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HSMTMTS Season 2: A Perfect Gift?

“Yeah, it's living in all of us and it's brought us here because you are the music in me.”

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (HSMTMTS) is one of the flagship series on Disney Plus to have a second season. In fact, before the world premiere of the series, Disney Plus already picked up the series for a second season consisting of 12 episodes back on October 19, 2019. The mockumentary musical drama is created by Tim Federle and inspired by the High School Musical trilogy. HSMTMTS stars critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo as Nina “Nini” Salazar-Roberts, Joshua Bassett as Richard “Ricky” Bowen, Matt Cornett as E.J. Caswell, Sofia Wylie as Gina Porter, Larry Saperstein as Big Red, Julia Lester as Ashlyn Caswell, Dara Reneé as Kourtney Greene, Frankie Rodriguez as Carlos Rodriguez, Joe Serafini as Seb Matthew Smith, Mark St. Cyr as Benjamin Mazzara and Kate Reinders as Miss Jenn. Aside from the series’ insanely talented main cast, this season also has astonishing recurring and guest stars namely Alexis Nelis as Natalie Bagley, Alex Quijano as Mike Bowen, Beth Lacke as Lynne Bowen, Derek Hough as Zack Roy, award-winning actress Olivia Rose Keegan as Lily, Dear Evan Hansen’s Roman Banks as Howie, Dear Evan Hansen’s Andrew Barth Feldman as Antoine, Kimberly Brooks as Michelle Greene, Shazam’s Asher Angel as Jack and Jordan Fisher as Jamie Porter which came as a surprise for everyone. Back on February 6, 2020, production for the second season started, and it was announced that the Drama Club will be doing Beauty and the Beast for the spring musical.

This season, it’s a new semester for the Wildcats as they enjoy their winter break and give the perfect gift to their loved ones. The Drama Club prepares for their spring musical of High School Musical 2 after the success of High School Musical: The Musical. However, after bumping into her ex, Miss Jenn feels threatened and discerns about joining the Menkies which is the Alan Menken Awards for excellence in high school musical theater. She thinks about the prize and benefits it would give to her students and the whole school. During the New Year’s Eve party at Ashlyn’s house, she eventually announces to her students that they’ll be doing Beauty and the Beast instead and officially join the Menkies. More drama arises as Nina tells Ricky that she’s moving to Denver. East High faces off with North High. Relationships are tested, loyalties are proven, friendships are rekindled and unexpected surprises await.

The camera work for the series was still great. When it comes to the writing of the season, it just got worse. Watching season 2 felt like watching a group project where no one consulted each other about it. Every episode started with a time jump. There were no transitions between each episode. The episodes weren’t cohesive. The documentary-style still works. However, this season lacked the High School Musical factor, and it felt like a kid’s version of Glee. The scenes were filmed in soundstages and only a few scenes were set at East High which is understandable and upsetting at the same time. The marketing for the series wasn’t executed as greatly as the marketing executing for the first season. The album artworks for the singles and the soundtrack are too simple.

In terms of the soundtrack this season, it does not possess the same magic as its predecessor. The season 1 soundtrack is on par with the first HSM film. Something lacks in the season 2 soundtrack. However, even if the soundtrack this season did not live up to the standards set forth by the first season, it still delivered a few great tracks. For starters, there is “The Rose Song” which is written and performed by Olivia Rodrigo herself. It is like the sister of “enough for you” from her debut album, Sour. To be honest, it’s like the 12th track from Sour. “The Rose Song” was performed in the midseason finale (Episode 206). As Olivia stated in an interview, she’s proud of her work, and it’s a “feminist song from the perspective of a rose.” This song is performed when Olivia’s character Nina realizes that she can stand on her own. She isn’t who other people think she is; she is more than what people think of her. Another track is “Second Chance” which is performed by Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett, and Sofia Wylie in the season finale. The song represents what the core four characters have been throughout the series. They have all undergone various setbacks, and they just want a “second chance.” Other tracks that people should give a listen to are, “Home” by Olivia Rose Keegan, “If I Can’t Love Her” by Roman Banks, “The Climb” by Joe Serafini, “Home” by Julia Lester, “A Dancer’s Heart” by Sofia Wylie, and the cast’s renditions of “Belle” and “Be Our Guest.” Unfortunately, Olivia Rose Keegan’s rendition of Home was nowhere to be found in the entire season of the series which is really disappointing. In addition, the cast did an excellent job in giving the fans nostalgia with “High School Musical 2 Medley.” Lastly, a song perfect for dancing to is “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’” by the entire cast which has a dance challenge on TikTok. During the press of HSMTMTS season 2, they kept on hyping up and promoting the soundtrack only for it to not live up to the hype. Music is a huge and pivotal part of the series. In the likely event that the series gets renewed for a third season, they need to improve on this aspect.

As of now, confirmation for a season 3 renewal is still up in the air. In case we get a third season, the series needs to improve on a lot of aspects that the showrunner and writer’s room need to pay attention to. As teased, season 3 will happen during the summer. In the likely event the series gets renewed, it might premiere next year. Rumor has it that lead star Olivia Rodrigo may leave the show or have a reduced role for season 3 given her success as a pop star. Showrunner Tim Federle provided a vague statement when asked about Olivia’s possible departure. However, it is important to take note that Olivia still has two seasons left in her contract. Fans hope that the music for the hypothetical third season would be Frozen, Camp Rock, High School Musical 2, or an original musical. When it comes to the soundtrack, it will surely include High School Musical songs, original songs, and songs from whatever musical they will do.

To conclude, season 2 did not live up to my expectations. The first season is ultimately better than this season. This season, they focused more on the drama over rehearsals, the Beauty and the Beast production, friendships, school, music, and other themes. There were a lot of easter eggs this season which were enjoyable for the fans of the HSM trilogy and Livies. One of them is the treehouse scene of Ricky and Nina which parallels the treehouse scene of Troy and Gabriella. Other easter eggs are mentions of song titles from Sour namely “drivers license” with regards to the context and mentions of the words “traitor,” “deja vu,” “hope ur ok.” Recently, it was just revealed by the showrunner that the Sour references were merely coincidences. My only favorite episode this season is “The Quinceañero” (Episode 205) which was Carlos’ birthday due to the domesticated scenes of the cast. The season finale was too short, and it felt rushed. The storylines of the characters weren’t wrapped properly. Instead of providing answers to questions that fans have been clamoring for since the premiere of the second season, they just made people ask a lot more questions.

The finale did set up a lot of possible storylines for an upcoming third season, but again, the season 2 finale should’ve focused on wrapping up storylines instead of ending on a multitude of cliffhangers. In addition, giving Ricky another love interest isn’t also great for the series. Ricky needs more friends, needs support from his family and current friends, and even therapy after everything that he’s been through. As I have previously stated also, Olivia Rose Keegan’s version of “Home” was cut from the finale. Even if the series is focused on the group of students from East High, the audience should’ve seen the performance of North High as well. Think of it like the final jam in Camp Rock 2 wherein they showed the performance of Camp Star. Showing the performance of the opposing team would’ve given more context to the plot of the season. Sadly, as painful it is to say, it didn’t feel like a perfect gift for the Wildcats. Overall, I rate the second season of HSMTMTS a 7/10.

“A second chance is all.”

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