Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets The Real World (S3E11)

I'm evil now.

What is it? Yeah if you don't know what Girl Meets World is by this point blah blah blah....

Let me open up by saying that this is probably the best pre-credits cold opening of the entire series, or at least tied with Meets She Don't Like Me (yes, I stand by my assertion that that episode is the best of the series). Riley's debate style and her reaction to Farkle is spot on

And then the intro credits roll and from there the episode is kind of...well better than muweeeeeeeeeeaaaaaauuuhhhhhh but it's not going to be as great as She Don't Like Me or even Meets the New Teacher. 

Now, the character of Riley is kind of a controversial character, and in perhaps exactly in the way a show can least afford - it's when the audience starts debating with itself is this character actually good and/or necessary? Certainly not the kind of controversy you need for your main freakin' character. A lot of this controversy centers around the very being of Riley as the show sets her up - a perpetually happy-go-lucky pixie sprite who might as well be fueled by all the Sweet Tarts in the world along with enough orange soda to make Kel's jaw drop. For people who are used to and expecting Boy Meets World, or even Liv and Maddie, or FFS even Jessie...yeah, she tends to be a character who revels in being right on the nose about things. We saw this at its nadir in Season 2 - Meets Gravity, Meets the Tell Tale Tot, Meets Fish and on and on - and of course we continued to see this in Season 3 with Meets Bleeeeech School and on and on and on.

Well guess what in this episode they actually work with it, and perhaps in no other subject area than the very discussion of good vs. evil do they have such an opportunity to play with and potentially deconstruct the manic pixie fairie that is Riley I Forgot Her Middle Name Matthews.

A deconstruction the show...kind of more or less sorta does in exactly the way you'd be expecting this show to pull. Oh, don't get me wrong, the show doesn't chicken out at all and the episode certainly excells at it. When it comes to character this episode is as spot-on as Riley's face-making from before the credits and it's probably one of the better character episodes. Unfortunately the other great failing of this show is its propensity to tell instead of show, something I've harped on in, come to think of it, virtually every single GMW review I've ever written on this blog and something this episode does in spades - in fact something like 80% of this episode is Riley and friends telling each other about their naval gazing contemplating the nature of good vs. evil, a ratio I feel very accurately describes the show in general.

Is the other 20% worth sticking around for? Well besides the fantastic debate scene, we get Riley stealing Zay's cookie, and a big classroom scene that for once actually amounts to something so I'd say yes.

Other than the bad habit of telling vs. showing that I feel ultimately helped sink the show (but of course that's an earlier blog post) the biggest issue I have with the episode is the matter of how to exactly approach the whole good vs. evil debate. Yes, I'm well aware that being a "heavy hitting" series is what Boy Meets World got a very good reputation for, and something GMW fans were hoping for, and were in fact so desperately hoping for that I feel in a lot of episodes and places they flat out imagined a lot going on that simply was never there. The issues it handled simply were not big issues to begin with, or issues about the stupid frickin' love triangle, or the issues were simply so massively and mindblowingly mishandled it seriously brings to question just how the hell did Jacobs impart this lesson to his own children (again, I refer to Meets the Tell-Tale Tot). After a while it really made the show feel like it's trying to be a 90s after school special (but again, earlier blog post). 

That said, the whole good vs. evil debate really is something this type of show can if not should handle, and it's one of those things that people were exactly expecting when they were first imagining the GMW possibilities. It's not exactly an issue that effects everyone watching, but its an issue that's very important to them nonetheless, especially with anyone from younger tweens to even middle or older teens. 

Too bad they more or less bungled it again. The question they should be asking isn't why do people do evil. Here's the big secret - Hitler didn't think he was evil. ISIS/ISIL doesn't think they're evil. Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold, the boys who shot up Columbine High School and consequently killed themselves, didn't think they were evil. Hitler thought he was doing what was best for Germany and to at least some extent the entire human race. ISIL very, very literally thinks they are doing God's work and that they represent the highest form of good on the planet right now. Harris and Klebold didn't think they were evil - in fact, they were responding to what they perceived was evil being done to them. And the thing is, based on what I'v read and know about bullying they experienced - they have a point. Now, obviously, killing those bullies and a bunch of other people in cold blood is a very incorrect response - one might even say an evil response - but that doesn't excuse that the bullying done to them is in turn evil.

That's not to say the show doesn't have a point about evil people doing it "for fun" - that's that whole bullying thing again - but the most evil acts were committed by people who think they were fighting evil and often times carrying God's work. People don't ignore climate change because they're evil, they ignore climate change because they're not educated in climate change (or rather, educated incorrectly about climate change which is way, way harder to reverse) and because they value keeping the jobs they fear will be lost due to making factories and energy production green-compliant over environmental concerns. 

That's not evil. 

People don't go to war because they're evil or because it's fun, people go to war because of very important, fundamental and irreconcilable differences in government, resources or other extremely important topics. Or to put it in another way from a source that I had heard a little earlier, people go to war often because they refuse to hear out the other side and consider their position in thinking.

Now, I'd really like to properly credit where I heard that but I'm having some trouble remembering where I heard that - oh, hey, wait a minute, that was from the beginning of this very same frickin' episode.

That's what you need to address when you talk about good vs evil. When kids learn about what motivated Harris and Klebold to kill a bunch of kids and themselves, kids will learn better how to prevent themselves or other people on how to not do that.

Way to drop the ball yet again, Jacobs. At this rate you can play wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins.

Episode Grade: A flat B. Hey, at least it tried, and it had legitimately entertaining moments.
Episode MVP: Rowan absolutely nailed it here, though Amir came so, sooo dangerously close from outright stealing it from her. It's so close, in fact, that I feel I have to co-award Episode MVP to the both of them (yeah this blog sure loves handing out MVP awards like candy. To multiple people in the same episode, to multiple actors who never appeared in the episode, to random YouTube car reviewers, to myself....)

Extra Thoughts

- I did promise our next review would be of Drake and Josh. Given that one of the last things we reviewed was Zoe Gone starring Sammi Hanratty, and given Mike's surprise that she was on Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Drake and Josh, I'd like to review the D&J episode Foam Finger since that's an episode Sammi appears in (and it happens to be one of my favorites and I feel a perfect encapsulation for why this series is so great). I actually had it on my DVR on the very day I published the Zoe Gone review but then it got quickly deleted, and I'm having trouble finding it elsewhere. Damn.

 - I really hope Amir Mitchell-Townes continues to find roles, especially when he's still young and can deeply entrench himself in the Hollywood system. Same for Rowan, too.

 - This episode was, of course, originally named "Girl Meets Sassy Halter-Top" and given that this is my first viewing this episode, yeah, now it makes sense. Really it can go either way in terms of the title - I mean, Girl (Riley) really did, literally meet Sassy Halter-Top, even if said Sassy Halter-Top was a character that existed strictly as a theoretical (see a lot of other shows actually would've put up a sequence where we see Sassy Halter-Top on Riley's shoulder - yup, it's more of that tell, not show love that Jacobs loves). But, then again Riley also met the Real World and...well out of context (which is how virtually all people will initially meet the title) Meets Sassy Halter-Top was a dumb title, not to mention risking the type of controversy the show doesn't really need.

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