Review | Figure skater debunks Netflix’s newest drama ‘Spinning Out’

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Poster via Netflix

“Spinning Out” is a new Netflix Drama about a 21-year-old figure skater named Kat (Kaya Scodelario) attempting to make a comeback to the sport after a devastating head injury.

By Sarah Connor, Contributing Editor

A poster for the new Netflix show “Spinning Out” reads, “It may be cold, but there is no chill.” This might be the perfect way to describe the show, a drama about a 21-year-old figure skater.

There’s skating, of course, but there’s also intense, dark drama on and off of the ice. The main character Kat (Kaya Scodelario) is attempting to make a comeback in skating after a devastating head injury. The show combines skating with an ample amount of conflict — from dating to mental health to family issues — and things get dark for Kat pretty quickly.

Kat had always skated as a singles competitor, but she gets her second chance at competing after her injury when she joins forces with bad-boy skater Justin (Evan Roderick) to compete in the pairs skating circuit.

I think it’s safe to say that the average person scrolling through their Netflix recommendations might not know much about figure skating, and that’s where I can help. I spent eight years completely consumed by the world of figure skating. I skated competitively, training at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center in Neville Island, just outside of Pittsburgh. Skating owned my life from the time that I was about seven until I was 15.

After binge-watching the whole first season of “Spinning Out,” I have some thoughts about the accuracy of the show to a real-life skating experience. Let me start with the things the show got right.

One of the most accurate pieces of “Spinning Out” is the character of Kat’s sister, Serena (“Hunger Games” alum Willow Shields). Serena is just 16, but she is tearing up the competition as a ladies’ singles skater. She’s landing her triple jumps and has surpassed most of the other skaters’ abilities. In the current skating world, all of the top ladies’ competitors are very young.

The reigning Olympic Champion, Russia’s Alina Zagitova, was 15 when she won her title, while American skater Alysa Liu was just 13 when she won the 2018 U.S. National Championships. Serena’s early success causes her mother, Carol (January Jones) to invest all of her time and money into Serena’s training and stop supporting Kat — since she could not afford to pay for both of her girls to skate.

The show does capture that skating is an incredibly expensive sport to pursue, and becoming an Olympic-level skater requires full-time attention. However, Kat and Serena’s mother is a single mom who works as a check-in desk agent for an airline at the local airport. There is absolutely no way she could finance the full-time training of two elite figure skaters on her own. That is just not possible. INSIDER reports that elite training can add up to anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000 per year. It’s accurate that Kat’s mom would choose to only support her sister’s skating endeavors, but it’s not very likely that she could have afforded to put two daughters through training in the first place.

Kat is only able to keep skating when she begins her partnership with Justin, whose father owns the rink where they train. Justin’s father and stepmom help finance their training with a former Olympic pairs champion as their coach.

I also want to take a moment to applaud the show for getting real about Kat’s struggle with bipolar disorder. “Spinning Out” gets very candid about her experience with self-harm and medications, and I would advise anyone considering watching the show to proceed with caution if they might be sensitive to that sort of thing. 

Plenty of skaters struggle with their mental health, myself included. Canadian skater Gabby Daleman recently shared her struggle with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder, and she is certainly not the only skater to deal with these issues. Skating is an extremely emotionally taxing sport, and I really appreciate that the show actually dives into this theme.

Now for the inaccuracies, and oh boy, there are many.

What sticks out to me as the biggest inaccuracy in “Spinning Out” is the injuries. The whole premise of Kat’s storyline is that she cracks her head open on the ice after falling on a triple toe-loop jump in competition. When a skater falls on that jump, especially an elite, senior-level skater, it’s going to be a feet-first fall. Head injuries are relatively rare in singles skating.

It would be much more likely to suffer a head injury in pairs skating. Between the throws, dangerous lifts and death spirals, it is highly unlikely that any doctor would recommend a skater to take up pairs skating after a severe concussion such as the one Kat experienced. I once witnessed a girl suffer a career-ending concussion during practice when her partner messed up a throw twist. He fumbled catching her, and her head collided with the ice.

Justin and some of the other skaters also party extremely hard, which is incredibly inaccurate to the world of skating. Skaters wake up at 4 a.m. to get to the rink before the hockey players, so they won’t be going out partying all night then pulling off an entire day of training with a hangover.

My biggest gripe with “Spinning Out” is that it’s too much drama and not enough skating. If I wanted to watch angsty relationships play out, I would watch “Riverdale” — not a show about a sport. But with that said, if I wanted to watch real skating, I should go to NBC Sports and watch the U.S. Nationals rather than a Netflix show, but here I am, binging every episode.

Overall, “Spinning Out” is an entertaining show, and I love seeing my favorite sport getting some attention. U.S. skating legend Johnny Weir even has a small role in the show, and “Queer Eye” star and figure skating’s biggest fan Jonathan Van Ness made a cameo in the third episode. Both appearances put a massive smile on my face.

For the average person that isn’t too familiar with the world of skating, “Spinning Out” is a good, addicting watch. Just know that in real life, skaters don’t take as many shots as Justin.

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