WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Relationships topple and loyalties flip when an icy new cheerleading coach takes over the high school squad ruled by Beth and her devoted BFF, Addy.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Dare Me is a series about the competitive world of cheerleading that details everything but prep and pep for a group of volatile teenagers. It's nothing like Bring It On or even the short-lived Hellcats. It's dark and twisted and sets the tone for a brilliantly told story with the first of many ominous one-liners by Addy: "There's something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls..."
Top girl Beth and her best friend, Addy are navigating high school together, and one where the football team is trash and it's the head cheerleaders, in their cheer uniforms, that dominate the hallowed halls. That very first slow motion of Beth, Addy and the girls walking by the lockers in Mean Girls formation got my attention, but when Collette French, the squad's new couch getting them to regionals came in and threatened more than just Beth's top girl status, I was hooked.
The show has three strong female leads, Beth (Marlo Kelly), Addy (Herizen F. Guardiola) and Collette (Willa Fitzgerald) – and all of their characters have been well developed for you to understand their inevitable destruction. Addy is perhaps the most level-headed throughout the series, but she longs for the life Collette's given herself after a successful cheerleading career and ends up worshipping the ground she walks on; Collette on the other hand, like most of the adults in this show, is far from a role model for young girls and makes some horrible decisions in her personal life; Beth is constantly trying to find ways to deal with her pill-popping mom and cheer dad, who now lives across the street with his new wife and daughter – and Collette trying to replace her with her half-sister on the top of the pyramid is really not helping the family dynamic.
Marlo Kelly gives a chillingly good performance as Beth – I'd be scared to walk the halls of her high school. She switches between vulnerable and bruised to fierce and defiant, she holds a staredown with Collette one minute and confidently does as she's told the next.
"Chest up, eyes up, everything tight," Coach French will say just moments after Beth is lifted into the air. And she does it – without flinching – and you best believe she lands of her feet every time.
But it's in those slow-motion routines – I will say I would've loved to have seen more of this throughout the series – the camera pans that focus more on the girls' athletic ability, their muscles, their sweat and bruises than their bodies, that really makes the show as seductive and enticing as it is. And though there are obvious devices and tropes that keep you engaged, like the dramatic score and the grim narration, it's the more subtle cues of surviving your teenage years in this cutthroat world of cheer that builds up to the inevitable.
There's a clear abuse of drugs and alcohol by minors in this show, and still, it's subtle, almost random, insert of Beth kicking a girl in the stomach who's on the bathroom floor trying to throw up to keep her weight down, is what really gets you. "Thanks," she says. And it's Beth and Addy sitting outside a supermarket talking about life, casually chewing on cookies only to spit them out again that has you going back and saying, "But wait, this isn't okay."
There's a lot happening in this show – each episode is worse than the last – but you'll be on the edge of your seat for it all. It's pretty much a build-up from episode one, and you're just waiting for the moment it'll all fall apart. And the storytelling is so brilliant in doing just that. It's dark, twisted, with just a little bit of cheer, but everything's just, so tight.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: