Season 2 of High School Musical: the Musical: the Series started off with New Years Eve and episode 3 is also holiday-centric, this time focusing on Valentine’s Day, which has varying degrees of success for the characters.
Ricky and Nini cross wires the whole episode, writing songs for each other and attempting to perform them for one another to little success when life gets in the way. This episode also teases the reemergence of the Ricky/Nini/Gina love triangle when Gina shows up at Ricky’s doorstep. She laments that she’s spending Valentine’s Day alone and that her mother forgot this year, leaning on Ricky’s shoulder as a friend and later advising him to sing his song to Nini over the phone.
The final shot features Ricky and Nini singing each other their respective songs over the phone — and it’s actually a really neat shot. The two songs sound great intertwined and the paralleling shots of the two work really nicely. When Gina gets a box of chocolates at her doorstep, she assumes it came from Ricky and thanks him — though the final shot reveals that Ricky never sent them at all; it was her mother.
The love triangle is both exciting and disappointing at the same time. It feels like the show only just broke free of that love triangle, reuniting Ricky and Nini after a season of build-up just to immediately complicate their relationship.
When I think of the best love triangles in teen dramas, I think about something like One Tree Hill, which let both couples on the love triangle spectrum share a healthy amount of screen time as a relationship before tossing things back into a state of unrest. It feels like the show should be using this time to show why Ricky and Nini work and why they are stronger than ever — why Season 1 spent all that time building them up in the first place.
Ashlyn and Kourtney are the other major players this episode, both of whom are absolute gems. Kourtney getting more screen time outside of being “Nini’s friend” has been one of the best parts of Season 2 thus far. She also gets her chance to shine solo during her “Beauty and the Beast” number which helps close out the show before Ricky and Nini’s duet. Her confidence gets shaken at work and on the stage — but by the end of the episode, Kourtney proves she can always land on her feet. It’s a cute little arc for a really neat character who deserves the spotlight she’s getting.
Ashlyn’s arc also revolves around her self-confidence, which is handled quite well. Ashlyn isn’t the type of character I would have grown up with on a teen drama — she’s not rail-thin nor does she embody the kind of unattainable beauty standards young women see every day on TV. Ashlyn looks like a regular, everyday girl — she looks like so many of us did in High School — and that’s a real strength of her character. It’s also a real strength on the show’s side, hiring actors who look more like the world we live in.
She has reservations about playing Belle, this drop-dead gorgeous princess. Of course, Gina tells her not to hold herself to impossible standards because she’s beautiful as is — again, a great moment for Gina because their friendship is one of the cutest things in the show. But Big Red also tells her the same thing: she’s perfect as is. It’s this kind of plot that will likely be so relatable to so many teen girls watching and the message is as wholesome as the show itself.
All in all, Episode 3 is a great addition to the show that has some important messages about self-confidence. It also appears to be reigniting a love triangle which may or may not have polarizing results.
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