High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 2 Episode 2, “Typecasting,” does a great job of showing why it’s always better to do what you love, no matter the boxes people try to put you in. The episode allows so many of HSMTMTS‘ characters to shine in a way they never have before. That dedication to making this ensemble come across as more developed than ever makes this episode better than the last.
Disney+ could have benefited from releasing HSMTMTS Season 2 Episode 1, “New Year’s Eve,” and this episode simultaneously. Alternatively, because Disney+ did not do so, “Typecasting” stands as a reason to believe that this show will only get better each week.
Kindness Is Cool
“Typecasting” introduces a new, overly enthusiastic East High student named Lily. She shows her true colors before the end of the episode. This change is a fast shake-up within a single episode, but it doesn’t mess with everything else as much as it could have. There has to be some connection to North High beyond Miss Jenn’s desire to show Zack up and win the award. It makes sense that this new character who draws a line in the sand with everyone in East High’s theater department in the span of a single afternoon is the same character to amplify the competition between the two schools.
Honestly, Lily’s introduction doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as the way other characters react to her, specifically Gina. Lily saw Gina as the weakest link in the group yet the strongest performer. It’s evident Lily thinks that Gina will turn her back on her friends to mark her mark. It’s almost eerie how much Lily resembles certain aspects of Gina from the beginning of last season, but things are different now.
Gina’s arc in this episode is well done because she starts the episode stepping away from her friends to make a statement, and she ends the episode by standing next to her friends to make an even bigger statement. Friends support each other; they don’t drag each other down to succeed. Gina has come a long way since her first days at East High. HSMTMTS could have typecasted her as the mean girl in both their production of High School Musical and within the fabric of the show. That doesn’t happen, and the series is better for it. No one is better, whether in fiction or in reality, if they are only seen as one thing.
It’s 2021. Bullies were never cool, but they are most definitely not cool now. Miss Jenn sees right through Lily and essentially benches her from being in Beauty and the Beast, as she should! Lily will indeed find a role in North High’s The Little Mermaid, which doesn’t make me optimistic about that theater’s morale. They’re the competition, though, so I don’t have much empathy for their situation yet. HSMTMTS has a lot of work to do before I start to feel empathetic towards Lily. She tried to make the Wildcats feel small, so I don’t like her all that much.
When Will Ricky Audition for Himself?
It’s unfortunate that a lot of what works with Ricky in “Typecasting” is undercut by the odd scene in the hallway with Mr. Mazzara. Nine tells Ricky, “Not me for this time. For you,” to help him decide whether he will audition or not. That’s a perfect place to start for someone who ran into a theater to make a point to the girl he loves. But, once again, Ricky finds himself running into the auditorium to make a point. He doesn’t walk in there on his accord to do what he knows is best for him. He could have done that if HSMTMTS didn’t include the scene with Mr. Mazzara.
Ricky has no real connection to this teacher. But, then again, does anyone on the show? It comes across as incredibly unkind and unprofessional to tell one of your students that he’s unreliable, totally unprompted. It’s frustrating that Mr. Mazzara saw a student struggling and planted even more doubt instead of assuring Ricky that he’s doing his best and that’s enough. Ricky’s audition becomes less about him and more about proving people wrong at that moment. He bursts into the auditorium to prove that he can follow through and be the reliable guy they need. That’s what gets him the lead of Beast, not an actual desire to be the lead.
It’s a nice touch, likely on Joshua Bassett‘s part, that Ricky plays with the necklace Nini gave him while he auditions. So she’s with him even though she’s not physically there. That’s a sweet sentiment for the couple, but I wish it carried over to Nini’s words ringing in his ears. “Not for me this time. For you.” HSMTMTS could have used this moment to let Ricky do just that, do something for himself. So, I’ll keep waiting for that moment. In the meantime, maybe Mr. Mazzara should stop giving students advice.
Nini Makes the Best of a Bland Situation
Nini’s dreams are still as bright and colorful as ever, despite being stuck in a program that is as greyscale as it comes. Switching from East High to the Youth Actors’ Conservatory is a bit of a shock to the eye, and that works to HSMTMTS‘ advantage. There is color where there is room for creativity and growth beyond the rigid rules. But, unfortunately, there is a void of that vibrancy where Nini now is, where she must follow the strictest of regulations to succeed.
Nini does what she can to push against the grain in the most respectful ways, but she’s met with nothing but resistance. Nini’s passion for songwriting and performing has always been contagious. It inspired three significant people in her life (EJ, Kourtney, and Ricky) to branch out and try something new. Hopefully, Nini can find a way to breathe new life into a tired program. She already made the school’s anthem sound a whole lot better by playing it on the ukulele. That has to signify that Nini will prosper there even though it looks like they want Nini to fit into the boxes they already have labeled for her.
On the other hand, back in Utah, it’s a good thing that Nini is out of the running for Beauty and the Beast. It isn’t easy to imagine a world in which Miss Jenn wouldn’t leap at the chance to cast Nini in the role of Belle. Thankfully, Miss Jenn sees potential in all of her students and values them over bullies like Lily. Miss Jenn gives the role of Belle to Ashlyn, who so wholeheartedly deserves it. Julia Lester is incredible in this role.
There’s a compelling duality to Ashlyn that Lester performs expertly in “Typecasting.” Ashlyn keeps her cards close to her chest, yet she wears her heart on her sleeve. When Ashlyn tries to play it cool when Gina turns down auditioning as a girl group, we see the former. Then, we see the latter when Ashlyn’s eyes fill with tears as someone auditions for the musical by singing her original song “Wondering” from last season. It’s because of those qualities and Ashlyn’s undeniable talent that she is perfect for Belle. She can’t be typecasted as a supporting character because she is the star of the show now.
They’re all stars of this show now. They’re all taking chances on their dreams, and they’re doing it together. “Typecasting” ends the episode on an optimistic note that every character is excited about their roles in Beauty and the Beast. None of them are small parts because the show wouldn’t exist without the entire ensemble. The same is true of HSMTMTS. Lily’s sinister call in the parking lot doesn’t hold a candle to the magic that exists when the Wildcats are together.
Other Fabulous Moments:
- “Every time I miss you, I’m gonna shake this.” – Nini to Ricky, but also Nini breaking my heart
- I didn’t expect the show actually to bring Emily into the mix, but I like it!
- Ricky telling Big Red that he’s never disappointed anyone is so sweet. I adore their friendship.
- Ricky helping Big Red up when he falls and telling him, “I’ve got you,” is so sweet.
- Of course Carlos bought follows for East High’s theater department’s Instagram
- Nini’s Team Kourtney shirt
- The cupcakes with their characters on them
- “1-2-3” is such a fun song!
What did you think of “Typecasting?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series drop weekly on Disney+!