I Am Not Okay With This begins with Sydney Novak, covered in blood, running down the middle of the street at night. There are probably other ways she’d rather be spending her time. That would seem to make sense with the series’s narrative: her life is pretty normal — up until the part where you find out she has superpowers that allow her to blow things up with her mind.
Netflix’s new comedy is a work of low-key dread that recalls a lot of other stories about young women coming of age. It has Carrie’s supernatural angst, Juno’s oddball quirk, and the smart-twee edge of Scott Pilgrim. Syd is a gross weirdo — she’s equally fascinated and frustrated by her leg acne, pretty fine with being ostracized by her classmates, and perplexed by the people she is attracted to. The difference here is that Syd is also very, very angry.
Sydney’s powers are a manifestation of her rage, and she has plenty to be mad about. Her best friend has fallen for a crude jock, her single mom is overworked and demanding, and, as the show slowly reveals, there’s a deep family trauma that has haunted her since before the series began.
A work of low-key dread
But even with this in mind, I Am Not Okay With This spends most of its time being more charming than angry. Much of it focuses on Syd’s budding relationship with fellow weirdo Stanley Barber. Stanley is played by Wyatt Oleff — best known as one of the kids in It — who reads here as Timothee Chalamet, but a little bit wrong. This plays incredibly well opposite Sophia Lillis’ Syd, another IT star and a tremendously talented young actor.
Lillis juggles all of Sydney’s wildly conflicting emotions with ease, able to simultaneously portray the anxieties expressed in the running narration from Syd’s diary that’s read throughout the show and the quirky facade she presents to the world. With only seven short episodes, there’s not a whole lot of plot to burn through, but Lillis’ performance never lets you forget the multitude of emotions burning beneath Syd’s disaffected exterior.
I Am Not Okay With This doesn’t really end as much as it stops in its tracks. The season finishes with an abrupt conclusion that is clearly meant to set up a second season, but it also brings little in the way of resolution — something that feels a bit unfair given how lean and sharp the show is, each episode taking only just the time it needs to make its point and leave. (Usually, this doesn’t take much more than 20 minutes.)
It doesn’t help that its cliffhanger ending tugs at the one plot thread that would make the show stand out beyond its new-school take on Carrie. Since its first image immediately conjures Carrie’s climax, the comparison is unavoidable and will immediately cause you to guess where I Am Not Okay With This is going. (You probably won’t be that far off from the truth.) There’s more to this story, and readers of the Charles Forsman graphic novel it’s based on might be frustrated at some of its most fascinating and darkest plot beats are being reserved for another set of episodes.
Despite this, I Am Not Okay With This works really well because of all the things it conveys without speaking a word, all of them difficult: being a young woman who doesn’t adhere to a narrow definition of femininity, who is figuring out her sexuality, who is handling grief, disillusionment, poverty, and superpowers. Why, the show quietly asks, is there no one there to catch Sydney if she falls apart?