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I remember the days when I was one of those Degrassi fans who always felt the need to constantly compare what’s happening on the show now to how the way things were during the early years of The Next Generation.  The frame of mind was always “Well TNG did it better!”

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve ultimately realized that while TNG had some great things happen, it was nowhere near being a perfect series, and I shouldn’t allow the rose-colored glasses I was wearing to automatically discount some of the things that the current series does.  Both eras have their flaws, but at the same time both bring things to the table the other doesn’t or can’t.

Believe is a fine example of great work by the current Degrassi team.  Throughout this storyline longtime fans can’t help but be reminded of what happened when Paige Michalchuk was raped in season 2.  There was a followup episode later in the season, and it wasn’t brought up again until Ghost In The Machine in season 4.  It was then we saw a complete meltdown of this strong female character, as Dean wasn’t convicted in court and was able to live his life as if nothing ever happened.  As powerful as that storyline was, there just wasn’t enough time to add as much depth to the story as we’ve seen with Zoë’s plot in season 13.  It’s a rarity to see an A and B plot that are equally as strong in terms of what they bring emotionally, working in tandem to tell a powerful story.  Instead of simply matching the emotional intensity of Unbelievable, Believe surpasses it.

ZOE PLOT RECAP: As the trial nears, Zoë’s lawyer tells her she needs to avoid talking to the press.  However, once the trial starts and the defense begins to question Zoë’s credibility, she decides to take things into her own hands by telling a reporter her side of the story.  The reporter publishes an article that is then used against Zoë in court, and with a “True Story” documentary that reveals Zoë was fired from West Drive for popping pills, she’s dumped by her agent.  Zoë takes Zig’s bag and steals some pills with the intention of getting high.  She winds up confronting the reporter who published the story and Zoë breaks down afterward, contemplating suicide.  Zig talks Zoë out of taking a handful of pills, and he goes with her to court so she can give her final statement.  Zoë feels relieved when Luke and Neil are found guilty of sexually assaulting her, as well as distributing child pornography.

133738-2Zoë’s storyline is a gripping emotional rollercoaster.  She begins the episode full of hope that justice will be served, but immediately panics once she sees how unfriendly the judicial process is.  The defense’s strategy is to paint her as someone who probably consented based on her history as a “celebrity party girl.” They want to show her as someone who routinely regrets having sex with boys, but this time decided to declare she was raped.  During his testimony, when asked if Zoë consented, Luke ‘cleverly‘ says “Well, she never said no.”  Later, when Becky asks him if Zoë ever said she wanted to fool around, Luke’s response is “No, but a guy can just tell.”  Knowingly or not, he delivers the wrong answer twice to the same question; it doesn’t matter if she never said no, “Only YES means YES” as the shirt Maya created and wore throughout this episode said.

It’s disturbingly ironic when we see Keisha wearing that same shirt, as she and Frankie are completely misguided in their focus of what really matters in this situation.  They chastise Zoë for her constant desire to receive attention from the opposite sex.  As true as it may be, it’s completely irrelevant to the fact that two males performed sexual acts on her without her consent.  On one hand it’s hard to be unforgivably angry at them, because their ignorance comes from their youth.  However, true frustration comes in thinking about how they could easily reach adulthood without being taught about rape culture, which rears its ugly head in the form of excuses and discussions about everything except the most important point:  the victim is not to blame.

133738-1Ana Golja impresses with her acting once again, as Zoë nearly melts down to the breaking point.  Degrassi perfectly timed responding to a question we’ve wondered for most of this season: Why was Zoë fired from West Drive?  There’s little revealed besides stating Zoë abused prescription pills, but she quickly jumps back into the habit as her world crumbles around her.  I love that Zig, who currently relates to Zoë’s feeling of helplessness because of his own issues, comes to her aid when she needs it most.

We’ve witnessed rape storylines over the course of Degrassi’s history.  Characters such as Paige Michalchuk and Darcy Edwards found closure in other ways, but this is the first time someone receives the justice they deserve.  As Zoë stands there, all alone in the empty courtroom, it’s as if she finally has the space to breathe a sigh of relief after everything she’s been through.  But as this storyline finally comes to an end, hopefully some of the most-important words ever uttered on this show remain the most memorable to viewers:

I’ve made a lot of bad choices…and probably going to make a lot more.  I did not choose to be sexually assaulted.  If you don’t convict Luke Baker and Neil Martin today, you’re saying I deserved it.  You’re saying that other girls and boys that, they’ll deserve it too.  Well, they don’t.  I don’t.  I’m not sure I want to live in a world where that’s true.

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BECKY PLOT RECAPBecky’s nervous about testifying for the trial because her brother’s lawyer doesn’t want Becky to mention anything about the video she saw on Luke’s phone.  Becky becomes so overwhelmed by the trial that she skips court and intentionally gets lost in the woods with Drew while on a field trip.  She tells Drew that she doesn’t know what to do, and Drew advises her to talk to her brother.  The next day Luke begs Becky to lie for him, however she tells the truth and also admits that Luke told her Zoë never consented.  After Luke is found guilty Becky tries to console her family, however her mother tells her that things won’t be okay.

133738-3Sarah Fisher teams up with Ana again to deliver another 1-2 punch with their acting chops.  Becky’s situation is a grueling as Zoë’s, but in a different way.  You’ve got this person who grew up in a home with very strong values, and now her family is pressuring her to suddenly go against everything they’ve taught her.  “If I don’t lie on the stand my family hates me, and if I do I hate myself,” Becky tells Drew.  In my preview of this episode I wrote about how I felt like Drew comparing and saying his brother Adam wouldn’t give up on him wasn’t meant to be taken literally.  As Becky asked Luke one final time if Zoë consented it was clear he still didn’t get it.  By telling the truth she’s ultimately not giving up on him learning the difference between right and wrong in this situation.

One of the best scenes in season 13 comes when the judge reads the verdict.  I’ve never experienced such joy and pain simultaneously while watching Degrassi before.  While we’re finally able to breathe a sigh of relief for Zoë, I’m absolutely heartbroken for Becky as this is the final blow that rips her family apart.  “Don’t worry, we’ll get through this as a family,” Becky says to her mom, who simply replies “I’m not sure we will.”

It’s bad enough that her parents distanced themselves from her once this whole thing started, and now that Becky’s crucial testimony helped get Luke convicted she’s bound to become even more isolated.  Instead of painting a picture that everything ends “happily ever after” for all involved once the guilty verdict is read, we’re left with the disheartening reality that Becky’s nightmare is truly beginning as Zoë’s is coming to an end.

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“C PLOT” REVIEW

133738-4Though there technically was a “C” plot, while watching the actual episode it felt more like just a hodgepodge of side events that played a role in the outcome of Zoë’s storyline.  We see Zig getting drawn back into the gang because Vince has shown up at the school and basically threatens him.  Zig gets pulled into Zoë’s storyline when she spots him dealing drugs at school, and she takes his backpack in order to score some pills.  Zig realizes she’s stolen from him, and finds her contemplating overdosing on the pills on a school bus.  Just like we saw with Becky and Drew’s interaction, it makes sense for Zig to be the one to talk to Zoë here since he also feels as if he’s caught between a rock and a hard place.  Later, Zoë offers to pay off Zig’s drug debt.  It’s a heartwarming gesture as Zoë credits Zig with literally saving her life.  He didn’t “fix” everything for her, he simply encouraged her to take the first step toward helping herself.  She does the same for him, despite us not knowing how or if Zig will get out of the gang.

Also, kudos to Winston for doing the right thing and telling the truth during his testimony.  Miles asking him to lie on the stand was absolutely nonsensical and selfish, given the circumstances and punishment Winston could’ve received for committing perjury.  We’ve all been there where we’re asked to do something we feel uncomfortable doing.  I just want to point out how great it is that in this Degrassi episode, we saw two characters (Becky and Winston) who were being heavily pressured into making a bad decision, but they stayed true to themselves and did the right thing anyway.

133738-5It’s easy to get caught up in the fandom hoopla that is “Matlingsworth,” but there’s so much more to this than Degrassi “adding unnecessary relationship drama instead of focusing on Zoë.”  Maya feels bad for Zoë, so Miles sees this as an opportunity to get back in Maya’s good graces by helping to show support for Zoë.  Things take a disturbing twist when Miles wants Winston to lie during his testimony, and not mention the fact Miles was about to have a drunken hookup with Zoë at the party.  Winston tells the truth anyway, and instead of giving Miles a second chance, Maya leaves him for good.

“When things go wrong you do the horrible thing, you do the ugly thing,” Maya screams at Miles.  I love the truth of that statement; we’ve seen by Miles’ actions in season 13 that he becomes vindictive when things don’t go his way.  It’s great because we see Maya, one of the smarter characters on this show at the moment, instantly put the kibosh on things.  “I can’t wait around every time to pick up the pieces every time you freak out!” she says.  Going back to that moment in the woods with Drew and Becky, Drew said Adam would never give up on him.  There’s a similar thread here as Miles begs Maya not to abandon him again.  However, Maya’s too tired of Miles’ immaturity to stick around.  Miles has really deep issues, presumably caused by his dysfunctional home life, that will drain Maya emotionally and drag her down if she stays and tries to “save” him.  It’s not about Maya giving up on Miles, it’s about Maya wisely choosing not to give up her sanity and self worth for the sake of some boy who keeps repeating his mistakes.

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Posted by Kary

28 Comments

  1. The only kind of annoying thing is that now they seem to indicate that this tape has more and worse things that were unseen, when during the time that they showed it, they acted like all their was to the tape basically was what was shown. And what was shown wasn’t enough to convict anyone of anything. At worst some type of assault, but that would never be proven in reality because it’s too easy to say Zoe agreed

    So the way this tape seems to have changed just makes it kind of weird. The boys are guilty of distributing child porn? Because Zoe was wearing a bikini? That’s not child porn. So this means apparently there was more to the tape. Which is different than how it was initially portrayed. Not to mention the doctor said Zoe wasn’t raped so that ratchets way down any potential verdicts. Anyway the episode was good but the boys would never be found guilty in real life, at least in American law but probably Canadian too. And of course Zoe’s final testimony would never be allowed when she just walks into court at the very end. As if she could just enter a courtroom during a hearing like that anyway. But that’s just somewhat nitpicking tv stuff.

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    1. You do realise this was based off a real case called the Steubenville rape case and the boys who assaulted the girl WERE convicted and are now in jail.

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      1. I wonder if the sentencing for Luke and Neil will be somewhat similar to the Steubenville case. One of the guys received a one-year sentence and was released earlier this year. The other one got a minimum two-year sentence and still has about a year left.

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    2. In Canada, you’re actually allowed to walk in and out of courtrooms during hearings, even just as an average citizen. Journalists are also allowed to tweet proceedings so long as there isn’t a media ban. But her interruption probably wouldn’t have been accepted.

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    3. The doctor said there was trauma to the vaginal area from insertion just not from intercourse, thats still sexual assault

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  2. Brian, you forgot that Zoe woke up naked. Chances are – how she got that way DID end up on that video, which by itself is enough for the child porn charge. But they did do SOMETHING (molestation of some sort) to her, even though they didn’t rape her – and that was probably on the video as well. Rape of a minor on tape isn’t the only thing that constitutes child porn – I would bet any sexual act of some sort recorded, then distributed, involving a minor would be considered child pornography.
    And this wasn’t just about what happened to Zoe – it was about the fact that she didn’t consent to it, and that it was recorded and then released online, and that she IS a minor. And Luke admitting on the stand that she never said yes or no, and then Becky hearing him say it later and confirming it on the stand herself – that’s more or less an admission of guilt – which kind of is enough to convict on, in my opinion. And both countries take this kind of thing happening to a minor VERY seriously.

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    1. Child pornography charges could even constitute as seeing Zoe naked. If she’s a minor, distributing that material is inherently pornographic.

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  3. what really pissed me off was they made it seem like winston HAD to tell the jury about miles and zoe almost hooking up. that was COMPLETELY irrelevant! winston could have just said zoe was drunk at the party and they carried her inside. he didnt have to come up with an elaborate scheme to hide the truth either like miles wanted. all he had to do was just leave out 1 small detail. but degrassi has to add unnecessary drama so we can have zoe/maya/zig triangle next year. SOOO WACK and CORNY degrassi. a small detail that left me very dissapointed.

    its UNREALISTIC that winston would add that to his testimony when its irrelevant to the case, it would destroy his best friends relationship, AND harms zoes case. he could have told the jury what happend without being a dick and adding useless irrelevant information. he wouldnt have gotten punished for leaving out 1 small detail!!

    he even started out by saying he found zoe on miles lap????? WHYYYY? he could have easily said he just found zoe on the couch.. How would they know any different? WTF WINSTON. thats just being a dick. he wanted to get miles in trouble.

    REGARDLESS….. this episode was AMAZINGGG LOL. just this 1 thing pisses me off

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    1. Um, do you not realize that Winston could get arrested for lying under oath? Winston wasn’t being a dick, he was telling the truth. And they were asking him about that to try to show that Zoe wanted to hook up, to make her look bad.

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      1. yea but he didnt have to lie.. he very easily could have gave them the info they wanted without adding unnecessary details. he said he found her on miles lap and they were about to hook up. all he needed to say was he found her on the couch, she passed out and they carried her inside. no lies needed. no elaborate story. all the facts. and we could assume hes on zoes side but he hurts her case by adding “they were about to hook up” like winston shut the Fk up bro damm.

        it pisses me off cuz the writers did this stupid thing as an easy cop out for maya to find out about it and for matlingsworth to break up. tho i must admit i am happy that matlingsworth broke up cuz i do enjoy the drama and the twists and turns of the story. i just despise how they got there.

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    2. If he said he found her on the couch instead of on Miles’ lap, “about to hook up” that would be lying under oath and he could go to jail for that. There’s no such thing as “unnecessary details” when in a court of law. You have to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Saying he found her on a couch is straight out lying. A court of law would still rather have all the so-called “unnecessary details” than not.

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      1. what do u mean straight out lying? what do u think miles and zoe were sitting on a bed? they were both sitting on a couch.. so like i said winston could have told them exactly that..

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    3. It’s called the whole truth and nothing but the truth for an reason. I have seen cases go to mistrial or get thrown out completely on technicalities on what you so mistaken call ”unnecessary details” . To add to that Winston wasn’t lying, he was his point of view of what was happening based on his recollection of the events.

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      1. He could’ve just said she was hanging out with Miles instead of saying she was on his lap and they were about to hook up. Hell, he could’ve said she was sitting on his lap without adding that they were about to start fooling around. Ultimately, they did not fool around, and Winston was under no obligation to state what he thought was going to happen between them unless the lawyer specifically asked such a question (and then the prosecution would likely follow up with the fact that Winston cannot predict with absolute certainty what would or wouldn’t have happened). The whole truth and nothing but the truth thing doesn’t mean you have to go into details before you are asked about them, and it doesn’t mean that you should offer up your perception of the situation instead of simply stating facts. Good lawyers train their witnesses to answer questions briefly without going into detail about things that aren’t directly asked, or about things that didn’t actually happen. “Stick to the facts,” not the “probably”s or “what if”s. You answer the exact question, that’s it. If lawyers don’t ask the right questions to get the most information they can, that’s their own fault.

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      2. I actually agree with just another. It would have been equally true for Winston to say that Zoe was hitting on Miles, but that Miles turned down the opportunity to hook up with her, and instead placed her in the pool house. I don’t think it was completely unrealistic for Winston to say what he said, though. Miles might have coached Winston so many times, with “Don’t tell the truth about how Zoe and I almost hooked up” that Winston freaked out and could only think “The truth is that Miles and Zoe almost hooked up.” Still, Winston could have definitely said some other things and still could have had a clear conscious. His situation wasn’t like Becky’s.

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  4. What I liked about this episode is that it didn’t simply show Zoe’s redemption in her clear-headed pursuit of justice. The boys were guilty, but that doesn’t mean there’s not collateral damage. A sexual assault by minors (who lack the ability to see far-reaching consequences) is a tragedy that ruins everyone’s lives.

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    1. I agree. If Luke didn’t want a criminal record, he shouldn’t have assaulted an unconscious girl and shared photos of her with the entire school, but it’s still sad to think about how, for the rest of his life, he’s going to be on “registered sex offender” list. He might not be able to get a job. Every time he moves into a new neighborhood people are going to look him up and think he’s just the same as that 55 year old pedophile in the next neighborhood who was found guilty of raping an 8 year old child. Parents are going to petition for the bus stop to be away from his front yard. His conviction was just, but it’s still sad.

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  5. Surprised not to see more comments about Vince’s return. Apparently it hasn’t registered with Drew (one would think he would be aware of such a thing, a guy who tried to kill him and all). I guess that, like the fact that we don’t know what happened after Vince’s arrest (and also don’t know what Luke’s sentence was yet), reflects a crafted out in case the person needs to be plucked from the black hole eventually (for some semblance of continuity, flawed though it is). They could have just hired another actor though, bringing him back causes more problems than it solves.

    For anyone who’s seen The Divide, Jahmil French is on it, so there’s one black hole exit on WE and in Philadelphia. Munro Chambers played his friend in the first episode, it was quite the moment (for a show I sense is going to fly off the rails although I love Marin Ireland and Paul Schneider).

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  6. I think Winston did the right thing. What Miles’ asked him to do was ridiculous. You don’t lie or tell half-truths in court. It makes everything you say untrustworthy.
    Maya’s reaction was stupid though. She acted like the world ended. I guess she’s young and I can let it slide since now Tristan hates her and Miles’ betrayed her trust but still she overreacted. I can’t stand all her boy drama anyway.
    I’m really proud of Becky. I always thought she would tell the truth in court but there was still a bit of uncertainty. I’m glad she did the right thing. Her family sucks. Seriously, the way her mom wanted her to protect Luke is disgusting. I get that it’s her son but still he screwed up big time and you pay for mistakes. I think her parents will get divorced and both of them will hate Becky now. I think her mom will get stuck with Becky and really neither parent seems to want her right now. It’s pretty horrible for parents to act like that.
    The thing that disappoints me, other than Becky’s family totally failing at everything right now, is that Tristan and Zoe could have tried to comfort Becky after court. I know Zoe has her own stuff going on but someone could have gave that poor girl a genuine, loving hug. She had the power to lie and cover for her brother and he probably would have got away with everything. But she didn’t. I just want someone to appreciate her a bit more for that. That little whimper Becky let out was possibly the saddest noise someone can make. I’d adopt her into my family just for making the saddest of all the sad whimpers.

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  7. I agree. Becky’s cry was so sad. Sarah did great on that part, words cannot explain how much she nailed it. The only times I’ve experienced crying like THAT is a time that I was really in despair.

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  8. What left me completely flabbergasted for most of the episode was the complete brutality and harshness that the other women had towards Zoe. Obviously the objective of the episode was to make Zoe seem like a bad person by these people but you would think for a society that puts so much social pressure on women to be sexy but still remain classy that these women (ex: the defense attorney and the journalist) would feel some sort of remorse or understanding for Zoe. They should be able to understand and recognize that it does NOT matter what you wear or what your attitude is, nobody ever asks to be sexually assaulted.

    I’m honestly reminded me of “Chasing Pavements” in season 10 when Anya felt uncomfortable by Owen’s touching. “Why are there only two options for guys: either she likes you or she’s a bitch.” and “you don’t get to cop a feel and then tell us we’re too sensitive”. I just saw a huge parallel especially when Luke said “a guy just knows” or “she never said yes” when asked about consent. Some males think that because a woman acts a certain way towards them or says something nice/flirty that they can grope or harass a woman. Pitiful.

    On another note, Zoe’s impact statement was definitely one of the best monologues this show has ever delivered. Bravo to Degrassi for bringing up one of the most relevant issues that we’ve seen in who knows how long. Well done.

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  9. Liberace Dreamz July 23, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    Wow. Great episodes.

    The scene were Zig talks Zoe down from potential suicide is beautiful, as it is in a way redemption for Zig for when he was so mean to Cam just before Cam killed himself.

    Becky becomes the best character on the show. I’m glad she didn’t lie for her brother. Moving forward, her stories could be the most interesting. I wonder if this will lead to her eventually losing faith, as many religious characters on Degrassi do….or will her faith help her through it?

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  10. I feel Winston did the right thing. There’s no reason to lie even if you could get away with it when you know the right thing to do is to tell the truth, and Miles was being a little selfish when he should’ve admitted that he was wrong. It also would’ve been better for him to tell Maya beforehand so she wouldn’t have had to find out that way and he wouldn’t have to ask his friend to lie.

    Maya has reason to mad a Miles. One for doing it, but mostly for not just telling her and asking Winston to lie for him. What I don’t understand is why she seems to be mad at Zoë, and Zig for going to the dance with her in the promos for Thunderstruck. I’m hoping that she was just mad because she found out Zig agreed to take her and Zoë, and not just because Zoë almost hooked up with Miles. Because if Zoë cannot be blamed for getting sexually assaulted, Maya shouldn’t hold her accountable for what almost happened because Zoë was drunk. Here’s hoping for the best.

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  11. season 13 has been one of the best. you go degrassi

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  12. The Only thing I wish they would have explored in the trial is Luke’s history of being a “player” in school, I thought this would have been a perfect moment to reintegrate the fact that Jenna and Becky used to be friends (remember way back then???) and that Luke deceived Jenna in2 believing that if she joined the church that she would be perfect for him. It would have been a good look back at his history, I mean the story is established regardless, I just think in a EXTREMELY well thought out episode, that was one slight missed opportunity.

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  13. Fallfromthesky July 25, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    There was a lot of great stuff in these episodes (the Zoe/Frankie confrontation in part 1, Zig/Zoe in part 2, almost everything with Becky), but just about everything in the court room scenes was so wrong and inaccurate that I can’t give them more than a B or so grade. Oh and the Miles/Maya stuff didn’t help all that much either, as that made me role my eyes more than anything.

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  14. Sorry Kary but you hit this one so wrong. You’ve always favored Seasons 13 and up to TNG and give almost every plot in every episode an A+. If the show was so good, the ratings would be quite a bit better . They’re tanking because the show is bad and that reflects in how the fanbase who cared during seasons 10 and 11 have all but left in Season 12 and 13.

    The show is horrible and cringeworthy to watch. It’s WAY too romance heavy and rarely about the issues. this specific plot was a return to form but everything else going on in the show has been lackluster yet you still overrate it.

    Hopefully, Degrassi gets cancelled and you get some time to take off your bias towards this new, trashy show and see how ingenius TNG was. People do overrate it but it’s not all hype. TNG was that show for a reason and no amount of A+s you throw at this new lazy plots and casts will change that. The ratings show it and the fans are all but gone.

    Enjoy your day sir.

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    1. “You’ve always favored Seasons 13 and up to TNG and give almost every plot in every episode an A+”

      You are wrong. https://degrassiblog.com/episode-grades/season-13-grades/

      Out of 101 grades I gave out in season 13, only 7 of them were an A+. Please do your research before you comment, and do not tell me how *I* should view this show. And your comment about how I favor the current series over TNG is off base.

      Enjoy your day sir.

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