Saturday, June 4, 2016

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets High School (Part One)

We're back......again.

I'm going to wait until Saturday - seven days after the premiere airing - to watch this episode. That way my viewing won't count towards Nielsen ratings. Because I'm an asshole like that - Unknown.

Hi everybody. Hopefully, Unknown will show up later (I will, later - much later. Because, again, I'm an asshole like that), but for now, let's get this review started by saying finally, Girl Meets World.....HAS COME BACK.....TO BLOGGER.

Is this a good thing? Well, it helps me with my procrastination so there's that. But the question is, can this show finally improve and be what we want it to be? Three months ago, we said that season three was gut check time. This was the season where all cards had to be thrown on the table, and GMW had to finally evolve from its predecessor in order to become a show worth watching. It's been going in circles for two years now, so does the season premiere show growth and potential?

The answer is no. It doesn't.

I'm at the point where I'm no longer angry at the show when it makes episodes like these, just disappointed. Actually, I'm still going to be angry. But part one of this season premiere isn't the kind of episode you lose your mind over. It's just you shaking your head because once again, Girl Meets World proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm serious, that saying might be in my top five all-time. It's so simple, but can be used effectively in many situations. Plus, this show is the epitome of that saying, so its relevance has yet to fade away.

But enough of that, let's talk about this episode. As a season premiere, it is miles ahead of the garbage pile that was "Gravity," but may or may not be better than the pilot based on what part two has in store for us. That's what sucks about reviewing this particular episode. If it sucks, I can't give it the complete thrashing I want to because part two might fix every little problem. It was a lot easier to do this with "Texas" because almost everything worked in those episodes, so treating them individually was a breeze. But since this is about the individual part one, let's pretend part two doesn't exist and this episode is simply that.......its own standalone episode.

It wasn't impressive and didn't give me a lot of hope for the new season. As someone who is graduating from high school in three weeks, I looked at Riley's gang and remembered how I felt on the first day. The kids were huge, the halls were huge, the building was huge. There was definitely that feeling captured within the show so I can't fault them for that. The only thing is, I went to a New York City public school just like these guys, and the similarities just stopped after a couple minutes. I don't know any kind of seniors that would waste their time treating freshmen like four-year-olds and putting them in the corner like that. It just seemed so stereotypical and cliche to make the seniors typical high school jocks, because it brings nothing to the table. It's the same thing we have seen done on every other live-action show aimed at teenagers throughout history. 

Unlike several other shows, however, Girl Meets World chooses to portray classroom scenes the same way they always do: With Cory just watching the kids talk about their bad day and interrupt class time. Are you kidding me right now? We were getting sick and tired of this crap in season one. Now Cory's letting Riley and her friends hijack the class in high school too? I mean, eighth graders tend to act like eighth graders in ninth grade as well. Once the year is over, they slowly get out of that junior high mentality and realize what kind of environment they are in. But this has nothing to do with being realistic. They're just doing the same thing they did for two seasons completely straight. Do the writers not realize that this has to stop at some point? It's beating a dead horse. In Boy Meets World, we all knew Feeny had ultimate control of the classroom other than those rare occasions. He would never stand for his students constantly interrupting him like this. Cory has to do something about these children......soon.

So the main conflict here is, of course, Riley and the gang coming to terms with the fact that they are small fish in a big pond. And immediately, I think of that Full House episode where D.J. starts high school and pretty much feels the same way these kids feel. Of course, D.J. never assumed she was going to take over the school on her first day, she was just overwhelmed by her surroundings and struggled to adapt to them. Here, it legitimately feels like the kids thought that they were going to run the joint like they did in junior high. No kid thinks like this. Once you go to high school, you know your place and you just go on with your life. We get it, you were kings in junior high and now you're not. You have anything more to say? The worst part is, Maya of all people is dumbfounded at the fact that they're not running anything. It's Maya. Isn't she supposed to be the street-smart member of the group? Why does she feel this way when she should have known how things were going to be? Cory just wanted no Feeny and a chance to befriend Harley so nobody would bother him in high school. Why is this news to them?

Lucas gets legit pissed off at Riley for her undying optimism, and this is where the episode actually gives us something to chew on. For so long, Riley has been the cheerful leader, the one that tries to find the absolute best in people. But as you get older, you realize that not everyone has good intentions. Assholes exist, evil exists, and some people only want to torture you. Either that, or they just don't care about you at all. It's a harsh lesson I had to learn in high school, and one that I wish the show would teach to these kids so they get a taste of the real world. In the real world, people are going to smack you in the mouth for no reason. Lucas sees that, Zay sees that, Farkle and Smackle see that, and I know Maya sees that. But Riley doesn't see that, and that conflict with herself is one that I hope the writers delve into as the season goes on.

So the episode ends with everyone realizing that junior high is over and Riley can't be their gatekeeper anymore so they all abandon her except for Maya. And then they cry about it because this show is like, really emotional, man. What's comedy to them? Who cares when you can make these girls cry about everything that ever happens? 

Yeah, part one's not looking so good right now. I want to hope for the best in part two, but as I've seen many times before with this show, hope might be an irrational thing to have. It's season three. It's high school now. This is where most shows start to enter their peak years before declining miserably. If you ask me, this show is still finding its voice. That's not a good thing to say three seasons in.

Episode Grade: C
Episode MVP: Me, because I had to sit through it. No, I'm just kidding. Wait, you know what? It's me, because I literally can't think of anybody that deserved this award.

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-I can't get over this hollow feeling I had while watching this episode. I didn't even get angry that much or laugh at a lot of jokes. It was just a really average 22 minutes, and I don't want it to get to the point where this show becomes boring. It's one thing for episodes to be terrible, but when this show isn't even worth reviewing, it becomes just like every other live-action show for kids, only with more attempts at emotion.

-I watched a couple minutes of Stuck in the Middle before this episode came on. The single-camera format is horrible. I know this was a stylistic choice, but the work here is piss poor and makes the show look more like a cheesy five-minute short than an actual series. The camera is way too close to every single character, the lighting is distracting, and I feel like the format hurts the pacing because the show felt like it was fifty minutes long. Seriously, there's a way to do a single-camera show. JONAS was single-camera, and it was a lot more easy on the eyes than this show. Go back and watch some season one episodes of JONAS, the camera work there compared to this show is like night and day. 

-I don't know what it is, but this show also looks slightly different. Like, the lighting is more expressive for some reason. Either that, or it looks like the characters rubbed extra shiny cream on their skin. A little distracting, but I can live with that. 

-The opening joke with Riley and Maya inadvertently knocking down their lookalikes at the door was pretty funny. Don't drink that joke in one gulp, because you'll be pretty thirsty for the rest of it.

-I guess the show thought it was really, really slick by completely redoing the opening sequence of Boy Meets World from seasons 5-7. It took me some time, but after a couple seconds, I realized what they were doing and it just annoyed me. If they used this sequence as a joke, or as a one-time homage, that would be pretty cool, but as far as I can tell, this is the new opening. They're not even playing with the original scenes, it's just the characters reenacting the whole thing. I don't know why they got rid of the first opening which actually gave this show an identity, but now it feels like they really want you to remember that this is Boy Meets World's child. It's lazy, it makes no sense to use, and it just reminds me that BMW will always be the better show.

-I also can't get over how the seniors are used here. They put these new freshmen in a hole because they have nothing better to do. Lucas thinks it's just them being assholes, while Riley thinks this is meant to teach them something. Cory even thinks the seniors singled them out for a certain reason. You'll never guess who ends up being right. I dare you to guess right now. Apparently, the seniors did do this to teach them a lesson about exploring the world beyond their own. Apparently, the seniors have also been in Topanga's coffee shop for as long as they can remember and have been watching the kids come and go, but they never noticed them before. GIRL MEETS WORLD, STOP. JUST STOP. THIS IS AWFUL, AND IF THE EPISODE WASN'T GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS, I WOULD BE MORE UPSET. I DON'T KNOW THESE DAMN KIDS. I'VE NEVER SEEN THESE DAMN KIDS BEFORE IN ANY OTHER EPISODE. I'M NOT STUPID, I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING.

-You know what? Because that one moment pissed me off so much, I'm going to talk about it some more. I don't buy for one second that the seniors were trying to teach the freshmen anything. Nobody does stuff like this in school. This is as unrealistic as the show has ever been, and all it does is remind me that GMW consistently has poor execution when it comes to telling their stories. Why couldn't the seniors have just been assholes looking to clown the guys? Why was it revealed that they are these mystical omnipotent creatures hiding in the coffee shop for two damn years waiting for Riley and the kids to go to high school so they could teach them this lesson? If the seniors were older, I would have called the cops because chances are, they're most likely just child molesters or pedophiles or rapists. I understand the intention, but I don't care about these stupid kids and what they want to teach Riley's gang. You're not Feeny, you're not Alan, you're not even Cory, so don't try to sell me that nonsense. 

-There's a subplot here, but I don't know how I feel about it. Basically, Ava's parents have been fighting a lot lately, and in the end, Ava's father leaves the family. I'm not really invested in Ava as a character so I don't care that much about her endeavors, but this is definitely her best performance yet. The actress really sells it as a kid seeing her parents fight and not understanding why or if she had a role to play in it as well. I don't know why this plot exists, because at the end of the day, it's still a plot starring a character I'm not interested in, but as the late, great rapper Phife Dawg once said, "You get an E for effort, and T for nice try."

-Because the writers want to let you know they're in on the joke, and they're aware of what they are doing, we have a new character here named Marley. I really hope she's only around for this one episode because all she does is sit in the classroom and comment on how strange it is that Riley and the kids have full-on conversations while Cory does absolutely nothing. Like Mr. Enter always says, pointing out your problems does not make it okay. If anything, it makes the show look worse because we know the writers are aware of what they're doing and they know we know what they're doing but they're never going to stop because now the characters can comment on it in the show! Besides, isn't Zay supposed to be the character making meta jokes? Why do we need another person doing this? 

-Speaking of Zay, I almost forgot to talk about this. With him and Smackle in the same high school with the rest of the gang, the quartet is now officially a sextet. I like this because now there are more characters to play off of each other and more potential for new stories. This is actually one of the things where GMW has the point over BMW. In the original show, they started introducing new cast members to the main cast on a whim. The only problem is, none of those characters ended up becoming as endearing or memorable as the core four (Cory, Shawn, Topanga, Eric). Jack was pretty decent, Angela did her thing, and Rachel was Rachel but they all came off as recurring characters given a role they really didn't need. The best part about the sextet is that none of them are new additions to the show. Hell, Smackle made her presence felt in the first season and one of the show's best episodes was centered around her. So yeah, I think this new arrangement could work out.

-Another joke I liked: The kids complaining to Cory about how much he failed to prepare them for high school, including Smackle. Cory then points out that Smackle never went to their school, and she responds by saying she wants to join the love triangle. Also, Maya comments on Riley by saying something like, "I'm in a triangle with this?" Wait, but Michael Jacobs told me there is no triangle. Whatever.

-To make the cypher complete when it comes to Girl Meets World, the episode has to have some crying. At the coffee shop when Riley is confronting Farkle, it really looks like Sabrina Carpenter is on the edge of tears for reasons that escape me. Then when Maya talks to Ava about her family situation, she starts remembering her own and gets emotional. Then she talks to Riley about the episode's events and they're both crying. I don't know why crying and sadness and drama is such a thing with this show. It meant something in "Rileytown" when Riley and Maya cried because everything had been building up to that point. It was completely unexpected, and it was something we had never seen before. Now, I just roll my eyes whenever these kids cry. I'm calling it right now, there's going to be a future episode where Riley loses her lucky pencil and starts crying about it after ten minutes. Or another one where someone mentions the rapper Father MC and Maya bursts into tears at the word "father."

Ok after a lengthy absence I'm back and ready to tackle GMW again! Yeah, the whole thing about not trying to get my viewings of GMW to count towards Nielsen ratings because I'm an asshole is kind of backfiring on me. By not bothering to at least record it on my DVR I...waited too long until the episode wasn't even on Watch Disney anymore and I had to wait to record it when it appeared on actual Disney Channel again. Yeah, I'll quit being an asshole.

I've already read Mike's review, and Sean and Christian's review because trying to avoid Girl Meets World spoilers is like trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers (you got to be on top of that, man!) So yes, I know that there are some parts that work brilliantly, I know there are some parts that work disastrously, and that on the whole the two-parter is either "meh" to "yeah the whole thing is a disaster too." I also find it interesting that instead of splitting it up by a week (like they did with the three-part Fight the Future Lab special for Best Friends Whenever, airing around the same time) or just airing it as a one-hour special they aired it on Friday, then skipped Saturday, then aired it Sunday (effectively burying the Season 3 finale of Liv and Maddie under Part 2, something this show seems really fond of - but like I said in the Danger & Thunder review, I'll cover more of my frustration with that in Meets Jexica). 

...wow, did they just open up with a faux-Riley/Maya fake-out? Like, we would literally forget what Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter would look like, or be convinced that aging one year in the middle of puberty completely changes your physical appearance? Oh, no wait, this is the fake-out Sean, Christian and Mike mentioned where they get slammed against the doors by the real Riley and Maya who make the same "we're gonna take over" declaration. I think at least one of the three thought it was pretty funny - I just think it's incredibly mean-spirited. By the show itself, who apparently wants to carry on the proud Disney tradition that non-major actors need to earn their scale through physical abuse, and by Riley and Maya, whether intentional or not but it does make their time in the hole or whatever look a little deserving if it means bringing them closer to some humility by a notch (you know, that thing that Riley and Maya had a lot of from the very first episode to right before this one?) In fact, back to this scene and the show itself, I feel like this is how the show itself actually sees itself regarding its position on the network - it's gonna take over, and it can just shove the doors against all the other shows. But again, I'll try to save that rant for Meets Jexica (you'll see why it has to be that episode when I get around to that episode - again, it's related to a theory about "Jexica" herself).

Well it looks like Zay is trying to help those girls up, but it devotes literally less than a second to this (yes, I friggin' timed it). It's barely enough time for Zay to extend a hand in sufficient enough motion to make it clear he's extending his hand. Yeah, that's just the show not giving af.

Jesus Christ why are there three Smackle clones? I know it has to be this way for Farkle's joke to make any lick of sense but it only emphasizes how the writers of this show (or even Micheal Jacobs specifically, although I'm praying this isn't the case) can only see things in terms of Riley/Maya/Lucas/Farkle and now Zay and Smackle. No, I don't mean from their perspectives, I mean actual Riley/Maya/Lucas/Farkle and now Zay and Smackle. In that, everyone in existence has to fit into these four pre-conceived paradigms, now conveniently and begrudgingly increased to six. It goes along with that faux-Riley/Maya getting smacked against the doors "joke" from less than 30 seconds earlier. It's like what people tell me of only being able to see redheads (including fake redhead Jessie Prescott) in terms of my ex but, yeah, that's not the point. What is the point is that I really don't want the show to only be able to see people in terms of Riley/Maya/Lucas/Farkle or related archetypes. That's one of the things that's really holding the show back.

The high school set really doesn't impress me, coming off as cramped, cheap and overall just a redress of the pre-existant John Quincy Adams Middle School set of prior. What does impress me, actually, is Corey Fogelmanis himself - and yeah, it's very obviously clear that the whole Donnie Barnes thing really was necessary. He really does looks like Disney Channel leading material himself now, and you just can't really pull off old, dorky Farkle off anymore with something like that. You do have to make the character evolved because guess what, people do - and it's one of the things the show has done best relative to other things so far, even if it was somewhat bumpy and roughly handled and even if only because Corey's biology itself essentially forced the show to. If Corey didn't end up looking like a legitimate rival to Peyton Meyer (or what's his face from Bunk'd) for lead-worthiness, they'd probably still be pushing the old Farkle, son of Minkus Prime act. As evidenced that Smackle is still fundamentally the same Smackle, still dressing the same because even though they don't make clothes like that in actual teen sizes, Disney's wardrobe department can make it happen anyway. In fact, the Smackle clones themselves are dressed more chic-ly than Smackle-Prime, even if in at least two of the cases only by a notch or so (I think the one on the far left, in the red-and-mustard number, really pulls off the demure chic look far too well than what the director or writer were aiming for). 

Also, the I thought they were you! excuse doesn't work when she's standing right in front of you. Consider that High School Lesson #1, Farkle.

Ok, so about the whole "owning high school" thing. Yeah, I guess I need to talk about that. Sean and Christian already talked about that. Mike already talked about that in the green part above. All three of them did it exceedingly brilliantly and with better writing talent than the knuckleheads behind this actual episode. Anyway, I remember when I was entering into high school for the first time and even before, with the anticipation of 8th grade ending (and now I'm reminded of yet another superior show, 100 Things to do Before High School, which sadly is dearly departed after just one season). I knew there was no way I was going to walk in to high school owning the place as a freshman, and in fact I was kind of on the defensive against upperclassmen because, see, even back then they had these TV shows and movies that talked about how rough it can be for freshman to survive high school. being all the way at the bottom of the food chain and all. One of these TV shows, in fact, was a quaint little multi-cam family sitcom called Boy. Meets. Friggin'. World. I really don't know how the same exact people can make that and then trip over themselves by being so busy fawning over the Riley/Maya/Lucas/Farkle/Related clique. Boy Meets World was written as an actual story - not as television (there's a distinction) but as a story, which is why rival network TeeNick is so desperate to get reruns of Boy Meets World running 15 years after that show concluded. Girl Meets World so far seems to be written almost as if Micheal Jacobs is under the belief that Riley Matthews and Maya Hart are the avatars for the daughters he's never had, and so he has to coddle and protect them at all costs, as if what happens to these characters provides a reverse Dorian Gray-like conduit (I'm sure there's a less awkward term for what I'm looking for) to transfer events and experiences onto these would-be Jacobs daughters. 

BTW, that thing I just described? Surprisingly common in the fiction-writing world. It's one of those traps writers, especially novice writers, really need to look out for (writers have a tendency to get really attached to characters either of the opposite sex, avatars for their children/would-be children, and especially a combination of both - yeah, I'm looking right at you again, Jacobs). But given what's tweeted out of the "official" Girl Meets World Writers account, it seems like they slept through most of Creative Writing 101. 

That said, the whole idea of Riley and Maya thinking they can own high school as freshman is actually a great setup and a potential lesson in hubris. It'd be a nice way to address one of the most common complaints Sean, Christian and most of the adult audience have of the show, and while bringing Riley and Maya down a notch or two would be excessively cruel, it would be nice to see what kind of humane (or humane-ish) lesson the show has in store about teaching them humility and how to deal with adversity and people using their superiority in physical stature, social status and age to bully those less advantaged.

Of course, having already read the green text above, I know there's no way in hell that's happening p.s. jon snow is brought back to life and cersei friggin' nukes the whole goddamn sept.

And again I remind myself of a much superior show I kind of would rather be watching right now. I really need to stop that.

The doubt Maya voices to Riley also really drives home the fundamental differences between these two characters, and why I think a lot of it boils down to writing faux-pas on the staff's part than any actual creative intention. Maya actually acts like how a freshman should act like - that there are seniors here who have spent the last three years trying to climb to the top, that eating freshman for a breakfast is pretty much a hobby for them, and that there are plenty of sophomores and even other freshman who easily outsize her (sorry Sabs). Riley...either acts like someone who's deluded herself that she's going to be the top Queen Bee not at the end of four years but at the end of this year, tops (you know, like Regina in Mean Girls - i.e. the exact opposite of Riley Matthews) or she acts like Rowan Blanchard who's read ahead in the script and knows Riley is pre-destined to not only be Queen Bee after all, but the most benevolent Queen Bee the world has ever seen, because the writers can't help themselves but intend this (again, see the coddling thing above). In a show that's explicitly about coming-of-age, a show that's the sequel to another show explicitly about coming-of-age, it's exceedingly frustrating for the show to have this attitude so prevalent. It more or less destroys the entire concept of coming-of-age to begin with! What's the point of using fictional examples to try to learn from their struggles on how to better ourselves as real people, if these fictional examples are just going to be portrayed as perfect and ultimately just serve as a reminder of how we, as real people, suck and how much the real world just sucks in comparison? Again, this is why Victorious was such a brilliant show for what it was - it showed actual teens struggling, and Tori didn't win all the time. In fact by the whole Tori won rarely - she mostly had to just shrug off her losses and just fake it like she made it. The whole faking it thing, and pulling it off successfully, was Tori's real success. Again, this is one of the reason why people say Victorious actually comes off as more realistic and relatable than Shake it Up, where as long as they put enough effort into it CeCe and Rocky always won - or Girl Meets World where Riley is pretty much pre-ordained to win by Act of Friggin' God and therefore has to put literally zero effort into everything.  
And yes I'm even going to play the Jessie is better than Girl Meets World card again because especially in the first two seasons Jessie got the utter crap beat out of her - mostly metaphorically but sometimes very literally - and often times at the end she "lost," or at least she didn't necessarily gain anything personally, but the kids were able to gain something in the process. That's a lesson in sacrifice right there. Tori Vega is a lesson in how to win even when losing. Girl Meets World is...gah. I'm just going to say it. It's voyeuristic fantasy about having a dream daughter being played on basic cable's #1 live action tween's entertainment network. I'm sure if Christian or Sean read this, especially after saying that Jessie is better than GMW, they're going to editorially rip me a new one, but I'm also hoping they see what I'm getting at with the differences between what a show ostensibly intends on-paper and in-PR and what it's actually accomplishing story-wise and character-wise on-screen. After reading their reviews, I think they'd get it, easily.

Or on to Lucas, who has another at least realistic attitude about it - after all, people in high school are just that, people in high school. But if there's one thing I've learned from reading teen literature in high school settings it's that people can be vicious af. Like "Thor" here, who I instantly recognize as Luke Benward from the DCOM Girl vs. Monster, Teddy's boyfriend Beau from Good Luck Charlie and from the penultimate episode of the original CSI (who he co-guest starred in with Hunter King who is Joey King's older sister and, ummm...may or, um, may not be insanely hot but yeah back to GMW!) I mean just look at Thor here lording over his power as he just casually inserts himself in between what I'm assuming are two of these "Valkyries" the green text above refers to, again one of which I instantly recognize as Ashley Argota who has done the whole kidcom tour circuit here and there, including having a main role in the short lived Nick-com Bucket and Skinner's Epic Adventure as well as main roles in the much-better lived Nick-com True Jackson, VP and Freeform's The Fosters; the main antagonist in the DCOM How to Build a Better Boy and as especially seen in this very episode, um, again may or may not be insanely hot.  

I don't know who blondie is but yeah we can just chalk her up in the "insanely hot" column too while we're at it and abusing words until they're stripped of all their real meaning.

Ok so Riley gives her big "best friends coming apart in high school speech," and I guess I get her motivation for wanting to "own" high school from day one of freshman year, but her motivation's more misplaced than that of the villain's from the last Captain America movie. Not that that's even unrealistic, mind you - all kids think their relationships are static and invulnerable to the whims of character and personality evolution. I sure as hell thought that. I can understand how "ruling high school" can make Riley think it would give her the power to force her relationship with Maya at least to remain forever static. It's actually not too different from what motivates a lot of villains from gaining absolute power - to use that power for good and completely forgetting that absolute power just happens to corrupt absolutely.

The whole "getting run over in the hallway" thing isn't just completely realistic, it's by far the most realistic thing in this episode so far. Also, I love Farkle's confidence in actually being able to own this place by being able to avoid being trampled through leaping onto a chandelier. See that's actual writing!

Now we finally get to the revamped credits after I've already spent almost three thousand words writing about this episode - yes that's a thousand words per minute of air time. As for the credits themselves, I understand it's a bit controversial or at least hit-or-miss with a lot of people. And...actually, I really like it. Not only that but I think it's actually the best single thing of the whole damn series so far. I mean it. It much better fits both the tone of the show itself and the tone of the very theme song over the "random mini-clip show" variation the show's used before (BTW using that as a credits sequence is kind of a pet peeve of mine. I eagerly give kudos to shows that bother to do a more bespoke sequence like how, say, Liv and Maddie, Stuck in the Middle or XD's Kirby Buckets and now GMW included). In fact, again, it does a much better job of actually communicating what the show's supposed to be about, and it's just pretty damn slick overall. I really wish they had just used something like this to begin with, but I also think that the age and maturity of everybody in it now helps pull off how slick it is. Especially, again, Corey Fogelmanis. He pulls off a very palpable, almost tangible slickness in the opening credits sequence. That, my friends, is slick.

It's odd that the mascot of Abigail Adams High School Patriots is some big burly white guy who looks like he got rejected to be the mascot of the actual New England Patriots over at Gilette Stadium. Given modern sensibilities and given it's named after Abigail I would think the mascot would somehow manage to combine the patriot theme with women's representation. Maybe even forget the patriot theme altogether and go with Athena, always a popular female mascot choice (but then Riley's joke wouldn't make sense).

And then right off the bat Ashley Argota (yeah I'm just gonna call her and Thor/Luke Benward by their real names) tells them to get in the hole.

Yes. The Hole. The Infamous Hole. 

Victorious has Tori's feet slathered in ketchup. iCarly has Carly's toe stuck in the faucet. Shake it Up has the anorexia comment. Jessie has the Gluten scene. And the steam cleaner scene. Now Girl Meets World will forever have The Hole. And Jakee Haley as Evelyn Rand, Crazy Hat Lady.

But anyway, Maya standing up to Ashley is pretty good and dare I say realistic, or at least it's what I expect of her. Likewise with Lucas, although the whole "strong as a horse" speech seems awkward, like it's just straining to be a callback when Dump Truck got lost looking for the Liv and Maddie set and ended up at GMW instead. Too bad for him he's not the Biggest Lucas on campus anymore, and Even Bigger Lucas is having none of it. That's not going to stop Now Suddenly Small Lucas from backing down, and he's asking all the right questions. Why do people act like this is one of the questions people should be asking themselves in high school, and perhaps not enough as it is. See GMW this is what you should be doing, making the audience ask the questions they should be asking and providing even just possible theoretical answers that at least seem good on television. 

Also, freshman songs don't work like that. The freshman song ends up being self-defeating if it's meant to humiliate freshman yet it's the seniors who make themselves look like jackasses by singing it. Especially the pirouette Ashley and Blonde pull off (though given how insanely hot they are I'm gonna let it slide). Seriously though, Ashley and Blondie act exactly like the type of non-bullies Riley and Maya themselves would act like - although, again, we'll find out that's exactly the point and it's so stupid it gives me a headache. Also they throw in a little thing in there to remind people that Ashley Argota also sings (and currently signed by Hollywood Records, a Walt Disney Company).

Riley is all too happy to go down to the hole and sing, which, granted, is entirely in-character. Zay also acts in-character, but at least it's a narrative contribution.

Another thing I like - besides the credits - is that, everybody's intimidated in their own way to go into the hole. Riley, er, sing-songs her way in, Farkle tries to hide but relents, and Zay just gives up before the battle's even fought. But Lucas won't go down without fighting every step of the way - and he does it with diplomacy and reason. That's the Lucas we all know and love in this show. He's a fighter, but he's a rational fighter - but he's still going to fight and claw for as long as he's breathing.

The subplot, from a narrative standpoint, really isn't worth commenting further on than what the green text from Mike already covered - except that, I'm actually really impressed with not only Danielle's acting, but like Ava's too. They really make it worth watching more than the bare narrative itself, or at least their delivery is what manufactures all the humor the subplot has to offer.

The classroom scenes and especially Marley - the other thing this episode has to offer for contention against The Hole. Actually, and call me crazy, but I feel like Marley might actually be Jacobs' potshot directly at Sean and Christian (not Mike and me though, the eight of you who bother to read this blog aren't nearly enough to get it up on Jacobs' radar). And they right off the bat even have to throw in an obvious, blatant reference to Meets Triangle, an episode that's three or four episodes into the future. There's foreshadowing, and then there's just telegraphing your punches. 

I like how har-hurr has become Maya-speak for blah blah blah.

Oh, and about The Hole - It doesn't make any friggin' sense. It's the landing between stairways - it's either completely full of people getting to class or completely empty because people are already in class. Unless Big Luke, Hot Ashley and Blonde Valkyrie want to waste their entire free period staring at The Riley Bunch in The Hole it's completely unenforceable. It only works because it's a TV set they can conveniently clear as the plot demands, like right now.

Cory's big speech, har-hurr this har-hurr that, a bunch of confusing dialogue that doesn't make sense except in Micheal Jacobs' world and oh hey The Hole is metaphorical, let's blame the girl we're gonna blame for leading us down into it.

The only thing really worth left to discuss in this episode is the "confrontation" at Topanga's, which I'll get to when assigning this episode a grade, right below:

Episode Grade: A solid...C. This episode just felt like it was all over the place. It had some great potential, but squandered all of it tripping all over itself trying to express half-assed ideas it barely knew how to articulate, if at all, making meta humor and callbacks, specifically seeming either to Meets Bay Window (with alterna-Rileys and alterna-Mayas) and to Meets Triangle, a future episode. Not to mention tripping over itself bizarrely coddling Riley in particular. 

That aforementioned "confrontation" just serves to encapsulate everything I was just talking about. It's bizarre, it's poorly and ineptly handled and it doesn't communicate at all what the episode wants to say or even anywhere vaguely near a specific point. Yeah, I get that it's about how to deal with drifting relationships and challenges in high school, but only because the characters themselves outright, very explicitly state as much, in actual, plain words. That's the very definition of telling, not showing! Plus the "threatening" high school seniors...don't seem threatening at all. In fact they actually do seem like they were trying to offer advice, just extremely cryptically. It's the exact same problem Meets Tater Tot had. I really don't know what's in Jacobs' head that older students who try to offer younger students life advice are suddenly a dire threat. I'm wondering if he's lost it - in more ways than one. He is getting old after all.

This episode would've gotten a C+ but it gets a grade demerit for how mean-spirited I found the opening gag to be.

Episode MVP: The two girls door body-slammed by thoughtless Riley and thoughtless Maya. So there.

Extra Thoughts

 - yeah, I'm pretty sure the whole Marley thing is a cheap shot at Christian and Sean, specifically. Well at least it gives another young actress a speaking role.

 - Wait, Thor's name is actually Thor? And Hot Ashley and Blonde Valkyrie have actual names? (Nikki and Francesca, apparently).

 - Again, this episode is all over the place. So much so that it warrants additional mention here in Extra Thoughts, just to sum things up.

 - Rowan is far too young to even elicit any interest in attractiveness from me, let alone to comment on it, but I will say the actual dress she wore during the interstitial cut (where she's throwing the paper airplane) sure is damn pretty. Sadly I can't seem to find it anywhere, I don't know if it's a "custom" job by the wardrobe department or not.

 - The word count for my contribution of the review after mentioning the credits is only ~1,350 words, or roughly just a third of the part that comes before. Yeah I need to learn balance and editing. 

3 comments:

  1. Nice work. I wonder if this show would be better if we were to make it a drinking game. Take a shot every time they say "Triangle."

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    1. Because of the way anonymous comments are allowed all comments are going to be delayed a bit before showing up - so don't worry if your comment doesn't post right away :)

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