I must say that I wasn’t too thrilled about the news of yet another Christmas themed offering – especially when it was an entire TV show this time. You know the drill, the Christmas themed soundtrack, at least three carols, Christmas trees everywhere, and of course, the heart of it all – what does Christmas mean to you? Despite the aggressively crimson-colored marketing, however, Dash and Lily managed to rise above the clichés and change my mind.
Before you read further, fret not! This is a spoiler-free review, and all details mentioned here have already been shown in the trailer.
Executive produced by Nick Jonas (yes, of the Jonas Brothers, I know, what a strange crossover!), Dash and Lily is the first show I have seen that centers the entirety of its arc around the Christmas season. The series, as are most shows released on Netflix nowadays, consists only of a small number of episodes, which also makes it the perfect bingeable length. The first two episodes introduce us to our protagonists separately, and the next six ones show us how their lives intermingle before they finally meet. The series is based on the YA series Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by authors David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn.
On the surface, Lily (Midori Francis) is the quintessential teenage girl you’ve met in all the Christmas movies you’ve seen before. Oh, the season is so lovely and magical, and look at the snow and the joy of Christmas overflowing in every crevice – that sort of thing. Francis however, manages to tone down what could have been a sickly sweet character responsible for many a diabetes flareup, and portrays Lily with depth and layers. Lily is a whole, multidimensional teenager who just wants to reclaim her confidence and reconnect with who she used to be. Her loving family is Asian, but thankfully the show does not beat us over the head with the “exotic” details, and portrays them as just another close-knit family with their own traditions and communication issues.
On the other hand, Dash (a reluctant, brooding Austin Abrams), is extremely anti-Christmas, and is therefore set up to be the anti-Lily. He hates the holidays, thinks all the ‘forced cheer’ is one big act. His mum and dad don’t talk to each other, and he is spending Christmas alone. Their paths cross when Dash, on a quest to repatriate wrongly shelved books at a bookstore, discovers a mysterious red book titled ‘Do you dare?’ And of course he does, because otherwise we wouldn’t have a show.
Connecting from a distance (sounds relatable in 2020), through their love of reading (less relatable in 2020), and a shared loneliness on what is supposed to be the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, the two leads find out more about each other and themselves as the show progresses.
Both Francis and Abrams are ably backed up by a stellar, lovable supporting cast. Troy Iwata as Lily’s brother Langston was a personal favorite, and I honestly would not mind a spinoff show focusing only on his life. Honorable mentions include Dante Brown as Dash’s best friend Boomer, Keana Marie as Dash’s ex-girlfriend Sofia, and James Saito and Jodi Long as Lily’s grandfather and great aunt.
The show manages to avoid many of the potential logistical loopholes set up by its admittedly familiar premise, either by providing explanations or simply acknowledging the problem. This works in its favor especially in situations where it veered towards the manic pixie dream girl trope. I for one, also had a couple of questions about leaving the book around for the other person to find. What if it rains? What about unwelcome visits from birds with potential gastrointestinal issues? What if someone tears pages from it to wrap their gum? Fortunately, the show is endearing enough to make the viewer not care as much about the logic of the ensuing events, and that is appreciable.
Ultimately, Dash and Lily is more than a Christmas show. It is also more than a romantic show. It’s a show about being brave and coming into your own. About acknowledging the limitations of your fairytale but going for it anyway. Could they have done more with it? Maybe. But after the year we’ve had, I think we all deserve the whimsical, fluffy cheer of Dash and Lily.
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