The best of Riley Matthews that we have ever seen at this point.
What is it? multi-cam kidcom, half-hour (24 minute) length. Except in this case it's part 2 of three, whee. So, like, 24 minutes times three. Wait, hold on, I've almost got it....
Where did it air? Disney Channel
Who stars in it? Rowan Blanchard, Sabrina Carpenter, Peyton Meyer, Corey Fogelmanis, Amir I Forgot His Last Name, the Collective Angst of Every Teen in the Greater LA Area including the cast themselves, the cast of all other Disney Channel shows and the cast of Nick shows (and hell everything else while we're at it)
Why are we reviewing this? Again, GMWReviewed Envy
Edtior's note: I've already seen the episode on Watch Disney Channel so I'll add my initial thoughts here.
...except you didn't see that so now it's stuck there, I guess -_- Oh well. Bonus points for anybody who already pointed that out in the comments.
As I said in the post for Part 1, Part 2 felt...more obligatory. Or maybe more soap opera-ish. Christian and Sean at GMWReviewed talked about how Part 1 was finally doing a better job at actually showing than telling, and if you want to know exactly what they're talking about, Maya sitting alone by herself on that stone fence said everything that really needed to be said in that episode, or for that matter this one.
In Part 2...they really go back to telling rather than showing. If you're familiar with the BBC Soap Eastenders...well, I'm only vaguely familiar with it but when they used to run this on PBS incessantly I caught a few episodes. It kind of reminds me of that. Or maybe even Degrassi, since a lot of people seem to be under the impression that GMW should be Degrassi (well here you go). A lot of going back-and-fourth on verbally expressing, flat-out and to-the-point, feelings and emotions, often as asides to other characters that don't necessarily have a stake in the relationship itself but would nonetheless have an opinion. Is it bad? No, no no, I don't want you to think that's the impression I want to give. But it is a little jarring, actually. Practically everyone who's going to read this and GMWReviewed is going in knowing exactly that this is going to happen, but reading an episode description and actually watching it unfold on screen leaves completely different impressions. This is the most intense the show has ever been about relationships other than Meets Hurricane. Meets First Kiss and others were about the more rose-colored, puppy love aspects of relationships with Riley and Lucas making starry eyes at each other. Even when they agreed they needed a break, it was, as Riley herself puts it, like brother and sister. Here, it's the ugly side of teen romance - a bunch of confused young people trying to figure out what the hell kind of games the others are playing, and the thing is the kids pushing these games aren't even sure what they themselves want the rules to be.
That's the core of very powerful tween and teen-centric television (or at least one such possible core). But like anything else it can be handled very well, or very clumsily. It can be a defining moment of relationship-building and really stick with the viewers for as long as the series puts out new episodes, or better yet exists in syndicated reruns. It can also be a bunch of awkward teen actors shouting soap opera lines at each other. Meets Texas Part 2 is...
...yeah, I hate to do this to you but I'm going to cop-out here. I think it's very clear Part 2 is a bridge episode between 1 and 3 and how effective the drama retroactively works out in this episode is going to be partially dependent on how that drama concludes and how the writers intend to have it carry into the remainder of the show. Oh, I've still got a final grade and MVP in mind (which I'll share in due time) but the ultimate pay-off of this episode is actually in the next one - so we'll have to see where that leads to.
This episode is the one you would expect to have everything fall into place, where the "it" hits the fan and everything explodes in a dramatic, intense fury and Part 3 would just be the fallout of that. You know what Girl Meets World says to that line of thinking? Nope.
This was a cool down session from Part 1, and as it stands now, Part 1 of "Girl Meets the Texas Movie" is one of my favorite episodes from the show so far. Part 2 doesn't really give me the same feeling but I don't think it's supposed to. You're expected to be teased, you're expected to be on the edge of your seat, you're expected to be suckered in so you can get something a lot more substantial later on. Part 1 set it off beautifully. Part 2 carried the baton from there but was unable to cover as much ground. Now you have Part 3, and there are two ways things can go from here. Lucas and Maya spend the whole episode trying to become a couple once they tell Riley about that.....thing in Texas? However, they realize that their feelings are surrounded by uncertainty. They know a spark is there, but they just don't know if they're ready to connect with each other on that level, so they decide to keep it friendly until later on down the line. Another way is that Riley decides to distance herself from Lucas and Maya and starts questioning her feelings. This episode also brings back Charlie who asks Riley out and this time, he succeeds. The episode ends ambiguously as Riley decides to go out with Charlie, Maya and Lucas still have to figure out their feelings, and Farkle and Zay just sit around not knowing what to do because neither of them have any direct involvement in any of this.
I expect Farkle to be all positive and talk about how much he loves everything and Zay will just make a bunch of smart-aleck quips when the Big Three aren't talking.
Now let's bring this back to Part 2 itself. I don't really know what to say. It was more of a bunch of stuff that happened. There was a bunch of talking, and talking, and talking. And some more talking on top of the talking. I get why they did this. There's a reason why there are three parts of this episode/TV movie. Part 2 is just meant to carry on what Part 1 created. If too much unfolded here, Part 3 would just be a lame filler episode. But we don't know where things are going to be taken from here. We know Riley is now battling herself. We know that she may not be thrilled at the idea of Maya and Lucas dating, but she wants them to explore their feelings on their own terms. That's why Riley told Lucas that Maya had feelings for him. She was never going to do it herself unless Riley made a bold choice and took matters into her own hands. Again, this is more of the Riley that I'm in love with this weekend. She isn't just sitting around waiting for things to happen, she is aware of everything that is going on and she wants to put the pieces together so things can move along. It's not like in "Pluto" where it took Riley nine freaking years to find out that Pluto was no longer a planet. It's not like in "Semi-Formal" where she was hoping Maya would tell her how she felt with no attempt at figuring it out herself. It's just Riley taking charge of her own life and her own emotions because she wants things to make sense.
This is a different Riley than we have seen in the past. She still has that goofy charm in there, but it's taken a backseat to the seriousness of the situation. Riley has treated everything with legitimate emotion, and by extension, the audience can as well.
I know people like to praise Sabrina Carpenter for everything, and she deserves all the praise in the world because Girl Meets World would be a joke without her. But I want to give it up to Rowan Blanchard for once. She has effectively stolen the show and it seems like nobody else wants to focus on that. Her tone, her facial expressions, her body language. Riley has become an entirely different character in this three-part episode, and I am almost expecting Part 3 to take it from there. No more speculation, no more doubts. I know the writers can give Riley so much more than Mrs. Sunshine and Rainbows, it's just a matter of them committing to it and knowing when to give the material to her.
Alright, the scene with Lucas and Maya at the campfire. I.....don't know what they were going for. It wasn't even a kiss, I didn't see it. I literally didn't see anything. I went back, played the tape again.....nothing. I just don't know why they couldn't have kissed. It's like the one thing they needed to complete the scene (which was beautiful, by the way) and they just couldn't do it. I guess Lucas and Maya see the whole thing as awkward. You can tell from both sides. Lucas is caught between two great girls, because while Riley may not want things to go further than friendship anymore, he clearly does. Brother and sister is not good enough for him. On the other hand, he might have deeper feelings for Maya, but their relationship has been laid out since day one. How do you progress from there? Part 2 did a great job of suspense-building and leaving things more open-ended for Part 3 to conclude and carry on in the future. I'll just leave it at that and my co-workers can challenge the rest.
Episode Grade: B
Episode MVP: Rowan Blanchard. Riley has really shined in these past two episodes and last night, she was the most compelling character. There is definitely more to come so I'm excited to see where things go.
It sounds to me like you're experiencing exactly what I had described this episode to be - a bridge episode. With all the ship maneuvering, and with all the subtlety of Titanic-on-iceberg, yeah it took away a lot of the thunder built up from Part 1. All the 14 year old girls will go nuts over it because they're not looking for GMW, they're not even looking for Degrassi, they're looking for the Degrassi fanfiction Canadian TV won't let them put into filming. Yes, here's the big secret - all the people begging for GMW to act more "grown up" aren't exactly grown-ups themselves. All the Boy Meets World nostalgia crew...I'm not going to go so far as to say they'll automatically hate it. In fact I can only go so far as to say it'll probably be a mixed bag. I can imagine some liking it more than others.
For starters, how about myself. When I saw this episode a second time upon its actual airing, well, I was really glad I held off grading it. Was it better upon second viewing? Eh, not really. But it was funnier. The jokes clicked better without the emotional distraction of the Jessie and IDDI finales and, uh, sober. Farkle staring down Pappy Joe was...awkward. Much more awkward than whatever that nonsense was with Cletus in Part 1 (oh, that reminds me. My [female!] Scout Troop leader was a former rodeo clown. Rodeo clown is one of the most dangerous professions I can think of, just slightly better than ISIL suicide bomber). I know that whole exchange only exists for a sight gag of Farkle being surrounded by BBQ ribs, and I know that gag only exists because it feels obligatory to have the most awkward character geek out on BBQ for some reason (see Sweet 16-a-Rooney), but still, really Micheal? Donnie "Farkle" Barnes-Minkus never mouths off to someone randomly like that. Actual Farkle Minkus barely mouthed off like that if all, even when he was at his most hyper. Zay confronting Vanessa was a scene I really got behind (am I the only person in the world who actually likes this character? He's evolved a lot since that awkward period at the beginning of S2). The campfire scene wasn't as powerful as the stone wall scene but I can live with that. When the screen faded to black I felt like it was damn worth something for the Riley Gang to be in Texas. But that's not to say that I felt like it was as amazing as Part 1. Part 1 just clicked. Part 2 felt obligatory, and they did a good job of making that obligation entertaining and meaningful, but at the end of the day it still felt like an obligation.
Then again, that's probably what the characters would've been feeling too after the bombshells Riley and Maya were throwing at Lucas and at each other.
Final Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Eh, Rowan and Sabs were about equal here so I have no problem giving it to Row too. Was it still as powerful as Sab's MVP-winning moment in Part 1? Not a chance. The thing about a dialogue-driven multi-cam is that it's, um, well, dialogue-driven. On top of reciting dozens of pages of lines from a scriptwriter and being held tight to that script blocking you're also going to contend with a director who, again, is going to be dialogue-driven in his or her style as a necessity of the show's format. That's going to effect the quality of the acting and limit an actor's ability to push the acting envelope, and on these multi-cams that's not what they're looking for. Hell, that might be the exact opposite of what they're looking for, especially on a network like Disney Channel were consistency in product is probably more desirable than letting the actors and directors pull a Bill Murray when they feel like it, even if the latter is more beneficial to the quality of the show. So you often end up of moments where an actor's best talent shines through when there's absolutely nothing to say or sometimes even do. Jessie standing in that elevator and Maya sitting on that stone wall, back-to-back no less, really drives that home (or how about Liv and Diggie just staring at each other for a moment).
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