High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 2 Episode 1, “New Year’s Eve,” is the perfect season premiere as it lives up to the HSM song “Start of Something New.” The Wildcats are about to start a new semester, but that doesn’t mean that the drama takes a break. “New Year’s Eve” sets up all the dominos that will fall throughout the season, all while paying homage to the film franchise that is another character on the show at this point.
“New Year’s Eve” makes big moves, literally, for some characters, while, for others, it tees up an exciting season where they’ll be more than supporting characters. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is an ensemble show, and you can feel that in this season’s premiere. This feeling makes me all the more optimistic that this year the series will go beyond Ricky and Nini’s relationship and the tiny bits of information it revealed about its other characters during Season 1 and dig deeper into what makes these characters tick.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
Ricky and Nini are a significant focus of “New Year’s Eve,” which is expected after last season’s massive cliffhanger. Nini leaving East High for the Youth Actors’ Conservatory in Denver is huge for Nini as an individual and her relationship with Ricky. Still, Ricky isn’t the only person affected by this news.
Thankfully, HSMTMTS makes a point of noting that Courtney knows about Nini’s plans, which is an appreciated touch because Courtney is Nini’s best friend. It’s also refreshing that the show uses Courtney’s confessional to reframe that narrative to focus on Courtney rather than Nini. Of course, Courtney is supportive of her best friend, but this is also the perfect opportunity for Courtney to blossom in a way that she wasn’t comfortable doing last season.
As sad as I am to see Nini leave because of what that will mean for her and Ricky, I can’t help but be more thrilled about what it will mean for her. She’ll learn more about her passions and get experiences that will help her in the long run. That’s something I would think Ricky would understand, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see his reaction. Though, the season’s trailer does look promising for at least an attempt at a long-distance relationship.
Regardless, this episode hinges on the New Year’s resolutions of our favorite Wildcats. We don’t hear everyone’s resolutions before midnight, but Ricky tells Nini earlier that honesty is essential in their relationship. He can’t fault Nini for waiting to tell him about her move because he has been dealing with a lot at home. I don’t know why his father is still terrible at breaking hard news to his son. But that’s a topic for another day.
Anyway, honesty is going to be a crucial factor during their time apart. Hopefully, these two can find a way to make it work. That would be nice to see after everything. It would also be nice since this is our first real opportunity to see Ricky and Nini as a couple since HSMTMTS only showed their relationship through flashbacks in Season 1. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and all of that, I guess.
New Year, New Relationships
Ashlyn’s relationship with Big Red is sweet, and I want nothing but the best for them. That said, right now, I am much more invested in her friendship with Gina. Their unlikely alliance is one of the best things to come from Season 1, and it appears that Season 2 will only double down on their bond. HSMTMTS could have left Ashlyn and Gina as the former making a kind gesture for the latter, but it takes it further by proving how much the two girls have bonded in such a short period. Gina’s excitement about endless sleepovers Ashlyn’s joy about having her biggest confidant as her roommate are palpable.
A romantic couple HSMTMS renews my interest in is Carlos and Seb. Unfortunately, last season didn’t do them too many favors. Beyond their scenes at the dance, Season 1 doesn’t develop their relationship nearly as much as it does the love triangle between Ricky, Nini, and EJ, but that can be said about many characters and relationships last season. It isn’t easy to become invested in a relationship when the show doesn’t do the work to make that investment worthwhile. However, that’s starting to change for Carlos and Seb and Ashlyn and Big Red.
For the former, this comes in quick glimpses at the inner workings of their new relationship — that Carlos and Seb have very different financial upbringings. But, HSMTMTS teases how it’s going to be more than these two characters having different backgrounds. It’s also about Carlos’ unawareness of how his frivolousness comes across to others. Plus, it’s about Seb’s resistance to being honest with Carlos. If this season is about living up to intentions, honesty, and accountability, Carlos and Seb have an exciting journey waiting for them.
Lastly, I have to write about EJ and how he’s working on his relationship with himself. EJ wasn’t my favorite character last season, but he did come through in the end. That did make me want to root for him, to believe in him. That’s why it’s so compelling to see that he’s not pining for Nini; he’s not conspiring. He’s just working on himself and living his best life with his friends before graduating high school. Season 2 EJ volunteers at the soup kitchen and stays off social media. Accountability was a big part of EJ’s storyline last season.
It’s exciting to know that we’ll get to see what comes after that for EJ. If this is his final semester at East High (and his last season on HSMTMTS), I want him to leave like this — his best self. But EJ doing the right thing the entire season is unlikely because he’s a teenager who is bound to make mistakes and learn from them. Also, perfect characters don’t make for good TV. Regardless, I am heading into this season liking EJ a whole lot more than before, and I can’t wait to see where HSMTMTS takes him this season.
Out with the Old, in with the New…Or Not
“New Year’s Eve” introduces a new character connected to Miss Jenn’s past with Derek Hough’s Zack Roy. With that comes the push that Miss Jenn needs to step away from the HSM franchise and revert to the theater classics. Interestingly, Miss Jenn thinks that she can only win the Alan Menken Awards for High School Musical Theater with a classic. One would think that doing something different the kids are passionate about will translate to the judges more than a production of something they’ve seen a million times.
Then again, I can’t fault HSMTMTS for wanting to branch out from the franchise, but there are some great songs from High School Musical 2 that I want to see on the show beyond the fun medley in this episode. Regardless, I can’t wait for East High’s Beauty and the Beast to win instead of North High production of The Little Mermaid.
No matter what I’d prefer for the Spring musical, Miss Jenn makes her decision. This means that I can start thinking about casting alongside the Wildcats. With Nini away, maybe someone else can be Belle in the musical, like Courtney, Ashlyn, or Seb. Maybe EJ can be the Beast in his last musical in his high school career. This musical gives HSMTMTS a chance to shake things up and bring their supporting characters forward into the leading ensemble like they are meant to be. They’re all in this together, and I’m excited to see that put into action as the show lets us get to know these characters better than ever before.
Other Fabulous Moments:
- Whenever someone on this show calls HSM retro, classic, or vintage, I feel a year older.
- Big Red saying “Tonight of all nights?” is such a sly reference to HSM 3. I love it. It’s very reminiscent of “A Night to Remember.”
- “I’m in if you’re in” is another good HSM reference.
- I like that everyone walks into Ashlyn’s house without knocking because it makes me think they all hang out all the time.
- The touch of EJ coming in through the backdoor is a good reminder that he’s comfortable with the house because he and Ashlyn are cousins.
- I don’t understand why Miss Jenn shows up at one of her student’s houses, though.
- Joshua Bassett wrote “The Perfect Gift” for the show.
- “Harry Styles could never.” – Nini to Ricky
- Ricky’s “Bet On It” remix is my new favorite thing.
What did you think of “New Year’s Eve?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series drop weekly on Disney+!