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“The Start of Something New” For HSMTMTS | Review

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”, directed by Tim Federle, returned with its third season on Disney+, on July 27. This time, the well-known Wildcats weren’t developing their annual school musical, and they were off to Shallow Lake Camp, becoming a combination of “High School Musical 2” and “Camp Rock”, as the characters seek new adventures and “The Start Of Something New”.

The series followed the characters a few months after where they left off by the end of season two, filled with drama and unsolved love triangles, all while they prepared for the summer musical, being the first production of “Frozen: The Musical”.

Here are our thoughts about the latest season!

“We’re All In This Together”? – Missing Characters 

As the cast started recording their third season in January 2022, it was announced that some of the main favorite characters would not be a part of the Shallow Lake experience, and even rumored that they would not appear at all, such as Seb (Joe Serafini), Big Red (Larry Saperstein) and Miss Jen (Kate Reinders). Throughout the series, they followed the “We’re All In This Together” motto to heart, and even with breakup drama and “show business” ambition, they somehow were never apart, and always found a way to unite through the episodes, as they stated they are a forever family.

However, not having the Wildcats family complete during the season was saddening and discouraging to many, as there was barely any recognition of their characters and some of the most important relationships didn’t have the screen time they deserved. Even when they were recognized it seemed rushed, and there were many moments where it looked as if it could be their final goodbye, as the campers seemed to be having a change within themselves and becoming new people. The director, Tim Federle, explained in the first episode the motive as to why each character would not be attending camp, but somehow the show continued to feel incomplete

Nevertheless, they did bring some interesting new additions to the cast, which seem that will remain for the next season, as their story arches have yet to be properly closed since the season finale, which aired on September 14th. And luckily enough, the lack of some characters is a one-season occurrence, as the OG characters will return for the fourth season and the family will be together once more!

“What We Came Here For” – The Plot 

It is clear that since season two premiered, Disney+ has been choosing musicals that aren’t an obvious choice regarding the theme of the season, going out of the expected “Camp Rock” or even a “High School Musical 2” music. Although both of them would have been very fitting considering the summer and camp ambiance, Tim Federle went in the opposite direction and picked “Frozen: The Musical”. In between that choice, it was also added that this experience would become a Disney+ documentary, and to make it even more meta, it would be directed by Corbin Bleu, who played Chad in the original “High School Musical” movies.

Having Corbin Bleu playing himself in the series that references his past experiences was a great opportunity for the series to bring back old fans and the nostalgia, a lost opportunity. The script had him act as a fake persona, therefore he was not using his actual personality and was rather cruel and cold towards the theater kids, destroying what seemed like a dream to them. Besides, Bleu was followed along by Channing (Ben Stillwell), who had the sole purpose of creating drama between the camper and making the documentary as interesting as possible, however, the supposed drama sparked by these characters seemed unnecessary, most of it was primarily fake and had no association to any of the other seasons, and the characters created new personas to appear on the Disney+ doc.
Them faking who they truly were and even damaging their relationships made the season feel disconnected to the essence of the series, not only that but having Corbin Blue be mean to the kids broke the spark that “High School Musical” brought in the movies, it didn’t feel special.

The well-known Wildcats also had a few changes in their personalities. Ashlyn (Julia Lester) was known for her kindness, but this season she was made out to be someone who sought the attention and approval of others, which ended the historical arc that they built with the “Beauty and The Beast” musical. Even though there were some negatives in her personality, the series revealed that this was aligned with things she hadn’t perceived about herself, like the fact that she is a part of the LGBTQ+ community and was maybe even crushing on Val (Meg Donelly), one recent addition to the cast. This added a wholesome perspective to the series, which had been missing since the beginning of the season, but it also brought sadness and disappointment, because her character could break up with Big Red, ending one of the most loved couples on HSMTMTS.

The addition of new characters made it clear that Season 4 could be a whole new era for the series, but they were written to have little to no personality, and sometimes didn’t add as much as expected to the plot. By adding them and their respective storylines, the series had too much to say for such a small amount of episodes, which made some seem rushed and others senseless.

One of the best storylines this season was surprisingly EJ’s (Matt Cornett), starting the series as a villain and becoming a fan favorite. Although saddening, Tim Federle finally approached EJ’s feelings towards his relationship with his dad, which lead to his break-up with Gina (Sofia Wylie). The character’s behavior in other seasons was understandable and had the fans rooting for him to hear his father say “I’m proud of you” by the end of the season. Besides, he took care of directing the musical, while having no experience as a director and was nervous about what his future would bring.

However, this created the EJ-Gina-Ricky love triangle, which was hinted from earlier moments of the show. Although Gina had already had a crush on Ricky (Joshua Bassett) in season one, the EJ-Gina pairing in season two made sense since they were both written out to be misunderstood villains at first. Season two led up to them having a relationship, and had a lot of chemistry, their breaking up due to Ricky was not only saddening for EJ, as it was his second girlfriend to still be interested in Bassett’s character, but also since it seemed both of them were starting to form a true bond, and even referenced them as “brother”. It destroyed the storyline built last season for these characters.

“The Start of Something New” – The Finale

The finale made emphasis on this ending being “The Start of Something New”. As in the last two seasons, the musical had some complications, by Channing tried to create more drama by making a live broadcast of the show and attempting to make “Frozen: The Musical” go wrong. This is a strategy used by Tim Federle every season, but by doing it a second time it lost its effect and was rather annoying than interesting. The musical was well put together, and every scene that was shown made the audience feel as if they were watching a musical.

The missing characters throughout the season made a comeback in the finale, to watch their friends shine on stage. Every encounter was sentimental, especially Big Red’s and  Ashlyn’s since their future as a couple seems uncertain. However, it was the appearance of Nini (Olivia Rodrigo) that stood out from any of the others, since she had to decide between staying her senior year in Salt Lake, as a Wildcat or following her path to California and focusing on her music career, which she has been interested since Season 2. Her scenes were heartwarming as she reunited with Kourtney (Dara Reneé) and Miss Jen (Kate Reinders), as she realized what her next steps would be.

The reference, as she leaves Salt Lake, was probably one of the best parts of the episode. Since Olivia Rodrigo had decided to follow her music journey, it was known by many that she would eventually leave the cast, and Disney made an effort to give her the proper goodbye, by driving away – referencing her hit single “drivers license”.

Although well planned and meaningful, it was rather overwhelming that she never actually said goodbye to any of her best friends, not even Ricky or Kortney, who were one of the most meaningful characters to her in the series.
The ending – in which the characters get to see the first trailer of the Disney+ documentary – broke any sort of emotion, since it was filled with drama, most of it not being truthful. However, Ricky and Gina’s last scene was somewhat sweet, but in a way ruined Ricky’s character development, and once more made him take EJ’s girlfriend.

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The article above was edited by Giullia Cartaxo. 

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Adriana Marruffo

Casper Libero '25

- mexican (but enjoying living in Brazil) journalism student – pop culture lover, dancer and writter 🤍 – 19y old – e-mail: adrianamarruffo@hotmail.com
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