Spinning Out is a Netflix television series that follows two sisters, Kat and Serena, who live with their single mother whom suffers from bipolar disorder and vicariously lives her dreams of becoming a professional ice skater through her daughters. After a serious injury leaves Kat fearful of performing any extremely technical stunts on the ice, she has the chance to restart her career through pairs skating whilst simultaneously concealing her family’s history of mental illness.

On the surface, this show is an intense sporting drama that focuses on how the desire to win and thrive brought on from constant pressure from your peers can drive someone to the edge both mentally and physically. This is portrayed through the choice of sport as in ice skating, each move, each spin and each jump needs to be executed flawlessly and yet look effortless. Any sign of weakness can be the difference between winning or losing and so the skaters must maintain a constantly impeccable façade, but as external pressures become too much for Kat, her façade begins to fracture.

Underneath the surface, Spinning Out is a psychological drama (though sometimes melodramatic) that depicts the struggles of living with mental illness and how it can not only affect yourself, but also your job and the people around you. The series doesn’t shy away from depicting the harsh realities of bipolar disorder including the drastic mood swings, mania and uncharacteristic decision making. For instance, when Kat’s mother, Carol, isn’t taking her medication, her manic episodes are intensely severe to the point that it’s hard to watch. For example, in the first episode, Carol wakes Serena up in the middle of the night and forces her to do clapping push ups outside in the snow and says that she has to quit her job to focus solely on Serena’s ice skating career.

Though at times a bit melodramatic and set up like a young adult television show, the series is at its best when portraying the intricate and daunting truth of how mental illness and insatiable ambition can take control of someone’s entire life. The protagonist, Kat Baker, finds herself reliving her terrifying fall on the ice over and over. This is even signified in the first scene of the show in which two scenes, one of her falling whilst skating and one of her falling whilst jogging are played over each other. This intensifies the uncomfortable and daunting time for athletes after succumbing to a brutal injury that physically stunts their growth in their sport through a mental block.

Viewers who enjoyed such shows as Cheer will love the athletics side of the show whereas others who became intrigued in the mental illness storylines of shows like Shameless and Bates Motel might find interest in the deeper meaning behind this sporting drama.