*CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE OF SCHOOL SPIRIT ON PARAMOUNT+*
While Paramount+’s original programming has been a mixed bag since the streaming platform’s debut in 2021, there have been a few hidden gems well worth a binge and School Spirits is definitely one of them. The premise of the show is fairly simple, a recently deceased teen girl who still has the ability to communicate with her best friend tries to solve her own murder while adjusting to the afterlife. However, what makes the show standout is it’s complex writing and nuanced performances from it’s talented cast.
Peyton List stars as Maddie Nears, a teenage girl who’s hard life gets a bit harder after she finds out that she’s dead and has to adjust to being stuck in a purgatory at the center of her high school. There, she meets fellow ghosts/former students Charley (Nick Pugliese), Wally (Milo Manheim), and Rhonda (Sarah Yarkin) who are part of a support group for the deceased. They each try to help Maddie come to terms with what her existence has become, but she’s only interested in one thing: finding out who killed her.
Enter still-alive best friends Simon (Kristian Flores) and Nicole (Kiara Pichardo), who are still grieving the loss of Maddie. Simon eventually discovers that he has the ability to see and hear Maddie’s ghost form, and leads the mission of finding out who murdered his best friend. There are multiple red-herring’s throughout the show’s eight episodes that keep viewers guessing who did it, and the recently released finale put one helluva spin on identifying the perpetrator.
School Spirits is an ambitious series reminiscent of My So-Called Life and Dead Like Me with a dash of Veronica Mars thrown in for good measure. Each cast member holds their own, but there are several emotional milestones throughout the series that are heightened by the performances of the supporting cast. In particular, Flores shines every time he’s on the screen, with a depth and emotional range of someone decades older than himself. Puglie’se delicate work in the role of Charley, a gay teen of the early 90s, is one of the most delightful characters of the show. The role of Wally could’ve easily been reduced to only being useful for providing manchild comic relief, but Manheim’s portrayal creates layers around a character becomes more endearing as the series progresses.
In the finale, we discover that Maddie’s physical body is actually still very much alive, though it’s been possessed by a rogue ghost named Janet who was somehow able to get into Maddie’s body but push her spirit out of it at the same time. While alive, Janet was a possible victim of Mr. Martin (Josh Zuckerman), the elder ghost who was head of the teens’ support group, when he set fire to the school in the late 1950’s. This obviously sets up another huge mystery for season two, which hopefully this promising series will receive.