Netflix’s ‘Spinning Out’ looks at mental illness stigma in ice skating


Netflix Media Center

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

Yet another Netflix original series to be axed after the first season, “Spinning Out” is a bingeworthy drama about an Olympic ice skater who has bipolar disorder.

The series follows 21-year-old Katarina “Kat” Baker, a hopeful ice skater who is trying to bounce back from a bad fall on the ice that cracked her skull open and left her intensely afraid of getting injured again.

While she’s trying to set up a career for herself as an ice-skating coach, she receives an offer from Olympic bound skater Justin Davis, son of the owner of the Idaho ski lodge that Kat and Justin skate at, to be his new pairs partner.

At the same time that Kat embarks on this new path of her career, her younger sister, Serena, is excelling under the leadership of her new coach, Mitch Saunders.

Their mother, Carol, obsessively pushes Serena in her training, hoping the 16-year-old can have the skating career that Carol herself never got to have due to her getting pregnant with Kat.

However, while the high stakes world of figure skating is hectic enough, the story is that much more eventful as both Kat and Carol struggle with bipolar disorder. In many instances, it’s actually their disorders — or, rather, their mismanagement of their disorders — that pushes the plot forward and creates drama.

Add to this already dramatic story, friendship drama, new relationships, broken hearts, familial issues and the fear of going for a career in a competitive and very public field, and that’s basically “Spinning Out.”

The show is honestly not very different from any other teen drama that centers around ice skating, other than  its addressing of mental health issues.

There’s a particular scene where Mitch even talks to Carol about how mental illness is becoming less stigmatized in the sports world, to which Carol responds that it’s not the case in ice skating. She says it’s a sport in which all participants are expected to be perfect all the time in every way.

That specific conversation really shows what one can assume is the reason why the series’ creator, Samantha Stratton, decided to make a show about mental illness in the ice skating world.

She likely did so to bring light to an issue that normally gets swept under the rug in this particular sport.

Despite the large role that mental illness plays in the show, it never feels like it glamorizes bipolar disorder nor does the show dull it down. As someone who has a close relative with the disorder, it felt like the show was giving a relatively accurate portrayal of how bipolar could affect a person — without saying that it’s that particular way for everyone.

Because of this, it makes “Spinning Out” — which’s name clearly has a double meaning — an important show to watch, even if Netflix didn’t deem it worthy of a second season.

It’s also a fun and enjoyable watch just for its plot and characters, despite the relevance of its subject matter not being taken into account. It’s a heartfelt show with some truly likable characters and some good story arcs and is definitely worth the watch.