Review: Netflix’s ‘Grand Army’ and the reality of sexual assault

“Grand Army” premiered on Netflix in October 2020 and developed a slow-growing but strong fandom. “Grand Army” has many similar aspects to the HBO original Euphoria, as it covers a group of teens, all experiencing their own issues, connected through running in the same circles and attending the same school. 

“Grand Army” examines issues that teens deal with every day, from the complications of social media to the fear of school shootings and bombings that plagues Generation Z.

All of the characters face things like stress around AP classes and relationship issues. But the show also digs deeper into how each character’s trauma, race, culture, sexuality and gender affects the way they navigate life and their experiences. 

“Grand Army” is an ensemble-based show. 

But the main storyline that caught my eye was Joey Del Marco’s.

Joey is portrayed by actress Odessa A’zion. Joey is an outspoken feminist, with a tight-knit friend group, a romance simmering with Tim, a member of her friend group, and a goal of being the dance team captain. At first, viewers think Joey’s main storyline is going to be her and Tims’s romance and her complicated relationship with her father. 

But then, midway through episode three, Joey was raped by two of her closest friends in the backseat of a cab. Tim, who was on the brink of being her boyfriend, sits back and watches. 

Leading up to the rape, Joey was kissing and sitting on the laps of the two perpetrators, in an attempt to give a “F you” to Tim and say that she can do what she wants. But things quickly escalate, and Joey’s clear “No’s” and “Stop’s” are ignored by everyone in the car. 

Joey very quickly is affected by being raped, and viewers watch her mental health deteriorate.

When she finally tells her mom and her and her family start to build a case, the three boys who were present in the car get arrested on the school campus, and there is an immediate divide between believing, and not believing Joey. 

Joey decides that she can’t go back to school, and switches to a private catholic school, to get some space. Viewers think Joey is slowly beginning the process of healing.

But then she gets a call saying that the DA is dropping the case. And her attempt to gain an apology from her rapists is futile. 

Joey doesn’t get any closure. 

But viewers leave her story feeling content. As she has a conversation with another victim at her school, who tells Joey that she believes her. And the final shot of her in the season is her dancing to “Freedom” by George Micheal. 

Joey healing, without any justice or even apology, was a really important story to tell. 

According to RAINN, out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will walk free. 

That means so many people, like Joey, don’t get justice. And are left to grapple with their trauma without any real closure. This is why watching Joey go through such a hard time, get better, and then get set off into getting bad again, and then better again, is so important.

Healing from trauma is not linear, there are bad, good, and worse days. 

And too often, the criminal justice system doesn’t give sexual assault victims the justice they deserve.

Joey’s story was heartbreaking and beautiful. But most of all, it was real.

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