It’s hard to quantify what makes the Saved by the Bell revival better than most other revivals/reboots. It might be that the show is, at every second, just absolutely going for it. They’re not leaving any stone left unturned, at any moment, and though that sometimes means some missteps (there are some season 1 jokes I’m pretty sure they’d love to take back), it also means some big wins, both in the joke department (a joke at the expense of JK Rowling, and another at the expense of Joss Whedon? Sign. Me. Up!) and in the feelings department.
But a show that should be only nostalgia — and I won’t deny there’s a big helping of that — ends up being a lot more, thanks to a combination of good, smart writing, talented actors and a lot of chemistry between the cast.
The show is focused on the younger generation, as it should be, and there’s enough there that we get to explore trans issues, a budding relationship, someone catching feelings, racism, and even what seems the most ubiquitous experience for latinos in the United States — the Spanish teacher who speaks Spanish as a second language but thinks he can correct you on the language you grew up speaking because he learned it from a book.
And none of it feels unearned. Lexie isn’t on the show to check off a diversity box, only to be forgotten and get no real storylines. Neither is Davonte. Or Daisy. Or Aisha. And when you have more than one diverse character, well, it’s easier for diverse issues to just be common place topics within a group of friends. And sure, some of the character are made to be stereotypes, but the show is very, very much making fun of the stereotypes they themselves embody.
This isn’t just restricted to the kids, too. There’s a hilarious moment in season 2 where Slater, yes, Slater, actually goes to therapy, and among his many issues, he discusses his non-existent mother, a dig at the show’s lack of continuity. Mac, meanwhile, is a walking joke, and what’s more important, he seems to realize it at times. Unlike in the original Saved by the Bell, however, Mac is given a chance to do something Zack never could …grow.
Same goes for Jessie and Slater, the couple we loved back in the day, and yet the couple who could never truly get it together. There was a vibe from season 1, of course, but in season 2, the show allows both characters to make the mature choice, to realize their feeling, to prioritize their friendship, and then to take a pause and realize that what they want is to be together. And though Jessie and Slater getting together is probably the least surprising thing that happened on this show, it’s still one of the most satisfying ones.
But that isn’t a short list. There’s something to love in absolutely every storyline, from the burgeoning relationship between Lexie and Jamie, who support each other and find ways to grow together throughout the entire season, to the friendships between Jamie and Mac, and Lexie and Aisha — a friendship that takes a while, but when it clicks, it really clicks. And that’s without going into Davonte’s newfound school spirit, or Aisha’s new girlfriend (yes, girlfriend).
Then there’s Daisy, who finds romance and growth and purpose this year, even if neither of those things ends up the way she wanted them to. And though we get nothing more than a tease of what the show was surely setting up for her from the beginning, we cannot help but hope this isn’t the last we see of this kids …or the adults.
We want more of Jessie and Slater, now an official couple, for the first time as adults.
We want more of Mac post the discovery that he doesn’t have to be his dad, he can be better, he is better.
We want more of Kelly and Zack, particularly as Kelly starts to spread her wings.
We want more of Jamie and Lexie, the more stable couple in the show and perhaps our favorite.
We want more of Aisha’s new romance, particularly as she tries to integrate this new relationship into her friend group.
We want more of Devante feeling like he’s found his place in this school.
And we definitely want more fo this group of people, together. Who would have thought?
Saved by the Bell Season 2 is available to stream on Peacock.