Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets the Up North Trip

I know what the episode's called, but I like Mobb Deep. Let's just say, taking an up north trip isn't exactly like this episode. 

You may have noticed that I haven't posted a review for the past two episodes of Girl Meets World. It's not because I haven't seen the episodes yet, but simply because I became too lazy to devote my time to writing them and the drafts are still in the vault. I'm almost done with my review of "Triangle" but I think I'm going to watch "Permanent Record" again. To give you a taste of what those reviews will be like, here's a sneak preview: I thought "Permanent Record" was a solid, entertaining episode, but "Triangle" is the worst episode of the season so far. This episode looks like it's taking elements from both episodes to create, um......this episode. Let's dig into "Upstate," shall we?

So Riley and Maya have decided to take a trip someplace to help Maya get her identity back, because the last episode established for some inexplicable reason that she has developed an identity crisis. Apparently, Maya has become too much like Riley. That was one of my biggest complaints about "Triangle": It introduces a nonsensical plot point that is not supported by anything we have seen on the show so far. Maya was herself in the opening scene of that episode and every season three episode beforehand. The art teacher is bizarrely harsh on her work and she just becomes a zombie for the rest of the episode for no rhyme or reason. I can't be interested in Maya getting her voice back because I know she never lost it. That plot point was introduced for something much worse and much more insulting, but we'll get to that. So they have decided to visit Shawn's upstate cabin. Hey, it's a Shawn episode. Anything with Shawn is guaranteed to be at least a little above average, and this is no exception. Shawn talks about how Maya's situation is parallel to his, because for so long, he wanted to have what Cory had. Then he started wondering if Cory damaged him, in a humorous way. Shawn and Maya both try to reconnect with their older selves by wearing their vintage clothes, but it doesn't work and then some other stuff happens and Shawn and Katy are getting married.

Also, we get another installment of one of the worst things to ever happen to this show: Triangle Theatre. Will Lucas be able to get closer to possibly making a decision? Who knows? 

Alright, so I think I figured out what I liked about this episode and what I didn't. The Boy Meets World stuff, everything that dealt with Shawn and his friendship with Cory, that was fine. It was genuinely funny, laid the groundwork for a future episode, had character development, and it was also engaging. Shawn has always been someone looking for something. It never seemed like he was one hundred percent comfortable with his life because he always wanted more. He actually wanted to be like Cory, what with the middle-class family and the meals and both parents and whatnot. When he first started dating Angela, he felt like it was his chance to be like Cory and Topanga. Even when Riley was born, it reminded him of what he didn't have and it forced him to leave for a while. In this episode, it feels like we are actually seeing the evolution of Shawn Hunter, and he took the boldest step in his life by deciding to settle down and marry Katy. There's history to support all of this, and so much time has been spent investing in Shawn over the years that his proposal to Katy was genuinely emotional and delivered a serious punch. For this plot alone, the episode would get in the A-territory. 

Everything else? The Girl Meets World stuff? I either didn't care about it or was annoyed by it. There was no reason for Maya to ever question who she was and there was no reason for us to question it either. And apparently, this is going to be a multi-episode arc too. Haven't they learned from the triangle? These aren't the type of stories the show should be telling because they are incapable of doing it effectively, or even competently. What's the point of dragging this out? The reason why episodes like "Jexica" and "Permanent Record" worked was because of how laidback they felt. They were less dramatic, more reliant on humor, and were self-contained stories. Those episodes tend to be some of GMW's best. But this melodramatic stuff is a weakness that the show always seems to bring to the forefront for whatever reason. 

You know how I always like to bring up the fact that Girl Meets World usually has good ideas and a lot of potential to tell decent stories, but the execution is the problem? Well, the poorest execution on this show, the biggest botch out of every single episode and situation and story, is the God-forsaken triangle. Or it's not a triangle. It can't be, it never existed. Or maybe the writers are just saying that. The goodwill built up from "Texas" burst into flames after the ending to several episodes was nothing but uncertainty and indecision. Lucas couldn't make a decision for several months, Riley and Maya have put up with this, everyone else has put up with this for at least a year now. The minute the writers realized they didn't want to do the triangle thing anymore, they tried to save face and act as if Maya is just Riley 2.0. Lucas and Maya didn't fall for each other because they actually had an interesting connection or a unique dynamic that was different from the one Lucas had with Riley. Maya basically became Riley, and that's what Lucas liked about her. Maya admitted this. 

Here's my problem. This makes everything we've seen over the past few months a complete waste of time. Maya admitted that it doesn't matter who Lucas chooses anyway. This story had no purpose to exist. It should have been resolved as early as the New Year's episode, but it wasn't. There were many opportunities to pull the plug, but it was dragged out with no end in sight until it was time to make up a reason to end it. I don't get the mindset of this show's writing team sometimes. There's a bunch of intelligent and talented people working there. Why do we have to watch them try their hardest to screw up as much as possible? At the end of the day, I don't even care anymore what Lucas' choice is because at this rate, he will never make one. And even if he somehow does, it won't matter. The show admitted this. We're at the same place we were at when the New Year's episode ended. "I'm tired all the time" was meant as a joke, but it could be used to sum up the months spent on not furthering the triangle storyline and walking around in a circle. And it could be used to sum up all the times this show has taken an idea, and fumbled it as much as possible. How hard can it really be at this point

The sad part is that the Shawn stuff hit all the right notes. Even when he proposed to Katy, I wasn't really questioning why. Rider Strong probably isn't too interested in being on camera for a lot of episodes so anything the writers wanted to do with him and Katy wouldn't have really worked out. Plus, I'm invested in Shawn as a character and his evolution as a man so when Katy said yes, it was a genuine heartfelt moment. By contrast, when Riley and Maya were tossing paint at each other, I was just wondering what the hell was going on. Hopefully, this identity crisis crap ends as soon as possible and it can die with the bloody, mangled remains of the "triangle." An episode elevated by Boy Meets World and dragged down by Girl Meets World. Interesting.

Episode Grade: C+
Episode MVP: Ben Savage and Rider Strong. Everything Cory and Shawn did in this episode together was magic. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-Shawn had the right idea with those Swedish butter cookies, they're delicious. For some reason, I never pictured him living in an upstate cabin and putting on his best Mister Rogers costume. Seriously, all he was missing was walking into the house and switching into his sneakers while singing about the wonderful day in the neighborhood.

-I really enjoyed Shawn's line about Cory damaging him. Reminds me of the line about the idea of Cory and Topanga ruining so many people.

-"Triangle" ended with Lucas just sitting there at the table, with the parents waiting to see who he picked. Then we come back to that scene in this episode, AND IT'S THE EXACT SAME THING. I think this one scene captured everything wrong with the triangle. Nothing ever happened to further the story. It was the same thing over and over again masquerading as legitimate drama. In real life, this would make absolutely no logical sense. Why would Lucas say that he's made his decision, and then not follow through on it? Just to mess with them? I don't know, it's just a kids show, who cares about the children?

-This is just something I've been wondering, but why does Topanga keep calling Lucas "Chucky"? Is that a reference to something? Am I just not getting this inside joke? And what Chucky is she even talking about? Chuckie Finster, the doll Chucky, the producer Chucky Thompson? I don't get it.

-Seriously, this whole episode is saved from being completely mediocre because of Cory and Shawn's scene at the cabin. I'm saying it right now, this might even be a top ten scene of the series. Shawn attacking Cory, Ben Savage's mannerisms and movements, Cory referring to Shawn as "Captain Feeny," it all works. And of course, the return of the handshake. Apparently, Ben and Rider did it in one take with no practice. This was like a beautiful Christmas gift. And then suddenly, "Marge Be Not Proud" turned into "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" when Riley and Maya ruined it by talking.

-The paint scene is so weird. I'm not invested in Maya's identity crisis because I know she doesn't have one. Everyone just told her she does. This episode should have been called "Girl Meets Munchausen's Syndrome" because Maya was made to believe she was sick when she wasn't. Then the art teacher comes in and isn't even mad that two children walked into his room late at night and without any supervision, wasted his paint like that. For some reason, he enjoys the rage in Maya's painting and commends her for it. Art's a very tricky subject. 

-Lucas, still having not made a decision, is just waiting in Riley's room and sitting there. Then Zay comes in and seems surprised to see Lucas there, but Lucas says that he's been there for five hours. Wait, what? Lucas said he had to go see somebody, Cory left for Shawn's cabin, and Topanga and Katy were just sitting around drinking wine while their daughter's friend waited in her room for someone to come back for five hours?! Why didn't he just call Zay and Farkle telling them to come over? Lucas waiting for five hours is pointless to include and makes him come off as a creep, on the level of the seniors. Oh yeah, Farkle calls Lucas an idiot with a face because he's so indecisive. That might actually be one of the most insightful things Farkle has ever said on this show.

-I could pick apart this scene and tell you how much I hated it, how it pretty much made the triangle look like a joke and made Lucas' eventual decision officially pointless. I don't have that kind of time. There was a brief fun moment where Maya proved she was back by calling Lucas "Ranger Rick," which makes me miss the days that her insults were just a cover for her attraction to him. Zay saying that they have waited for two years to hear Lucas' decision was a hilarious joke too. When they make jokes about the triangle and act self-aware about it, it's a lot more entertaining to watch than when they actually........address it.

-When I first watched the episode and Katy was just sitting there, I thought we would have to wait a week to hear her decision but fortunately, the writers are only going to drag out two storylines at once.

-The next episode actually looks really good thanks to the promo. I mean, "Permanent Record" had a terrible promo while "Triangle" had a great one but the results were the opposite. It looks like Maya is finally becoming the dangerous rebel we all expected her to be and Riley pushes her to it. Also, guest appearance by Reginald VelJohnson. I doubt he's actually going to be Carl Winslow, but it would be pretty clever if he was. 








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