School Spirits series premiere review: Who Killed Maddie?

How would you feel if you died, didn’t remember what happened, and became a ghost, stuck in high school forever?

That’s what happened to Maddie Nears on School Spirits Season 1 Episode 1, and after School Spirits Season 1 Episode 2, she’s no closer to uncovering the truth.

With six more episodes, the series will likely rely on relationships between characters to drive the story forward.

If so, then there should be no problem in increasing the speed. The first two episodes were fine, but the pace may have been too slow to fully invest in this universe.

The big positive off the bat is the lack of reliance on modern technology. Yes, what happened to Maddie’s cell phone is an important plot point, but too often, YA dramas use technology to tell a story.

Claire on School Spirits Season 1 Episode 2

It’s far more interesting to dive into the characters’ motivations by following the story from their point of view.

It must have been hard for Maddie to realize that she was dead.

Maddie: Thanks, Simon.
Simon: Maddie?
Maddy: Simon?

The only silver lining is that the school is full of kind souls who know the parameters of the spiritual side.

Maddie is struggling in terms of having a soul, and who can blame her?

Xavier Has a Plan - School Spirits Season 1 Episode 2

She doesn’t know how she died, who was responsible, and most importantly, she’s not returning to the land of the living.

It’s a lot for anyone to process, and Peyton List kills it in trying to show this vulnerable teenager a sense of her new normal.

It won’t be an easy task, but at least she can communicate with Simon.

This was a true shocker, mainly because I thought Simon would be able to sense his best friend’s presence, but not communicate.

Wally Chills - School Spirits Season 1 Episode 2

Other spirits were adamant that whatever Maddie does won’t change anything in the real world, which leads me to believe that she is likely to survive.

Look at it this way: Some spirits have been in the school since the 1970s and haven’t been able to communicate with anyone while alive.

Mr. Anderson: What are you doing here so long, Simon?
Simon: I came back to see…
Mr. Anderson: Look for what? Maybe you should let the people in charge do their job. They’ll find out what happened to Maddie.

It’s easy to say that anyone with a near-death experience can see ghosts, but if that’s the case, why hasn’t Simon seen Charlie?

This story could go in many directions, and I hope it’s not the case that the girl Claire saved can see spirits now.

Charlie Happy - School Spirits Season 1 Episode 2

I can’t be the only one who thought she’d wake up and take a look at our band of ghosts watching from the edge of the pool.

The reaction of the ghosts was something. If only he had been revived, he would not have been trapped in the school for eternity.

Of the spirits, Charlie had the most significant presence in the first two episodes, and Nick Pugliese managed to display many of the character’s insecurities through body language.

Charlie is interesting because he is the most open about Maddie’s plight. Some of the others were cold as ice and didn’t care to welcome a new person to what they called school.

I wondered why Charlie was following the teacher, and the revelation that Charlie knew her when they were at school came out of left field.

All spirits have terrible back stories, and it’s heartbreaking to know how some of them died.

Charlie: What are you doing?
Maddie: I don’t know what’s happening.
Charlie: You jumped the fence.
Maddy: Excuse me?
CHARLIE: You can’t leave this place. Happens every time. It’s a little awkward at first, but you get used to it after the third or fourth try. On the fifth attempt it starts to hurt.

Peanut Butter Oil Killing Charlie wasn’t on my bingo card.

Wally was also an exciting soul, but not enough to read him in the first two episodes.

Grieving Mother - School Spirits Season 1 Episode 2

Rhonda had a sharp wit and had no interest in talking to the new ghost, but as we head into the second hour, she begins to come around to her existence in this afterlife.

Xavier, Nicole and Claire, aka the living characters, are very hard to read. Xavier being arrested and hiding a secret makes him an easy suspect, but if other shows with a mystery at their center have taught us anything, the first suspect is rarely the one responsible.

Claire doesn’t strike me as a killer, but the show wants us to consider all the possibilities here.

That’s why I’m adding Nicole to the suspect list. I’m probably wrong, but usually it’s the person who shocks us the most who is responsible for the death, so I have to throw his name out there.

Xavier Is Struggling - School Spirits Season 1 Episode 2

We don’t even know that Maddie was murdered at this stage. It’s possible that the death was an accident, and someone got worried and hid the body in the incident they believed to be responsible.

This brings me to Mr. Anderson. During the first two episodes, he was the briefest person.

The sniffer dog finding something in the classroom and complaining that it must be Maddie’s paper, combined with the fact that she asked the officer to wait until the movie is over, makes her seem like a definite suspect.

Then again, her appearance and yelling at Simon about leaving the investigation to the professionals definitely makes you wonder if Maddie died where her phone parts were found, and her body was taken elsewhere.

Fighting for Answers on School Spirits

There are many possibilities, and I am here for the ride.

The first two episodes weren’t perfect, but they showed a lot of potential depending on how the next few episodes shake out.

What are your thoughts on Maddie’s passing? Who is your suspect, and why?

Why do you think Simon might be seeing Maddie?

Hit the comments.

School Spirits continues Thursday on Paramount+.

Paul Daly is the Associate Editor of TV Fanatic. follow him Twitter,

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