You know that's a good question Riley, and if there's any justice in the universe you'll obtain a satisfying answer to it, because that's really one of the most annoying things about this show. Riley spouts happy dappy nonsense and generally faces no consequences.
But this time she lost, and Cory insists that she needs to consider opposing viewpoints instead of living in her happiness-echo-chamber. And somehow that ties in to history class. It's a good thought though, definitely, so let's see where we can go with it.
This is honest, genuine life advice here, that you have to understand both sides of an issue. Cool.
Riley is now assigned to argue that people are evil by nature, while the entire rest of the class argues they are good. This occurs because Cory is an awful teacher who does not even know the names of most of his students. Where's that heckler girl from the season opener? This is exactly where we need her. Maya steals a projector though, so I'm glad true new blue whatever Maya is still here.
As I mentioned in the comments, in high school debate (which, I'll mentioned, was held in a class called Advanced Debate, and not in fucking history) I was given good vs. evil too, and I had evil. I won the debate handily, both my scorning my opponents sunshine and rainbows attitude, and speaking to mankind's true nature, and I gotta say, I never had an existential crisis over it. Just a fun fact.
Maya trolls Riley a little bit with the morality of wearing a wool sweater, it's fun and makes these characters seem like real people for a minute before we start getting stupid.
Once again Topanga receives Auggie's B story and I'm just not even gonna talk about it.
I didn't mind their B story at all. I mean, for one, we barely spent time on it, so it was easy to not mind it. But, also, it weaved nicely into Riley's story, and I actually found Auggie a little endearing in portions of it. He got some good lines. There's good lines throughout this episode, whatever else may be wrong with it.
Yeah we got stupid. Sad guitar music plays while the girls look at (implied) depressing news headlines on a laptop. That's the whole shot.
Smackle still wants to bang Lucas's brains out, even though she was hot for Farkle earlier in the episode. I'm all for sexual liberation, but you made a commitment, Smackle! And Lucas is officially Riley's boyfriend now! (Even though there's no hint of that in the content.)
Yeah, Smackle's flirting with Lucas is really starting to irritate me. Do they not get what a repellent character trait it is? Having one main character's girlfriend show open lust for another main character? I really think Cecelia Balagot does a good job, and there were other portions of this episode (like when she came in through the door and over-explained why) that I liked. But this kind of stuff makes me hate Smackle and feel really bad and embarrassed for Farkle.
I don't know why Lucas isn't saying anything about it, except that I guess it's a really uncomfortable thing to break up and might serve to humiliate Farkle who right now is playing it off like a joke... when I'm sorry, in reality, this would be devastating for a 15-year-old kid to hear from his girlfriend about a friend he's already expressed feeling emasculated by, joke or not.
But yeah, it's weird, we're now two episodes in with no sign that Lucas and Riley are a couple.
I thoroughly enjoyed Zay's bit of character and story here, he's already more fleshed out than Lucas just from this one scene. Amir has further convinced me his acting chops are on one of the higher levels for Disney Channel. Lower than Sabrina, but higher than most everyone else. And I like how they tied it in to Riley. Nice work.
I don't think I'd put him above Rowan, but it's really just hard to gauge because Amir has never played anything but a supporting role in any episode. But, yes, I'd definitely put him ahead of Peyton and Corey. Peyton has shown progress, but not enough, and I feel like more and more I get less and less impressed with Corey. Some of it is because of what a non-entity Farkle has been this season, but really Corey's acting on this show has just gotten bland. Farkle's gotten bland. I'm not into Farkle.
But, yes, Zay's great in this one.
Evil Riley is funny. "What's next, that heavy metal?" She refuses to apologize for eating Zay's cookie, which is compelling, but more interesting than that is the implication everyone else was hanging out without our two leads. It's a nice bit of subtlety that tells us these characters actually exist off camera.
So this could be Riley's gateway drug. She has tasted the thrill of being a jerk, a real Jordan Belfort, and it tastes good. I hope this story doesn't get foggy and mixed up down the road. "Riley enjoys being Jordan Belfort" and "are people naturally good or evil" are kind of separate, but maybe they'll tie together in a nice way by the end.
What I like most about this breakfast scene was Riley asking what if it's more fun to be evil, and Cory says "What if being evil changes your understanding of what fun is?" That's a genuinely compelling idea that I would have loved to hear more about, but as with all good things, Auggie interrupts it immediately. Topanga tells us a parable, and we've got a third thread to weave here, that small good deeds can still make a difference, which I of course agree with, but the capacity to do good deeds doesn't really fix either of our other two problems.
Farkle and the gang show up with some nonsense to defend their point of view at the debate while Riley is actually coherent and effective. Cory rightly awards the victory to Riley.
Buuuuut then we kinda lose it when they switch sides. Riley has her happy dappy nonsense that I mentioned earlier, personal anecdotes that don't really address any of her points from when she was arguing for evil. And that's fine, it's obviously not all one or the other, I just have no idea what Riley is actually taking away from all this. It gets messy trying to recombine "Riley likes doing bad" with the good/evil nature of humans and OF COURSE the other team never gets to give their defense of evil. Cory's like, switch sides now! ...But just Riley! I don't care what the rest of you have to say.
Seriously, what's my takeaway? From Cory, "There is good and there is evil. I've found that if you choose good, the world is more than willing to help you out." I mean, maybe, but that's really more of a lesson for "Riley likes to do bad things." What about our inherent nature? Does it just not matter anymore? It just doesn't seem to connect very well.
Two Shoes Louie is an interesting cat, and I love his line "I'm trying every day."
I'm sorry I find "Two-Shoes Louie" and everything about his random half-assed storyline to be fucking ridiculous. He's ridiculous. Them shoe-horning him in (pun intended) is ridiculous. Either make him part of the episode, or don't, but don't mention him briefly and then ask him to carry the poignant ending
That SOUNDS like they're saying "Are humans naturally good or evil? Neither. You choose every day." And that's great, and Maya said something about choosing during the debate. So like, I think I know what they're saying, and it's solid, but it's just lost inside the cookie and forgiveness business.
I just... don't have a lot to say about this one. Maybe two in a row is just rough. I laughed my ass off when Maya walked off with the, I guess, projector? (I thought it was a printer) That was one of the funniest things this show's ever done. And there's a lot I like about it - I like Riley waking up to the realities of the world, for one, and I thought Rowan was very funny in this one. But I also find her descent into evil a little ridiculous and not fun enough to justify it.
That said, the look of delight and relief on Riley's face, when Cory switched the sides and let Riley defend good, made me feel something. I was genuinely happy to have Riley back too. So, that ain't nothing.
Riley should at least bake Zay a batch of cookies. Or she should find his grandmother's number and explain the situation.
Episode Rating: B (Good lines, and some funny moments, and good beats, and a good message... but a lot of dumb stuff got in the way)
Episode MVP: Rowan Blanchard, the episode was on her shoulders and she carried it well (shout out to Amir and Sabrina though)
It's worth saying that Joshua Jacobs has entered the arena with this script. It's pretty sharp writing, ESPECIALLY compared to his travesties before this one.