One of the most compelling things to me about Canadian webseries That’s My DJ is its self-awareness – the show’s arc mirrors the growth of its protagonists with tonally perfect precision. Its first season is energetic and aspirational, yet still lacking true focus; the second embraces carefree irresponsibility while being honest about the emotional consequences of such. Our third chapter, which caps the series off for good, dives into its dark logical extremes before returning to the light. Spoilers follow below.
With the above in mind, it makes sense that S3 is perhaps the cleverest and most cohesive offering out of these sections. It’s a story that fully understands the themes of prior installments and how to elevate them to new creative heights. TMDJ has always had a very particular set of conceptual interests: the series especially zeroes in on life’s dichotomy of sadness and joy. It also toys with the transitional moments of twentysomething existence – from impulsive hedonism to the inevitable crash to hard-won hope in the aftermath. And, this time around, we see the characters learn that no hope is harder to claw out than the kind you need after a friend passes away.
Returning from a supporting role in S2 to become our new lead is Sam (Jade Hassouné, spectacularly), a producer still seeking his big break within the EDM industry. His best friend Lucas (Nico Racicot) is also in the business as a promoter, enthusiastically networking and living it up nightly. Due to a recent liquid/laptop disaster – hashtag relatable – Sam’s been diving into his work while Lucas’s substance abuse leads to public fights and general unreliability. After hearing that his friend is moving to New York for his career, Sam fights him over it; there’s probably some jealousy fueling his frustration, given how he lists Lucas’s previous failed projects that evidently fizzled out due to a lack of follow-through.
It’s a messy argument that ends with Lucas storming out, promising he’s going to celebrate whether Sam is happy for him or not. As conflicts between friends go, it’s ugly but not insurmountable: the kind of fight where people cool off and eventually make amends. However, such a reconciliation is not in the cards, because Sam learns the following morning that Lucas has overdosed and died.
What follows are the kind of emotion-driven visual sequences that TMDJ so excels at. Last year, Meagan (Emily Piggford) joyful montages of early romance; this is the direct opposite of that, but no less resonant for being on the other end of the spectrum. We see grey, washed-out vignettes of Sam’s grief as he spirals into self-destruction, punctuated by quick, spare editing. We get so much about Sam’s mental state from the way visuals sharply cut away or make use of unstable shaky-cam. As Meagan muscles him back into the DJ-ing world, the surrounding environment is rich with neon colors, but Sam willfully cuts himself off, hiding in a black hoodie that makes him look entirely surrounded by darkness.
It takes one last wake-up call from Meagan (she is an amazing and long-suffering friend, guys) and a bag of Lucas’s possessions for Sam to reconnect with the world. Of particular significance is a flash drive containing a short video of Lucas talking about the value of chasing your passions and doing “the work you want to do”, even if it might not pan out. The sentiment sounds a little cliché in print, but TMDJ has completely earned it, as the series has always been about artfully portraying the cast’s spontaneity and ambition within a world that they love. Henceforth, Sam takes Lucas’s words to heart and springs back to work with renewed conviction.
It’s just two months later when we see Sam successful in his field and on fully-mended terms with his peers, but this is no cheap ending where everything is magically perfect. Sam clearly still feels the weight of Lucas’s absence. It’s just that he knows how live with it while still pushing forward with the people he cares about. Like Meagan replying to a question about being okay with “no, but I will be” last year, he’s going to be alright, even if “it’s a lot.” Ultimately, that’s the thesis of TMDJ – no matter how deep a hole you fall into, you can always climb back out. The show has matured so much alongside its characters, becoming an honest and evocative meditation on what it means to keep living regardless of heartbreak. Series creator D.W. Waterson has said “I wanted to end the series with a bang”, and what an insightful, empathetic bang it is.