Boring white girls with telekinetic powers and teen angst is a genre. Maybe not the most nuanced genre but an entertaining one nonetheless. Matilda Wormwood. Carrie White. Now Sydney Novak. A self-admitted loser, Sydney (Sophia Lillis, “It Chapter Two”) discovers her telepathic superpowers and immediately regrets ever wanting to be interesting.
Sydney, a high school freshman, spends most of her time arguing with her mother, babysitting her little brother and joking around with her best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant, “Suspicion”), for whom she harbors an intense crush. After the suicide of her father a year before, she laments her miserable life in her small Pennsylvania town to her diary, part of her school-mandated counseling.
When strange things start happening every time she gets upset, Sydney realizes her intense emotions are starting to have supernatural consequences. With the help of her neighbor Stanley (Wyatt Oleff, “It Chapter Two”), Sydney begins investigating how, or if, she can control her violent, superpowered outbursts.
As Sydney grapples with her abilities and questions her sanity, she realizes her issues may be linked to her father’s mysterious past. Her grief and anxiety following his death created a rift in her family and bred conflict with her friends. With her relationships deteriorating, she must find a way to control her newfound powers or risk destroying herself and everyone she loves.
For a show featuring magical powers and high-stakes high school drama, “I Am Not Okay With This” is surprisingly muted. With a sleepy atmosphere and low-energy dialogue, the Netflix series, based on a graphic novel of the same name, offers a stark contrast to the fast-paced action films that usually characterize the comic book movie genre. Not quite a deadpan black comedy or heroic tragedy, “I Am Not Okay With This” seems unsure of what it wants to, or even should, be.
“I Am Not Okay With This” kind of works, but there are major issues in its composition; the seven 20-minute episodes feel more like long trailers for a show that picks up right after the season finale’s cliffhanger. Sydney’s story is constantly illustrated by flashbacks and flashforwards, meaning most footage is recycled multiple times each episode. Though these scenes are visually appealing and emotional, the constant reuse of the show’s best moments feel like a desperate ploy to fill an entire season before a shocking final five minutes that kick-start a more violent chapter in Sydney’s life.
Unfortunately, the new Netflix series falls victim to the structure of streaming platforms. As a miniseries or movie, the show’s narrative could easily get the point across without forcing an unconventional story into a far too conventional format. In order to stretch the quality content, the pacing of the show feels annoyingly slow which dilutes the strong performances of the charming cast.
“I Am Not Okay With This” used its first season to set up something else entirely. While the show may have some strong aspects, dedicating seven whole episodes to a story while reminding the audience that this is just a prologue to a story undercuts the show’s value. Consequently, the season struggles to stand on its own and wastes its potential to revise young adult and superhero genres simultaneously.