Completely secondary to my opinions about this episode are my opinions about Star vs The Forces of Evil. For no particular reason, Christian and I both wound up watching it after Girl Meets World, in particular the episode "Blood Moon Ball" starring our very own Rider Strong as Star's demon ex boyfriend. It was outstanding. Gorgeous. An absolute feast for the eyes and the ears. The style and colors were beautiful, I could watch it all day. The writing was clever, the jokes caught me off guard, and Rider in particular had a stand out performance. You cannot miss that episode.
On to Girl Meets World. The opening scene shows us exactly what's going on and we learn through dialogue, rather than explicit statements, how everybody feels about it. That's... a new record.
I've got a Pavlovian response to cheerleaders spelling things out where I go fetal and start to dry heave, but other than that we're in strong shape right from the start.
The weakest element of this episode is obvious pretty early. The coach. I think her community learning center acting class had its first lesson on "How To Be Angry" the day before they filmed this. Eyebrows down! Nostrils flared! Show your teeth! Easy as 1, 2, 3, you're an angry coach on TV.
And, like, of course she's Russian.
Zay reprises his role as Mister MAKES JOKES, but it works more often than not. Lucas and Farkle contribute their respective brands of heckle-support, and that leaves Riley to take the lead in a mostly-solo venture. I was initially wary of that, especially since we were told previously that both Maya and Riley always try out together, but Christian changed my mind. Indeed, this is exactly what I've wanted all along. This endeavor is purely Riley's. This is something unique to her character, that she alone is passionate about. It is extremely valuable in character building to know what they are passionate about. Farkle has science and world domination, Maya has art, and now finally we have something for Riley. And what really makes it fit so neatly is that cheerleading is totally supported by what we know about her. Riley is a bubbly, enthusiastic, happiness-spreading burst of sunshine. It's a perfect fit.
And like I said, it's the backstory that makes it even better. You could accidentally walk into this and still understand it, but if you've been watching Riley for a season and a half, it's even more cohesive.
The fuck are you looking at over there, Samantha?
A lot of the humor here is visual, based on Riley's inability to perform. It's not really my taste, it's a little too close to slapstick, but on the bright side Rowan handles it very well. She makes it so Riley doesn't look awkward or uncomfortable, right, I'm not feeling any second hand embarrassment, she's just bad at it. I thought it was going to be hard to watch, but Rowan found that sweetspot.
In Riley's bedroom, Mister MAKES JOKES makes a joke about the rest of the gang breaking in, which I thought was funny. The star of this scene, though, is Cory. I think George R.R. Martin said once that the best story you can tell is the conflict between a man (or woman) and himself. I love seeing Cory's two roles on opposing sides of an issue, his father role battling the teacher. This may be the most real Cory has ever been on this show.
He's torn! He's struggling! He has to make a HARD DECISION! It's BEAUTIFUL!
The cheerleaders go through the routine, and I already talked about how Riley does here, and then it seems Riley didn't make the squad. Could this possibly be a bump in the easy street of Riley's life? I sure hope so.
Cory continues to be on point for today's Big Lesson™. "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." In my line of work, I have to fail constantly. I find inspiration in quotes like that one every single day (even though Edison was a total asshole.) Cory is right. Failure is progress. Riley has evidently been working very hard for this, and today is just one more failure on the road to success. Perseverance is one of my favorite themes (see: Eric and Shawn.) In contrast to Eric and Shawn, this was a one-off. This will almost certainly go the way of Cory and Shawn joining the basketball team. This was a long-term story if you consider the past, before the first season started, but I would have enjoyed it as a long-term onscreen story. I didn't really buy the ending. The lesson would have had much more impact if Riley didn't make the team in this episode.
The tag scene doesn't exist. Perez Hilton? Why? Who could have possibly thought to do that? What a terrible idea. Who the hell cares.
There were a couple wasted scenes, like the one in the hallway where Riley wants to hug the coach, but overall a strong episode.
Oh Sarah! You're such a card!
Yeah, for the most part I like this one. It feels even better after that looooooong stretch of shit we've been dealing with. It's not in the top 5 of the season or anything, but it's good. This was a very simple story told reasonably well. I like that they avoided whatever temptation causes them to create Topanga/Auggie subplots. Or any subplots. This one all one simple story that they had the time to really delve into it, and I liked that.
You're absolutely right that Cory was excellent in this one. While I think they played up that dichotomy a little more than is believable (ultimately people are not able to disassociate themselves quite as dramatically as Cory does, where he passionately argues for one side in one room, and passionately for the other in another - Cory's true opinion was clearly Teacher Cory's so I don't think he'd ever have been part of the bell-ringing contingent) it was still a good message, and good utilization of the fact that Cory is both parent and teacher... probably the first good utilization of that. I've commented in the past, especially in the very first episodes, that Ben was having issues with the serious stuff and making them overly-maudlin and cheap. He's clearly worked past that (and the less anvillicious writing helps) because he was just good in this, darting back and forth from serious-Cory and neurotic-joke-Cory seamlessly, just like Cory was able to do in BMW.
Rowan was good in this too, and I enjoyed Riley quite a bit. Yes, there was more showing and not telling (after episodes like "I am Farkle" I'd half expect Riley to have continuously been walking into the classroom while Maya recaps how the offstage tryout went) but also Riley sucked but believably sucked. She didn't have the skills these clearly professional-grade gymnasts did, and she couldn't quite follow all the moves, but with the exception of a few jokes, which were fine, (like her waving instead of catching) she just seemed like a normal girl out of her depth. In this, Riley took a little more out of the page of her uncle/step-father than her biological father. She never graduated into cartoon character, which would have been extremely easy to do in an episode like this.
Zay? Let's talk about Zay. Despite his continuously hammy "you-ready-for-the-punchline-guys?" delivery, Amir Mitchell-Townes was more or less fine and occasionally funny. However, I thought this episode was actually one of the clearest indications of how much Zay is not working. He's one friend too many. They did a lot of things where, like, Maya says something, Lucas says something else, Farkle says a third thing.... and that's where you should organically stop.... but, nope, here's Zay with a fourth thing. There's a rule of threes in comedy. And in an episode where the friends were kind of a Greek chorus, you didn't need a fourth. Zay having a fourth reason for why he's there for Riley was one too many, Zay coming to the window fourth was one too many. He's not as offensive as he once was, but he just doesn't... belong. And he doesn't bring enough to the table that we should be enduring him until he gets there, if he ever does.
And meanwhile his presence, and them giving him things that could have gone to someone else like being the one to figure out Riley wasn't under the covers, takes away from the established characters. Farkle and Lucas were utterly inter-changeable this week. Which they shouldn't be. Lucas says "I'm here because I've got to see this." and Farkle says "I'm here because I believe in Riley." Would that have sounded at all wrong to you if the characters had switched it? If each had said the other's line? I'm guessing no. That shouldn't be a situation we're in. I don't mean to put that all on Zay, but having to give Zay shit to do and reasons to be special doesn't help. It's already a pretty full cast, and Farkle and Lucas aren't there yet as it is. Cramming Zay in too is a mistake.
Also, they did... the same joke again. Zay's confused that people go through Riley's window. It was like he was discovering it for the first time. We just did that last time! It didn't feel like a callback, it felt like two writers both separately came up with the idea that Zay, the new guy, doesn't get why it's common for people to come into Riley's room, and no one realized it.
Another thing that bugged me, was Maya at the end having taken the bell and going "Do you think we'd ever have let you ring this bell?" To me it rang (eh? EHHHH?) false. She was actively trying to get her to ring the bell, they all were. They REALLY were in the bedroom scene. I don't believe secretly none of the four of them wanted Riley to tap out, I think they did, but then Cory taught them they were wrong. They can still have been good friends and messed up on this one. It's okay for them to learn lessons and not already have known the lesson. In fact, that's better. But heaven forbid The Sisterhood of the Bay Window need any polish.
Yeah, wasn't into the coach. Seemed like they were going for Jane Lynch's character on Glee? This is based on my never having seen Glee, but getting a sense of her personality on that show from other media. But she was just aggressively mean in kind of a nonsense way. I did like Riley winning over the cheerleaders though. That was a nice moment. I felt sure that they were just empty shells standing blankly around to do feats of gymnastics.
You're likely right that this will never be mentioned again, but I hope it is. I don't need lots of shit about how Riley's a cheerleader and Bring it On type stories, but occasional references, or even her just walking into the house still in her cheerleading outfit's enough, for some continuity, would be nice. This is the second episode where this cheerleading desire of Riley's has come up after all.
I did like Lucas' bit of impulsively shouting out answers as, like, a 'thing he's trying', though.
Episode Grade: B
Episode MVP: Ben Savage
I don't think I have anything to argue about. May as well reiterate what stuck out. "She didn't graduate into a cartoon character." That's an excellent way of putting it. Not only would it have been easy, but it's what I expected of the infamous Randi Barnes as today's writer. But she impressed me this time. I love the use of "Greek chorus." Was the Zay-window bit really a repeat? That sucks the fun out of it. Farkle and Lucas being interchangeable is spot on. And you're completely right about the bell. Should have been a "lesson learned!" rather than "we were pure of heart from the beginning!" They obviously wanted Riley to quit. Don't lie, Maya.
I've seen Bring It On at least thirty times. Eliza Dushku... Why don't you return my calls...
Dollhouse? There's a show. What was I saying?
Episode Grade: B
MVP: Cornelius Matthews. Runner up, Sarah.
Whoa, same grading on both fronts. Probably a first! I feel like this Sarah business is going to be like the Dancing Guy where it's not really my thing but it's a hit with the fans, so I just keep quiet about it.
Hey man, I'm right there with you on loving that classic teen cheerleading film -- Nah, I'm just kidding, I've never seen Bring it On. I do like Eliza Dushku though. From Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Which, besides True Lies, actually turns out to be the only thing I've ever seen her in, looking at her IMDb. (Yes, this means I've never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) But she's for sure foxy.
Oh, and like, George R.R. Martin didn't make up the idea of Man vs. Himself being the big true conflict. Pshhh. I like Game of Thrones and all, but peeps gotta RELAX about George R.R. Martin. THAT'S MY THOUGHT ON THAT!
Oh, and yeah, after all the shit we gave Randi Barnes, we probably do owe it to her to acknowledge this wasn't a bad episode. You're still not forgiven for Father, Gravity, or Rules though.
Oh I know all about the Man vs ___ stories, it was just that GRRM singled "vs Himself" out as the best, which I agree with, and I don't think I've heard another writer say that, even though I'm sure plenty agree. I actually agree with you about him being overrated though. I'm all over pop fantasy, and compared to Rothfuss, Sanderson, or Jordan especially, GRRM might as well be doing cave paintings.
I grew up with two sisters, and one was a cheerleader, so it's not like I bought Bring It On, but... I sure as hell watched it...
While I'm not as well-versed on pop fantasy, I'll say my thing with Martin is that he's an excellent, virtually unparalleled world-builder, but as an actual writer? Mediocre. The strength of Game of Thrones, I feel, comes from his world-building and then other people writing scripts that take place in this world he came up with. The books are only okay.
ANYWAY. Yeah, watch Star vs. The Forces of Evil. We decided it's the lovechild of Scott Pilgrim and Adventure Time. I think that's spot on.