After a strange year of uncertainty, Netflix gifted its viewers with new comedy-drama Teenage Bounty Hunters, only to snatch it away a month ago through a swift cancellation. Unfortunately, this will not come as a surprise after many fan favourites of a similar ilk, including The Society and I Am Not Okay With This, have fallen victim to the streaming giant’s wrath this year. Disappointingly though, all of these shows have featured relatable depictions of minority characters, mental health, and many other pressing issues. For now, myself and many other devout viewers of Teenage Bounty Hunters are just hoping for a miracle renewal to brighten up a downcast year full of disappointments for the TV industry.
The original series focuses on fraternal twin sisters Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) and Sterling Wesley (Maddie Phillips), who stumble into the turbulent life of bounty hunting after an unexpected encounter with Bowser (Kadeem Hardison), a veteran bounty hunter turned mentor. The show opts to cover a wide range of themes that are becoming increasingly relevant to the youth of today. Issues covered range from strict religious communities to LGBTQ+ relationships and the struggles of friendships and family dynamics.
The series opens with ‘Daddy’s Truck’, an episode filled with as many innuendos as the title. This may be off-putting to some viewers but clearly highlights the messy, fast paced normality of a sixteen year old’s life. As the 49 minutes of screen time steadily develops, viewers are able to notice a few stereotypes: April, ‘the leader with control issues’, Luke, the ‘dumb jock’, and the twins who are almost polar opposites. There is Blair ‘the rebel’ and Sterling ‘the goody-two shoes’. Yet, surprisingly, our preconceptions are challenged and the characters aren’t all they seem, on top of several plot twists being thrown into the mix. One such twist is an unexpected yet pure LGBTQ+ relationship between two unlikely characters, which shows the complexity of young love and the confusions it brings along the way.
Despite these initial stereotypes, the character who I have genuinely resonated with since the pilot is Blair: sarcastic, wild, and hugely compassionate (though concealed by her rebellious facade), under no circumstances does she allow her opinion to be undermined and is guided by a strong morality. The complexity of her character arc highlighted that despite a lot of insecurities and wondering whether she is worthy of love, the teen’s vibrant personality will always shine through – nobody deserves her if they can’t comprehend this. Blair’s “I am not Vin Diesel”, a witty reference to Fast and Furious whilst apprehending a skip (criminal), will never not be legendary. As a whole, the performances delivered by both Anjelica Bette Fellini and Maddie Phillips were captivating, and left me yearning for a twin sister to share antics with, although perhaps without the dangerous bounty hunter bits. Even now, after ten episodes, it’s hard to believe that the duo are not related in real life or had never known each prior to the five months of filming!
It’s rare to find a show that has managed to introduce the concepts of religion and faith without it being too stereotypical and overdone. Our leads attend the conservative, private school of Willingham Academy, which helps to highlight some of the struggles Christian teenagers may develop, such as the prohibition of sex before marriage, which Sterling Wesley struggles with throughout the preliminary episodes. Though there are several instances where religion could be seen as being disrespected (for example, before a romantic encounter the Bible is recited to pressure someone into believing it is right), it is incorporated well and feels thoroughly modern.
“Teenage Bounty Hunters is a heartfelt, comedic masterpiece for viewers from far and wide to enjoy and fall in love with its authentic plot and characters.”
Another way the series prioritises representation is through it’s unconventionally female-dominated talent both on-screen and off. Many TV series will feature a male lead for the female character to become infatuated with, yet Teenage Bounty Hunters solely focuses on young women trying to find themselves, without an oppressive male influence. Even in the more suggestive scenes, it is the girls who are dominating the situation to discover their sexuality, without the influence of a man affecting them or pushing them to the sidelines. Moreover, the creator (Kathleen Jordan), producers and editors of the show are a diverse team which has allowed for a varied, authentic input into the storyline.
But perhaps the most important theme Teenage Bounty Hunters gives us is unusual family and friendship dynamics being normalised. No family will ever be completely ‘normal’ and this is echoed in the Stevens, the Wesleys, and the other upper class families of the show. The generations of Wesleys have their differences on issues ranging from white supremacy to hunting and gun laws, while recurring character April Stevens struggles with her father being arrested after committing a federal offence. Friendship is no different, with even the coveted trio of the ‘Holy Trinity’ having their own insecurities and uncertainties, after ditsy Hannah B is alienated by April due to the latter pursuing a secret romantic relationship.
Overall, Teenage Bounty Hunters is a heartfelt, comedic masterpiece for viewers from far and wide to enjoy and fall in love with its authentic plot and characters. The one criticism that the show is deserving of is its swiftness: ten episodes will never be able to capture its full potential and the many tales left to be told in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. For now, I hope you’ll submerge yourself for several hours in the captivating plot, but don’t be too disappointed when it ends.
Words by Emilia Butcher-Marroqui