and decides to join her friends in their group audition as Ashlyn originally wanted.
The scene is adorable and it’s great to see the girls having fun, but its also a testament to how great Gina’s character is and how far she’s come over the course of the last season. Gina is, without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of this series.
It’s always nice to see Kourtney get more of a spotlight too. As for Ashlyn, seeing her get the lead role as Belle is an unexpected, but highly welcomed twist.
Ricky’s little plot is quite interesting to think about in terms of his character. As a singer, he’s incredibly strong, but without Nini around he seems to have lost his confidence. His audition for Beauty and the Beast certainly didn’t have that Ricky “flair” we know him for — but he got the lead nonetheless. For Ricky, this episode seems to emphasize his growth and continued development.
When the episode opens, he reminisces about his less-than-stellar response to Nini that forced them to break up in the beginning of Season 1. Now that they’re back together, his response to her leaving is more mature — they even agree to do the long-distance thing and they seem to be making it work.
Ricky has always been a flaky character, showing up late and even missing part of the show he was starring in, but the show examines that a little in this episode. After showing up late to his audition again, Miss Jen questions if she can actually count on Ricky to be there for his teammates — a feat Ricky proves when he helps Big Red get up after tripping during his audition.
Nini also gets the biggest semblances of a long-term plot in this episode. It’s clear she’s a creative kid (just like her portrayer, Olivia Rodrigo) but the boxes YAC seems to put her in are constraining her too much. When she tries to reinterpret some lines for a play to her own meaning, she gets put on vocal probation, a punishment that forces her to be silent all day. When she attempts to form a songwriting club at the academy, she is passively shut down. It’s quite clear that the “big fancy academy” isn’t all Nini wants and she’d much rather be with Ricky and her friends.
The newly-introduced Lily appears to be set up as the show’s big antagonist this season. After she laughs at Big Red falling, Miss Jen took notice and said that although Lily clearly had some strong singing pipes, if she can’t support people who are trying their best, she has no place in the musical. Stung by rejection, Lily makes a call to North High’s drama department, no doubt setting her up to be their big star in the rivaling Little Mermaid production.
The original songs this season aren’t great, but they aren’t bad either. The performances themselves and the context they are sung in definitely adds to their enjoyment –it’s hard to hate anything in this show. It’s certainly a joy to see the show branch out beyond High School Musical with the Beauty and the Beast numbers, allowing for some “new” nostalgic tunes. At the end of the day, Season 2 is proving that what kept people around for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series wasn’t the nostalgia of its namesake, but rather the lovable cast of characters in its ensemble.
New episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series are released Fridays on Disney+.
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