5 Point Discussions – Double Decker 8: “Dancing! Academy Investigation!”

by Sage Ashford

A high school’s prom preparations begin to go wrong when an Anthem user starts attacking some of the students. Can Max and Kirill figure out why? Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! It really helps. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, please hit me up @SageShinigami.

1. If I have to see another crucial, “symbolic” hair cutting scene I might lose it. For this episode, SEVEN-O is called to deal with a case of assaults on a group of teenaged women at a high school. Each member of the group had a single thing in common–they were all up to be chosen as prom queen. Thanks to the absurdly powerful alumni who work at the police department, the group isn’t authorized to conduct their usual investigation. Instead they’re tasked to essentially give a speech about the dangers of drugs and then ask questions in the background. Basically, they’re DARE agents for a day. This assignment sets Max on edge for the entire episode, annoyed at the stupidity of prom and the importance people put into it, which is why the episode flashes back to her cutting her hair as a teenager in high school. Now early in this episode, I’ll admit to being a bit down on this show thanks to some of the decisions it’s made with other characters recently, so I was pretty sure they were going to screw up the coolest character on the show, but…it’s all going somewhere.

2. You can always tell when someone hasn’t actually been to a school in a while, because they dig up some of the most hoary, ancient stereotypes possible. When the agents of SEVEN-O get to ask around about who might be responsible for attacking the girls, they run into stereotypical groups: punk/goths, football players, cool kids… The teens here still use the phrase “nerd”, like at this point kids aren’t all tech nerds, obsessed with their phones and laptops. The prom king’s the football quarterback. The most popular girls are a pair of mean girls who happen to be cheerleaders, and of course the most popular cheerleader is dating the quarterback.
The only thing that stands out is the head cheerleader is a weirdo who’s so obsessed with herself she talks in the first person. Everything else wouldn’t be out of place in any 80’s high school movie you’ve ever seen, but it works for the framework they’re setting up to make this story work. Plus, most of the people watching this Stateside are old folks in the 20’s and 30’s, and to them this is still an accurate representation of what high school’s like.

3. If you’ve watched a few mysteries in your day, you can immediately get a good sense of where this “mystery” is going.  All the girls being attacked were candidates to be the prom queen. Max and Kirill learn this and pretty much everything else from Elle and Camille, a pair of cheerleaders who are the only remaining women left available to vote for. The two suggest it’s actually another student, Hannah, a young girl who breaks up Robot’s speech about the dangers of drugs by spreading anti-prom material because she believes proms reinforce a focus on “looksism” and unfair standards of beauty.
Max sees through this for the obvious red herring it is, and flips it onto Elle, the woman currently in the lead for being the prom queen, and thus the one with the most to gain.  Later in the episode, they introduce Chris as a potential suspect when Kirill and Max run in and find Hannah and Camille both having been “attacked” by him. Chris pleads his innocence, claiming he thought prom was stupid as well, and actually wanted to sign Hannah’s petition to call the entire thing off. Ultimately, both of these are fake leads, and the most obvious suspect eventually tells on herself: Camille.
The answer’s clear enough if you’ve seen enough mysteries, but I appreciate the effort–most series these days introduce a mystery with one suspect and no twists. Here we still got a pretty solid curve ball: it would be easy to assume Camille did all this to be prom queen, and she would eventually turn on her “friend” Elle as well.  Not so.  Instead, obsessed with impressing her new friend, the most popular girl in the school, she took out anyone who could have been a threat to Elle…then attacked Chris when she realized he was going to support the petition to end the prom.
What she didn’t count on was Elle not caring about prom at all, only using it as an excuse to get closer to her crush, the prom king. With Chris out of the picture, she finds Camille’s concern over the prom more annoying than anything, and turns on her, calling her ugly and claiming they were never real friends. This sends Camille into a spiral, and we learn she looked completely differently before hanging with Elle–she began starving herself to get skinnier, doing anything to be worthy of Elle’s friendship…including turning to Anthem. In case someone didn’t catch it–we’ve already seen Anthem can rewrite your genetic structure to completely alter your looks, so even magic technology isn’t good enough for the mean girls.
This episode introduces a new wrinkle to Anthem usage: overdose. Yes, despite what we might’ve thought, Overdrive isn’t Overdose, and Camille transforms into a literal queen bee after taking in too much of the drug. She kidnaps Elle, and the only thing that gets her to stop is when Max points out that she only ever wanted to be Elle’s friend, which slows her down enough to let Max hit her with a dosage of the antidote.

4. I said earlier the whole Max thing was going somewhere. Early on, I figured it’d be something boring, like her being bullied for being geeky or wearing glasses. It takes Robot to tell Kirill the real story: when she was in high school, she became friends with a young boy, Connor. Despite being opposites, they trusted and cared about one another so much Connor felt comfortable coming out to her. Accepting him for who he was, they went to prom together…and weren’t even allowed inside of the prom hall. Humiliated, Connor dropped out of school, turned to drugs, and left the city. And like Doug, like Kirill, Maxine took a vow of her own, to stop the spread of drugs.
I could’ve walked out onto a busy intersection and not been blind-sided harder. I’m still a little bummed the only stories people ever tell with queer people are always sad and rely so heavily on pathos, but this was still handled with so much more care than Kirill’s brother. Plus…!

5. I clown him a lot, but Kirill is a very good boy. After learning the story behind Max’s distaste towards proms, he organizes a dance party for the members of SEVEN-O.  This could have gone poorly, but since it’s more of a party in her honor and she’s surrounded by supportive friends and co-workers, it allows her to finally get to enjoy a prom of her own. I think what I like the most about this is how varied Max is. She’s not picking out everything masculine “just because”. She likes her hair short because it suits her (she does look cool), she became a gearhead like Connor because she enjoyed riding motorcycles, but she enjoys cooking and sewing and proms because people are more than just one thing. Over halfway through this show and I’m still not sure what to make of it–sometimes it’s frustrating, but then other times it’s absolutely pitch-perfect.
Double Decker! Doug & Kirill is available for streaming at Funimation.

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