When To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before first premiered on Netflix in 2018, no one could have expected it to become as popular as it did. After all, adaptations of popular Young Adult books simply weren’t doing the business they once were, but Netflix took a chance and opted to bring the Jenny Han trilogy to life and it ultimately ended up paying off. Not only was To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before a well-received adaptation among both fans and critics alike, but it also helped to further the careers of its young cast, even if the sequels weren’t as well-received as the first film. Still, despite the films being incredibly popular, many fans were surprised to hear that Netflix would work with Han to develop a new series set within the same universe… but this time starring the youngest Covey child, Kitty.
XO, Kitty sees Anna Cathcart reprise her role as Kitty Song Covey from the Netflix films. This time, though, instead of worrying about her older sister’s love life, Kitty is trying to better her own. Having been in a long-distance relationship with Dae for a while now, Kitty is eager to reunite with her boyfriend and is willing to do whatever it takes to do so. Even if its means traveling to another country to surprise him without warning. The entire premise of XO, Kitty is ridiculous. Kitty is a high school student who manages to convince her father to let her travel to South Korea on her own to reunite with Dae and try to learn more about her mother. She has even magically gotten admitted to the same school he attends seemingly overnight. It’s a pretty simple plot, as absurd as it may be, and with Cathcart returning as Kitty, it seems like it’d be a delightful series. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. The magic of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before cannot be recaptured, no matter how hard XO, Kitty tries to do so.
Cathcart is still a bright ray of sunshine as Kitty. The issue with the series is that it ultimately is trying to do far too much. The amount of love triangles and secrets can become rather frustrating. It’s great that the show does look at the changes and challenges that teenagers go through – it’s wonderful that these characters are allowed to explore who they are and try to find themselves in the world. That’s perhaps the show’s strongest selling point. It allows the characters — all of them — to fail and grow from their mistakes. It allows the teenagers to be teenagers. It’s just that, the fun rom-com series promised tends to feel like a chore after a few episodes.
Thankfully, the series does finally find a decent footing by the end, though. Should XO, Kitty return for a second season (and the series definitely set up a second season), the show has plenty of options to explore and can, hopefully, learn from its first season bumps. Trying to cram too much into a story that’s already starting off on a shaky premise is not a strong idea. Give the characters time to breathe. Don’t just throw in drama for the sake of drama. The feelings need to be earned, and with short episodes, XO, Kitty‘s characters don’t really get to earn their feelings — they’re just jumping from angry to happy and from hatred to love far too easily. If there’s going to be drama, make the characters truly experience that drama rather than hastily shoving it in. More importantly, though, don’t forget that the key to the show’s success is in the titular character. Fans quickly came to love the young Covey sister in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. She’s always been a firecracker of a character that seems to delight all that meet her.
What made the films so special was not only Lana Condor‘s chemistry with Noah Centineo, but also her ability to sell Laura Jean as a character. Cathcart has Kitty down to a tee. Let her shine.
Final verdict: XO, Kitty is an easy watch, but it’s far from great. Those that enjoyed the films will thoroughly delight in this return of Kitty, but don’t get in expecting the charm of the first film.
And if you’ve missed our exclusive coverage of the series, you can catch-up here. 😉