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astrid and lilly huddled over some crucial evidence Photo: Alex Stead/Blue Ice Pictures/SYFY

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Astrid & Lilly Save the World embraces the weirdness of high school supernatural slayers

A refreshing take on the genre

Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

With big Buffy-sized shoes to fill in the high school students slay monsters genre, the creators of Syfy’s new series opted to take the template and make it weird. Very weird. Astrid and Lilly Save the World centers on two high school outcasts, who turn into unlikely heroes when they have to save their town from flesh-eating monsters.

“It takes the [Buffy] model and turns it on its head,” said Astrid & Lilly Save the World showrunner Noelle Stehman to Syfy.

Astrid and Lilly don’t know much about actually slaying monsters, but they do have seasons worth of Law and Order knowledge to help them get to the bottom of this mystery, as well as some bizarre superpowers. While some pieces of the first episode come straight from the high school media playbook, the quirky comedy shows a lot of promise with it’s zany humor and delightfully weird main characters.

What is Astrid & Lilly Save the World?

astrid and lilly huddled behind a mysterious contraption Photo: Alex Stead/Blue Ice Pictures/SYFY

Astrid & Lilly Save the World is a coming-of-age supernatural comedy, about — as you might expect — Astrid (Jana Morrison) and Lilly (Samantha Aucoin). They’re outcasts in their high school, but at least they have each other! And after accidentally ripping open a portal to another dimension, they also have people-eating monsters trickling into their world. Astrid and Lilly are the only ones who can hunt down the monsters and close the portal, before their small town becomes an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Who’s behind Astrid & Lilly Save the World?

The Syfy show comes from co-creators Noelle Stehman and Betsy Van Stone, who previously worked together on YouTube mini series Clean Freaks.

What’s the pilot about?

In the pilot, we meet spunky Astrid and Lilly, misfits among their peers, but bonded by their love of detective shows. They have a nightly ritual of driving around and spying on the popular kids … for science! But after summoning the guts to go to a party, Tate (Kolton Stewart), the school’s biggest hottie, calls them the “pudge patrol” and they tearfully leave. In a fit of rage, they burn some trinkets they’ve collected and decree that they don’t need the validation of the popular kids.

The next day at school, the girls learn that Tate has gone missing. When they investigate his disappearance, Astrid and Lilly meet Brutus (Olivier Renaud), a mysterious horned man, who tells them that they accidentally performed an occult ritual and opened a portal. They also learn that the strange symptoms they have been experiencing all day are actually really bizarre superpowers: Astrid has a heightened sense of smell and Lilly’s leg cramps every time she gets closer to a demon. With mysterious instructions to get 10 strange body parts from 10 different monsters, Astrid and Lilly embark on a mission to save their small town.

the mysterious brutus, a man in a leather jacket with a single horn protruding from his head Photo: Alex Stead/Blue Ice Pictures/SYFY

What’s it really about?

Astrid & Lilly Save the World is a time-tested balance of a good ol’ high school misfit plotline mixed with some very zany supernatural elements. Astrid and Lilly must rise up to be heroes — even if they don’t think they’re capable of that. Fantasy media for teenagers tends to see a lot of unlikely heroes rising to the occasion, but the kicker that makes this show stand out is that it’s about two misfit best friends turned unlikely heroes. Will their relationship be tested as they face off against these monsters? Probably! After all, what are monsters if not a metaphor for drastic life changes that come with high school and growing up?

The first episode sets up some possible tension points for later. Astrid has a huge crush on aloof bad boy Sparrow (Spencer Macpherson), for instance, who seems to find her weirdness charming. We also learn that Lilly and popular girl Candace (Geri Hall) used to be friends, till Candace got popular and Lilly didn’t. Even without the monster fighting, these characters hint at some test of Astrid and Lilly’s friendship.

Is Astrid & Lilly Save the World good?

One of the trickiest parts of contemporary fantasy in a suburban setting is balancing out the normal and the weird. The pilot episode of Astrid and Lilly Save the World leans a bit more on the high school drama, in order to establish what the norm even is, but it feels a little bit too familiar. The scene where Astrid and Lilly go to a party and then leave humiliated is standard fare. It is a good quick way of establishing who they are in the high school hierarchy, but it’s easy to zone out, and unfortunately it’s one of the first big scenes in the show.

astrid and lilly standing at a party Photo: Alex Stead/Blue Ice Pictures/SYFY

But while the high school drama veeres on the cliche, the fantasy weirdness has rich potential. In the pilot, it’s a bit tame — after all the portal did just open. But what we do see is deliciously quirky. The monster that they face off is drawn to the scent of tears and searches for crying individuals to pluck off the streets so he can feast on their eyes … but he just wants to throw a dance party and one of the characters comments on how he’s kinda sexy, actually. Lilly clutches her leg every time lightning strikes, because of her demon detecting leg cramps. The list they receive is full of indecipherable words, because, after all, the creatures they’re hunting aren’t of this world, so their body parts would have different names. It’s bizarrely fun and promises some more zany and humorous supernatural elements down the line.

But the best part of Astrid & Lilly Save the World are Astrid and Lilly themselves. In a genre that often reduces female characters to stereotypes — the girl next door, the popular cheerleader, the nerd — the two of them are very specific and distinct characters, with their own type of weird that feels simultaneously believable and unique. Astrid and Lilly also share a genuine, moving friendship. They get each other and seeing them interact might make you nostalgic for your own close high school friendship.

These two quirky and charming characters have a lot of potential to become badass heroes — and this strange, off-kilter show has potential to fully embrace the weirdness. All the ingredients are there, from the hilarious superpowers to the core friendship.

When and where can I watch Astrid & Lilly Save the World?

Astrid & Lilly Save the World premiered on Syfy on Jan. 26 at 10 p.m. The first episode is available on the Syfy website.