Even though Netflix’s “Dash & Lily” (2020) fits the bill of being a generic, predictable teenage rom-com, this new series is the perfect holiday and COVID-19 romantic escape.
The first season of the show consists of eight 23-to-27-minute episodes, which can be watched in a single day. Set in New York City over the winter holidays, Dash (Austin Abrams) and Lily (Midori Francis) each have their reasons for being unhappy. Dash is a cynic who hates the holidays; Lily is a romantic who doesn’t have anyone to celebrate with. With the help of her older brother, Lily sets up a scavenger hunt in a red notebook she leaves at the Strand, a bookstore in New York, and over the course of the season, the two characters use the notebook to send each other on adventures, talk about their lives and slowly fall for each other.
Is the plot realistic? No. But it’s cute. With COVID-19 restrictions and the country facing a socially distanced holiday season, “Dash & Lily” reminds us of a different time — when crowded bars weren’t a public health hazard, when holiday parties were acceptable and when you could meet new people without masks and six feet of distance. Through their notebook correspondence, Dash begins to open up and talk about his emotions, while Lily steps out of her comfort zone and puts herself out there.
The characters absolutely do predictable, Hallmark-movie things that most people in real life would never do. But we also get to see them develop, both in relation to each other and by themselves. Seeing them grow and change is so sweet that it makes up for the cheesiness.
The show’s supporting cast is also fantastic and makes for some heartwarming and funny subplots. Lily’s older brother Langston (Troy Iwata) acts as her emotional sounding board but ironically has trouble in his own relationships. Dash’s friend Boomer (Dante Brown) accidentally finds himself acting as an in-between for Dash and Lily. There is a motley crew of people and friends around the city who support the two as they write back and forth, passing the notebook and providing the environment for their adventures. Although these people’s relationships and plots are not wholly realistic, they are still awkward, quirky and just real enough to be enjoyed.
“Dash & Lily” works because right now, what is realistic is not what we want to see on TV. The holidays are going to be markedly different this year, and probably not in a good way. No one really knows what the situation is going to be like in a month, but we do know that many parties, traditions and events are going to have to be sacrificed. “Dash & Lily” makes us forget, for a second, what our real world looks like. For just over three hours, we are brought into a world of caroling, peppermint schnapps and running around the city with no regard to the current infection rate, one where teenage romance is possible and uncomplicated and where being an outsider ends up being a good thing.
Ultimately, “Dash & Lily” showcases a cast of characters who are inherently kind, helpful and supportive of their budding relationship. There is a sense of holiday magic, a belief that despite the fact that Dash’s and Lily’s holidays have not been what they expected, there is still the opportunity for a miracle and the hope that something will change.