Sunday, March 13, 2016

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets Legacy (Season 2 Finale)

This is their legacy, legacy.........yeah-uh............there's no guarantee, it's not up to me, time for season three........

Well, after a season of untimely deaths, long-awaited returns, new characters, episodes that changed the complexion of the show, episodes that made me want to claw my eyes out and choke myself simultaneously, and everything in between, we are finally here. Girl Meets World's second season is officially in the books. I'm going to refrain from talking about the season as a whole in this review because I still want to do a performance appraisal with Unknown. That's when I'm going to really let loose and be completely honest about how I feel when it comes to the series. You see, unlike Lucas, Riley, and Maya, I never chose to stop because I never had to keep my GMW feelings inside. 

I had to do that. Okay, I'll be blunt: It annoys me in ways I can't understand that the love triangle has yet to be resolved. They really should have spent less time on filler episodes that never went anywhere and tried to wrap this up as soon as possible after "Texas." Even after the cluster-f*** that was "Girl Meets New Year's," I still gave the writers the benefit of the doubt in hopes that they would stop dragging this out and just get to the damn point. But there's honestly no excuse for this. This is what frustrates me about season two and the series as a whole: The things that actually matter and can change the landscape of the show move at a snail's pace. You expect me to believe that these absolutely amazing, tight-knit friends never talked about what happened on the rooftop for months? Are the writers really thinking that the fans have that kind of time?

 I want action, I want things to happen, I crave for things to be shaken up on this show. It might be scary, but that's the protocol when you do a coming-of-age series like this. I watched an episode of 100 Things to Do Before High School yesterday and I was left wanting more. The episode handled teenage love, crushes, and heartbreak in a way that was charming, funny, and satisfying. I was left wondering why this show made it look so complex and bizarre. All I'm saying is, you had another chance to wrap it up and you blew it. Time is not going to wait for this show to catch up. Season three is sink or swim for GMW, no way around it anymore.

This episode, in all honesty, was pretty enjoyable. I had problems with some of it which I'll get into and those problems prevent me from grading higher, but the parts I liked, I didn't just like, I enjoyed. After everything this show has been throwing at me for weeks on end, it was nice to see it get back into the swing of things. I loved Lucas using flashcards (writing one word down on each card for emphasis and Maya questioning it was golden) both times, I loved Maya and Lucas' scenes with their authority figures, I loved the way they handled Cory becoming the kids' high school teacher, I absolutely loved Lucas and Zay's dialogue, and I loved Lucas finally making a decision. The important thing is neither Riley or Maya influenced his choice, he finally decided to take action and not pursue either one. Even though I would have preferred he pick one, it made sense to reject them both and just move on from it. And nobody here is saying that the love triangle should be buried completely, never to be mentioned ever again. It can come up later when necessary, but for now, it had to be resolved. I was really satisfied when Lucas put us all out of our collective misery and finished it. I even enjoyed some of the classroom scenes, and the entire graduation piece was flawless. 

But here's where "Legacy" slips up. And they were so close too. Riley and Maya didn't want Lucas to do something that would negatively affect their friendship, but when he chose neither of them, the very next scene showed them unable to even look at each other and on the verge of having some sort of mental breakdown. Why couldn't the episode have just ended with Lucas choosing to stop? Why did they ruin the goodwill that the scene right before created? By doing this, it means that Riley and Maya both wanted Lucas to choose them and would have been upset no matter what the verdict was. They spend so much time emphasizing friendship every damn episode that it seems a little off-putting to just turn into a romantic comedy. You know, most romantic comedies don't even have real comedy so GMW gets the edge there. This could have been their chance to resolve it in a way that made sense, but instead they take one step forward and two steps back in the same episode. Once again, we are left with uncertainty but it seems gratuitous and a little self-indulgent at this point.

Also, the friendship bench. I hate it, I hate every part of it. I hate that this episode brings up what legacy the kids will leave behind. I hate that the last classroom scene had me biting and then they fumbled the ball and turned it over on the potential game-winning drive with this stupid bench. I hate that Zay's name is on it when he is barely on the show and only really has ties to Lucas, so they can't justify his inclusion even though I really like him. And I hate the dramatic feel of the whole thing. Look, I know GMW relishes these moments, but sometimes less is more. When I was in eighth grade, I wasn't thinking about legacy. I was just thinking about this girl I liked who didn't even want me as a friend, going to Europe for spring break, my self-proclaimed "tripolar" math teacher's sense of humor, and wondering which high school I was going to. You're in junior high, what legacy can you possibly leave behind? 

The "people change people" engraving was actually really nice, but like a lot of things, Girl Meets World goes the route of forced sentimentality. I don't know about you guys, but I'm starting to think that some of these emotional moments aren't really......earned. What's the point in being a sitcom for kids if all you're going to do is get them to learn things and cry about everything? Why can't you be funny and goofy as well? I got to watch three episodes of Fuller House so far, and I don't get the feeling from them that they're going to be filling your head with messages 24/7. The vibe is a lot more fun on that show, if not overly self-referential and meta. In spite of that, Fuller House pulls it off pretty easily. I still have to watch the rest of the season, but at least for now, I'm going to see these people become a loving family through actual experiences, instead of having them tell us over and over that they are. 

Alright, I think I'm done here. Despite my gripes, this episode actually gave me a lot of positives and if nothing else, captured the fear and panic of moving into high school. As Riley put it, they were kings. The straw that stirred the drink, the type of kids that used to think the sky was falling. Now they're going to have to work even harder to make a name for themselves, which means struggle. Which means they're going to have to say what they want to say to the kids that said that they eyeballed them. Which means plenty of ripe material for season three. In the end, "Legacy" represented how I feel about season two as a whole: A hot start, some pretty decent character moments, cloying emotional content, really enjoyable moments, and a broken finish. What more can I say?

Episode Grade: B-
Episode MVP: Nobody. They're all losers, none of them get to win. No, I'm not that cold. Peyton Meyer, honestly. Lucas has come a long way this season and he actually entertains me a lot more these days. And for a couple minutes, he gave me relief from the love triangle when he chose to stop. At this point, he is a lot less annoying than Riley and Maya have a tendency to be, and he earned this award. In extra innings, he came through with the walk off. He commanded a last-minute drive right at the end of regulation to tie up the game. He nailed the game-winning three with one second left on the clock. Alright, I'm done. Peyton Meyer, ladies and gentlemen. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-Seriously, the first couple minutes of this episode were really good. It wasn't until the second classroom scene that the show started falling into its habits. I like how Lucas' flashcards could also double as a joke, like he just chose to use them for no discernible reason. Nice job, writers. 

-Oh yeah, I watched "Bay Window" twice: The first time live and the second time a week later, about two-thirds of it the second time. I liked it a lot less the second time and the ending was really stupid. I don't think I'm going to review it anymore because I might just get upset for no reason. But the joke about Lucas looking exactly the same when he was a little boy as he does now was excellent. Why do they give him all these great comedy bits and drag out the love triangle, which he is directly involved in?

-I also had the misfortune of looking at a Michael Jacobs interview before I even watched this episode. I like Jacobs, I really do, and I think he has a genuine love for developing characters, but none of his ideas are ever translated on television the way he talks about them. And from what I understand, the writing team has a lot of creative control so now I know who to point my finger at if this show declines before it ever had a chance to peak.

-"You didn't teach us enough." WHY IS THAT CORY'S PROBLEM?! WHY DO YOU GUYS KEEP SAYING THAT?! WHY IS CORY BLAMING HIMSELF?! WHY DO YOU GUYS WAIT MONTHS TO TALK ABOUT THINGS?! Ugh, I hated that line.

-This is Nitpicky Mike coming out, but why are they graduating in the spring? They live in New York City and they go to a public school, they should be graduating in June. I would know because I've been going to NYC public schools my entire life and I'm leaving high school in June. They also mention what season it is multiple times for some reason, like they're trying to tell us something. What are we supposed to believe, that this is some magic school system that allows kids to graduate middle school in April? Boy, I hope someone got fired for that blunder.  

-I wanted to enjoy Farkle's moment with Mr. Norton, but these two have no relationship outside of that one iffy episode so I couldn't really care. I think I figured out why Farkle doesn't really show any emotion. As he has gotten older, he has become more cold and calculating, owing to his intellectual, scientific background. Kinda like Agent Scully from The X-Files or Brian in the early years of Family Guy. Him asking Norton if feelings can be stronger than science is an interesting question, and helps display the growth that his character has shown over the year. This is something the writers could focus on in season three, trying to find a way to crack Farkle emotionally and possibly showing a disinterest in science. I mean, if the series wants to become what Jacobs sees it as, then go for it. 

-Words cannot express my hatred for the friendship bench. I know I said it before, but I really hate that they resorted to this. They took a great moment between Lucas and Harley and cheapened it for a reaction. It's really corny and just encapsulates why this show frustrates me sometimes. They keep going for these cliche, syrupy sitcom moments that don't even feel genuine because I don't know much about these characters. They can keep telling us that these people are the best of friends, but until you show me, I'm putting an asterisk next to it. Congratulations. These people are the Barry Bonds of friendship. Wait, that's unfair to Bonds because at least he showed us what his capabilities are. Can you really remember a time where we saw any iconic moments on this bench? Any? Other than that one episode where Maya went nuts because Riley didn't stand up for her, this bench means nothing to me. It's like the new bay window, only now they're trying to make us think that this bench has a purpose when the bay window was bashed into our heads repeatedly as an actual character. If anything, Topanga's has had more game-changing moments than that stupid bench. 

-Come on, we all knew that Cory was going to be teaching these kids in high school. The writers knew it too, and they knew that having Cory just start teaching there without a reason like Feeny would just insult our intelligence. The way they went about it was perfect and made me believe in the role Cory plays in these kids' lives. Now that was a genuine moment. I even got chills when Topanga said that Cory's going back to high school. Stuff like this shows me that the writers have it in them to make season three a big hit. I just wish they could show these realistic, genuine moments more often. They don't have to try so hard so soon. We'll be there for the ride. 

-I inadvertently revealed some things that I'm going to touch on more in the appraisal. Just know that I'm going to be very critical and blunt with these things because I really dig this show. I wouldn't be reviewing it if it was Bunk'd or Henry Danger or whatever. I see a lot of potential for it to be something much better, and as I see it now, it's one of the few kids shows on right now that gets a passionate reaction out of me, good episodes and bad ones. I don't want to bring the tone of the blog down by being so negative all the time, but these things have to be said for the sake of what I do.

Unknown, I'm finished, you want to get a piece?   

Sure I do! Though I don't have much to say on this episode specifically since really it's just a sum of what the series in its entirety has been, both for good and bad. 

But first of all I'm glad you're getting into 100 Things too! I still have that specific episode you're referring to on DVD, maybe we'll review it. I'm also glad that you at least thought it captured the tension of graduating middle school. I don't know if it's necessarily a bigger deal now than it was when I graduated middle school - I remember my dad watching the episode of Modern Family where Alex graduated middle school and the high school-like atmosphere made him launch into a rather Trump-esque "this is wrong with America" speech because apparently pomp and circumstance (both the actual song and actual pomp and circumstance) offends old people for some reason - but middle school does tend to be seen as a blip on the radar compared to the monster that is high school. I remember when I graduated middle school I wasn't necessarily in a hurry to go to high school and leave all my friends behind. Many of them were going to the brand-new high school that had just had its ribbon-cutting ceremony within the graduating semester and were going to be the very first graduating class while I was going off to the "ghetto school." Eight grade was certainly more enjoyable while 7th and 6th grades were...eh. Incidentally 100 Things also had an episode like this, but from the other direction - kids transitioning from elementary/primary school into middle school. No more nap times, no more recess (well, middle school still had recess, it had just "evolved" into lunch period) and of course all the academics took a pretty huge leap in difficulty and complexity. In some ways it's even more jarring than the transition from middle school to high school.

But ummm...yeah. The, uh, actual episode in question. Yeahhhhhhh. 

So. Stuff happened. Uh, we saw more Harley. We saw more Mr. Norton. We saw a bench.

Between Girl Meets World Reviewed and especially after what Mike said, I don't really feel like there's more to contribute here. Especially since to be really honest here I'm not in a hurry to watch the episode again so - thanks for covering for me, Mike! 

That actually brings up another thing - if you're wondering why I've been so tardy to actually contribute to reviews lately, sometimes days if not a full week or more after the fact, well this is part of it - specifically, just quite frankly a reluctance to relive those events. For shows that I actually don't regret like Stuck in the Middle it ends up snowballing into them into a general lethargy. Mike's right, this genre of show has really been spinning its wheels lately. Stuck in the Middle is a nice boost to Disney Channel but in the meantime 100 Things' future is in doubt, though I've been told I should expect a Season 2 renewal (by who? By that guy who goes by "DisneyNickAlive" here on this very blog, if he's even still around here). 

But I'm...like...uggghghghgghgh. Ugh. I'm so glad Christian and Sean take care of GMW on a per episode basis for us. Speaking of which I have to agree with Christian and Sean on this one. Having Cory just blurt out that he's joining the gang in high school ruins the joke. They made that joke in the very first episode, they turned that joke on its head in the second season opener, and now they've gone done and ruined it for season 3.

I guess the only thing I have to say is about leaving a legacy in friggin' junior high school. Like Mike said, normal kids don't think that way. In Middle School, kids' worlds are very small - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lately, if not for the past several years or even longer, "small world" has been equated into "self-centered-ness" and outright "selfishness" and not only is that not necessarily accurate, but not necessarily a healthy thing either. Kids today have it drilled into their heads that they need to have a positive impact and make every breathing moment count for the greater good of humankind while in the next breath being told how self-centered are Millennials and the generation coming up (sometimes awkwardly called "Generation Z" because whoever comes up with this crap has truly given up, other times called "well at least those kids aren't Millennials"). This has been giving some kids the impression that they need to do what's pretty much physically impossible and small intimate moments to just share with themselves or with a small group of friend are bad. I'll get into this more with the general review of Season 2, but there's clearly an obsession with Riley to make every moment not just count, but be revolutionary and world-changing. Again, that's physically impossible. 

One thing that this did nail down is how anxious kids are when they inevitably break up, or if they somehow manage to make it through to the same high school how they're going to transition together.That's what kids are actually going to be focusing on. 

And admittedly a "friendship bench" is at least a realistic thing to leave a physical legacy behind in a middle school. Though, again, Liv and Maddie did it better (and again, more on that later).

So.....

Episode Grade: B-. It's got stuff.*
Episode MVP: Eh, can I give it to Sarah just for the hell of it? Was she even in this episode? If not I'll give it to Peyton because whatever Mike said.

Other observations: 

 - *Stuff! It's a plot!

 - uhh honestly that's it.


7 comments:

  1. I'll say this, even at it's worst it still seem to be trying. I feel some people can be way too harsh, given how it's still better than a lot of other shows out there..

    I do want to tackle an episode myself on my sites, besides Terror 2, which is too easy.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, no doubt about that. A lot of kids shows today don't even interest me enough to review regularly. Most of my frustration with this show comes from the fact that some season two episodes have shown definite improvement and the writers can do way better most of the time. But then they start slipping into old habits.

      You could always do "Commonism" or "Belief" or something, since they were actively trying to teach you something.

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    2. I'll tackle this in the Season 2 review but I'll say this: trying is no substitute for actual quality content. As Yoda said, do or do not: there is no try.

      In other news Spongey's requested to do a collaboration/crossover review to which I say: sure, I'm down with it. I'll let Sponey iron out the details for now.

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    3. When you watch the Disney Channel, trying is the best you can get sometimes.

      Also, I'll check out Commonism and see about it. Bay Window sounds bad too,.

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    4. Watched Bay Window...and yeah, it's a likely contender, but we'll see after i watch Commonism.

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    5. We'll cover more about trying (and whether it's enough) in the overall Season 2 review :)

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    6. Watched Commonism and eh, I'll stick with reviewing Bay Window. Commonish was not very good but i'm not sure what to say about it besides it's just very preachy and not thought out that well. That and it takes more thought to tear down the "lesson" episodes so it's easier to stick with what i know.

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