Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Episode Review: "Girl Meets the Secret of Life" (#2.03)

So, first off, I want to say that I respect what they were trying to do with this episode. It was clearly written, more than Girl Meets Gravity even, as a direct response to the criticisms lobbed toward GMW's way. Those two major criticisms being:

1. Lucas is boring, has no identity, and is too idealized.
2. Cory's an awful teacher. Why can't he be more like Mr. Feeny?

Number 1 took up the lion's share of the time and I think it mostly didn't work. He worked in yesterday's episode not because he underwent some radical revamp, but because he simply... was written better. And the actor performed better. Peyton Meyer was just as good in this one, but this attempt to add a dark and mysterious past into Lucas was pretty silly and felt very forced. I don't believe for a second this was ever Lucas' intended backstory in Season 1, and so it felt very retconnish. Even the revelation that he'd be held back read like "We heard you! He looks too old now! Well, it turns out he missed a year! See! We fixed it!"


And, really, this wasn't even that dark and mysterious a past. He got into a fight defending his loudmouthed friend. That's not even really a flaw. It's like when you're on a job interview and they ask you what your weaknesses are and you say something like "I work too hard sometimes." that's really a strength. So worried are they about Lucas not being the boy of tweens' dreams that they can't even give him a real dark past. You know what would have been cool? Maybe he was caught smoking pot. Maybe he stole something. Maybe he beat up a kid not for honorable reasons but because he was a jerk back in Texas. 

Again, I respect the effort. But the execution wasn't very good. At least before I got to enjoy Maya making jokes at his expense for being so lame. Now, I'm going to be expected to treat him like he's dangerous and edgy. Blech.

As for number 2... that's, I mean, okay. I enjoy how they've pointed out that Cory is no Feeny, and I enjoyed his use of a valuable lesson Feeny taught him way back in Season 1 (a pretty nice call back), and I agree that Cory and Feeny are fundamentally different people. Cory teaching his class like Feeny did would never have made sense. Still, it doesn't change the fact that Cory's method is horrendous. It's fine to be more relaxed and let people make mistakes and even chitchat once in a while. Turner did that. We liked Turner. But Cory makes his classes all about teaching a lesson to just his daughter and her friends or allowing them to work out their personal problems.  That little kid Yogi (that they're... suddenly obsessed with giving moments in episodes to...) may be the most untalented child actor I've maybe ever seen... but he had a good point and a great line with "Please. I am not your daughter, but I also am a person of value." And, guess what happened... when Cory unveiled what that 'meaning of life' was? ...It was in the hallway, only to the foursome. Again... nice try, but ultimately a failure.

Speaking of the foursome... maybe they're a fivesome? Meet Isaiah "Zay" Babineaux everyone. I hate him. I hate the way he Sixth Ranger-ed into the room and shouted "What? You started without me?" This kid has Poochie from Itchy & Scratchy written all over him. He just feels so... focus-grouped. Or fan-ficy. 

Meet Lucas' best friend from Texas. His name is Isaiah, but he goes by "Zay" for short! He went to the same school as Lucas in Texas and he happened to get transferred to the same school in New York! He and Lucas are just as much best friends as Riley and Maya are best friends! He's super funny and hip and radical, and he does what he wants, and he's super cool! Haha, when they were all washing a car, he was just hiding out inside the car! He gets bad grades but he doesn't care and sings a song about it because school sucks.  When Cory told him to take a seat, he didn't sit at a chair, he sat ON TOP OF HIS DESK! What a character!

They laid the Griff Hawkins swagger on this poor kid heavy and he just doesn't have it. They're just trying so hard to make us take him to him right away. And I didn't. And his actor's even worse than Peyton Meyer. And, a lot of his antics (as well as his name) seemed pretty Token Black Guy. 

Really, that's this episode's problem all over. They're just trying soooooo hard. It's exhausting.

Not a good episode. I liked Farkle in this one though, a lot. And Peyton, again, showed that he's improved. Also NuHarley was cool. 

Disclaimer: I'm eating Steak and Shake while I watch this episode, so my comments may be unusually positive. Although, after some preemptive glances at Christian's comments, that doesn't seem likely. 

So here's a true story. Christian sent me an email earlier which read "ZAY CAN DIE IN A FIRE." I hadn't watched the episode yet, so my first reaction was that it was a character's name. Thinking about it some more, I convinced myself that a character couldn't possibly in the world be named Zay, so it must have been a quote of some character, probably Farkle, saying "they can die in a fire" with a German accent. Seeing the lesson start out on Belgium, that theory seemed even more likely.

But no. I was right the first time.

There is a person named Zay.

God help us all.

I can't believe they took my favorite joke in the series and jackhammered it into the ground. They brought back the Belgium thing in the previous episode, and I was like "OKAY THAT'S FINE IT'S JUST ONE EXTRA TIME IT'S FINE," but now... Now it has been defiled. How could you.

Oh noooooooooooooooo. This one was directed by both Rider Strong AND his brother Shiloh. They also had Rider direct Girl Meets 1961. Why does this poor guy always get stuck with the schlock? 

The math problem is the exact same problem from episode 1.11 of Boy Meets World. The names, the times, as well as having a life lesson as an answer (though a different lesson), all of which is, I agree, a delightful callback. I will always love how Shawn and Cory tried to tackle that problem.



Most interesting to me is the fact that Farkle arrives at a vastly different answer from his father, but I enjoyed Farkle's reaction to being wrong. 

Lucas's "Oooh she took us both out" is Peyton's best joke delivery in the series. He's learning. 

Anyway, I agree with Christian on most of his points. Zay is an abomination, and this whole story is a retcon insofar as changing Lucas's backstory from "nothing" to "something stupid." We are in for a very long season if Zay is a recurring character. On that note, Christian, "Sixth Ranger-ed into the room" is the funniest thing I've read in an extremely long time. Good lord that's fantastic.

So what do I disagree with? I'm honestly not sure that Lucas's past offenses consist solely of defending Zay. The little hints here and there suggest that it did happen at least once, but it's possible that he got into other fights as well, for less noble reasons. I sure fucking hope that's the case, otherwise this backstory is a god damn disgrace like you said. The universal complaint with Lucas is that he's too perfect, so what, they make him a martyr too?! It goes back to my rant about Riley, a good character makes mistakes. Actual mistakes. Defending your best friend is not a mistake. So this better not be the last we hear of his past. I want to see recurring bouts of anger management issues, like the one we saw in class near the end of the episode. There is definite potential here.  

Either way, I respect what they wanted to do with this episode but it exploded on launch, in addition to destroying the legacy of my favorite joke. I swear man, if Zay makes an appearance in Friday's episode, I will burn down the internet. Zay does not belong on the same show as Eric Matthews.

No reason not to get this over with, Sean: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4250168/ Zay and Eric, sitting in a tree.  

I do have to point out that, while it wasn't as in your face as this season, they've been doing the Belgium joke for a while. Since maybe the pilot. There's been a lot of instances of Cory starting to talk about Belgium in 1831 and getting interrupted. So, I think the episode where you were into it, was just the episode where you noticed it for the first time. Not sure if that makes it all better and worse. But I expect it to be a recurring joke from now on, where we only learn about Belgium in 1831 in the final episode. By the way, the lesson will evidently be on the Belgian Revolution which took place in 1831, a quick Google Search tells me.  Still, I appreciate the joke here because it at least had Farkle scream "GET OUT!" the moment fucking Zay showed up. Dude, I hate Zay.

By the way, I really, really enjoyed your Zay story and your wondering of what it was I meant by that. Sorry, Zay is a living being. He is very very real. And, yet, bizarrely he does fans. Honestly, this episode seems very polarized. Basically everyone disliked Girl Meets Gravity and everyone liked Girl Meets the New World, but this one has some major fans, I've seen. They appreciate the attempt to inject more pathos into Lucas while paying no mind to just how badly they went about it. And some people actually fucking like Zay.

I hope you're right about there being more to Lucas' deep dark past, but I just don't have the faith they're willing to actually dirty him up too much. This just seems a very day late/dollar short attempt at making this cat interesting. They're better off with more episodes like Tuesday's.

I was also pleased with Peyton's delivery of that "took us both out" line. He really is getting better.

I don't know. I don't really have anything else for this episode. You may close out this episode review with any final thoughts!

Episode Rating: C
Episode MVP: This is tough but... Corey Fogelmanis is actually who I enjoyed most here. Sorry Peyton! I know you had two good episodes in a row! We'll get you an MVP one of these days, I swear. 

SO EXCITED FOR TONIGHT'S EPISODE!  

Did they do the "Farkle gets upset" thing all the way back to the pilot? I think the episode I'm always talking about was the first time they had Farkle excited about the lesson. I could definitely be completely wrong and dumb, though. That would be a shame, but not entirely a surprise.

No, I don't think so. I think the episode you're referring to is the one where Farkle's all dressed up in Belgian regalia and is briefly just like "NO!" when Cory reveals they're not going to talk about it, right? That was a later episode. But my memory of it isn't perfect either. I just know they've been doing Belgium 1831 from the beginning. But again, not nearly as often or as obviously as we've seen it in Season 2. 

15 comments:

  1. I disagree. I bought it, I bought every last minute of it. I think it was just as good as last night, and while maybe a little forced, it worked for me.

    Peyton Meyer really stepped up, and brought it tonight. He felt...human tonight. Is what they revealed to be his deep, dark secret really all that bad? No, its not. Yet, I buy it because this is Disney Channel, and they went as far as I have ever seen them go in terms of trying to give a character a "dark" past. The things you suggested Christian are things DC will never allow on their airwaves. So, I'll take this, and it worked for me. That hallway scene was awesome. I legit thought that punches might be thrown. Now, they didn't, but I thought it could happen. I bought Lucas, the tough, intense, yet still well meaning kid. And I don't buy that Maya will stop teasing him, I just think she'll have to change it up a bit. Don't take away what makes their chemistry so worth it.

    Cory's explanation was fine for me. Sure, it hasn't worked out well, and doesn't come across great but I get it. He was never going to be Feeny, and I respect that. Also, I'm loving this Belgium, 1831 gimmick. I do hope we get that lesson. I digress, to say that I do hope that they fix the in class stuff, Yet, if they don't, at least we have an on show explanation as to why. Is it great, no, but I like what he said. Once again, it worked for me.

    The "new" kid was just ok, and I doubt we see him again. He came in, served his purpose, and will probably be shown the door. Wasn't anybody that I really need to see again.

    Oh, and I loved the continuity from night to night. Really like how these episodes are playing with each other.

    Episode MVP: Peyton Meyer. His best effort to date. I like that he's getting better. Close second for me was Rowan Blanchard. Back to back very good performances from her.

    Episode Grade: B. Solid episode. Despite the obviousness of some of it.

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    1. I love your optimism, but I think we're stuck with Zay for a long haul. I think he'll recur throughout the season and, unless something changes, will join the main cast in Season 3. For one, I think he represents a concerted effort to add a person of color to the cast (which was needed, but must he be Zay?) and so they won't get rid of him without a fight. For another, he just seems too... introduced. He's got an unusual full name AND a nickname to boot. He's got this whole backstory and is ready-made as the Maya to Lucas' Riley. I dunno, I think we're in for a lot of Zay.

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    2. Looks like you might be right, Christian. I checked IMDB, and he is supposed to be in four episodes this year. Which, is ok, I guess. Means he gets 3 more opportunities to show he's worth my time as a character.

      One quick thing I want to mention is that I really liked the car wash scene. That was just fun. And they got to be kids for a minute, and you could tell they enjoyed themselves.

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    3. And one more thing! (stuff keeps coming to me) They had to dirty Lucas up, and they did it with what I'll call "justifiable dirt". In other words, they had to give him some back story that was interesting, while keeping him clean enough that nobody would be calling and writing in droves to get rid of the character. (Trust me, that's happened and got an episode of Jessie pulled from airing) Lucas standing up for a friend by fighting, multiple times as they want us to believe, is as good as I think they could do. Now, the execution was good, as Peyton Meyer was definitely on point. So, I turn to the writer and directors. Rider & Shiloh Strong directed it, and was written by Mark Blutman. A veteran BMW writer, and a co-executive producer on a few of this year's GMW episodes. That group should know how to handle this universe.

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  2. Indeed, I didn't think it was a good episode by most of the reasons you've already stated on your review, as clearly the subplot with Lucas' past didn't go to where it was intended. Still, I can also recognize that the cast is getting better at acting, particularly Peyton, who is finally showing a glimpse of emotion in his eyes.

    Also, if I you allow me to say it, I loved the Power Rangers reference when describing Zay's entrance. Brilliant.

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  3. I agree with you two. 2.03, is a weak episode. I'm 60-40 on this one. And, while 60% I would say, liked, genuinely enjoyed[and quite a bit in areas], it was too choppy, up/down, for this episode to be a true success. It's too bad, too, because this episode that had great potential, but something was definitely lost in the execution.---And, it wasn't because of the performances, as they were all pretty great, for the most part.
    Lucas' [so-called] dark past: Am I missing something, or did they not actually say any details on 'his dark past'? They said, or kind-of said, why Lucas got kicked out of school, but they don't expand.—Does this mean this will be brought up again? I mean what they do say, implies something more troubling, which is why(or a reason) this is a letdown. *Peyton did a good job here, though. And, I definitely saw potential for a great dramatic actor. Unfortunately, Peyton's great performance comes in a weak episode, well really a weak storyline, so he hasn't earned 'MVP' yet, in my book.
    *Okay, now for the opening scene: It starts out smooth, with some good, natural comedy, in the hallway between Riley & Maya.---And, Riley's down with life attitude/life is good as it is, is a throwback to episode 3 of S1; do I detect a pattern emerging here? And, I love the delivery of Riley's line, "Not with that attitude."--- And, then we enter the classroom, which does continue the smoothness....Until the new kid, Isaiah, enters; and every time he opens his mouth to speak, the scene comes to a halt. .....And, while everyone else is good in this first scene, Riley is the breath of fresh air here that somehow keeps the scene moving along.—I can’t explain/expand on this further, though.

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    1. ...Continued...
      Cory, as teacher: ....So, he is still letting the class do whatever the hell they want(interrupting on a whim). There is a certain firmness with Cory in this episode, though, that at least makes the line between teacher and student, visible now. And, once again, I am noticing, Cory being written better in S2, no over-the-top silliness, but understated with sincerity.

      *Cory&Topanga: I loved them in this episode. They really only had bits here, but it’s sold well, for the minor part it is, but we didn’t need more in this episode. ….More in the future would be fantastic, though. And, I liked the end scene, with the two of them walking out on the kids, after they point out that there is more than one secret to life.---I took this as an inside joke for adults. As you get older you realize how many things do have a double, or even triple meaning.

      Maya's reactions and comments to Riley and others were executed very well. And, I liked the little bit between her and Riley at the 'car wash', with a new take on their bit…
      *What I didn't like with Maya in this episode, is that she had that aura to her where she thinks she is better than her friends/everyone else. And, yes, this comes from Maya's extraordinary amount of confidence, which I love[and envy], but I don't like this aspect to that.

      The Meta-Humour: I love it, I do, just not in every episode. They really need to dial this back Come on, this is three episodes in a row, with it being heavy handed in 2.01. BMW, did this, but not this often. But, then I guess the argument is that BMW was just making fun of itself, and occasionally this business we call show. GMW, has its own show, plus its predecessor. ….Still, dial it back.

      I loved Farkle's outbursts in class. And, the now ongoing bit of Belgium 1831... -Reminds me of the S1 bit in Sabrina[TTW]; "Mitosis is...." and never finishing that sentence.

      Greatly executed scene in the cafeteria between Riley and Lucas, with Maya’s interjections. This was an honest conversation between the two of them, continuing their evolution from 2.02. And, they both had good points to make.

      A great throwback to BMW, with the math problem. Another throwback came in the car wash scene, with Maya saying, “…Lucas, was it Lucas, could it have been Lucas….LUCAS.”---Callback to 6th grade Cory, doing this with Minkus’ name.

      Episode MVP: Rowan Blanchard, with Ben and Sabrina in 2nd place, and Ben&Danielle together, in there as well.

      Honourable Mention: Peyton Meyer

      Episode Grade: C+, potential was there, but fell through in parts.
      “Change fills my pockets with pennies of uncertainty.” My favourite line of the episode, that is both funny, and makes me think. I like this Riley.

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    2. What exactly do you mean by Peyton "hasn't earned 'MVP' yet, in my book"? It doesn't really matter how good or bad the episode was: he still had the best and most remarkable performance in it. Which makes him MVP, "in my book". Rowan and Ben weren't bad, but definitely not MVP. Sabrina had some funny jokes, but not close to MVP this time. This was Peyton Meyer's episode from beginning to end, just like it was supposed to be.

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  4. Oh God I Am So Hyped To See Sean Burn Down The Internet On Friday! It's Going To Be The Best Thing Evah! Along With Debby Directing Her Second Episode Of Jessie, This Is Going To Be An Awesome Conflagration Of "Specialness" On Disney Channel!

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  5. On a more serious note, there's been a pattern of Disney Channel shows having a change of quality starting with the second season. Liv and Maddie got better after an awful first season, and so did Wizards of Waverly Place and Dog With a Blog. Sadly it can go the other direction too - Jessie, Austin & Ally, I Didn't Do It so on and so on got significantly worse after their first seasons.

    As for Girl Meets World...well, already by the third episode we seem to be having some divergence of opinion. A lot of people legitimately think it got better. A lot of people legitimately think it got worse. A lot of people think the quality of season 2 so far is just the same as season 1, and even there people seem divided as to whether or not that's a good or bad thing.

    On the other hand, I just got done saying that Jessie and Austin & Ally got significantly worse starting in their second seasons, yet that's when the ratings started to skyrocket. So what do I know? Little kid audience and all.

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  6. This was one of my favorites of the week, second only to Tuesday's "New World". I feel like it's didn't go quite as far as I would have liked (not in terms of what the "dark past" was but how it was dealt with) but I have a feeling this issue will come up again soon. The episode felt like the start to a new storyline in a way (glad it did end up being called back to in "Pluto").

    Also I agree they need to step back from the meta humor, at least for awhile. It's getting annoying. (Thankfully, they did in the last two episodes of the week, but I guess more nostalgic humor was its replacement.)

    Episode Grade: B+

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  7. Ugh. Hypocritical much? Zay's an awesome character and there's nothing wrong with the name Zay. Zay's going to be in many more episodes as the joker which is exactly what this show needs. Zay's gonna point out all the lucaya moments and be our captain. Get used to it.

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    1. literally will friedleNovember 5, 2016 at 8:14 PM

      oh hey zay what's up dude

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  8. literally will friedleNovember 5, 2016 at 8:20 PM

    Given that fights generally don't get you expelled the first time I'm REALLY hoping they turn this into more of a "Lucas has anger issues and got into fights...and also got into fights to 'protect' Zay," but I doubt that will happen. I'm guessing you guys already know whether it will or not >_>

    zay is the worst character and i want him off the show. he's not funny and is a terrible actor and is dragging the show down to hell. please make him stop. please you guys. what's worse is that i know for certain that he's going to be on for a loooooooooooong time.

    Anyway, Farkle has gotten a lot better. And I was really hoping to hear Maya or Riley give Cory "Seven" as an answer, but Iunno. It might have been too much of an obvious shout-out to BMW.

    Also, I just finished "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlein today. It was excellent. <_<

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