Everything Now review: Bold Netflix series sets itself apart from other queer teen dramas
From the garish glow of Sex Education to the glorious grit of Channel 4’s Skins, college hallways have always been a fruitful place to set an angst-filled teenage TV drama.
In recent years though, the high school genre has seemingly become polarised. At one end of the scale there’s Heartstopper, where sweet-natured teens are by-and-large lovely to one another, sex is barely spoken of and party culture amounts to a few bottles of WKD Blue.
At the other end, there’s Euphoria, where students sleep with their classmates’ dads, and every relationship is shaped by the emotional damage, salaciousness and even violence it produces.
Everything Now, Netflix’s new original teen drama, is something of a happy medium.
Created by 22-year-old Ripley Parker, the daughter of Line of Duty and ER star Thandiwe Newton and director and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again screenwriter Ol Parker, the eight-part series follows 16-year-old Mia Polanco (Talk To Me’s Sophie Wilde) as she returns home to her leafy London suburb following a seven-month stay at an eating disorder rehabilitation facility.
As she’s thrust back into sixth-form life, she’s surprised to learn quite how far things have moved on since she left. Her friends are no longer virgins and they’re hooking up with one another in tents at Reading Festival. Drunken parties and casual drug use is very much the norm – even Mia’s brother Alex (Sam Reuben) smokes weed now.
Her plan, then, is twofold: she must stick with the recovery plan set by her sympathetic anorexia specialist (Stephen Fry), or risk being sent back to hospital, while also trying to slide back in with her now infinitely cooler friend group.
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She sets out to complete a list of typical teenage experiences: the “f**k it bucket”, which includes dating, drinking and committing crime. Cue Mia vomiting on classmates, kissing her friend’s girlfriend and awkwardly misjudging almost every social situation she encounters.
The result is a bold and earnest drama that manages to set itself apart in what is an increasingly crowded market.
While Mia’s anorexia recovery serves as the show’s heart, sensitively written by Parker and expertly led by Wilde, Everything Now manages to encapsulate so many of the other terrifying facets of being a teenager, including the shame and secrecy of sex, the disconnect with family, and the feeling of never quite being ‘enough’.
The show also takes a refreshing approach to queerness. Mia, who falls blindly in love with chic new girl Carli (Newark Newark’s Jessie Mae Alonzo), never really defines her sexuality, and neither does Carli or their sprightly queer pal Alison (The Witcher’s Niamh McCormack), for that matter.
One of Mia’s best friends, Will (Noah Thomas), is a classic Twitter gay – he’s 80 per cent sass – and when her fancy dress birthday party rolls around, donning Princess Diana drag is his go-to option.
But Will never faces the typical issues that most TV teen gays do; there’s no coming out or homophobic bullying. Instead, we’re able to see him grapple with internal queer struggles that go beyond the world’s perception of him, such as his fear of anal sex and his discomfort with intimacy. That perspective is scarcely seen, and its inclusion is vital.
That’s not to say Everything Now is not without its faults, though. Becca (Boiling Point’s Lauryn Ajufo) and Cameron (Inside Man’s Harry Cadby), two of Mia’s other friends, feel underdeveloped and unconvincing.
The writing occasionally borders on trite, particularly in the party scenes, and, although it’s billed as a comedy-drama, the former is minimal. Perhaps Everything Now‘s biggest problem is that it creates such a complex web of romantic relationships across eight episodes that it becomes hard to really root for any of them.
On the whole, however, Everything Now is a promising addition to the teen drama canon. It’s an honest look at what it really means to be a teenager in Britain in 2023, anchored by Mia’s delicate and nuanced struggle with anorexia. For that alone, it’s worth adding to your watch list.
Everything Now streams on Netflix from Thursday (5 October).
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