What’s most striking about Netflix’s new kid’s series Greenhouse Academy is the tone. Everything is played straight, from the traumatic death of a mother in the opening scene to teen drama at school to the overarching conspiracy plot to destroy the planet. The show doesn’t pander to its audience, which goes a long way toward making it enjoyable.
Hayley and Alex Woods (played by Ariel Mortman and Finn Roberts) are the new students at the prestigious, futuristic, and possibly insidious boarding school Greenhouse Academy. They’re coping with the loss of their mother in a failed space shuttle launch and trying to fit in at a school that doesn’t want them there. Hayley is more of a loner and puts on a strong front while Alex has a more difficult time fitting in. Their relationship, and how they behave independently of it, is the strongest aspect of the show. When Hayley lets her guard down around her grieving father or Alex has an encounter with his jerk of a basketball teammate Daniel (Chris O‘Neal), their frustration and sadness is real.
That’s a credit to Paula Yoo, a former West Wing writer who adapted this series with Giora Chamizer. The first Greenhouse Academy was a breakout Israeli hit, and Chamizer created it. The Netflix version saw global distribution upon its Friday release, and the series is built around universal human emotions that ground the science fiction.
Those more authentic moments help offset the more melodramatic or silly moments. The show isn’t a heavy emotional experience, just one that gives more credence to those emotions than your average young adult show. The series features a storyline about a character who hasn’t seen Toy Story and the determined classmate who makes her watch it: There’s plenty of levity to match the quirks.