Oh JJ, we hardly knew yay.
The beginning of the end! The Grand Prix finals begin, with Yuri, Yurio, Otabek, Chris, Phichit and JJ all performing their short programs. Yuri flubs his best jump and is crushed, Yurio does so well he beats Victor’s personal best, and Chris, Otabek, and Phichit do their best as well. Finally, JJ crumbles under the pressure and delivers a mediocre performance, coming in dead last.
It’s time to talk about JJ. Back in episode 1.7 I complained that Yuri on Ice has a poor habit of doing vital development off-screen, where a character will suddenly have a completely different emotional state, seemingly out of nowhere and with nothing to back it up. It happened with Yuri in the China Free Skate, and now it’s happened with JJ here.
For the entire show, JJ has performed perfectly. His whole character is based on him being a cocky perfectionist jackass; someone who thinks he deserves to win, simply because he’s won so many times before. Even in the last episode, he speaks and acts in this brash manner, obviously expecting to crush whatever competition he’s about to face.
But in this episode, he — without any warning or setup — falls apart in his free program, giving a terrible performance and coming in last. The show presents this as some kind of stress, like the pressure of the Grand Prix finally got to him and ruined his ability to perform. But the question is this: where in the icy hell did this pressure come from, and how could it possibly affect him?
JJ’s not the kind of guy to succumb to pressure. If anything he’s portrayed as someone who actively enjoys it, someone who happily enters competition after competition and eagerly awaits whatever challenge it gives him. He’s a stress junkie, a grown-up gladiator who delights in kicking the crap out of whatever obstacle is in his way. Hell, I’m sure half the reason he signed up for the Grand Prix was so he could beat the crap out of both of Victor’s proteges.
The real problem here is that we never see how this so-called pressure originates. There’s no scene where he’s lying in bed quietly freaking out, no tearful sequence where the cocky facade falls away and we see the sensitive soul underneath, no heartfelt moment where his (still nameless) fiance wipes away his tears and reinstills his confidence. There’s nothing of the sort; the writers just flip a switch and shoehorn the stress right into him.
Looking at this from a higher angle, it seems like they simply didn’t have room to completely fit JJ’s stress plot into the larger storyline. I can sympathise with this; it’s already such a tight show, so I can understand why they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) scrape together a few minutes to give this secondary character a richer backstory. It’s Yuri on Ice, not Yuri and Some Other Dudes on Ice. Still, I can’t help but feel like a piece of the show is missing here.
Wow, did I just devote this entire review to the JJ problem? I feel like there’s not much else for me to say, it’s surprisingly light for a penultimate episode. Yuri was heartbreaking, Yurio was brilliant, Phichit and Chris were Phichit and Chris, and Otabek really needs to calm down. Describing a figure-skating rink as a “battlefield” is a little hyperbolic, even for him.
A few more notes before Yurio kicks someone in the face:
- The OP has new colours and portraits added for these last two episodes; nice touch.
- Phichit’s hamsters are so cute! It feels like him and Yuri have a whole story to themselves here, you could almost make a prequel about them training in Detroit.
- The subtitles describe Yurio as a “beautiful monster”, which is a pretty odd thing to say about a flawless figure skater. Possible mistranslation?
- Still annoyed that JJ’s girlfriend doesn’t have a damn name. She gets a flashback but no name, what kind of ripoff is that?
That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next (and final) episode of Yuri on Ice. Also, please consider joining the Patreon so you can vote on the next show for us to watch!