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Emma Meets Her Cyberstalker
The very first episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation — called "Mother and Daughter Reunion" — ends with a 12-year-old Emma nearly being raped after meeting an internet predator at a hotel. If that seems like a pretty heavy story line for the first episode of a children's show, brace yourself for every other plot that Degrassi conjures during its tenure. Emma thinks that she's been emailing a young boy named Jordan for the last eight months about saving the planet and social activism. It turns out that Jordan is really a grown man — and "repeat offender" — who molests children he meets online. It's a scary moment when Emma is forced to sit on the bed next to "Jordan," who has set up a camera for whatever he plans to do to her. With this episode, Degrassi lets its viewers know from the get-go just how intense this show is going to be.
Rick Pushes Terri — & Puts Her In A Coma
Rick and Terri's entire relationship is gruesome. Rick takes out his frustrations on Terri by physically abusing her. At first, Terri realizes that not having a boyfriend is better than having an abusive one, and she decides to steer clear of Rick (he also has major creeper vibes). But unfortunately, all it takes is one Paige Michalchuk-sponsored road trip in "Don't Dream It's Over" for Rick to get back into Terri's good graces. Well, right up until the moment that he loses his mind, painfully twists her wrist, and pushes her to the ground. Terri hits her head on a concrete block and spends almost the entire remainder of season 3 in a coma. She leaves Degrassi forever once she wakes up.
Marco Comes Out
The final two minutes of "Pride (Part 1)" are raw and intense. Marco is basically forced to come out after a date gone wrong. Up until this point, Marco has only confessed his sexuality to one person: Ellie, who pretended to be his girlfriend. But midway through season 3, Ellie is tired of the girlfriend charade and announces to their friends that they've broken up. Spinner — who is weirdly invested in Marco's love life — pesters him until he agrees to go on a date with Hazel. The end result? A terse confrontation that ends with Marco nearly in tears, shouting, "Because I'm gay!" He loses Spinner as a friend (for this season anyway) — which is made terribly clear with some of Spinner's homophobic taunts in the episodes that follow. Marco is the first character to come out on Degrassi, and this episode leads to the show's first GLAAD Award nomination.
Craig Is Abused — & Tries To Kill Himself
Craig Manning is known as rock 'n' roller, heartthrob, and former photographer. But when Craig first appears on Degrassi in season 2, we learn about his grim home life. Turns out that Craig's rich father abuses him. We see just how horrible the abuse is in "When Doves Cry," when Craig's father kicks him and later threatens to hit him with a golf club. Craig is covered in purple and blue bruises that he keeps hidden. It isn't until after a failed runaway attempt with his little stepsister that Craig (who is diagnosed as bipolar a few seasons later) decides he's had enough. While hanging out with Sean on the train tracks, Craig decides to play chicken with an oncoming train. Sean saves his life — and tells Craig's stepfather (Joey Jeremiah, from the original Degrassi) everything. The moment when Craig finally breaks down and tells Joey the truth is heart-wrenching.
Manny Gets Pregnant — & Then Has An Abortion
How intense and groundbreaking was the two-part episode "Accidents Will Happen" from season 3? So intense and groundbreaking that the U.S. would not air the episode. It took an "Every Episode Ever" marathon on The N — just ahead of the show's season 6 premiere— for the network to finally air the episode in 2006. So, what was all the fuss about? In the episode, Manny finds out that she's pregnant with the child of her on-again-off-again boyfriend Craig. Frightened of the reaction from her super conservative parents, she turns to Spike (who had Emma as a teenager) for advice. By Part 2, a very brave 14-year-old Manny Santos realizes she's not ready for a baby — despite Craig's protests — and has an abortion. This isn't the last time a girl on Degrassi gets pregnant (please see Liberty, for example), but it's the first time it happens on TNG, and they handle it so well.