Why I Can’t Get Over “I Am Not Okay With This” Ending
As Stranger Things Season 4 rolls around, I find myself missing a good superpower-themed show. I heard about I am Not Okay with This on Netflix a while ago. I didn’t get around to watching it until this November. After watching the first season, I am not okay with this show ending. The show begins with Sydney Novak, Sophia Nills, an unpopular 17-year-old who discovers that she has telekinesis a year after her father’s death. She recently started high school in a Pennsylvania town.
Fun Fact: the show was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the bowling alley, Baden Bowl, is near the town I grew up in. Surprisingly, there are quite a few shows that take place in Pennsylvania, but I haven’t seen many filmed near me.
Sydney recently moved to live a pretty normal life. She skips football games and hangs out with her best friend and fellow new kid Dina. Syd’s pretty chill with that, she loves spending time with Dina, and the popular kids are huge jerks. She watches her little brother after school. She is also grieving her father’s death and has a difficult relationship with her mother. Her world starts to erupt when her best friend tells her that she is dating the popular football player Brad Lewis. Sydney then starts hanging out with her neighbor Stanley “Stan” Barber.
Sydney’s story is compelling from the start. The show starts with her walking through the streets in a fancy dress covered in blood.
The show is not subtle being a teenager and having a superpower is hard.
I Am Not Okay With This deals with themes like depression and suicide. Also, there is blood. If you put on the first episode, you will see the protagonist covered in blood–that is a warning.
The story stars Sydney Novak, played by Sophia Lillis. Sydney starts the story off pretty snarkily.
Dear diary, go f*** yourself.
Just kidding, I don’t know what to write in this stupid thing.”
This sums up her character pretty well. She is sarcastic and sometimes cynical on the outside. On the inside, she feels alone and has no idea what she is doing–she is not sure how to tell people either. She puts up a bit of a front and, she’s not a jerk. Syd is a grieving teen who is figuring it out just like everyone else.
She looked familiar, and I found out that she played Beverly Marsh in IT and was not surprised. I, unfortunately, have not seen IT yet, but from what I can tell…she fits the horror/supernatural genre well. Her character experiences a wide range of emotions, and her acting was terrific.
The supporting actors were wonderful as well. I loved Stan–the man has a killer fashion sense and is hilarious. The first awkward interaction between Stan and Sydney cracked me up. They begin as neighbors who make small talk occasionally but never hang out. He awkwardly asks if she wants to hang out and get high and, Syd watches this odd guy with shock, confusion. What is this guy? Because Dina suggested that she also find a date for the homecoming dance, she agrees.
Spoilers Ahead- Warning!
If you dislike seeing (some) spoilers before watching as much as I dislike Brad, I’d suggest reading this post after you watch.
I was into the show from the first scene; it looks awesome. The vibes are immaculate. The whole time, I kept wondering about the origin of Sydney’s powers. After all, she seems to be the only character in this story with them. Her abilities kind of come out of nowhere, and it is great. Her powers come out when she feels overwhelming emotions. Where do they come from? What will happen next? We do not get all the answers, but I felt pretty shocked by what I found out. The ending was pretty satisfying in an incomplete sort of way.
I liked how Syd’s powers were a sort of metaphor for her dealing with depression, anxiety, grief, and figuring out her sexuality. Sydney feels alone, and she’s grieving without many people to support her.
Being a teenager is rough. The show shows us all the worst parts of high school, the ones we’d rather forget, the ones that make us want to curl into a ball and cry. There are bullies, boring classes, and detentions, but friends make it a little easier. It was also nice to see actual teenagers playing high schoolers. The show feels realistic that way.
It is like Stranger Things, but a little more mature and dark. Sydney starts as a loner whose crush and only friend ditches her to hang out with her boyfriend, but by the end of the story–she has a trio and a potential girlfriend on the horizon. It was great to see Syd, Dina, and Stan hanging out. Knowing she has friends to support her as she moves forward with what she knows about herself and her family was great to see.
I loved Stan and his dynamic with Syd. There are not many shows where a guy and girl are just friends, and I liked how things were pretty chill for them. The homecoming scene reminded me of Pretty and Pink a little bit, the lights and the dance, and Molly Ringwald has a similar haircut. Stan reminded me of Ducky a little bit. He is funny, sweet, and an outcast, a perfect friend to mock football games with Syd.
The 1990s and 1980s aesthetics interweave throughout the story–like Stranger Things. Both have a similar premise, but I Am Not Okay with This is darker and more realistic. Stranger Things plays to the nostalgia and the family dynamics go smooth enough. I Am Not Okay With This also jumps straight into the drama and hard feelings about high school. I also liked how the show focuses on a small cast of characters. If the show continued, they could have developed the characters further, and it could have been something special.
I did like the modern update too. Stan is such a good friend to Sydney. He genuinely cares about her and thinks it is freaking awesome that she has superpowers. Although she is unsure what to make of him, Sydney grows to like Stan as a person and friend. Stan is strange, but he is also unapologetically himself and pretty content with life. Sydney can learn from him in that way. I loved how their friendship continues and goes back to normal even after Sydney says she likes Dina.
Sydney and Dina
Speaking of romance, her relationship with Dina is so wholesome. Both characters seem like they have their person. A significant other is does not complete you or make your problems go away, but they are loving and supportive and the best person for you.
Dina helps Syd out of her shell and makes her so happy. Sydney is so closed off, sarcastic, and quiet. Energetic, sweet, and fun-loving Dina seems like a perfect match for Sydney. I like how their relationship builds slowly, but I could have seen less of Brad–the moments where the two of them are together are small but beautiful.
She keeps me laughing, even when I want to melt to the floor.”
I wish the show continued, so we could see them more as a couple and get to know Dina better. On the bright side, Brad pretty much sucked– and I am glad he is gone. He was the worst kind of jock guy on TV and treated women like tissues. He keeps using them and then picks up another one. He has plenty of lovely lines like–when he talks to Syd for the first time,
Jesus, do you ever smile?”
The ending was satisfying but also gross and disturbing as it should be.
I read that the writers did not want romance to be the end-all-be-all for the characters. The family relationships are well-developed and dynamic.
Her mother, Maggie, for instance, has been through hell. She lost her husband and now works a full-time job as a waitress to support her family. Working long hours in customer service is rough, especially if you have coworkers who always call off and make you cover their shifts. It is still disappointing watching her ignore her children’s grief and Sydney’s anger towards her. Her children lost their father too, and they are all struggling. I understand that she is grieving and frustrated. I do. But one line she says made it hard for me to sympathize with her, at least at first. It is the one scene where the two sit on the couch and talk, the one time her mother isn’t running around or off to work. Syd tells her mother: “Sometimes, I feel like the people I love don’t love me back.”
Syd says this to her mom after a fight with Dina, but it applies to everyone in her life. Sydney is thinking of Dina a little, but she mostly thinks of her mother in this scene. The mother always seems judgemental and seldom seems loving. Her mother criticizes her while constantly needing her support. She never gets anything in return and the fact that Maggie can’t see that hurts. She is a kid seeking reassurance from a parent, desperate to hear that people (she) love her, that she is important. Her mother hits her back with “Well, maybe you’re aiming too high, hon.”
Sometimes, I feel like the people I love don’t love me back.
Well, maybe you’re aiming too high, hon”
Maggie’s words feel like a raw knife in the back. Man, it is brutal out there.
Syd’s mom sucks here, but I don’t think she said this to spite her daughter. She and Syd end up bonding later before the dance. She helps Syd get ready and, she talks about dancing with Syd’s father at a high school dance and feeling like she knew he was the one. Her actual marriage didn’t live up to the fantasy. She mentions how Syd’s Dad wasn’t present even when he was home–he hid in the basement and kept things from his wife. After we hear about her father’s situation at the end, I can’t even imagine what must have been like for both of them. Syd maintained a loving image of her father, which was for the best. Maggie seems like she was going through this all alone and didn’t have anyone to confide in. So they all grieved his death alone.
She feels like the hope in love she felt in high school was aiming too high. Her marriage never measured up to the early parts of her relationship. There were times where she did not feel loved by her husband; I understand her cynicism. She is not completely closed off though. In that last scene with her daughter, Maggie tells Syd about when she went to a dance with Sydney’s father and felt like she just knew that he was the one. She seems hopeful that Sydney will experience a love like that too. Maggie never apologizes for her words earlier, but she is trying to be better, more present. Maggie starts to see that there is hope for her daughter, and her as well, after all.
Sydney’s younger brother was also a great addition to the cast. He and Sydney have a pretty good relationship. They annoy each other, and he makes weird mac and cheese, but they have each other’s backs. When she hears Richard making fun of her brother, she goes off:
“Well, let me tell you something. One day, it’s all gonna go downhill, buddy. Your life will be so pathetic, you’ll attend high school reunions because you know what? Nothing else is ever gonna happen for you in your entire life. Yeah, you won’t even have a dog!”
If that isn’t a great roast, I don’t know what is.
The aesthetic is also pretty cool. The show references to its predecessors and includes references and fashion, and I am here for it.
I really liked the last episode, the show builds one conflict the entire series, and the payoff is so satisfying. Will Syd follow the same patterns her father did? Will she break the cycle and use her powers for good? The hooded figure shocked me to the core. I expected Syd to end up alone. He seems pretty helpful, but he could be a secret villain. Both of those sound fantastic. He probably knew her father and holds similar powers and realizes that she needs someone to help her learn to control them. Sydney needs a guide to help with her powers, beyond Stan’s comic books, which are appreciated but not necessarily helpful when you just blew a guy’s head off at homecoming. At least she doesn’t have to process this alone.
Most of the show is Syd slowly realizing her powers. This is a huge event to grapple with clearly, and the stakes jump when someone shows up to help. The balance is pretty good at the beginning too. She gets angry and intense, and then we have teen drama or iconic moments.
The Show’s Portrayal of Theaphy
I have a kind of criticism. The story begins with Syd’s therapist telling her to keep a journal, and her narration is in a journal format. I was kind of surprised that therapy was not very present in Sydney’s story since it began with a therapist. Sydney sees a therapist at her school as she processes her father’s death. But she does not talk to her therapist much except to get the journal. Syd has to deal with her emotions alone so, she lashes out and boom powers. She would have to keep her powers a secret to a therapist unless she chose to tell them. A few recent shows portray characters going to a therapist and benefiting from talking to someone, and this show felt kind of regressive on the topic.
In This is Us and Never Have I Ever the therapists are characters of their own. Both Devi and Randall talk to someone to help process loss and trauma. Sydney’s therapist was pretty bad, but there are bad therapists out there. I guess it feels stereotypical. Syd has a bad therapy experience that says write your feelings down and, it will all be okay. I am going on a side rant, but it is a valid criticism of the show. Plot-wise, I get that she needed to be alone to go full telekinesis mode. Perhaps, they could have developed this more next season. Sydney could have used therapy to help process her father’s death and her emerging powers, even if she did keep them a secret.
Dina and Sydney a Complaint/Critique
I loved this story. The amount of character development and plot was paced well in such a short season. I also loved Stan, he was hilarious. I enjoyed all his scenes. I was disappointed that Sydney and Dina didn’t have more scenes together. We get to know Stanley Barber more than the girl Sydney is in love with, and I wish it could have been different. I guess I just wanted to see more of them. The scenes we saw were great, so showing her more would have made it better.
I wish Stan would have not had a crush on Sydney either. I loved his character and I wish he could have happiness at the end, whether he meets a new love interest or is happy another way– I wanted more. The cliche where the guy likes his best friend and she doesn’t like him back feels a little cliche. Haven’t we seen enough Ducky and Andies and Steve and Robins to last a lifetime? I didn’t mind this too much, and it made sense to the plot so this is a relatively minor complaint. It can be realistic, for sure. But just generally, close male and female friendships without romantic feelings would be great to see.
I Am Not Okay With This has a promising first season to what could have been a fantastic supernatural show. The ending has so many unanswered questions; there are so many ways this story could go next. How many other people have powers? Who was the hooded figure on the roof? Why do Sydney’s powers only come from anger and anxiety? Is getting revenge on people who do wrong ex: Brad, using her powers morally okay? There are so many ways this story could go.
I wanted to hear more about Sydney’s father and his life and how he discovered his powers. I wanted a happy ending for Sydney, Dina, and Stan, and it was, but there were so many unanswered questions. Diana and Sydney just started talking about their relationship. They had such potential to grow as a couple and Dina was hilarious. Where did her positive attitude come from, when did Sydney and her meet for the first time? Did Sydney like her right away? They could have been so good together.
I wanted to hear more Stanley Barber lines too, and maybe for him to find happiness–whether that be in a romantic relationship or whatever. So many of Sydney’s problems are left in the open. Like, how does she even process what happens next? The end was okay, I guess. I am not okay with how it just left me on a cliffhanger. I’m not okay that these characters’ lives are on a permanent hiatus and I will never know what happens to them. We’ll never know if that stranger was there to help and where Sydney goes moving forward. The portrayal of her mental health struggles was well done, and her performance felt real in a way I haven’t seen in too many shows like this. Another season where Sydney is processing through these events with the support of others could help many teens feel seen. Seeing her get out of a place of isolation and anger could have been an uplifting story.
I am disappointed yet again that Netflix canceled a great show. Although it was short, I enjoyed the first season and watched it all in one day. I recommend I Am Not Okay With This to anyone who loves the 80s and 90s aesthetic, dark comedy, family drama, and superhero stories. It’s a good show to watch on a break or in a day because it is so short. It flies by, but you will not regret watching. I am Not Okay with This takes place in the same universe as End of the F***** world, which could also be cool to check out if you are left wanting more. I’m watching it right now, and the humor is similar and dark. The review for season one might come out at some point.