Hullo, and welcome to Grading DegrassiIn this column, I rewatch and rank all the episodes of Degrassi ever. I started this as a lead-up to HBO Max’s Degrassi reboot, but that’s been canceled. While that’s a major bummer, this project will continue! 

On that bittersweet note, it’s time to rank, from worst to best, all 22 episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation Season 2! This season of Degrassi: TNG first aired on September 29, 2002, in Canada. Let’s goooo! 

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“Dressed in Black” (S02E18)

Recap: Ashley (Melissa McIntyre) and Jimmy (Drake) reconnect, but he’s not digging her new look. Meanwhile, she and Craig (Jake Epstein) work on a school project about The Taming of the Shrew and connect over his bare-minimum understanding of feminism. Speaking of sexism … Spinner (Shane Kippel) goes Full Patriarchy when he learns that his sister Kendra’s (Kaite Lai) boyfriend, Toby (Jake Goldsbie), has bought condoms. 

Reasoning: I HATED this episode. The Ashley-Jimmy-Craig storyline was fine. I guess. BUT the other one? Pure trash … unless I missed a scene where Kendra and Toby berate Spinner for acting like he has some sort of claim over his sister’s sex life? Further, Toby having condoms on hand — even if 12 is probably too young for sex — “just in case” is a good thing!  

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“Karma Chameleon” (S02E04)

Recap: Ashley tries to make amends for her ecstasy party fail in Season 1. Jimmy sort of forgives her but thinks she’s apologizing for sexy reasons. The whole school is confused when Ashley agrees to go on a date with Sean. The peer pressure gets to her, so she cancels the date. Meanwhile, Spinner catches wind of the fact that Toby likes Kendra. He threatens him but finally agrees Toby and Kendra can be friends. 

Reasoning: I caaaaan’t. 

Grading Degrassi Degrassi The Next Generation Season 2
Jimmy with "WTF" face.

Credit: Epitome Pictures, Bell Media and Alliance Atlantis

“Relax” (S02E17)

Recap: Liberty (Sarah Barrable-Tishauer) doesn’t make the girl’s floor hockey team, so Ms. Hatzilakos (Melissa DiMarco) makes her team manager. When Liberty realizes that the boys’ teams at Degrassi get way more funding than the girls’, she goes to Joey Jeremiah (Pat Mastroianni) to ask for sponsorship. He suggests they have a boys versus girls match to decide who he’ll sponsor.

Liberty becomes a bit of a tyrant coaching her team. Meanwhile, Terri (Christina Schmidt) is back at it with the psychic arts. She mistakenly diagnoses Paige (Lauren Collins) with premature death — and Paige and Hazel (Andrea Lewis) take advantage. 

Reasoning: Ugh. Girls are such b-words, amiright? It is not a good look that Degrassi: The Next Generation portrays its only two Black girls this way. 

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“Drive” (S02E06)

Recap: Joey leaves Craig alone for the weekend and trusts him to follow his rules. Heck, he even lets him have some friends over. Unfortunately, his friends are bored and peer-pressure him into taking one of the cars at Joey’s sales lot for a joy ride. Over in non-existent peer-pressure land, Ashley thinks Ellie (Stacey Farber) won’t want to be her friend unless she gets her belly button pierced. 

Reasoning: I get that Joey is also adjusting to parenting Craig, but he could do a better job listening rather than yelling. He’d let Craig drive the day before the kid took the car out with his friends. Craig is dealing with moving out of his dad’s house due to being abused. Listening and empathy would have gone a long way here. 

“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (S02E03)

Recap: Spike (Amanda Stepto) and Snake, aka Mr. Simpson (Stefan Brogren), are dating! What!? And Emma (Miriam McDonald) is not amused. She’s also not amused that her crush, Craig, seems to be crushing on Manny (Cassie Steele). Plus, Jimmy and Spinner get into some sort of dance-off? 

Reasoning: Spike and Emma act equally immature in this episode, except only one is a literal child. This is another episode of zero-in-show commentary on Degrassi Parents Behaving Badly®.

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“Weird Science” (S02E05)

Recap: Emma wins the science fair, and Liberty insists she only won because Snake’s dating her mom. Spinner keeps getting boners in class, and he’s convinced it’s because he’s been eating fruit every day (as a test subject in Emma’s experiment). 

Reasoning: I actually like the basic premise behind this episode, but something felt lacking in the execution. I was also made highly uncomfortable when Spinner tells Ms. Kwan (LinLyn Lue) he can’t turn around, and she physically forces him to do so. Degrassi teachers, while they care, do not respect their students’ boundaries, and it makes me feel icky. 

“Take My Breath Away” (S02E10)

Recap: Manny and Craig go on a date, but only Manny is into it. Both Hazel and Ellie have a crush on Marco. Only Ellie does something about it, though that action turns out to be cryptic, poorly-rhymed anonymous emails. 

Reasoning: The parts depicting the same scenes from the date replayed from both Manny’s and Craig’s POVs were pretty funny in their differences. There’s nothing really wrong with this episode, but there were stronger ones in the season.  

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“Message in a Bottle” (S02E16)

Recap: Sean and Emma are back together, so naturally, Spike and Snake want to have the boy over for dinner. Sean (Daniel Clark) believes they view him as a charity case. He copes by getting drunk. He gets even more intoxicated by stealing booze from Jimmy’s parents’ liquor cabinet at a party after Emma’s family dinner. 

Reasoning: Oh, yikes. I just really feel for Sean. He’s had a tough go of it. I am trying to remember if we’ve learned the deal with his parents yet, but I wonder what they’re like if his brother (Kris Holden-Reid) is the better choice of guardian for him. I really appreciate that Spike (and Snake) don’t say, “Hey, Emma, this kid is too complicated for you.” Instead, they’re concerned for his welfare. 

Grading Degrassi Degrassi The Next Generation Season 2
Emma and Sean at Emma's locker.

Credit: Epitome Pictures, Bell Media and Alliance Atlantis

“Careless Whisper” (S02E14)

Recap: Marco (Adamo Ruggiero) is going through it. His friends are starting to suspect he might be, you know. So, he decides to start dating Ellie, but he does tell her he’s “confused.” She agrees to be his beard. Meanwhile, Kendra and Toby are having issues when he reveals himself to be a stage five clinger. 

Reasoning: Ooof. The number of f-slurs dropped in this episode! Yikes. Look, Marco was very important to me back in the day, but now his storyline definitely feels like a piece of history. Not that the world has come far enough that our community isn’t still slaughtered for, you know, existing. But our media representation is at least marginally more nuanced these days. 

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“Don’t Believe the Hype” (S02E11)

Recap: For “International Day,” Hazel pretends she’s Jamaican instead of Somalian and Muslim. She goes so far as to bully the hijabi girls at her school. In fact, she’s a prime suspect when one girl’s project is vandalized. In home ec class, J.T. (Ryan Cooley) makes Liberty take credit for his fantastic work because the other boys tease him for being so good at sewing. 

Reasoning: I appreciate what Degrassi was trying to do here, and this episode was likely done as a reaction post-9/11. I can even understand why Hazel would hide her religious identity considering she’d been a victim of a hate crime at her previous school.

However, the teachers don’t step up enough to counter some students’ racist and Islamophobic words. Granted, that lines up with my experience (unfortunately), but this type of fiction can (and I’d argue it should) model a better way. Likewise, “Gay-T” isn’t funny, and that “good” characters were making fun of J.T. is a problem. Sure, the girls support him at the end, but also, so what if J.T. actually were gay

“White Wedding” (S02E12 & S02E13) 

Recap: Spike and Snake are getting married! Or are they? During the wedding prep, Spike finds out she’s preggers. She also finds out Snake’s not ready for snakelets. Emma is aghast when she learns Spike is considering canceling her wedding and getting an abortion without even telling Snake about the pregnancy.

So, Emma takes matters into her own hands and tells him. In the B plot, Craig, J.T. and Toby try to get a stripper for Snake’s bachelor party. 

Reasoning: Now, as an adult, the adults’ storylines with the kids are more interesting to me than they were before. Spike’s and Emma’s relationship is fascinating, though not always healthy. I can see why Emma takes it into her own hands to tell Snake about the baby. I’m also glad Snake calls out the level of BS that is. 

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“Hot for Teacher”  (S02E15)

Recap: J.T. has a crush on Ms. Hatzilakos, so he doesn’t mind when he gets two weeks of detention helping her out after class. He does mind being called a teacher’s pet. But actually, the actual teacher’s pet is a guinea pig that he helps midwife. In the upper classes, Jimmy and Spinner learn that “Truth Hurts.”

Reasoning: I mostly liked the J.T. storyline — it felt real, even if it was gross. I was disappointed by the Spinner-Jimmy storyline, though. Mr. Armstrong (Michael Kinney) is insensitive to Spinner’s hygiene issues, which could be the result of so many things — and potentially problems at home. There were better ways to handle that. 

Grading Degrassi Degrassi The Next Generation Season 2Craig with his mouth open.

Credit: Epitome Pictures, Bell Media and Alliance Atlantis

“When the Doves Cry” (S02E01 & S02E02)

Recap: These two episodes introduce us to Craig, who we quickly find out is Joey Jeremiah’s stepson. How do we learn this? Craig’s secretly taking pictures of and with his sister, Angela (Alex Steele). We also learn that Craig’s dad hits him. After Craig plays chicken with a train, Joey takes him in.

Reasoning: I like Craig, I really do. And I relate heavily to his storyline. I just don’t like that he basically became the show’s main character. Further, the fact that the show didn’t really address that it isn’t cool of him to go to a playground and start snapping photos without people’s consent.

And asking his sister not to tell anyone they’re meeting. Nothing creepy is going on between them, but it sets Angie up to not learn proper boundaries in the future. 

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“Mirror in the Bathroom” (S02E09)

Recap: Toby joins wrestling so that people will think he’s cool, but he starts using laxatives to get down to a lower weight class (‘cos he believes he stands a chance against the smaller guys). Meanwhile, Terri hides the fact that she’s doing plus-sized modeling from her friends. 

Reasoning: At one point in the episode, J.T. states that guys don’t get eating disorders. That right there is why this episode is important. TV doesn’t often get body image right — and this wasn’t perfect by any means — but it was better than most. 

Grading Degrassi Degrassi The Next Generation Season 2
Ashley with her face curled up in anger, ready to punch someone.

Credit: Epitome Pictures, Bell Media and Alliance Atlantis

“Fight for Your Right” (S02E19)

Recap: Emma is really afraid of GMO foods, so she tries to get them banned from the caf. When Principal Raditch (Dan Woods) tells her there’s no proof they’re harmful, plus they’re way more expensive, she stages a mini-protest, which gets her suspended. That puts Snake between a rock and a hard place. He wants to support her as her stepdad, but he can’t as her teacher. 

In subplot land, Spinner is jealous that Jimmy’s parents buy his love with money. And after Jimmy and Marco make fun of Spinner’s 50-year-old shirt, Spinner steals Jimmy’s MP3 player. 

Reasoning: All of this felt very real. From the ridiculous unfairness of Emma’s suspension to the class issues between the boys.  

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“Shout” (S02E07 & S02E08)

Recap: Paige is intrigued by Dean (Shawn Roberts), a cute boy on the opposing basketball team. He takes an interest in her and invites her to a party. They go upstairs and start to make out. He rapes her. Naturally, Paige doesn’t cope well, but she does tell a few friends.

She begins to really have a hard time once she, Terri and Ashley reform their band, PMS, and Ashley wants to sing a song about rape. Her friends convince Paige to see the guidance counselor, and Paige sings the song with Dean in the audience. 

Reasoning: No one comes to Degrassi for subtlety. In fact, the show would be dreadfully dull with it. Sure, there are a lot of narrative coincidences in the second part of this episode to facilitate Paige’s temporary catharsis. But she truly needs the W. (Or as much of one as she can get.) Also, just kudos for tackling the subject at all. 

Grading Degrassi Degrassi The Next Generation Season 2Paige sitting with her hand on her face, pensive.

Credit: Epitome Pictures, Bell Media and Alliance Atlantis

“How Soon Is Now” (S02E19)

Recap: Paige has to face Dean again when his team comes to Degrassi for a game. She tells both J.T. and Spinner why she’s flipping out at seeing him, and both boys physically attack him. The episode ends with Paige deciding to press charges against Dean.

In media immersion, Ellie and Marco are still pretending to be a couple, except it doesn’t seem like Ellie got the memo re: pretending. They’re supposed to be making a perfume commercial together, but she doesn’t like how “flaming” the style is. Yikes. This prompts Marco to tell her in plain words that he is gay. 

Reasoning: I ship Paige and counseling. How wonderful. And how great that her counselor, Ms. Sauvé (Jennifer Podemski), doesn’t sugar coat that Dean very well may not be convicted. I know violence isn’t the answer, but watching J.T. clumsily beat Dean up was really sweet. 

I totally understand why Ellie feels the way she does about Marco, and he’s not treating her fairly, but homophobia is never the answer. 

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“Tears Are Not Enough” (S02E21 & S02E22)

Recap: Craig’s dad (Hugh Dillon) wants to start hanging out again, and because things are stressful at Joey’s, Craig agrees. His dad swears up and down he’s changed and wants Craig to move home. Predictably, the second things go a little off, the man returns to his old ways.

Craig never wants to see him again. He returns to Joey that night and says he wants to go to children’s services the following day to make their situation official. The next morning, however, they learn that Mr. Manning died in a car crash. Craig handles his grief super complexly, and the people around him all seem to have their own ideas about how he should deal with it. 

Reasoning: Grief is hard. It’s tough when you have a bad or difficult relationship with someone who dies. Degrassi: The Next Generation portrayed this complexity so well. The show did it in a way that made it clear that Craig’s feelings and reactions are totally normal and valid. 🧑‍🍳😙

Season 2 of Degrassi: The Next Generation was full of highs and extreme lows. I can chalk up some of those lows to the early aughts, and others, I just can’t. I’m deeply concerned about how the show continually sweeps adults’ crappy behavior under the rug. When I critique these things, it’s not that I think all characters need to be likable. It needs to be clear that their actions are wrong

Final grade for Season 2 of Degrassi: The Next Generation:  C+

Season MVP: The Guinea Pig

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