Last week we got to see Rise take on some pretty serious issues that relate directly to children in our modern world. From dealing with life as a transgendered student to trying to live up to your father’s overbearing personality and sky-high expectations, there was drama pouring in from all sides. As a dramedy/musical, Rise has to balance these heavy issues with levity without ever giving up on the heart that is the crux of the show. Rise’s third episode, ‘What Flowers May Bloom’, doubled down on the prior aspects we laid out by giving us heart, character growth, and a few nice moments along the way. Let’s jump right into the episode and see what Mr. Mazzu and the rest of the group got up to this past week.
What Flowers May Bloom.
Last week we spent plenty of time following the story swirling around Simon Saunders (Ted Sutherland), a boy struggling to come to grips with his sexuality in a town and with a family that would condemn him for it the moment he opened up about his secret. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see that ‘What Flowers May Bloom’ cranks the drama up to 11 at the beginning of the episode by showing Simon transferring to a new school. The news immediately breaks down members of our ragtag group. Reactions range from disbelief and frustration to pure anger, but none of these emotions are directed at troubled young Simon. The biggest moment that results from this event is Ms. Wolfe (Rosie Perez) finally choosing to confront Mr. Mazzu over the careless way that the English-teacher-turned-theater-director has been operating. Ms. Wolfe tears into a stunned Mazzuchelli, pointing out that he took her job from her and she allowed it because the kids were happy. Ms. Wolfe continues by laying the absolute hammer on Mazzuchelli by saying, “You knew what you were stirring up and now he’s leaving. This isn’t about your vision, Mr. Mazzu. These are people’s lives you’re dealing with.”
Reeling from Ms. Wolfe’s emotionally honest outburst, Mazzuchelli is forced to take some time to look inward. Fortunately, Simon is saved from transferring when Mrs. Saunders is forced to confront the turmoil that Simon is facing. Mrs. Saunders her daughter telling Simon, “You’re breaking my heart” which changes everything. Mr. Mazzu gives Mrs. Saunders a call as well but it is this prior moment that we can credit for really flipping the script on the first major piece of drama in the show.
In non-Simon news, we get to see a little bit more of Lilette and Robbie’s off-stage romance start to bloom. Lilette and Robbie are easily going to become one of the most popular ‘will they or won’t they’ couples in the entire show and it is due entirely to the chemistry between Auli’i Cravalho and Damon Gillespie. We get a really cute moment when the two are sitting in their car after taking a trip see Robbie’s mom. There is a moment where their first ‘non-theater’ kiss is possible before it suddenly passes and audiences are left hoping that it will come next week.
Speaking of mothers, we get to see Ms. Suarez confront her relationship with hulking Coach Strickland — if you can even call it a relationship. Vanessa Suarez, played to perfection by Shirley Rumierk, rebuffs Coach Strickland by returning a gift and vowing to end their ‘connection’. Ms. Suarez explains to the erstwhile Coach Strickland that she needs to focus on being something of a role model for Lilette and that there are better men around who “aren’t users”. This is definitely a ‘Yes!’ moment for Ms. Suarez and the two actors really sell the scene. It’s made all the better for how hard Coach Strickland tries to be something of a father figure to troubled Gordy Mazzuchelli at a different point in the episode. You can tell that these people all could be great but they have their own problems, likely resulting from the culture of the town and their upbringing, that holds them back.
Wrapping up the backend of the episode we get to see Mr. Mazzu try to make things right in his own way. Mazzuchelli makes a house-call to Masshous’ foster home and we find out just how bad the poor young kid has it. Mazzu abruptly decides to ‘adopt’ Maashous and before you know it the teenage boy is being hauled off to live with the Mazzuchelli’s to close out the episode.
Rise airs Tuesdays at 9 PM EST on NBC.