Happy Canada Day!
Today, in honor of Canada, I’ve decided to share my picks for the 20 best episode of my favorite Canadian television show, Degrassi!
- Take On Me (Season 3, Episode 16)
Degrassi does The Breakfast Club! In fact, this episode so closely follows the plot of The Breakfast Club, one has to wonder how John Hughes would have felt about it. This episode is classic Degrassi in that it shouldn’t work but it does. Plus, it’s the start of the Ellie (Stacey Farber) and Sean (Daniel Cameron) romance! Ellie and Sean were one of the best couples in Degrassi history, I don’t care what Emma says.
- Time Stands Still (Season 4, Episodes 7-8)
This is probably best-remembered for the scene where Jimmy (Drake) gets shot in the back but the entire episode is actually a sensitive look at the school shooting phenomenon. Ephraim Ellis deserves a lot of credit for making school shooter Rick Murray both deeply creepy and, occasionally, pathetically sympathetic. Still, one has to wonder why Alex (Deanna Casaluce) was never punished for her part in the prank that drove Rick over the edge. Our beloved Spinner (Shane Kippel) and Jay (Mike Lobel) were expelled and treated like pariahs. Alex not only remained class Vice President and somehow became far more popular with all of Jimmy’s friends.
- Ghost in the Machine (Season 4, Episodes 1-2)
Two years after being raped by Dean, Paige (Lauren Collins, giving one of her best performances) learns that the case is finally coming to trial. At first, Paige doesn’t want to testify, saying that she doesn’t want to relive the ordeal and that it won’t make any difference anyways. With Spinner’s support, Paige finally does testify but, despite her testimony, Dean is still acquitted. Paige spirals into self-destructive behavior before finally destroying Dean’s car in one of the show’s most cathartic moments. The first time I watched this episode, I was stunned and horrified by Dean’s acquittal. Even though Paige eventually took responsibility for destroying Dean’s car, I still cheered when she did it. If only Dean had been inside of it at the time.
- Whisper to a Scream (Season 3, Episode 8)
Ellie deals with the stress of having an alcoholic mother and a media internship by cutting herself. Degrassi was one of the first shows to deal with self-harm and it did so with a commendable sensitivity.
- Pass the Dutchie (Season 7, Episode 10)
Due to his cancer treatments, Spinner is given medicinal marijuana and is soon wandering around the entire school stoned out of his mind. Not only did this episode feature one of Shane Kimmel’s best performances but it also featured the classic line, “I’m going to fail English! What type of idiot fails his own language!”
- Secret (Season 4, Episodes 14-15)
Emma (Miriam McDonald), who was previously the show’s token good, liberal activist, grows increasingly self-destructive in the wake of the school shooting and eventually heads into “the Ravine.” The end result is that she gets a STD from Jay but she also gets the lead role in Degrassi’s production of Dracula. This one of those Degrassi episodes that was so controversial, it almost didn’t air in the United States.
- Voices Carry (Season 4, Episodes 11-12)
Craig Manning (Jake Epstein) asks Ashley Kerwin (Melissa McIntyre) to marry him, beats up his stepfather, trashes a hotel room, and eventually learns he’s bipolar. This was a powerful episode, one that wasn’t even harmed by a subplot about Liberty (Sarah Barrable-Tishauer) and J.T. (Ryan Cooley) working together to write the spring musical.
- Paradise City (Season 8, Episodes 19-22)
Also known as Degrassi Goes Hollywood!
- Rock This Town (Season 6, Episode 11)
Since the start of the series, J.T. Yorke (played by Ryan Cooley) had been one of the show’s most popular characters, a former joker who got serious. However, when Cooley decided to leave the show to go to college, Degrassi killed J.T. off in a scene that was so violent that it’s still shocking to watch to this day. Making the scene all the more powerful is that J.T. was, more or less, a random victim. He just happened to walk out to his car at the wrong time. Degrassi was a dangerous place.
- Eyes Without A Face (Season 6, Episodes 5 and 6)
Darcy (Shenae Grimes) starts posting racy pictures on her “MyRoom” page. A fat, middle-aged guy shows up at her house and introduces himself as the dude who has been sending her all of the complimentary comments and money. Along with introducing the character of Clare Edwards (Aislinn Paul), who would eventually became the show’s main character, this episode was also the start of a series of episodes in which Darcy transformed from being the somewhat boring, token Christian to being the most interesting person on the show.
- U Got The Look (Season 3, Episode 3)
Tired of being called “cute” and “adorable” and wanting to be known as “sexy,”, Manny Santos (Cassie Steele) changes her look and her attitude. In the process, she alienates her best friend Emma, picks up a host of new admirers, and causes JT to repeatedly walk into walls. This is one of the best-remembered episodes of Degrassi, largely because Manny never went back to her “old” self but instead embraced her new persona.
- Mother and Child Reunion (Season 1, Episode 1-2)
In the very first episode of Degrassi, Emma makes a creepy friend online and nearly gets kidnapped. Fortunately, Snake (Stefan Brogren) is there to toss the guy against the wall and threaten to snap his neck. Along with introducing almost all of the main characters of the show’s first 6 seasons, this episode also started the spark that would lead to Snake eventually becoming Emma’s stepfather.
- Death or Glory (Season 7, Episodes 5 and 6)
After being diagnosed with cancer, Spinner gets a mohawk and gets out his aggression by accepting random fights. Who knew that Degrassi had a fight club?
- Redemption Song (Season 5, Episode 10)
Still being rejected by his old friends because of his role in Jimmy’s shooting, Spinner spends the weekend at the beach with the ultra-religious Friendship Club. Jay complicates things by showing up. Darcy and Spinner were an underrated couple and this is one of their key episodes.
- Turned Out (Season 5, Episodes 7-8)
Oh my God, JT’s selling drugs! Well, Liberty is pregnant and JT does need the money but still! This episode is remembered for the final freeze frame of JT sitting in a hospital bed and sobbing. Degrassi could be a dark show.
- What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost (Season 6, Episodes 9-10)
Craig’s back in town. Ellie and Manny are both excited but …. oh my God! Craig’s picked up an addiction to cocaine! This is best-remembered for the scene in which Craig gets a sudden nosebleed while performing during the intermission of a Taking Back Sunday show.
- Accidents Will Happen (Season 3, Episodes 14-15)
Manny discovers that she’s pregnant. This is the episode that was considered to be so controversial that it didn’t even air in the United States until two years after it was originally broadcast in Canada.
- Heat of the Moment (Season 8, Episode 12)
The later seasons were never quite as good as the first few but still, we got a few good episodes out of them. Like this episode, in which Alli (Melinda Shankar) starts the “I Hate Holly J” Facerange group. Yes, Facerange. Degrassi wasn’t going to get sued.
- Jagged Little Pill (Season 1, Episode 15)
Ashley Kerwin’s the most popular girl in school until she takes ecstasy and ends up telling everyone what she really thinks about them. Fortunately, Ashley became a much more interesting character afterwards.
- Bust A Move (Season 7, Episodes 13-14)
In a last hurrah for the original Degrassi gang, everyone goes on a road trip to Smithdale College. With Jay’s “help,” Manny gets into acting school. Meanwhile, Ashley reunites with Craig. Craig sings “My Window” and it was a fitting send-off to what was left of the show’s original cast.
- The Curse of Degrassi — This Halloween-themed episode was technically a Degrassi mini but I like to think that it’s canonical. Holly J. (Charlotte Arnold) get possessed by the ghost of Rick Murray and kills all of her friends. Fortunately, Spinner is there to reverse time.
- School’s Out — This made-for-TV movie was the finale of the original Degerassi High. It featured the first two instances of the F-word being used on Canadian television. In the start of a Degrassi tradition, it ended with Joey alone, Snake bitter, Lucy blind, and Wheels heading to prison.