Saturday, July 16, 2016

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets True Maya

Will the real Maya Hart please stand up?

I guess I'll just start the review like this: I haven't been impressed with season three so far. Seven episodes in, and it doesn't seem like the show has evolved that much. I mean, they are trying new things and I respect that, but the execution of these plots continues to fail them. Out of all the episodes aired so far, I can genuinely say I liked two of them. And by that, I mean the whole episode because this one is, um.......a doozy, to say the least. 

What this episode wants to do is show us that Riley's friendship has had a positive impact on Maya, and she can no longer be the big bad rebel she used to be. That's all well and good, and if this episode was supported by what we have already seen on this show, it would be a definite A-quality half-hour. But.....it's not. This is another case of GMW telling, not showing. This has been a problem for the past two years. Since the show began, actually. Maya has always been presented to us as this mischievous troublemaker that's always doing recklessly impulsive things and continues that way, despite having learned her lesson multiple times. But as much as the show kept telling us that, we were never shown that. There was the homework rebellion in the pilot, walking out of Cory's class after she failed a test, and that's just me thinking off the top of my head. Maya has had a consistent characterization for a while now, so anything this identity crisis story tries to do fails completely. In order for this to really work, you would have had to build it up from the season premiere. Have Maya slowly start picking up more of Riley's traits until she becomes a split image of her. It could be due to her wanting to do things the right way in high school. Anything but what we actually received. 

And that leads me to my next point. Maya has never been what this episode portrays her to be. She has old friends who she apparently used to commit vandalism with, she is initially suspected of setting off the fire alarm and stealing one hundred bucks from the cash register at Topanga's. Maya has never been a petty criminal. She even says so in this episode. So what are we really trying to accomplish here? Maya says that her friends don't know what she's capable of. What are you talking about? What can Maya Hart possibly do that's worse than pulling the fire alarm or stealing from her mother? Girl Meets World doesn't need to tell this story. This comes off as more of a Thundermans episode if I'm being honest. In fact, I think this actually was a Thundermans episode. Maya Hart is not Max Thunderman. Max commits petty crimes and enjoys pranks in an attempt to prove to himself and his family that he's a villain. We know Max is not evil and will never be a threat to anybody, he's just a troublemaker who likes doing the wrong thing sometimes. If anything, this is the kind of episode that would better suit his character. 

When this episode was first promoted, it looked like Maya was trying to over-compensate for being good for so long by being as bad as she possibly could. Pulling the fire alarm, stealing money, vandalizing a public park with her old friends. That would actually make sense and be interesting to watch Maya go off the deep end. Then when I first watched the episode, it seemed like it was teasing me. You would think Maya pulled the fire alarm or stole, but it's meant to throw you off because she has something bigger planned. But she doesn't even vandalize anything. She does nothing bad in this episode. Of course, she's about to commit vandalism near the end, but she doesn't, and even stops her old friends from doing more damage. It turns out she did some graffiti art, but it was positive graffiti art with an uplifting message. Then we end on what I thought was a little too sappy for this show. I don't know, it didn't work for me. It felt like an episode of Full House or something. I actually thought Maya was going to do something bad, but she didn't, and I'm left wondering what I'm supposed to learn from this. The lesson here applies more to The Thundermans than this show, and because the identity crisis story never made any sense in the first place, any attempt at emotion is undercut automatically. 

Even though the plot really blew its shot at being good, I have to give the episode points for comedy. As I learned from the reviews on Me Blog Write Good, humor can absolve many sins, and this episode was actually one of the funniest all season. I don't know if I've brought this up before, but there's no one I could ever see playing Riley better than Rowan Blanchard. She has gotten to the point where she absolutely owns this character. The facial expressions, the mannerisms, the dialogue, she sells all of it. It's very weird to watch this show and then hear about the things Rowan says on Twitter because you almost believe she acts like Riley in real life. Anyway, this episode had some pretty good jokes, at least in the early goings. That should count for something, so in spite of me not liking the story, a couple good jokes and Riley's characterization makes this a more enjoyable episode than the last two.

Episode Grade: B-
Episode MVP: Rowan Blanchard. This was one of Riley's best showings, and the episode wasn't even about her. The show is a lot more enjoyable when it's funny, and especially when Riley and Maya entertain me. I should never feel ill will towards them unless they deserve it, and in this episode, it really felt like Riley was written exactly the way I want her to be. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-The episode really did a good job of building things up in the beginning, making you think Maya had something big planned to prove she still had some badass inside of her. It was pretty funny when Maya threw out Riley's hairbrush, and when Riley simply pulled out another one, Maya got rid of the rest. Also, the opening scene was great for Maya. Dictating the rules, telling Riley that she doesn't control her. I was intrigued there.

-Lucas is way more entertaining when he's doing comedy than when he's doing drama. Yup, that's how badly they screwed up the imaginary triangle. He gets a great one in class when he just piggybacks off of Farkle's answer, being so proud of himself for doing it. Then later on, when Farkle is imitating a volcano, Lucas uses this odd British accent and just starts saying random nonsense. I don't know if this was improvised or not because it came out of nowhere, but it was absolutely hilarious. This show's sense of humor is a lot better than most kids shows, I will say that.

-Another misstep for this episode is the subplot, if you could call it that. Remember Doy? That one character who was really funny in his first appearance and now serves no purpose at all but to do the same joke from his first appearance, only more predictable and not nearly as funny? They gave him a story for the first time. Apparently, Doy is freaking out because he's been stealing candy from the candy store for a year without knowing he had to pay for it. But it seems like the police officer is going to let it slide so long as Doy stops going to the store. I would just like to point out how ridiculous that is. How could Doy steal candy for literally an entire year and nobody noticed him doing so? Nobody in the store told him he had to pay for it and just let him leave every day with stolen candy? I'm assuming his parents were there for a majority of the trips, so how did they not notice it? How did the store owner not see the same kid walk in every day for a year and steal candy? And if he did see him, wouldn't he have said something about it? Was this a case of Doy just being a brat? The candy he stole was in plain sight. I don't know, it's just a TV show, it shouldn't have to make sense, lol.

-The most shocking thing about this episode was that nobody popped for Reginald VelJohnson when he showed up. I don't get it. Did they miss the cue to applaud or something? That's Carl Winslow from Family Matters, show the man some respect! The show doesn't even add in some canned applause. It was a travesty.

-Seriously, I really would have liked it if Maya took things too far in an attempt to get her spark back. All she did was skip school which is really nothing when you're in high school. I mean, at some point, these characters are going to have to do bad things and get punished for it. They're not perfect human beings, just everyday teenagers. It's perfect timing because TeenNick has been airing season three episodes of Boy Meets World all week. Cory and Shawn were always faced with some challenge or made the wrong decision or had lapses of judgment and were always punished and forced to pay for their actions. By doing so, they really met the world. I mean, compare the episode "Hometown Hero" to something like this. I actually felt for Cory in that situation, being legitimately shook at telling his parents what he did. I would love to see scenes like that on this show.

-Lucas used one of Cory's lessons to talk about Maya's beauty, something Riley didn't take very well. AAAHHH, TRIANGLE FLASHBACKS!!!

-Farkle kissed Maya's nose, in what was an admittedly cute bit. Could I have more Maya/Farkle scenes, please? They never interact much, or at least not anymore.

-Seriously, the ending just fell flat for me. You want to know why this felt like some 80s sitcom episode? Maya meets some of her old friends at the park, who are interested in vandalizing the place. What this scene is trying to do is tell me that Riley has changed Maya and would never hang out with these people. But what doesn't make sense is that Maya's old friends talk like she only stopped talking to them when she started hanging out with Riley. Riley and Maya have been best friends for years, that has to be an oversight. Also, one of them is an idiot and wants Riley's life for some reason. Her name is Renee. The other girl is named Carla, and while the actress is cute, she creeps me out here. She stands so close to Maya whenever she talks. It really looks like she's going to stab her from behind or give her a hickey or something. Carla and Renee just reek of being made from a very special episode. The only thing I'm surprised about is that this scene didn't end with Maya being assaulted or sexually violated. It's usually how this type of scene goes.

-As soon as Officer Winslow tells everyone to come to the park and see what Maya did, I knew it was going to be revealed that she made some uplifting graffiti. I saw it coming a mile away. Admittedly, this is way more satisfying than Maya being written up for something she didn't do, but her whole rap about not being able to hurt anyone or anything because of Riley, the graffiti itself, the credits tag with the core four standing side by side........it was too much. It felt a little vapid and sugary for this show. Of course, if Maya really did go off the deep end and become interested in petty crimes, this ending would have been earned. But it wasn't. Literally the only thing this episode was missing was a PSA from Officer Winslow telling me not to do drugs.

-When Officer Winslow kept saying "The system works" as a joke, I thought it was meant as subtle commentary on police brutality. And then I thought about what would happen if Girl Meets World ever addressed police brutality. And then I thought about slapping myself in the face for coming up with such a terrible, terrible, terrible idea.

-Hey, next week's episode looks pretty good. It looks like Riley, Maya, and Lucas are going to address their feelings for each other. And they're going to be away from New York City while they do it, get into some legitimate drama. I don't know, guys, this could be a real game changer. Wait a minute, why does this feel so similar to the "Texas" episodes? Oh yeah, right, this show is ripping itself off and paying homage to BMW's ski lodge episode at the same time. For the next two weeks, we're all going to hell. 



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