School Spirits Review: Season Finale 1×08 “Madison’s Body”

By Sara Ashton


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.

By Ken Kwok | Paramount

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.

Maria Dizzia and Kristian Flores | By Ken Kwok

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.  

By Ken Kwok | Paramount

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!

You can follow Sara on Twitter and/or Instagram.

School Spirits Review: Episode 1×06 “Grave The Last Dance”

By Sara Ashton

Contains spoilers for episode 6.

Episode 6 begins with ‘Operation Claire’ still in swing. Claire accepts Xavier’s homecoming invitation – it seems very tense as Claire replies to his message. But it’s a good job, for the plan to be in full swing and setting the episode up on its legs in anticipation of an obvious homecoming episode.

There is a scene between Rhonda and Maddie, the characters talk to one another and Peyton List and Sarah Yarkin play these characters well, where underneath their exteriors there seems to be some softness and they almost seem to be bonding as the show progresses. Good thing, right? 

Charley and Maddie converse about the letter he’s been working on for Emilio, but as this has been continuing for a few episodes it is evidently a challenge for the spirit. Nick Pugliese plays the tormented, lovelorn spirit with enthusiasm and regret as he is very clearly still torn up on the past though there is nothing he can do about it. 

Forgiveness is a key theme, as that is what he seeks. 

Simon and Nicole discuss Claire as a suspect, but in an urgent moment Nicole tells Simon “it doesn’t matter who took the video” of Claire arguing with Anderson. This itself is seemingly suspicious, as she is so desperate to emphasise the fact that it doesn’t matter who recorded them in the parking lot that day. 

It is a painful watch when Simon has to act as though Maddie is still alive in front of her mom. This is a heart wrenching watch as everyone is full of hope, though Simon is subject to the truth.

Wally and Maddie attend homecoming together (we spotted that a mile away!) and the ghostly couple exchange creative gifts – and lets not forget to mention how they travel in style with a golf cart.

As the episode continues, Claire questions Xavier’s dad, the sheriff as she picks Xavier up for homecoming. She is quick to make her way back onto the suspect list as she’s seemingly so interested in the events going on related to Maddie’s case. 

Meanwhile, Simon has a bright idea for some ‘psychological torture’ whilst attending the dance. He takes a photo of Maddie to display at the dance in hopes of making a guilty individual come forward and admit their crimes.

Claire and Xavier travel to homecoming, and she warns him about her cheerleader friends and how they might ‘act shady’ towards him. The way she pulls over to talk to him about this is shady in itself, he is clearly worried when she does so. 

Back at the dance – Maddie and Wally share a few sweet moments. The chemistry between the characters is undeniable, but she cannot help being distracted by her very much alive ex boyfriend and suspected killer.

Maddie’s mom, Sandra is home alone and hears some activity in her yard. It begs the question, what exactly is going on around here? 

Good news finally! 

Emilio finally receives the letter Charley wrote with help from Maddie and Simon. It is a sweet moment as Simon tells Emilio he found it in a library book, no doubt adding to the nostalgia as he reads it in an emotional scene where Charley watches his reaction. It is an emotional scene especially when you realise poor Charley can do nothing to comfort Emilio – but at least the truth is out and feelings are being laid bare.

Claire finally leaves the suspect list in a tense scene where Xavier takes Claire down to the fallout shelter in hopes to get the truth out of here. She reveals that she figured out Anderson was dealing and bribed him, wanting to get good grades. She admits she tries to manipulate him for her own gain – but it all got caught on video. Anderson got rid of Maddie’s phone for that reason. 

But there is no telling for certain that no one is no longer a suspect, especially in this show with so much suspense.

Finally – a breakthrough as a possible murder weapon is found and the school janitor Mr South is now a main suspect…. Seems odd.

The episode concludes with a cliffhanger as always. Nicole is digging, which is definitely not suspicious at all. It is almost too obvious that she could be hiding some sort of evidence which is emotional as she was with Maddie’s mom when the sheriff told her about a murder weapon, and not long after this we see her digging? Shady behaviour from Nicole. She was on the suspect list last week, and now she’s at the top for sure.

However, with this show you never really know what to expect as it is full of twists and turns. Another great episode and things are finally progressing, we can only anticipate the next episode and what it might bring!

You can follow Sara on Twitter and/or Instagram.

School Spirits Review: Episode 1×05 “The Twilight End Zone”

By Sara Ashton

Contains spoilers for episode 5.

These characters are coming into their own in this episode as more backstories are revealed, even the dead ones.

This episode follows directly on from the cliffhanger with Claire, and the same question is on everybody’s lips… what was she doing having her teacher’s phone number? Rainbow Wedell plays this character with a gripping intensity that keeps the audience wondering whether Claire is guilty of having something to do with what happened to Maddie, or was it something else?

It is a treat to revisit the dead club as they have a groupchat, all while decorating for some event which seemed unfamiliar to begin with. But the banter between these dead friends.. Or acquaintances are a great addition to the show which mostly engages in heavy storylines, so it is good to have their banter, even in death which breaks it up a bit.

We then learn that Claire and Maddie were neighbours growing up, and not is all that it seems. They appear to share similar backstories, however Maddie appears to have pushed Claire away and clearly regrets it.

Maddie’s backpack also gets found, which adds more mystery to this tale. Who has her backpack? The killer? Was it found somewhere and ended up in this house which Xavier knows? 

Simon and Nicole do clash heads in this episode over their differences, but ultimately they want the same thing – to discover what happened to Maddie – despite Xavier. These teens should put all that behind them in her name, in my opinion. 

We then learn that the reason the dead friend group – who I once likened to The Breakfast Club – are celebrating, or honouring the anniversary of Wally’s death. It seems tradition for these dead souls, but I suppose they have nothing better to do!

Maddie’s mom shows up again in this episode, and is sober. This is a rare sighting for the teen which results in some contemplating moments for her. Peyton List plays into the emotional vulnerability with poignance. She wishes to put her investigation on hold for her mom, if it means she gets to remain sober.

Claire and Anderson also buttheads in this episode. Yes – there’s a lot going on. Prior to this, Simon discovered Claire was receiving straight As on her essay in class but kept turning in exactly the same paper supposedly for different books. Everything between these two keeps getting more and more shady, even as the seconds go by at this point.

Claire seems hung up on asking Anderson whether he mentioned her when he spoke to the police – why? It almost seems too obvious that Claire would be the one who sent Maddie to an early grave. I have a small suspicion there is more going on between these two characters than we realise, especially when a video surfaces of Anderson and Claire arguing in what appears to be the school parking lot. The video had to be recorded by someone, right? Perhaps it was Maddie? Who knows.

This episode also proved that even ghosts have their demons… 

Maddie and Wally open up to one another in an emotional exchange where they discuss their moms. Even in death, Wally seems to be stuck in a rut regarding what his mom wanted for him. This results in emotional exchanges and truthful moments between these characters as List and Manheim channel this emotional, charged energy.

Rainbow Wendell | Photo by Ken Kwok/Paramount

Simon hatches a plan to attempt to uncover the truth about Claire – his idea being Xavier asking Claire to the homecoming dance, even when Xavier is in her bad books… Good idea? We shall see. Will the cheerleader crack? Time will tell. 

Maddie revisits the place where she woke up, down in the basement of the school. She and Simon discover a fallout shelter – being able to converse down there meaning someone had to die in that specific place for this to have occurred…

On the surface, Nicole is exchanging words with Maddie’s mom. Nicole seems to be very on edge as she opens her car to put something into the trunk. Maybe I’m just on edge and am reading too much into things? But she has officially made it onto my suspect list. Kiara Pichardo does a great job at projecting some kind of urgency from this character, it appears uncomfortable – perhaps she is hiding a secret? 

Another standout from this episode is Rhonda’s desperation to crossover from the dead club to find peace. And who can blame her? I’m sure as the episodes progress, she will either get what she wants or we shall see her tough exterior soften as a result of Maddie. These ghosts are sure to work together at some point or other! Maybe we will see them at homecoming if we’re lucky?

As far as episodes go, this was a slower one but things did pick up midway through.

You can follow Sara on Twitter and/or Instagram.

That’s The Spirit! The Story So Far: School Spirits

By Sara Ashton

Contains spoilers for episodes 1-4.

Mystery, murder and mayhem – Just 3 words to describe the latest show to arrive on streaming platform Paramount+.

The show follows Maddie Nears as she wakes to find herself… Dead. Ironic, I know. Not her best day!

So, she sets to find out what happened to her as she has no recollections of why she no longer has a pulse and is unable to leave the school grounds where she met her untimely end.

The first 4 episodes have been a haunt (in the best way) as we have been taken on a journey and been witness to several possible scandals and intrigue. 

There are many characters in this show who you could point the accusatory finger at, but truth being your opinion can change with every new episode as new things come to light with these dynamic, and sometimes shady characters.

Peyton List is a standout in her role as Maddie providing some melancholic, emotional moments as she pursues her journey for truth. List tackles this role with her dynamic acting skills.

Humour is sprinkled throughout with her newfound dead friend group who somehow resemble The Breakfast Club. These spirits of others who have had the misfortune of dying in the school or on the grounds and are just waiting to pass over. There is only so many graduations one person can take, right?

Credits Ed Araquel/Paramount+

The spirits have their uses and there are many of them who are attempting to comfort Maddie in her journey of finding the truth. Nick Pugliese has a standout role as Charley. Just a kid who died too soon. His kind aura is one that is appreciated by Maddie and his scenes are always ones certain to move. Milo Manheim adds a dash of humour as jock Wally Clark who seems to be having the time of his life lounging about the school as he explores the afterlife to his full potential.

The first two episodes begin quite slow as they set the groundwork, establishing the characters dead and alive and highlighting possible person of interest as the mystery begins to kick in.

In terms of the living… Maddie’s best friend, Simon plays a great part. Kristian Flores plays with grief and emotion as he lashes out, particularly in episode 3. Frustration bubbles on the surface as he longs to find out the truth of what happened to his best friend. Call him the Sherlock Holmes of Split River High as he gets himself into sticky situations in hopes of uncovering the truth, no matter how bad the outcome might be.

There is no dull moment as there are arrests, and even car crashes as we explore the high school, their students and teachers in more depth as the series continues. Episode 4 leaves us with the question, what is up with Mr Anderson? If there’s a shady teacher when I see one – he seems so sketchy, almost seemingly having something to do with Maddie’s disappearance. He seems nice on the surface, but it is becoming increasingly evident he has been hiding something, specifically when he declines the sniffer dog entering his classroom. (Shady, right?) – And why did he call Claire?

This mystery keeps unravelling as the characters are being further explored, making them more likeable for the viewers.

With each new episode, the question still lingers… What exactly happened to Maddie Nears?

If the rest of the season continues with the same levels of acting, writing and suspense – we are surely in for a treat!

New episodes of School Spirits are available on Paramount+ every Thursday.

You can follow Sara on Twitter and/or Instagram.