If there is one thing MTV’s Daria will be remembered for it’s for Daria’s notoriously monotone voice, amazing music, and witty dialogue that could slice steel. Despite the cynicism, the show did resonate with being an outsider and how to get through those odd years of high school. However, for one episode only, Daria and her dark realism were put to a good beat and given a musical episode.
‘Daria!’ was the Season 3 premiere with a loose premise mostly to have each character burst into song with the same spontaneity as a Disney movie. The episode centers on what most of the characters assume will be an average day in the suburbs. Daria greets the day with no expectations for what will happen and assumes things will be quite normal. However, during a pep rally at Lawndale High School, her principal announces that a massive hurricane is going to hit Lawndale.
Everyone gets into a panic about this except for Daria and Jane, as they were on the roof to avoid sharing a community space with their fellow students. The students are sent home with Daria’s parents rushing from their offices to ensure their daughters are safe. Daria’s mother, Helen, considers if she can work through the storm, though, she relents and eventually goes home. While Quinn is able to make it home without incident, it’s Daria who ends up in a precarious situation.
As the storm nears Lawndale High, Daria and Jane seek shelter in a rooftop closet. They were attempting to get back into the school in order to leave the roof. Unfortunately for them, dimwitted quarterback and cheerleader, Kevin and Brittany, shut the door to the roof, leaving the four students trapped as the storm bears down on them. The other characters of the show are worried about what will happen if Lawndale is destroyed in the hurricane. Some people are terrified this could be their last moments on Earth, Daria’s sister Quinn and the Fashion Club are worried they’ll never find a mall again, and Daria’s parents are worried about their kids.
Daria, Jane, Kevin, and Brittany share a song as they are trapped on the roof about how they wish someone was looking for them. At this moment, one of those rare moments, people get a look behind Daria’s veil of cynicism to see the raw person underneath. She reveals that despite all the cliched crap her family represents, she’d want them to care about her, in what was considered their final moments. There really isn’t another time when this level of emotion is even remotely detectable in this series until the final episode, “Boxing Daria.”
On one level, this remote glimpse behind the cloud of cynicism into the spirit of loneliness is something most people recognize. That feeling of wanting someone, anyone, to just say, “I’ll miss you if you were gone.” The episode dips into that gray corner of human existence where we wonder what life would be like without someone we may love.
While all the characters get a chance at singing, with some getting a song to themselves or being part of the ensemble, the same energy of a regular Daria episode is still there. Jake, Daria’s father, has a special song dedicated to the ungodly amounts of stress he is usually confronted with called “God Goddammit.” Much of his behavior throughout the show can be described as irrational, but here it all makes sense for a change. He’s concerned about the safety of his kids and his wife, but not for other members of society who continue to aggravate him. “God Goddammit” is a song someone would be singing after a very stressful day or after a particularly vicious conversation.
Each character lends their energy to the songs. In the opening song of the episode, “Another Morning in the ‘Burbs,” gives a small amount of insight as to how the other characters greet the day. Though all the characters, they start their days with the same expectations as normal. Quinn and the Fashion Club put their shallowness first, Kevin and Brittany remain blissfully ignorant, Daria and Jane remain unconcerned, and the rest of the town is a state of panic.
The episode ends on a somewhat happy note with the town left standing. However, this isn’t the happiest news for all members of Lawndale. Some were hoping the town would blow away and leave room for a new city to begin, the fashion club is excited they have been spared to continue shopping. Daria and Jane are excited they have been spared by the storm, and that someone cared if they lived. Once the storm has passed, the entire cast of characters from the show comes together to celebrate their survival. And though they are a bit worse for wear, they all look forward to another day in the ‘burbs.
Since the episode is an anomaly in the series, it is notable for how the music works around the monotone voice of Daria. “Daria!” also provides some unusually humorous situations as Jake and Jane’s brother, Trent, start singing about how they survived the storm after Jake slams his car into a tree. Considering this is a musical episode, it’s a relief to see the complete cynicism by which Daria lives her life remains throughout the episode. While it is nice to see a little sunshine on what some may deem a gloomy show, it’s a delight to see how in darkness, there can be a little light.