“There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.”
Our protagonist and narrator, Addy Hanlon (Herizen Guardiola), opens Dare Me with this line, offering a short summary of what’s to come as the viewer dives into the show’s dark depths. With this cryptic line of narration and many that follow, and hints of blood soaked tennis shoes, it’s clear that something sinister is lurking beneath the peppy demeanor of the characters in Dare Me, a high school cheerleading squad harboring dark secrets. We don’t know what or when, but it’s coming, and the more intimately we come to know the characters in the slow burn that builds towards it, the more we fear it instead of craving to know what happens.
Snarling and vicious Beth Cassidy (Marlo Kelly) rules the Sutton Grove High School cheerleading squad with brute force and an iron fist. She rises above the rest of her team in attitude, confidence and position as cheer captain and even physically, as her talent earns her the spot as the team’s top girl. When a new cheerleading coach, Colette French (Willa Fitzgerald) comes to town, Beth’s forced to confront the fact that not even the top girl can tower above the others for long. Colette is silent but deadly as she usurps Beth, making her unloved half-sister Tacy (Alison Thornton) top girl instead, pinching flesh on her new team’s stomachs and cutting with words: “fix this. We don’t do this.”
At this point, we’re not really sure what’s about to strike, but we know this certainly isn’t Degrassi. Although painted to the rest of Sutton Grove High in glitter and glamour, the world of the Dare Me cheerleaders is distinctively grimy; it’s one laden with illicit sexual affairs and alcohol abuse. The characters are almost stereotypes: Beth, the mean girl with a touch of prom queen sociopathy and Addy, hand to the queen but not nearly as mean. They venture out to the woods for a party early on: Beth pulls a gun on her fellow classmates as Addy sneaks off into the woods and pushes a boy’s head down her body like he once tried to do to her. This is not your normal high school show.
Dare Me is deliberately slowly paced, creating a sinister angle to even the most normal of teenage activities that pan out throughout the episodes. This ensures that the dark moments that lurk in the shadows are unleashed and met with only shock. As we take our precious time getting there, we have more time to meticulously open up our leads and uncover their cores, the intimate details that make them more than just another fictional caricature of a high school cheerleader. This elicits a rough tug at the heartstrings whenever something bad is to happen to one of them … or, rather, whenever they do something bad to someone else.
Dare Me is a high school drama under a film noir lens, drawing intrigue in even the most mundane moments. The show is as unpredictable as the characters that live within it, an atmosphere of dread dripping from each episode whether we’re catching someone in a crime or watching them spend a day with their friends. Something’s always lurking in the depths of Dare Me, no matter how quick it is to be buried with a coat of glitter.