#8. Maya Hart
Played By: Sabrina Carpenter (2014-2017)
Episode Count: 72
Role: Riley's best friend
Signature Episodes: (Girl Meets) Father, Maya's Mother, Master Plan, Hurricane, Creativity, Texas 1&2, the Forgiveness Project, Upstate, True Maya, A Christmas Maya
Maya's backstory is basically Shawn's. That level of re-hashing is a storytelling sin (for me, this is a big part of why I don't think she should be ranked any higher, I like Maya, but she's Diet Shawn in a way that Riley isn't), but it is nevertheless a solid start for a character. And the best part of it is that it drives the narrative through all three seasons. Stories are told and characters are developed because of her history, rather than most of the other stories on this show that are told by some isolated decision on an isolated day that never matter again.
Maya had the luxury of being well written during the first season when nothing else was working very well. Cory was at his worst as a teacher, Lucas was nothing, Farkle was a predator, and Riley was basically Corinna from Shallow Boy. She's rebellious, rude, loyal, sarcastic (you know, like an actual teenager) and BY GOLLY she has a hobby right out of the gate, that is, her artistic side becomes relevant all the way back in 1.07. The series is over and I still do not know what Riley likes to do besides go shopping. I spent the entire first season locked onto Maya because we know more about her goals and motivations and off-camera life than any of the other characters. I suppose a contributing factor is that Sabrina Carpenter was leagues ahead of the other kids in the first season, but still.
So she was a show-saving hero in season one. In season 2 she's still a fantastic, witty sidekick for a greatly improved Riley, she's running the parent trap on Shawn, her art has continuity, and her chemistry with Lucas kept heating up. She refuses to forgive her father for leaving in Meets the Forgiveness Project, which is pretty much the best thing you're ever going to get out of Disney Channel. She's perfect in Meets Texas 1, good in Meets Texas 2, part 3 is whatever, and then soon The Triangle starts and everything is ruined. No amount of analysis or headcanon or rationalizing will ever make sense out of Maya's attraction to Lucas being nothing more than the result of her unconsciously pretending to be Riley. I'm angry just from writing that sentence. As you can deduce from this post, Riley is ranked higher than Maya, and if I had to point to a single reason, that would be it. It is so utterly insane and it turned the most (only?) compelling romance on the show into a dumpster fire. By the time the Triangle is finally over, we have no time left for a story. Meets True Maya just returns her to where she started, which is a good place to be, but it makes so much of her season 2 story feel like a waste of time. She still has the plot thread with Shawn, but he marries Katy early in the season and there's nothing left to do except adopt her in the finale. What I'm trying to say is Maya goes back to being the sidekick for Riley in season 3, and don't get me wrong, it works, she's at her best in that role in season 3, but it's still disappointing after all the work we did.
Riley was at her most grating in the first season, and Lucas was at his most pointless, but interacting with Maya made both of those characters far more palatable. And indeed it's these connections that make her so interesting, and even more so as she starts connecting with the Boy Meets World characters. Riley's relationships with Cory, Shawn, and Josh are entirely based on her being Cory's daughter. That's how she fits in to Shawn's life and Josh's life, and we could maybe speculate how she'd interact with Cory if she weren't his daughter. But Maya actually Meets those Worlds from the position of her character and her character's history. We see her forging connections with Cory and Shawn and Josh (for better or worse) and she influences their lives because of who she is as a person. That's a big deal! She's got relationships with the whole Matthews family (except maybe Eric) and Shawn, but more importantly they were shown rather than told. You can picture a scene in your head of Maya interacting with any one of them. With Riley... yeah, she calls them "Uncle Josh" and "Uncle Shawn," but I have no idea who they are to her.
Obviously her greatest contribution was being Riley's super best friend. Forever, thunder and lightning, bay window, always, blah blah yeah, that was the entire show. You get it. You don't need me for that.