Review: Dare to Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone in “Dash & Lily”

Are you looking for the perfect show to get you in the holiday spirit this year? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we all need a little holiday cheer and Netflix’s new television show “Dash & Lily” will put you in the perfect mood.

“Dash & Lily” is a romantic comedy television series created by Joe Tracz that is based on the young adult series “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. The eight-episode series premiered on Netflix on November 10, 2020.

The story follows two teenagers, Dash (Austin Abrams of Euphoria) and Lily (Midori Francis of Good Boys), on their adventures during the Christmas season in New York City. Dash and Lily are complete opposites at first look. Dash abhors Christmastime while Lily adores it, but the one thing they share is The Strand bookstore. Lily, facing the prospect of being alone on Christmas, confides in her brother, Langston (Troy Iwata), who has his own beau during the holiday season. Langston, in an effort to help his sister’s predicament, comes up with the idea about leaving clues and dares in her red notebook in The Strand for her “Prince Charming” to find. One day, Dash is browsing the shelves of the bookstore when he comes across a mysterious red notebook that asks, “Do you dare?” He opens it to find a treasure hunt that leads him all around the bookstore following clues and doing dares. This piques his interest, and he replies to Lily’s entry. As December passes, the two continue to challenge each other to dares that stretch each of their comfort zones in order to learn personal information. Each of them remains anonymous to the other and only communicates through the notebook. As their relationship becomes deeper, each of them is faced with new problems including communication, family, and a new look at old relationships. Towards the end, their relationship becomes complicated when Lily figures out who her pen pal really is, and this realization leads her to question everything she thought she knew about Dash. A week later, Dash comes to a decision about Lily and the notebook, but will he make it in time to tell her?

The story explores what it’s like for someone to explore outside of their comfortable bubble. Lily is overly optimistic at times when she should admit to her true feelings. Dash, on the other hand, is pessimistic to a fault, stating that Christmastime is the “most detestable time of the year.” By meeting each other and exchanging dares, Dash learns to love Christmas time again, calling it a “miracle” and Lily learns that sometimes when “you can’t find the rainbow, then [you should] stand in the rain and scream.”

The series is a step away from the stereotypical romantic comedy made by the Hallmark channel where the aim is that the main characters find love during the holiday season. Even though the original aim was to find that special someone, the notebook relationship between Dash and Lily becomes a friendship that focuses on pushing each other’s limits and confessing deep feelings. To Lily it comes easy because she had been writing her feelings down previously, but throughout the episodes, Dash struggles with writing what he feels, tearing out pages that he feels he can’t say to Lily. Each of them helps each other to grow as people and that changes them.

The casting was done wonderfully with Austin Abrams as Dash and Midori Francis as Lily. Abrams captures the perfect snarky, “persnickety” Dash and Francis performs the never-ending positivity of Lily perfectly. Troy Iwata plays Langston to a T and Dante Brown brings Boomer’s, Dash’s best friend, excitement alive. Sofia, Dash’s ex-girlfriend, becomes dynamic through Keana Marie’s performance and James Saito captures Arthur Mori’s, Lily and Langston’s grandfather, disapproval effortlessly. Glenn McCuen cast as Edgar Thibaud, Lily’s bully from middle school, easily portrays an interesting character, and the over-imaginative and irresponsibility of Mrs. Basil E., Lily and Langston’s great-aunt, is depicted impeccably by Jodi Long.

Overall, “Dash & Lily” would be a delightful way to transition into the holiday spirit. It has all the ingredients of a Hallmark movie without being cheesy, it will provoke thoughts about stepping outside your comfort zone, it’s got a great story where personal growth is highlighted, and it contains fascinating actors and acting. It is definitely on my recommendation list.