It all started with The Kids of Degrassi Street in the 1980s, then Degrassi Junior High, next Degrassi High and finally, the series millennials know most well, Degrassi: The Next Generation (renamed simply as Degrassi in season 10). Now, after thirty years, it’s time to say goodbye. Degrassi officially wraps on Friday, 31 July 2015 after 14 seasons. To bid farewell, I have compiled my list of 10 essential episodes from seasons 1 through 8. (You’ll find out why I stopped there when you read on.)
“Family Politics” | Season 1, Episode 3
Although “Mother and Child Reunion” (Season 1, Episodes 1–2) unveils the refurbished community school, its storyline is singular towards Emma and mostly nostalgic for fans of the previous generation excited for a reunion (10 years later) between Snake, Spike, Caitlin, Lucy and Joey.
With introductions to Emma, Manny, J.T., Ashley and Terri out of the way from episode 1, the third episode reveals the remainder of the series regulars: Jimmy, Paige, Spinner and Liberty (minus Sean).
“Shout” | Season 2, Episodes 7–8
This episode is definitely not the first of the Degrassi franchise to “go there,” but it definitely gave me goose bumps. Spinner asks Paige out for a date, but she cancels when Dean (a soccer player from Bardell High School) invites her to a party. At the party, one thing leads to another and Dean rapes fifteen-year-old Paige. Later on, as Paige tries coping with the rape, she reforms the band, PMS—Paige Michalchuk and the Sex Kittens—(“Cabaret” | Season 1, Episode 13), and sings a powerful song about her rape at a band competition which Dean is attending.
“Pride” | Season 3, Episodes 4–5
I connected to a lot of episodes from the franchise, but “Pride” really hits home. We were introduced to the loveable Marco in season 2 and his personal secret—that he’s gay—in a few episodes later (“Careless Whisper” | Season 2, Episode 14) when Ellie plays his girlfriend. Fast forward to “Pride” and Marco comes out to Spinner under less than stellar circumstances. If losing a friend who doesn’t accept you isn’t enough, Marco is later beaten up by a group of homophones in the Gay Village.
“Accidents Will Happen” | Season 3, Episodes 14–15
In a classic “pushing boundaries” episode, Degrassi tackled the very senestive issue of teen pregnancy. Manny, only fourteen-years-old, learns she is pregnant after having unprotected sex with Craig. Frightened and confused, she turns to Spike, who was only 13 when she was pregnant with Emma. Ultimately, Manny decides to have an abortion. (Due to the content, this episode didn’t air in the U.S. for more than two years after it was first shown in Canada. I still remember searching deep into the internet to find this episode so I could watch it in place during the season.)
“Time Stands Still” | Season 4, Episodes 7–8
If Paige’s rape scene didn’t give you chills, then this episode will leave you shaking. A contestant in the “Whack Your Brain” trivia contest, Rick wins the game for Degrassi, but quickly finds himself centre stage, drenched in yellow paint and feathers, the work of Spinner, Alex and Jay. That afternoon, Rick returns to school with a gun in hand looking for revenge and shoots Jimmy, paralyzing him. Sean saves the student body by attacking Rick, who dies in the struggle.
“The Lexicon of Love” | Season 5, Episodes 11–12
Paige finds herself the centre of a whirlwind romance with Alex? At Alex’s house, following the premiere of Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh?, the two kiss. This episode is interesting because Paige’s older brother, Dylan, is gay, so does that mean Paige is, as well? (This was Paige’s only lesbian relationship and never dated a girl again.)
“Rock This Town” | Season 6, Episode 11
A party at Emma’s house gets out of hand when J.T. finds himself in the midst of altercation with a student from Lakehurst. In a shocking twist, the student pulls out a pocketknife and stabs J.T. He dies.
“Standing In The Dark” | Season 7, Episodes 1–2
This episode is important for two reasons. First, Lakehurst Secondary School merges with Degrassi following a fire. (This is the second merge of the school. In season 2, the school underwent a merge to become both a junior high school and high school and ultimately transitioned to only grades 9 through 12 in season 5.) Secondly, and most important, after sneaking out to go to a party with Peter, Darcy is raped after being roofied. She eventually finds herself in the same awful position Paige once faced and tries to commit suicide by cutting her wrists.
“We Built This City” | Season 8, Episode 24
In my opinion, the real, raw Degrassi ended around season 4, but this finale of season 8 seals the deal. The Class of 2007—Emma, Manny, Liberty and Toby—finally graduate from Degrassi. The episode also honours J.T.
Essential Episode #10 — TBA
So, that’s only 9 episodes, but I’m holding out for the finale on Friday.
What are your essential Degrassi episodes?