When I first heard of a new figure skating-based Netflix drama called “Spinning Out,” I knew I needed to watch it. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for sports TV shows and movies, for better and for worse. Growing up, I watched Olympic figure skating religiously. So “Spinning Out” was an easy choice to binge, and it was one I didn’t regret.
The premise of “Spinning Out” is similar to many other figure skating books, movies and TV shows I’ve seen. Kat (Kaya Scodelario) is a 20-something figure skater who was training for the Olympics before an injury gave her the yips, a psychological condition where she is unable to complete her jumps. An eccentric Russian coach, Dasha (Svetlana Efremova) encourages Kat to try pairs skating instead with Justin (Evan Roderick), a spoiled — but hot — fellow skater who can’t keep a partner. A significant subplot includes Kat’s relationship with her bipolar mom and sister, Serena (Willow Shields) who has taken Kat’s place as the skating star of the family.
Though the storyline is cliché, Spinning Out has a surprising amount of depth on many issues relevant to society today, including mental illness, self harm, infertility, sexual assault, racism, family pressure, sports injuries, infidelity and homosexuality. While the first few episodes were a bit hard to get into due to the formulaic nature of this storyline, the depth of the show and the characters increased as the season went on and dove into Kat’s relationship with her family, friends and coaches. Several of these storylines were very compelling; I especially enjoyed the characters of Marcus (Mitchell Edwards), Kat’s co-worker, and Dasha.
The main thread of the show was the trauma that Kat is dealing with in the way her singles career ended, especially as someone struggling with bipolar disorder. Kat conceals her disorder from everyone except her family due in large part to the insular nature of the figure skating world — it’s not just about how you skate, but how you look. Kat believes she would be ostracized if she reveals her illness, but concealing it of course leads to more problems.
Kat’s relationship with Serena is also layered and complex. Serena has become the new golden child, a title she has a complex relationship with. The sisters love each other, but their relationship is strained due to their mom’s toxicity. As someone with a sister, though one I’ve always been close to, this storyline really resonated emotionally.
As for the skating itself, the technique wasn’t Olympic-level, but I’m saying that as someone who regularly watches Olympic figure skating, and getting multiple stunt doubles who can actually skate at that level is impractical, so I was willing to let it slip. Other than that, the portrayal of the sport was decently accurate and better than many other sports-themed TV shows or movies I’ve seen.
By the end of the season, I couldn’t put my laptop down, and I even cried a little. At the beginning I wasn’t sure about this show, but it pulled me in and by the end I was sold. The worst part of Spinning Out is that it was canceled by Netflix after one season and I agonized over the season-ending cliffhanger for nothing.
Alas, Spinning Out is still worth watching for anyone who enjoys sports-themed dramas that hit surprisingly hard.