‘Light As a Feather’ Levitates Above Most Teen Series in Season 2
“Light As a Feather,” Hulu’s supernatural young-adult melodrama, is firing on all cylinders in its second season. It’s Christmas break and in addition to dodging parents with pesky questions (how to explain the deaths of two friends and the disappearance of another?) and complicated relationships, the stakes have gone up significantly for our heroines, McKenna (Liana Liberato) and Alex (Brianne Tju).
McKenna has inherited the Chrysalis Curse from frenemy Violet (Haley Ramm) so she now has the malignant cocoon growing on her own back, depleting her life energy. It also causes her to have crazy visions and blackouts, which means she can’t remember that she apparently led new friends in another round of Light As a Feather, Stiff As a Board. This also means more people are bound to die. If she doesn’t see the prophecy through, she will die herself. To avoid more deaths, she and Alex reluctantly join forces with Violet to figure out how to stop the curse.
Alex also has to contend with her older sister, April (Alisa Allapach), who has come home from college for the holidays, while Alex herself awkwardly embarks on a new relationship with her college girlfriend, Peri (Adriyan Rae). April is invasive and brusque and she’s been appointed by their parents to keep tabs on Alex considering Alex just overdosed in homeroom. And McKenna, on top of the curse physically destroying her and killing her friends, has to deal with an old girlfriend coming back into Trey’s (Jordan Rodrigues) life.
One of the things that makes “Light As a Feather” stand out from other teen television shows (supernatural or not) is the complexity of its characters and their relationships with each other. Where on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” despite the fact that Valerie (Tiffani Thiessen) schemed and betrayed, because she was part of the circle, she was still always, inexplicably, welcome. Here, when Violet pleads for sympathy because of a tragedy that happened in her youth and how it shaped her, Alex says, point blank, “I’m sorry for what happened to you, but that’s not why you’re alone. Every time you get the chance, you manipulate and lie. That’s why you’re alone.” Bam! Or where the teens on “Riverdale” act like horny 30-somethings running speakeasies and taking down serial killers, the kids on “Light As a Feather” are navigating young adulthood awkwardly and haltingly, and the actors all look like they could actually be in high school, which adds to its authenticity.
The actors also transcend the performances found on most young-adult series. Liberato carries the weight of her curse clearly on her expressive face, and Tju, while seemingly the friend, is actually the co-lead, and she earns that title. She brings depth to her performance that isn’t necessarily there on the page. The pressure on Alex and McKenna is overwhelming, and their dynamic as they traverse both horror and high school is natural despite their being cast into this tragic game.
The game, like Blumhouse’s “Truth or Dare,” is about the supernatural being channeled through a teenage game, but “Light As a Feather” is far more creative with its springboard. The suspense and the stakes feel very real. As friends die and friendships are irrevocably fractured, there’s a sense of loss for these characters, which is evocatively underscored with the show’s downbeat soundtrack by Pieter Schlosser.
This show is all about the ladies. The young men aren’t just eye and arm candy, but they’re absolutely secondary to the female leads — and that works in its favor. While there are romantic entanglements, the focus is really on the girls and their relationships with each other. It’s not just rah-rah, female empowerment or bitchy catfighting either. No relationship is simple, and that is clearly reflected in this series.
That said, this is still a soap opera with many of the genre’s tropes, like important bits of information being overheard and people stumbling across exactly what they need to create drama and propel the plot. Those aren’t necessarily bad things. They’re hallmarks of a series like this, and “Light As a Feather” employs them better than it has to — and better than most.
“Light As a Feather” season 2 begins streaming July 26 on Hulu.