By Sara Ashton
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON 1 FINALE OF SCHOOL SPIRITS, YOU CAN WATCH ON PARAMOUNT+ NOW.
As finales go, this one is packed. Packed with emotion, truth and revelations. The cast do a great job in encompassing all of this to create a great closing episode.
Let’s start at the beginning of the episode…
Simon is in Sandra’s house, says he wanted Maddie’s notebook – but we know this is Simon being deceitful to learn more. He discovers that Sandra has Maddie’s necklace: immediate warning signs. Maddie wants to figure out if her mom murdered her, bad enough for anyone to deal with.
Peyton List does a great job in showcasing this unwarranted urgency. Because.. who would truthfully want to discover if their own mother killed them off? But it’s understandable she wanted her closure so she might move on.
During this time, there are emotional exchanges between the two teens. Maddie and Simon’s connection has been one of the greatest parts of this series. Kristian Flores and Peyton List’s chemistry is something that is very believable and it pours through the screen in such a great way.
Meanwhile, Mr Martin seems very anxious when the dead club discusses the differences between when Janet left and Dawn left. The spirits appear to be agitated as Mr Martin is very clearly hiding something. Josh Zuckerman does a great job with this character, the mystery and sense of danger he emits is something to be wary of. Zuckerman’s portrayal of this character who is very obviously hiding something is raw.
Mr Martin’s covering of the truth ushers an urgent demand from Charley, a character who has for the most part been very pleasant seems to emerge from his shell as he snaps at the teacher with the line – “After all these years, how can you still be so clueless?”
Looking back is the key to getting out of here, Charley says. Mr Martin is angry as he doesn’t want to relive his past citing it as ‘painful’ and then we learn what happened to him. A ‘fatal error’ as he put it. Shrouded in guilt as a failed teacher because of a fire. A convincing performance from Mr Martin. Zuckerman plays it so coolly it is evident he is concealing more just by expressionism.
Maddie and Wally share an emotional moment about Dawn’s final moments before she passed over. The chemistry between this pair is undeniable. Emotional performances from Manheim and List. These two have definitely been a standout throughout the entire show. Manheim and List possess this chemistry and paired with List’s talent and Manheim’s charisma the characters of Wally and Maddie could not be played more wonderfully.
“I’m scared of the truth,” Maddie admits. But Wally is there for her. A heartwarming scene for fans who have longed for them to be a couple.
Simon acts suspicious but has a plan for Maddie’s mom to turn up and accept an award on her behalf.
There is a confrontation between Xavier and his dad in the office when he wants to help Mr South and photographs some evidence to help him on his way out of the sheriff’s department. It is evident he is playing a risky game, but that’s just what Xavier is like.
Back to what happened to Dawn… a constant reminder of the spirits that are stuck as dead club seems to reign over them.
Rhonda and Charley discuss Dawn’s crossing over – a prominent discussion topic in this episode. Charley offers to listen to Rhonda but she closes him out in a sad moment. Charley is such a likeable character and as a viewer it’s sad to see him treated the way he is. Rhonda definitely has battles of her own. Nick Pugliese and Sarah Yarkin play these contrasting roles with such great talent. You can’t help but want for the characters to get on with thanks to their performances.
Xavier, Nicole and Claire go to the address he has gotten from his father and the tension mounts as the three teens are clearly piled together in a car when they don’t want to be.
In the meantime, Wally and Charley team up in an attempt to find more information about Dawn’s past to try and crack what happened to her. They discuss the fear of just disappearing into nothing in an emotional exchange. Manheim and Pugliese channel their emotion in this unnerving scene as they discover the truth. The fallout shelter was the location of fire – Janet and Mr Martin both died in fire.
Simon snaps and confronts Maddie’s mom and asks why she has her necklace. Maddie’s mom admits she spent her college fund. List gives an emotive performance in the flashback scenes as her mom leaves her in the fallout shelter. This results in her mom being ticked off the suspect list.
A stand out deliverance from List with the line: “she killed my spirit, but she didn’t murder me.”
Wally and Charley continue to investigate in the fallout shelter. Their obituaries are stashed on a shelf (Not weird at all…)
Mr Martin documents deaths.. but in a creepy way. It makes us wonder, why is he doing what he’s doing. He clearly has some twisted motive, right?
There is a ceremony for Maddie’s award. Maddie’s mom gives a speech to tug at the heartstrings as Maddie unknowingly watches on. After this, Maddie tells Mr Martin she is ready to write her obituary… if only she knew what was going on with the other members of dead club, maybe she wouldn’t have done so.
Maddie then reads her obituary for Simon in a teary eyed scene. Simon refuses to believe she is real – he convinces himself she is a figment of his imagination, though his expression and physical reaction tells us he’d rather believe otherwise.
Meanwhile, Nicole captures footage of someone who hit Xavier with a vehicle… the person looks exactly like Maddie. Then it clicked, her body has very clearly been inhabited by someone else – you guessed it, Janet.
Maddie seems to be stuck in limbo. This is why Simon can see her? Because her body isn’t technically dead so she still has ties to the living.
A great final episode, but so many unanswered questions. The dead club appear to be in jeopardy at the hands of obituary-stealing Mr Martin, Xavier is on his way to hospital, Maddie’s body is seemingly inhabited by a dead woman.
The cast have done a great job in these episodes with drama, mystery, emotion and laughs. A great combination for any show. School Spirits has it all. Ending on a sombre note leaves us with so many questions, it is frustrating but leaves us wanting more, and that is the point!
Will Maddie Nears get the closure she deserves? Will the dead club be saved from the clutches of Mr Martin? There is so much going on, we can only hope for a second season for more answers!