As someone who has adored watching figure skating during the Olympics, and has picked up the sport whilst at university, it’s safe to say that the beauty of competitive ice skating enraptures audiences around the world. People still remember Torvill and Dean’s ‘Boléro’ routine decades later, and Surya Bonaly’s infamous backflip during the 1998 Winter Olympics has made her a legend.
But Spinning Out takes a dramatised look at the world of skating as kids and teenagers train for that dream goal of the Olympics. Protagonist Kat Baker’s (Kaya Scodelario) skating career takes a turn after a traumatic injury one year prior to the show left the dream in tatters. Trying and failing to get into the skating coach programme, she must learn to trust in her new partner Justin (Evan Roderick) as they try to navigate pairs skating.
The show definitely does not hide away from the brutal side of figure skating; within the first 10 minutes of the first episode, we have seen injuries, bruises and blood. References to several well-known skating events also greet the audience. Jenn comments, “I could whack her knee with a bat. Or is that too 90s?” referencing the infamous 1994 assault of Nancy Kerrigan at the Cobo Arena in Detroit, recently adapted into the film I, Tonya. But that competitive nature of the sport can take the forefront at times with disastrous consequences. While we’re shown the bruises and cuts and the odd freak injury, there are those woven into the narrative for both Kat or Jenn (Amanda Zhou) which are right in the frame for us to see the aftermath. Jenn’s especially is difficult to watch unfold. After the series had documented her recovery after a particularly harsh fall that had damaged her hip, she continued to skate to impress her family and expectations.
Though he was only there for one episode, Queer Eye‘s Johnathan Van Ness was a stunning cameo as the choreographer for rival pair, adding in some flair to Justin and Kat’s real competition in the quest for the Olympics. The reference to the Hunger Games during episode five ‘Two for $40’ made me laugh on a meta-level as Serena’s actress Willow Shields is perhaps more well known as Prim Everdeen from the film adaptations. Kat’s outfit at the skating show in episode six is very similar to the Moulin Rogue outfit worn by Tessa Virtue at the 2018 Olympics – perhaps my favourite ice skating routine of all time.
Even the smallest details help tell the story in a wonderful case of “show, don’t tell”. For instance, Serena starts wearing her hair in two rather than one or up when her dad visits, like she was seen with two pigtails in the flashback showing Reggie leaving when they were younger.
Episode eight sees nearly everyone have a turn in their narratives, but Dasha’s line “everyone can have a new chapter” is the moment that sticks out to me as the lesson to take away. It’s a theme that sticks around until the end of the series (and hopefully beyond). Jenn’s injury is not the end, nor was Kat failing to get into the coaching programme. Slipping up doesn’t have to mean the end of a dream whether that’s skating or family.
The show looks at difficult topics such as mental illness and sexual assault in ways that have been widely praised by fans, which is what makes the show’s cancellation before a second series that much more desirable. So many unanswered narrative threads lie dangling for resolution. Do Kat and Justin nail their routine? After all of that, we might not know. Fans and writers of the show alike have taken to Twitter under the hashtag #SaveSpinningOut in order to get a second series commissioned. As the wintery season kicks in, what’s better than watching some stunning skating if we cannot go out the rinks ourselves?
Spinning Out series 1 is available to stream on Netflix now. You can watch the trailer below.