Season 1 Episode 1
Before I get started with the recap of the first episode of Spinning Out, I wanted to let you guys know I came to watch this series. I saw no promotion of it. I think I saw it on the ‘Coming Soon’ tab on my Netflix app, but that was it. I was away on holiday for most of December and January. When I got back, I saw a casual acquaintance, who was open about her struggles with bipolar disorder, tweet about it. I checked it on Netflix, but I decided to put off watching it because by that time, I had already lined up the shows I was going to cover for Recap Lab. Then I saw an article that said Spinning Out was cancelled a little over a month after it came out.
I know nothing about how productions or Netflix deals work. I can only speak to my own experience as a viewer. I rarely watch anything new on December and January because that’s usually the time when I’m with family. It’s not easy to focus on something new when the house is full, or when you’re traveling. This is why I love Netflix — I don’t have to follow a network TV’s schedule. I can watch the show I like according to my own schedule. This is why I was surprised when I read that Netflix at least partly bases its renewals on one month viewing (in Spinning Out's case, the first month, though I don't know if this is usually the case with other shows). On a show released in January, when a lot of people are still away on holiday, or struggling to catch up with work after returning from holiday?
Spinning Out was not on the list of shows I planned on covering for Recap Lab, mostly because I was afraid I won’t do it justice. After I finished watching the first season, however, I decided to try and write about it. Spinning Out isn’t a perfectly crafted critical darling, but it is too important not to be given more space. I don’t know what will happen with the renewal campaign. I hope Netflix reconsiders and gives the show at least a couple more seasons. After all, Netflix isn’t like the movies, where the first weekend gross is often the most reported stat. Busy people love Netflix because we get to watch it without pressure that if we don’t watch the show within a specific time period, it won’t be there anymore (yes, I know licenses eventually expire, but usually not after one month). Spinning Out is an unfinished story. It dared centre its tale on a competitive figure skater with bipolar disorder at a time when the condition is still often misunderstood and came up with a show that is both urgent and compelling. Spinning Out stays with you. That’s my experience as a viewer.
On to the recap.
Kat Baker (Kaya Scodelario) was 21 years old. Not too long ago, she had a promising career as a competitive figure skater. When she was on the ice, people could not take their eyes off of her. After a fall during a competition resulted in a serious head injury, her dreams of making her mark on the figure skating world had begun to fade. Kat struggled with trauma brought upon by her accident. She had become too terrified to perform her jumps. She could not even pass her senior test (there are various levels in figure skating). With her boyfriend offering to take her to London with him, and with her relationship with her mother and sister deteriorating, Kat was on her way out as a skater.
Justin was a gifted skater and the son of one of the wealthiest men in town. His attitude, however, has led him to go through three partners in three years. When an accident on the ice led to Justin’s most recent partner, Natalie, to quit, his coach Dasha eyed Kat as a replacement. Justin’s father even offered to help Kat financially if she agreed to skate with Justin.
Kat had plenty of reasons to say no. She was not a pair skater. No one starts pair skating at the age of 21. She was too terrified to jump. She could not even pass her senior test. She was finished with skating. ‘I can fix you’, Dasha told her. Kat no longer had a coach because her mother was pouring their limited resources on her younger sister Serena’s skating. Now, a former Olympian was offering to mentor her.
After a terrible fight with her mother and sister, Kat drove away in tears. She threw her skates along the way. After spending the night in her car outside her boyfriend’s dorm, however, Kat decided to go back. She found her skates buried in the snow and returned to the town she had previously decided to turn away from.
Just as Kat was driving back, Justin’s father was introducing him to another skater also looking for a new partner.
I learned about self harm from that acquaintance I mentioned, so when I saw Kat biting her arm until she drew blood, it brought back memories of the stories I heard. There were equally raw moments, like when Kat's mother Carol (January Jones), who has not been taking her lithium, had an episode before daybreak, and forced her sister Serena to train until she re-sprained her wrist. Perhaps the most affecting scene was when Kat came home after she warned off Serena's new coach, Mitch (she was worried Mitch was being inappropriate with Serena). Carol told her, not unkindly, that she needed to be careful when she got these instincts, that people with minds like theirs could not always trust themselves. Even to think about not being able to trust one's mind is devastating.
There was a scene in the first episode of Kat skating during her senior test. Her beautiful performance was interspersed with scenes from that day when she had her accident. The quick flashes, the camera movement that followed Kat's spin, and the sound effects captured the continued hold of trauma that tightened its grip on Kat at a time when she was fighting to keep it under control. That was Spinning Out captured in a few moments -- stunning, immersive.
⛸To the fans of Spinning Out currently campaigning for a second season, consider this. After Lucifer was cancelled by Fox after three seasons, Netflix decided to continue with it, but only for two seasons. For the fifth and final season, Netflix initially just considered 10 episodes, but expanded that to 16. Though it was made clear to fans that the fifth season really was the last one, just recently, it was reported that talks have started for a potential sixth season. So, Netflix can change its mind. Maybe, hopefully, it will change its mind about cancelling Spinning Out, too.
⛸Jenn, Kat's best friend and fellow skater, was having issues with her hip. The doctor told her that if she did not rest her hip, she could eventually have trouble walking. Jenn was adamant about not missing Regionals in three months.
⛸Jenn was very interested in Justin. Jenn was also not happy to compete with Serena, who was blossoming into a very good skater.
⛸Jenn took Kat out for drinks as part of a deal with Justin to try and convince her to skate with him.
⛸Serena's new coach was a former Olympian, Mitch, played Will Kemp, whom I last saw in Reign.
⛸Kat's accident, and the accident involving Justin's partner Natalie, immediately underscored how dangerous figure skating is.
⛸Kat had a complicated relationship with both her mother (whilst having an episode, Carol yelled that she could have gone to the Olympics if it weren't for Kat) and her sister (Serena was sometimes a kid desperate and grateful for her older sister's support, and sometimes a rising skating star accusing Kat of being jealous of her).
⛸Kat's boyfriend knew about her biting. He seemed nice and supportive, so this relationship will probably be over soon.
⛸Kat's boss at the lodge where she worked, Marcus, appears to have feelings for her.
⛸Dasha told Kat to give her two years, and Kat will be at Nationals.
⛸Kat: 'I wanted to be remembered.' Later, Dasha: 'You deserve to be remembered.' Dasha read Kat well.
⛸Kat has been able to manage her condition by religiously taking her medication. Carol does not seem to be as consistent with her medicine taking, and has had trouble keeping jobs in the last few years.
⛸Justin's stepmother Mandy was nice to Kat, and said she would be an ally if Kat decided to be Justin's partner.
⛸Kat did not like it when she saw Mitch slap Serena's bum with his glove. This wasn't explicitly stated, but my assumption based on Kat and Carol's conversation was that Carol was once sexually harassed or assaulted by her coach.
⛸After their fight which ended with Kat leaving the house, Carol tossed Kat's trophies in the bin outside. Serena rescued them in the morning.
Director: Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum
Writer: Samantha Stratton
Original Release Date: 1 January 2020