The competitive world of ballet has become a lot more cutthroat than it already is. (And according to Tiny Pretty Things Season 1, more dramatic and nude in the process.)
On Netflix's newest addictive soapy drama, Tiny Pretty Things takes the refined and regimented world of ballet and injects it with a big dose of teen drama. Beautifully skilled dances and juicy backstabbing makes this a perfect recipe for becoming your next guilty pleasure.
The series strives to be a mix of Black Swan and another Netflix hit, Elite. However, the ballet company's salacious antics are sometimes overshadowed by the hook-ups of its teen characters. And, let's not forget the build-up to the conclusion that didn't hit its mark.
[SPOILER WARNING: This review will discuss some plot points of Tiny Pretty Things Season 1. If you have yet to binge-watch the series, finish and come back to read.]
Tiny Pretty Things Season 1 carries many of the similar framework beats from Netflix's Elite.
There is a prestigious school where only the acclaimed get to attend, and those who are rich/privileged have the power. A group of attractive teen characters (who are 20-something actors) mixed up in a web of betrayals, sex, drama, and friendship. A new scholarship outsider joins the school and turns their world upside down.
Of course, there is a murder-mystery at the heart of the conspiracy.
In this case, it's the attempted murder of the Archer School of Ballet's next rising star, Cassie. Everyone is a suspect, and the main characters each have a motive for why they'd push Cassie off the building. More than just trying to climb the ranks of the school.
Just like Elite, the juicy drama is what hooks you into the mystery. Not everything going on is about Cassie's attack; some of the betrayals are purely motivated by pettiness or a need to be THE star dancer.
These plot beats are where Tiny Pretty Things shined strongest.
The competitive world of ballet is a well of potential stories to pull from. The students (and their instructors) served up jaw-dropping twists that mimicked what you'd expect from a primetime soap. In turn, these stories had more depth to them for the characters to grow and act from as compared to the sultry hook-up plots.
Katrina: We need to be careful how we spin this.
Bette: There’s nothing to spin. Mom, you gotta believe me! I didn’t do this!
Katrina: The police are telling a very good story. So, if you wanna get out of here…
[Katrina whispers into Bette’s ear]
Katrina: You need to tell a better one!
For instance, the school's devious deal of turning a blind eye to what happened to students like June or Paige.
That plot exposed a web of deception that Madame Dubois helped facilitate for years, and it positively strengthened the teens' relationship. The club mini-arc was one of the strongest plots because it had a clear structure of the heroes, the villains, and the thread for connecting to the greater story.
The same can be said about Shane's conflict over his love life and June's fight to keep her dream. Tiny Pretty Things had nuggets of good plots to hold onto.
On the other hand, the biggest positive comes from dancing. While there wasn't an abundance of dance numbers, they flexed their skills when the cast did showcase their moves.
The cast of Tiny Pretty Things has a lot of talent!
Part of the plot is that the students compete to perform in numbers for the new musical called "Ripper." Many of the dances suit that dark and eerie tone, like the rehearsals with Ramon or the duets between Shane/Bette, Nabil/June, and Oren/Neveah.
Those numbers were captivating due to the talent and sinister vibe. Ripper's plot didn't make much sense based on the changing explanation, but it looked visually beautiful.
If Tiny Pretty Things returns for another season, we need more of the dancing. It should feel organic to the plot compared to something like Glee or The Next Step.
Speaking of the characters, Tiny Pretty Things has a good cast making up the roles.
Acting isn't their specialty; this comes apparent when performing with talent who has more acting experience. However, they knew enough about their characters to make them personable to root for or against.
You feel connected to many of their stories, like Neveah's determination to break into this new world or June's sadness of being constantly overlooked. And even during the overdramatic and frustrating moments, the cast does a good job.
Ramon: Now that was dancing like a man.
[Shane punches Ramon]
Shane: You’re kinda man. Not mine.
Cast members like Daniela Norman, Lauren Holly, Brennan Clost, Kylie Jefferson, and Barton Cowperthwaite, to name a few, gave some of the stronger performances because their characters got more room to develop.
However, the problem is that the script didn't dive deeper into the many layers of its characters.
The show is quite content with exploring the surface-level issue without breaking down the motivations of why it's happening or others' reactions. This lack didn't do the characters or plots any justice.
Why did Oren agree to hook up with Shane constantly? Why was Oren the only one picked on for his weight? Why did Caleb build an affair with Madame Dubois?
Why do all the guys hate Nabil? Why was everyone so quick to forgive Bette? How did Nabil fall so fast for Cassie when their relationship didn't seem that deep?
Many threads are set-up during Tiny Pretty Things Season 1, but the show expects you as the viewer to go with those high-level traits. Everything happened before Neveah joined the school, so go with the flow too.
And when it's time for characters to grow past previous plots, the show prefers to retread threads and hammer it in again.
For instance, the balance of best frenemies, Bette, and June.
Bette is a rich girl who gets whatever she wants and strives to overshadow her more successful sister. June is the rich second-in-command girl who wants to shine but constantly gets overlooked by everyone.
Except Tiny Pretty Things Season 1 Episode 10, Bette and June regressed to the same archetypes constantly, even when they got the opportunities to push forward. Bette always ended up winning or being self-destructive, while June ended up the victim out of the spotlight.
I'm glad June got her moment in the sun at the end because she deserved her redemption, and Bette got her comeuppance for being a terrible friend. However, the consistent dynamics between these characters made it hard to sympathize since it was expected that nothing would change.
The same hindrance affected most of the characters. One way or another, they would be brought back to the same issues.
You wouldn't expect it since some of the story gaps were filled with sexual innuendos, sex, or random nudity.
Tiny Pretty Things Season 1 loved its nudity. Like, a lot.
There's nothing wrong with the appearance of sex scenes or a nude character. Cable shows on HBO/Showtime or other streaming series have included these scenes to heighten its edginess or poke fun, like Lucifer's inclusion of showing Tom Ellis's butt. When done right, it makes sense.
Madame Dubois: You’ve rolled in Oren’s bed and now you’ve made your own. Neveah, your time here has finally come to an end. You’re out!
Neveah: This is a set-up!
Madame Dubois: It’s a simple enforcement of the rules.
In this case, however, the nudity/sex scenes seemed arbitrary at times, or it took priority as a main takeaway from the scene. Like, the show wanted us as viewers to know that it's confident enough to "go there" and will surprise us with salacious scenes.
Before anything does appear, the writing should be strong enough on its own to carry the scene. There were times that a nude shot or a spontaneous fling wasn't needed.
Also, let's not forget that these characters are supposed to be teenagers. Some of them had sex with older characters, and some talked about them being minors.
TV shows tend to write teen characters as older, and Tiny Pretty Things Season 1 fell into this same trap.
It's almost as if they gave up any pretense of sticking to the needed ages. If they had switched the setting to a college or university, it would be aligned with the writing direction.
The mystery at the heart of the story (i.e., Cassie pushed off the building) started strong, but it felt like an afterthought near the end. The series seemed ready to move onto the next big mystery before delivering its climactic conclusion.
Sure, we got the answer of who did it, and there was a shocking twist about how it was handled afterward. However, the events didn't live up to the anticipation of what was built before it.
June: The minute Cassie sees us together … she’ll pull you back in. You’ll try to resist, but she’ll wear you down because Cassie always wins, while I’ll be left in her shadow. No career, no future … no you. No way!
Nabil: You have seen I am strong.
June: Cassie is stronger.
[June leans close and touches Nabil’s arm]
June: If you care about me, dig deep tonight and dance hard. Help me show Ramon I can deliver.
I wish the reveal of the attacker and Cassie's truth got introduced one episode prior.
The extra time would've allowed Cassie to enact more parts to her devious plan and showcase more of the web surrounding the attacker. Instead, the pieces led to plot points that were being set-up for a potential second season.
What if there isn't a Tiny Pretty Things Season 2? We love a juicy cliffhanger, but there needs to be some resolution just in case.
Last Thoughts From The Archer School Of Ballet:
Madame Dubois needs to check her privilege. Her comments and actions toward Neveah were more than just a powerplay for ballet dominance.
The costume designers must've had a lot of fun selecting outfits for Shane.
- June's mother was unnecessarily cold to her about her dream. If she didn't believe in it, why did she fund it all these years?|
How did Cassie find out about Oren and Shane hooking up?
Cassie performing pirouettes on the ledge on the roof gave me anxiety!
- Furthermore, the students all having access to the school building roof and frequently hanging out there might be the most unbelievable part of the series.
Now, over to you, TV Fanatics!
What did you think of Tiny Pretty Things Season 1?
Who killed Ramon? Is Cassie a complete sociopath?
Did the answer to the murder-mystery live up to your expectations?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Tiny Pretty Things Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix!
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.