In the seventh episode of the first season of Yuri On Ice, I have expired. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Yuri On Ice.
Holy shit. Holy shit??? HOLY SHIT.
Trigger Warning: For talk of anxiety
Look, this episode is stressful for a number of reasons, and I am not ashamed of how glued I was to the screen as Yuri’s free skate unfolded. I AM SO INVESTED IN THIS! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN SO QUICKLY!!! But right from the start, Yuri’s own mounting panic and anxiety started to make ME feel nervous. We all knew that more than anything else, the pressure to succeed is what Yuri struggled with more than anything. He could pull things off in practice when few people were watching that he fumbled once he was in front of a crowd. After his incredible first skate, the pressure to succeed was higher than it had ever been for Yuri, and thus, we see him have the worst anxiety attack in the show so far. It builds and builds; it is a cascade, a growing wave, a perpetual wall that Yuri cannot get over.
And how is Victor supposed to deal with that? More so than ever before, I really got the sense that Victor was worried for Yuri, that he was attuned to his panic and desperate to reach through to him, to find any way to motivate him to keep going. Unfortunately, he does so in a REALLY TERRIBLE WAY, and oh boy, you better believe I was close to crying after Victor made that horrible judgement call. I was just so upset??? I have decided I hate seeing Yuri cry??? HE WAS SO HURT WHEN VICTOR THREATENED TO RESIGN AS COACH, Y’ALL. I understood why he thought it would work, but even Yuri saw it as nothing but a cruel manipulation, not a genuine attempt to make him feel better.
But Victor changes; he doesn’t try this tactic again, and he even admits to himself that he is so inexperienced as a coach that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing in this particular instance. (I’ll have you know that he does offer to kiss Yuri, so… there’s that???? That happened, too???) I appreciated that because it provided a much-needed thread of realism to Victor’s characterization. This is something new to him, too! And he’s going to mess up and misjudge situations and provide bad coaching because he’s learning alongside Yuri!
Like the previous episode—and really, episode seven is more like a second half of a story rather than a standalone one—the writers still give us some wonderful insight into the minds of the other skaters. We are shown just how important Guang Hong’s free skate was to him, which included a very fascinating use of Leo??? Like, does Guang Hong see him less as a competitor and more of an ally, someone to sacrifice himself for? PERHAPS. But it’s the first of a number of internal sequences that provide us with character motivation and the “story” that each free skate is supposed to tell. I love that the show doesn’t forget that this is an integral part of the free skate, either. The narrative of the choreography matters as much as the other pieces do. So, I found it fulfilling to see each of the characters’ internal thought processes regarding their choreography. Like I said in the last review, the writers didn’t have to go this route, but it has made this entire story stronger for it.
Because Yuri doesn’t have to place first to advance to the next competition, it means that the writers had more freedom to change up what actually happened in this episode. I’m still thrilled that Phichit won the Cup, as his victory meant a lot particularly to Thailand and Southeast Asia as a whole. (Which felt like a pretty cool thing to include in the episode, I should say.) It was a kind writing choice, and y’all, I’m all into nice things right now. All of this is leading up to my eternal freak-out because… look, what do I say? How do I communicate the importance of this to you? I’m sure most of y’all—those who’ve been following me for years, that is—know exactly why it matters that Victor did as he did, that Yuri channeled the love he feels for Victor into that performance, that THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED ON THE SHOW.
But if it’s not obvious: this is something I still don’t see that much. More and more these days, sure, and certainly more than a decade ago. Sports dramas are often rife with homoeroticism, but that rarely manifests as anything canonically gay or queer. Usually, stories like this make it clear that there’s a giant “No Homo” sticker over their drama because nothing is worse than that, right??? I’m so used to that bait and switch that I approached Yuri On Ice with caution. Was this actually a queer narrative, or was it just hyped up by enthusiastic fans? How much of it was onscreen, how much of it was hinted at?
Well, I feel like this is such an obvious point of no return because VICTOR TACKLED YURI INTO A KISS and he did so IN FRONT OF EVERYONE and also HE TOLD YURI HE DID IT BECAUSE IT WAS THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD SURPRISE HIM and????
At this point, I want to know where the show is taking this. Will they talk about the kiss in the next episode? Pretend it never happened? MAKE EVERYTHING GAYER??? Please let it be the latter, please. Because holy shit, that episode was the best one yet.
The video for the second part of “China’s On! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event!! The Cup of China Short Program” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff