Grab your favorite reference book and prepare for the inevitable avalanche of trivia. Harriet Manners (Emily Carey) is about to arrive. Based on Holly Smale’s best-selling young adult novel series, she is the titular “geek” on Netflix’s Geek Girl. Her superpower: spouting any number of random facts at any moment. Her Kryptonite: most social interactions. 

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Netflix summarizes the Geek Girl series: “Harriet Manners’ life is turned upside down when she’s thrust into the world of fashion. Tightly wound agents, off-beat designers, impossibly high heels, a cute supermodel with a great smile, Harriet has no idea what she’s in for.” We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to screen Episodes 1, 4 and 8 of the 10-episode series and are quietly freaking out as we await the drop of the entire season.

Harriet smiles a tight smile, looking up at Nick. Her hair is tied up in a loose bun. She wears a black top with sheer, web-patterned shoulder panels.

Credit: Netflix

Although there were obvious narrative gaps in watching non-consecutive episodes, they successfully endear the character to us with her self-conscious, awkward, heartfelt, and uniquely Harriet perspective on the world. 

Lights! Camera! Action! Oh, NO!

These episodes also feel like pivotal moments in the season’s arc. Episode 1, titled “Chapter 1,” introduces Harriet and her bestie/only friend, Nat (Rochelle Harrington), as they take a school field trip to London’s Fashion Week, where Nat dreams of being “discovered” as a model.

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Nothing goes to plan. And to her intense horror, Harriet catches the talent scout’s eye, Wilbur Evans (Emmanuel Imani), instead of Nat. Her first instinct is to run and forget it ever happened. Consider this first Call to Adventure wholeheartedly rejected.

Harriet lies on the floor, arms askew, wearing a florescent green t-shirt.

Credit: Netflix

And yet, “Chapter 4” has Harriet and Nat both competing with a number of other young women to be the face of a top-secret new ad campaign. All the while, the dreamy but just as endearingly awkward rising star model Nick Park (Liam Woodrum) distracts from the sidelines. 

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By “Chapter 8,” Harriet has haphazardly stumbled into the role of the new It Girl in the fashion world. This attracts the vicious ire of the former (very deliberate) It Girl Poppy Hepple-Cartwright (Daisy Jelley). Harriet’s completely outmatched and overwhelmed as Poppy wages a war of negging and innuendo on social media. Her missteps set up the season’s final narrative crescendo. 

Who Is Harriet Manners?

Portrayed by House of the Dragon‘s Emily Carey, Harriet’s an extraordinarily ordinary high school student with a lively and articulate inner voice that doesn’t always match up with her outside voice. Who hasn’t been there?

Harriet lays on an orange pillow looking up at the camera from an upside down orientation. She's wearing a black and green striped shirt under jean overalls.

Credit: Netflix

She’s gifted with a level of Orphan Annie-like optimism and pluck. When someone scrawls “GEEK” on her backpack, she edits it to “GrEEK” to proclaim her love of ancient history. At the same time, she sees no point in calling things other than they are and owns the Geek Girl persona others think of as ridicule.

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There’s a hint of The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper’s guileless, somewhat tactless observations of life and people, but with more self-consciousness and less narcissism. Nat is very much her Leonard, encouraging—nay, forcing—her to step outside her comfort zone.

Because we hear a lot of Harriet’s inner voice, we know she struggles with controlling her reactions to people and situations. We also bear witness to how mortified she usually is with what she ends up saying and doing. Meanwhile, some brilliant direction in her scenes with Woodrum’s Nick does an A-star job showing that, although we don’t hear it, Nick’s having his own moments of inner anxiety.

Nick wears a black sports jacket over an open-collared white shirt.

Credit: Netflix

The Forces at Work

Harriet’s motivation and life goals get pretty muddled as the plot progresses from an improbable encounter to the most unasked-for Cinderella story ever. Adrift on an ocean of potential, she gets blown about by some powerful personalities.

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Wilbur and Betty (Hebe Beardsall), her self-styled fashion fairy godmother (father?) and assistant, respectively, see something special in Harriet. They envision a future for her she can’t fathom as reality.

Wilbur’s mentorship is especially inspired in “Chapter 4” when he coaches her on how to harness her hyper-attention. Betty’s gratitude for being treated with straightforward kindness and courtesy is simultaneously sweet and heartbreaking. Her reciprocal loyalty could prove pivotal.

Wilbur and Harriet face each other in profile to the camera. Betty stands between them holding a small tablet up in both hands.

Credit: Ray Burmiston/Netflix

Harriet’s two tormentors—school queen bee Lexi (Mia Jenkins) and Poppy—appear to dislike her purely because of her perceived differentness. Digging deeper, Harriet’s natural ineptness with social niceties may trigger some subconscious insecurity in the shallow blondes. That stark, unabashed, involuntary honesty is an unforgiving mirror. While a redemption arc could be in the cards for Lexi and Poppy, seeing the bullies suffer some karmic consequences would be immensely satisfying.

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In her corner, she has her dad, Richard (Tim Downie), and step-mum Annabel (Jemima Rooper). The couple gets some adorably hilarious screen time in “Chapter 8,” illustrating how parental figures don’t always make the best choices but can still be role models. While they’re just as swept up by the whirlwind of events, they do their best to support and accommodate Harriet.

Richard, Nat, Harriet, Maia, and Annabel stand together looking up at something with the London Millennium Dome behind them.

Credit: Netflix

Sign Up for Team Harriet!

Team Harriet is an actual thing in the context of the show (although #NoSpoilers as to why). However, as audience members, it’s statistically improbable you’ll be able to resist rooting for Harriet. Get your pennants flying. Buy the T-shirt. Giant foam fingers and goofy hats are highly encouraged. Geek Girl FTW.

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Harriet’s hero’s journey takes her into a world completely foreign to her life experience while revealing how desperately she needs the connections she’s made in her ordinary life. When fashion world shenanigans threaten to burn down the bridges she’s crossed, it’ll take courage, intelligence, and honesty to mend those bonds. Harriet inspires confidence in us that she’ll manage. Even if she doesn’t think so.

The Final Word

Netflix’s Geek Girl is a delightful comedy that expertly combines well-timed physical comedy and clever situational schtick. Anchored by the charming Harriet Manners, its expansive cast conveys a multitude of perspectives and personalities with genuine warmth. 

Harriet has an intense look on her face. Her hair is curled. She wears a white sleeveless shell bodice.

Credit: Netflix

And underneath the crazy Zoolander life of runway fashion and photo shoots, it’s the relatable story of a well-meaning kid balancing a desire to be true to herself with a dream of being anyone else.

The entire season of Geek Girl drops on Netflix on May 30. Oh, sugar cookies, it’s gonna be ace!

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