Series: Spinning Out
Seasons available: one
Where to watch it: Netflix
Kat Baker and her little sister, Serena, were raised to be figure skaters with one goal- get to the Olympics. Forced into the sport by their bipolar, single mother, Carol, they often suffer for this. Carol is inconsistent with her medications and Carol’s only focus is winning. During manic periods, the girls are put through grueling exercises, strict diets, physically injured, and emotionally abused.
Kat is struggling with PTSD from a fall during a jump while competing the previous year. She fell so hard that she literally cracked her skull open. While she has returned to the ice, she is unable to attempt the same jump that she was doing when she fell. Seeing this, her mother Carol, has decided that she will not be going to the Olympics. She fired Kat’s coach and is instead encouraging her to focus on becoming a coach herself since she cannot longer competitively skate. Carol shifts her attention to Serena, hiring a whole team of coaches to help her prepare for regionals.
Despite Kat’s struggles, a fellow skater, and his coach approach her and ask her to be Justin’s partner. Kat declines, stating that she does not do partner skating and does not like Justin.
Kat is unable to pass the test to become a coach because she cannot successful do all the jumps. She feels trapped. Ice skating is not what she does, it is who she is. She spends the night with a guy that she has been dating and he tells her that he is leaving for London for a fellowship. He asks her to join him and she promises to think about it. Kat receives a panicked phone call from Serena in the middle of the night saying that Carol is having an episode and she needs help. Kat leaves to help her sister. When she arrives, Carol is causally watching Serena do pushups in the rain while wearing pajamas.
Kat, knowing that she cannot leave her sister and move to London, changes her mind. She tracks down Justin informs him that she would like to be his partner. He tells her that he already has a new partner. She spends the day on the ice trying to distract him from his practice to prove that she is a better skater but truthfully, she is more distracting because of her attempts to land the triple toe jump which is what she was doing when she fell. No attempt was successful. After practice, he advises her that there is no point in trying to impress him. His father is the one that ultimately makes the decision. She needs to impress him.
Kat previously met Justin’s young stepmother while working at the lodge and asks her for assistance. With her help, Justin’s father comes to the rink under the guise of watching Justin’s progress with his new partner which is going poorly. Meanwhile, Kat has plans to do a routine from a previous show that won her first place in a previous competition. She successfully gets the attention of Justin’s father. He agrees to allow Justin to partner with Kat with the reassurance of Justin’s coach that she would be ready for regionals.
Kat continues to struggle with her home life. An argument with Carol leaves her essentially homeless and she begins sleeping at the lodge where she works (also owned by Justin’s family). Kat becomes concerned about Serena’s coach and his intentions towards her, sensing that Serna is going through something. Carol reminds Kat that she cannot trust her brain as Kat also has bipolar. The difference being that Kat always takes her medication, goes to therapy, and keeps her condition controlled. Carol ignores Kat’s suspicious and allows the coach to move in with her.
Justin and Kat continue to work hard but practice is a struggle. Pair skating is new to Kat and trusting Justin is difficult. In addition, she is still having trouble with her jumps. Frustrated, their coach takes them on a drive and drops them off on the side of the road telling them to walk back. The bonding would do them some good. Justin laughs, saying that she must not know about Lyft. Still, they walk to a small restaurant and talk. Justin promises that he will not drop her, and she realizes that she believes him. From there, their routine quickly improves. Kat and Justin become closer despite discouragement from their coach.
Even with the routine going smoothly, Kat feels it could be better. When talking with her mother, Carol mentions that she always feels more alive and braver when she does not take her medication. Kat considers stopping her medication until regionals is over. She starts slowly by taking only half of her prescribed dose. She is amazed. She has so much energy. She is no longer afraid to try jumps. Their routine becomes flawless. Kat decides to stop taking her medication all together.
Regionals is divided into two portions – a short program and a long program held on separate days. As the short program approaches, Kat becomes overly energetic. Pushing Justin to practice to the point of exhaustion. She begins to alienate her friends and push away her sister. She is unable to see that there is a problem. Justin and Kat perform and win first place. Riding that high, Kat is pushed further into a manic state. She invites strangers into Justin’s hotel room at the lodge and throws a large party. When it gets out of control, Justin and her former friend are forced to physically break up the party. Justin and the friend are arrested. Kat is left with her former friend’s girlfriend who recognizes the symptoms of bipolar and calls Kat’s mom. Carol gets her and restarts her lithium, telling everyone that Kat will not be able to compete in the long program because she has pneumonia. Carol has already contacted Justin and the others there that night asking them to keep Kat’s secret.
When Kat wakes up, she is horrified to learn what happened. Devastated to hear that she hurt the people she loved. With barely enough time left, she manages to convince Justin to still compete in the long program regardless of how he feels about her. He reluctantly agrees.
Kat learns that Justin’s father is kicking him out of the lodge due to the damage that was caused, and she goes to talk to his father. She explains that it was her fault. Tired of the secrets, she reveals that she has bipolar and that her mother had made her keep this quiet for fear of ruining her career. She offers to work off the damages. Touched by her honesty, he contacts Justin and advises him to treat Kat kindly. That we care for our loved ones when they are ill, not punish them. He also tells Justin he is not to leave the lodge now that he understands what happened.
She also apologizes to her long-term best friend and fellow skater who takes the news well. Not allowing her to be completely off the hook for her behavior but understanding after watching Carol for so many years.
She tries to reconcile with her former friend that helped Justin break up the party but was unsuccessful. Because he was detained in jail, he missed a major ski competition. Therefore, giving up on his chance at the Olympics.
Kat and Justin head to the competition in separate vehicles. Once there, Justin asks if anything she said while manic was real. Because she told him that she loved him and when he answered her, he did mean it. She explains that she does not remember much of what happened during that time and she is unsure.
Kat sees Serena’s phone and learns that she has been sexting someone. She confronts Serena’s coach, now also Carol’s boyfriend, who denies the accusation. Angered he, leaves. With some sleuthing, they discover that the person that has been taking advantage of Serena was the sports physician. Carol apologizes to Kat for not listening to her when she told her something was wrong.
Kat barely makes it to the ice when their names are called. However, before stepping out there she tells Justin she does love him. She has loved him since the moment he told her he wouldn’t ever drop her. With that, they skate a perfect routine and win first place.
Rating: Solid B
Is it worth watching: Yes. It has a good cast. Carol is played by January Jones. Kat is played by Kaya Scodelario who I originally discovered while watching the British version of Skins. However, she is probably better known for Maze Runner. There are some other lesser-known actors that you may recognize as well. It is well acted and professionally written. Actors have appropriate chemistry. It’s obviously a drama but isn’t too over the top. It moves at a good pace.
It was a complex, layered story. Kat had to balance her crumbling and frankly abusive home life. She felt a lot of guilt for not being able to save her mom and her sister, but it reached a point that she had to save herself or drown. Kat left them for a life of uncertainty with truly little money to her name. Later to find out that Carol emptied her bank account leaving her completely penniless. Even from the beginning, she put a lot of trust and hope into the partnership with Justin. If it did not work out, she would have nowhere to go. It’s an entertaining watch.
I appreciate the way that bipolar was depicted. Keep in mind that there is more than one type of bipolar and it presents in different ways for different people. We even see a big difference between Carol and Kat. Carol’s life is essentially ruled by her illness. She can’t keep a stable job. She is promiscuous, impulsive, and extreme in the way the way she raises her children. She disappears for long stretches of time. She will take her medication for short periods of time before discontinuing them and occasionally requires hospitalization to get back on track. Whereas Kat has watched Carol her whole life. She is terrified of what her mind could do to her. She takes her medication religiously and hides away her diagnosis because people with bipolar are truly stigmatized. We toss that word around glibly. Calling a person bipolar when the true illness is a serious struggle that can easily destroy everything they’ve built.
*Netflix announced there will be no future seasons of this series at this time.