The Wildcats make it through Camp Shallow Lake’s Frozen production only to travel into a new unknown — fame — on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series 3×08, “Let It Go.” This season finale carries significant weight on its shoulders as it says farewell to camp and Nini while beginning a new chapter. At points, the episode buckles under pressure.
At other points, “Let It Go” truly soars. This episode showcases HSMTMTS‘ foundational appreciation of musical theater as it incorporates songs from Frozen’s stage production. Furthermore, the Wildcats channel its musical-theater, dramedy predecessor Glee in the production style of its rendition of Camp Rock‘s “This Is Me.”
While the cover could have aligned with multiple other characters’ narratives more closely, Emmy looking up to the Wildcats and definitively knowing that she is a theater kid is a sweet sentiment. It lends itself to this season’s themes of generational mentorship within that community. HSMTMTS finds a moving conduit for that theme in Corbin Bleu.
It’s expected for Miss Jenn to earnestly — and sometimes strangely — root for the Wildcats; it’s unsurprising yet shocking to see how fiercely Corbin stands in defense of them by the end of “Let It Go.” As Emmy sees role models in the Wildcats, Corbin finds a new appreciation for musical theater and a renewed connection to the HSM franchise.
When he breaks out into the Wildcat chant, it confirms that Corbin views these kids as Wildcats — the team that started it all for him and them. But, when Corbin starts singing High School Musical 2‘s “Everyday” acapella, it stops everyone in the tracks — characters and viewers alike. It’s a meaningful tribute.
The song plays as their version of “This Is Our Song” from Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.
As the Wildcats say goodbye to Camp Shallow Lake, HSMTMTS says a heartfelt goodbye to Olivia Rodrigo‘s Nini Salavar-Roberts. “Let It Go” brings closure to some of Nini’s influential relationships, including the one with herself. Every beat of Nini’s narrative works — from the tradition of her opening night letters to the use of “Born to Be Brave.”
Furthermore, as Nini watches, HSMTMTS uses Ricky’s “Kristoff Lullaby” performance to provide some closure for the core four’s complicated dynamic. The lyrics solidify the end of Rini and Portwell and tease that the start of something new is around the corner — romantically or otherwise. That set-up works best for Nini and her next chapter.
Not to mention, Nini being the one to remember that Ricky needs a lotto ticket to fulfill his bucket list is perfect — no notes. It’s just as good that Gina encourages Ricky to open Nini’s letter, proving that the tension of their former dynamics no longer exists.
Similarly, HSMTMTS‘ uses Elsa’s arc to dig deeper into Kourtney’s struggles with anxiety. It also can’t be understated how important it is that the show — once again — platforms therapy as a positive resource. Dara Reneé stuns as Kourtney as Elsa; her star burns so bright that Channing’s attempts to melt it would never succeed.
Sadly, HSMTMTS struggles to use Frozen to give EJ much of any closure, despite all of the tireless hard work he put into the show. He finds peace within his pride by the one-month time jump, but his dynamics struggle throughout “Let It Go.” For example, this season finale could have been the perfect time for EJ and Ashlyn to check in with each other.
Understandably, HSMTMTS is more concerned with filling in the gaps between Ashlyn and Big Red. However, EJ turning to Val when he decides to call his father underscores the distance between him and the rest of the Wildcats. Val can relate to the new phase of EJ’s life, but any of his friends should be able to be by his side during a moment like that.
It’s also strange that EJ calls Ricky his brother after viewing the documentary’s trailer, but “Let It Go” — let alone the rest of the season — doesn’t signal that kind of closeness between them. For example, Big Red and Ricky spend a couple of weeks apart, but they pick up right where they left off because they’re genuinely best friends — brothers.
EJ’s comment doesn’t sidestep the evergreen need for a substantial conversation between Ricky and EJ. Likewise, “Let It Go” could have used one last chat between EJ and Gina; there’s no closure. Of course, it doesn’t help that when Gina declares her feelings to Ricky — again, for some reason — she assures Ricky he’s not a maybe for her.
That line insinuates that EJ was a maybe, which is a strange perspective since EJ spent the summer trying to ensure that he could stay with Gina because he knows how important it is to show up for her. While Ricky does show up for Gina throughout Season 3, it’s odd that Gina seems infatuated by Ricky when he does it and can’t recognize when EJ does.
If EJ is Gina’s first boyfriend and it doesn’t last because they’re in different phases of their life, that’s a narrative that this season lays out. So it’s unnecessary to act as if the show always built EJ and Gina’s romance not to last, especially after Season 2.
Regardless, it’s been a long time coming for Ricky and Gina; HSMTMTS has always been building up their relationship. So, their big moment at the end of “Let It Go” is momentous to that extent, but the storytelling falls apart in its execution. Gina should not have been the one to declare her feelings for Ricky; it doesn’t work after the last three seasons.
Gina has expressed her feelings for Ricky plenty of times. She even took most of last season to get over her feelings for him. In her break-up with EJ in 3×07, “Camp Prom,” she explicitly states she can’t be someone’s maybe, yet she tells Ricky that he’s not hers. The dialogue would have worked much better for the characters had HSMTMTS switched it.
Ricky needs to be the one to express his feelings, and that moment’s timing couldn’t be better for him to do so. Time has passed since Gina and EJ’s break-up, and the documentary’s trailer confirms his feelings in so many words. Instead of saying, “Don’t get me started,” Ricky could have gotten started and told Gina how he has feelings for her.
HSMTMTS may have avoided Ricky’s declaration so that it doesn’t play as too similar to the one with Nini in Season 1. Nevertheless, Ricky needed to assure Gina she wasn’t a maybe for him after everything. Then, this Rina development would really work. But instead, Ricky still hasn’t voiced his feelings for her after building that anticipation.
Ricky kissed Gina, and that matters, but words matter, too. Towards the end of their relationship — as seen in 3×06, “Color War” — Gina and EJ couldn’t even hold a conversation anymore, and Gina felt that disconnect. It would have been beneficial to juxtapose that dynamic with a mutual declaration for Ricky and Gina during “Let It Go.”
Maybe that will come in Season 4 when Gina and Ricky navigate a new school year at East High and their newfound fame together. After all, despite the false sense of normalcy after Frozen‘s success, the documentary’s release threatens to shake up the Wildcats more than ever. So, will the team of theater kids always be all in this together? I think so!
Until next time, Wildcats!
Other Fabulous Moments:
- Channing and Cash are the real villains of this story.
- Every chat Miss Jenn has with any character is golden.
- Corbin remembering Miss Jenn from HSM is the sweetest.
- Good for Big Red for coming out! It’s so good to have him back on the show.
- When did they interview him for the documentary?
- Gina rushing to restore the power for Kourtney’s performance is great.
- Carlos, who was one of the most reluctant Wildcats, getting emotional about leaving camp is the best.
- Rina’s “head held high” parallel got to me. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a parallel!
What did you think of HSMTMTS 3×08, “Let It Go?” Let us know in the comments below!
All episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 3 are streaming now on Disney+!