Netflix Delivers An Early “Dash” Of Christmas Spirit In Charming New Series ‘Dash & Lily’ – Review
As Halloween passes, we approach the inevitable snowstorm of streamable holiday content to put a smile on our face and a that warm feeling in our hearts. Netflix is up for the challenge, releasing a family movie or show that will satisfy the holiday viewer looking to sneak in some Christmas spirit before December rolls around. This year, that series is Dash & Lily.
Adapted from the young adult book series, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Dash & Lily follows the titular characters as they attempt to get to know each other through a shared notebook left in a bookshop. Dash (Austin Abrams) is fascinated by the challenges posed by this mysterious “Clue Girl,” the cheerful and perky Lily (Midori Francis), and decides to play along, corresponding with her in hopes of something new and exciting to do for the holiday season. Upon learning that Dash is rather cynical towards the holidays, Lily uses the notebook to send him on various dares across New York City that slowly reveal who she is while showing him the wonders of Christmas. Similarly, Dash is teaching Lily how to break out of her shell and be more assertive in her own life. What follows is a charming little series that put a smile on my face through its sugary story and addictive characters.
I must say, going into this show I didn’t have very high expectations. I’m a huge fan of Christmas and a huge fan of coming-of-age movies, but I’d been burned by some of the Netflix coming-of-age content as of late. With movies like The Kissing Booth, I was cautiously optimistic that this would be a good time, especially given my love of puzzle-solving, asynchronous storytelling. I am happy to report that I was shocked at how invested I was in this show.
When I got into a show, I really got into it. I truly found myself caring about the characters, their journeys, and seeing them end up where they needed to go. Is it the most subtle show out there? Is the ending one that completely comes out of nowhere and blindsides you? No, not by any means, but it’s not supposed to be that kind of show. Through some cliche moments and lines of dialogue, I was smiling like an idiot at the high points and I was screaming in frustration at the low points (like my roommate had to tell me to be quiet, it was quite embarrassing). I realized how much I identified with and cared about Lily.
Midori Francis absolutely kills the co-leading role of this series. A bubbly teenager with Christmas basically tattooed on her forehead might is a tough character to make believable and likable, Francis plays it with such a likability that makes her someone we ultimately want to see happy. There’s a running joke of characters saying they want to make sure she isn’t hurt and I found myself on their side. I just wanted her to be okay and its because of the heart of the role and actress that I rejoiced and sighed and did (metaphorical) backflips for. Abrams does great as Dash, even if he is such an unlikeable character. It’s understood why and acknowledged in the show that he’s a bit of a snarly kid, which makes his transformation in that end all the more powerful. However, neither him nor Lily work without the other, and I believe they did really well balancing their acts, their personalities, and ending up as protagonists we can truly root for. All that said, the anchor of the show lies in the supporting cast and I would kick myself in the foot if I didn’t mention them.
Lily’s family boasts some standout performances. Lily’s brother, Langston (Troy Iwata), knocked it out of the park as both a comedic and heartfelt addition to the journey. I also truly appreciated any scene with Ms. Basil E. (Jodi Long) and Lily’s grandfather (James Soto), as they had some great dramatic and character beats that felt truly relatable and welcome. I saw so much of some of my closest guardians in those two characters that moved me to emotional places I was not prepared for. I also have to commend the storytellers on not shying away from showing some of the Asian-American-centric holiday traditions that some families practice. On the other side of the “ampersand,” Dash is primarily surrounded by his lovable friends, Boomer (Dante Brown), and Sophia (Keana Marie). The rest of the ensemble from Lily’s lovable caroling group, Dash’s family tree, and all the players in between add to a fun story full of heart and spirit and I had an absolute blast watching it.
The showrunner, Joe Tracz, is responsible for the Netflix’s recent Series of Unfortunate Events reboot (which I am DYING to watch a second time) and the broadway production of Be More Chill, and through that the song “Michael in the Bathroom” which is always one of my favorite musical songs to belt while showering. Teamed up with Nick Jonas, Shawn Levy, and Josh Barry as executive producers, and an incredible line up of crew and directors (including Fred Savage which caused a rather unusual exclamation to leave my mouth), this show was a great surprise and warm distraction from my responsibilities (for a fleeting 4-hour total series runtime).
In the end, Dash & Lily delivers the Christmas spirit I needed it to. It was a great series to watch all curled up in a blanket with some peppermint hot cocoa (I know it’s November, just let me feel at peace). It was easy for me to overlook any plot conveniences or dialogue that might’ve felt a little too romanticized or cheesy because I genuinely loved the journey these characters were on.
Dash & Lily is chock-full of sweet moments and heartbreaking realizations centered around the cheerful holiday adventures of two curious souls.