High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 2 Episode 9, “Spring Break,” allows our favorite Wildcats to take a step back from Beauty and the Beast long enough to grapple with the growing changes in their lives. Ultimately, they learn that change isn’t the villain of their narratives, and even if things get tough, they’ll always make it through together.
That sounds cheesy and transparent, but HSMTMTS pushes that assumption by diving deeper into the characters’ personal lives. The show does so in a way that elevates the characters’ strengths without forgetting the power of its greatest ships. It’s only then that it all becomes apparent why there is only one team: No one does it like the Wildcats. North High better watch out.
Despite Season 2 having a bumpy start, the second half of this season is shaping up to be HSMTMTS‘ best work yet. The songs continue to lack where Season 1 soared, but it’s succeeding in telling meaningful stories that extend well beyond the romantic kind. In addition, these episodes build the framework for multiple seasons following this one if Disney+ chooses to renew the show for that long.
It’s endlessly impressive to watch HSMTMTS continue to pull out all of the stops to ensure that every heartstring is pulled and every thread is followed through in good time. While some storylines are taking priority this season, there is so much room for those minor plotlines to become major ones at any turn. Of course, the pacing isn’t always excellent, but it appears as though HSMTMTS knows what it’s doing with some arcs, like the building tension between Sebastian and Carlos, for example.
Ricky Turns His Broken Heart into Art
Alternatively, Ricky’s arc this season does suffer from some pacing issues, but HSMTMTS manages to make all of that pay off reasonably during “Spring Break.” His mother’s place in Chicago is the perfect place for all of this to culminate because a lot of the anxiety he feels around change started with his parents’ separation. It’s a good thing that the show attempts to balance out Ricky’s interactions with his parents in “Spring Break,” since most of his scenes are with Mike.
Speaking of Lynne, it’s wise that HSMTMTS lets Ricky’s mother be a fully realized person who makes mistakes and can take accountability for them. Not only is this important to Ricky, but it’s also a relevant reminder that parents are real people who go through life like anyone else.
More often than not, parents on shows like HSMTMTS can feel like plot devices or one-note characters. Sometimes that works in favor of the show, but that wouldn’t work in this case. Ricky admits to making some serious mistakes in his relationship with Nini. It would be a massive letdown if Lynne only appeared on screen to validate Ricky’s feelings without acknowledging her role in the way he feels about love and life.
It’s a much more effective story to watch Ricky suddenly see his mom for everything she is rather than the one version of her that’s understandably prominent in his mind. Their scenes are some of the most memorable of “Spring Break” because of their unexpected relatability. This relatability is a double-hitter in that it extends to the characters and its audience like any good story should.
It all culminates in a way that brings me back to one of Carrie Fisher’s greatest quotes: “Take your broken heart, make it into art.” Ricky sees how Lynne does this with the blanket she knitted and creates his work of art through a song. Songwriting is a therapeutic process, and while I still wish HSMTMTS will allow Ricky (or any of its other characters) to go to therapy, this scene is moving. This sentiment is especially true when thinking of how Ricky starts the episode cocooned in that very blanket.
Through the comfort of a physical representation of his mother’s love, Ricky can come out of what some may label a “breakdown” to see it for what it truly is — a breakthrough. I can’t think of a more powerful way to send Ricky into the rest of the season.
Nini Finds Comfort in the Wildcats
On the other end of Rini’s break-up, Nini tries to play it cool until she can’t anymore. Those internal feelings represent themselves in an opposite way than they do for Ricky in that Nini can’t write any songs. This shift works because it’s a bit unexpected since Nini has been on a roll with her songwriting lately. It works, though, because it lets Nini ask for help differently than Ricky does. As previously stated, songwriting is therapeutic, but it’s also incredibly intimate.
Like Ricky, this change in relationship status is more than just that since Ricky and Nini were tangled up in each other for so long. Nini is strong, independent, and so many other things, but this is a big adjustment even for the strongest of people. All of this lends itself to Nini asking Ashlyn for help writing “Ain’t Seen Nothin’.” Admittedly, this song pales in comparison to their Season 1 duet “Wondering,” but the symbolic gesture of Nini asking for help isn’t lost.
Nini (and Olivia Rodrigo) is more than capable of writing hits on her own. We see that time and time again, whether it’s “All I Want” or “The Rose Song.” However, HSMTMTS leaves room for it to be equally rewarding for Nini to collaborate with her fellow Wildcats. That’s still Nini taking her broken heart and making it into art. Even Lynne stresses the importance of leaning on friends for support. People need people, and it’s comforting to know that Ricky and Nini have good people to turn to during this rocky time.
Portwell Keeps Getting Better & They’re Not Even Official Yet
Would it be one of my HSMTMTS reviews if there wasn’t a Portwell section? As mentioned, Season 2 has its more challenging moments, but everything about Portwell thus far is expertly paced and so true to each character. Sofia Wylie and Matt Cornett are absolute scene-stealers, and any moment with the two of them together is brilliant. That statement is a bit ironic, considering Gina and EJ are separated for most of “Spring Break.” However, the magic of Portwell is that they’re together even when they’re not together now.
Logistically, this is true because EJ face-times Gina at the start of the episode, and Gina wears EJ’s Duke sweatshirt (!!!) throughout its entirety. Although, it extends beyond that because Gina has the opportunity to live out a situation ripped from the pages of a romance novel, and she chooses only to take things so far. This underlying resistance could be Gina’s general practicality, but it feels like something more. This feeling arises from how the camera follows Gina’s smile after she gets off the phone with EJ and the way she’s scrolling through his Instagram.
Through all of her interactions with Jack, we learn more about Gina, which is always a joy. Furthermore, we get to see how her feelings for EJ have snuck up on her. Wylie’s chemistry with her old Andi Mack co-star, Asher Angel, elevates their characters’ airport meet-cute. Their professional and personal history leads them and us to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is a chance something could come from their time together. It’s also too sweet that Jack, the boy who’s learned not to care, has to tell himself not to care about Gina Porter.
Then, Gina tells Jack that she hasn’t had her first kiss yet because she’s waiting on the right guy to show up. Jack, who is very sweet and very flirty, asks whether he is worthy. To which Gina replies, she needs this guy to show up for her and stick around. Cue EJ showing up at the airport like HSMTMTS is a romantic comedy, and Gina and EJ are the stars. It’s honestly too good to be true, except it is, and Gina deserves all of it.
Just before EJ arrives, once again, the camera shows us Gina’s phone so that we know she’s posted a Snapchat story alerting her friends her flight is canceled. This means that EJ sees her post and shows up for her. He’s sticking around for the long haul, and the look of pure joy and relief on Wylie’s face tells us all we need to know. Gina is starting to fall hard for EJ. It’s simply extra greatness that EJ shows up with the granola bar in hand that Gina forgot and carries her bag for her. The bar is really low when it comes to good guys doing good things for the people they care about, but EJ is succeeding with flying colors at the moment. Gina deserves the best, and EJ is the one.
Now that Gina knows how she feels, waiting a week for a new episode will take a lot of patience. It’s a good thing we can watch “Spring Break” plenty of times before next Friday.
Other Fabulous Moments:
- Miss Jenn trying to pick a fun Zoom background is too relatable.
- EJ playing with him and Ashlyn’s childhood toys in the background of Ashlyn’s Zoom call is adorable.
- “They haven’t built the airport that can contain you.” – EJ to Gina
- “You’re Gina Porter. You don’t need luck.” – EJ to Gina
- “Sometimes the last, best thing we can do for someone we truly love is let them go. For what it’s worth.” – Lynne to Ricky
- Kourtney making fun of the East High vs. North High dance-off is so good.
- Big Red did a really great job editing the “Ain’t Seen Nothin'” video. I could never.
What did you think of HSMTMTS “Spring Break?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series drop weekly on Disney+!