Growing Up

This past Friday marked the end of the second season for your favorite sequel show and mine, Girl Meets World. After introducing the audience to the characters in season 1, season 2 got a little more ambitious, and the results were mixed. Let’s start with a review.

You’ve come a long way, baby. Show creator Michael Jacobs said that the general theme of season 2 was growth. Not only did the characters grow, but their actors’ abilities and talents grew with them. Perhaps the biggest example of this was Peyton Meyer, who plays Lucas Friar. I’d criticized him in the past as wooden, and the “pretty face” of the series. Right away in season 2, there were signs of his growth as an actor, particularly in a scene from “Girl Meets the Secret of Life” which explores his troubled past and why he moved from Texas to New York. In it, he pins a bully against a locker in defense of his friend Zay, who has also moved to New York in this season and joins the regular cast. Meyer provides a glimpse at another element of Lucas’s personality, and does so convincingly. His comedic acting is also better, such as a scene from the season finale in which he robotically reads lines from note cards, because he is unsure how to talk to his friends about his feelings.

Peyton Meyer (Lucas) came a long way in the acting department this season.
Peyton Meyer (Lucas) stands up for his friends in “Girl Meets the Secret of Life.”

Rowan Blanchard (Riley) also expanded her acting range this season. We always knew she was good at physical comedy, and she still is. But she also had some more poignant and emotional scenes that we didn’t see from Riley last season. In “Girl Meets Rileytown,” she breaks down when telling Maya about an unnamed bully who is tormenting her. Very rarely do shows like this deliver a truly jaw-dropping performance, but that minute-long sequence was one of them.

Rowan Blanchard delivers a raw, emotional performance in "Girl Meets Rileytown."
Rowan Blanchard delivers a raw, emotional performance in “Girl Meets Rileytown.”

Corey Fogelmanis (Farkle) even got better, with an assist from the writers. About halfway through the season, Farkle’s character decides to be more “normal” and less awkward and geeky. This made his character a little less stereotypical and a little more relatable, and also allowed him to show off his acting talent a bit more rather than having to stay in a narrow box. The progression of these characters meant that Sabrina Carpenter (Maya) didn’t have to carry as many scenes. She’s always been a cut above the rest due to having a little more experience, but the cast was on more equal footing this season. Heck, even Ava Kolker (Ava Morgenstern) got better, and her chemistry with August Maturo (Auggie) is great now. She also had an assist from the writers, who made her character a little more likable this year.

-Nothing is (still) easy. Girl Meets World once again refuses to tie every plotline up neatly, like sitcoms often do. One of the big story arcs was the budding romance between Riley and Lucas, which is completely thrown for a loop when Lucas realizes he also has feelings for Maya in “Girl Meets Texas.” The relationship between the three characters remains largely in stasis after that episode, as none of the trio wants to hurt the other two by beginning a relationship. It’s messy and complicated in a realistic way, but sometimes that succeeds too well, leading me to my next point…

-There were some storytelling issues. Particularly in the last third or so of the season, GMW struggled with storytelling. The aforementioned love triangle arc has been explored in five episodes now, with no meaningful advancement of that plot since it started. It’s almost like the writers can’t decide what to do with it, so they’re content to string the audience along until they figure it out in season 3. This actually was the most disappointing part of an otherwise sentimental and funny season finale.

Further, a lot of the episodes seemed disjointed and the messages were odd or not properly conveyed. In “Girl Meets Rah Rah,” for instance, Riley tries out for the cheerleading squad and, despite her clumsiness and lack of talent, makes the squad despite there being little to no evidence she actually put in the effort and work to get better and earn her spot. I think they were going for a “keep trying” message, but I don’t think that’s how it came off. “Girl Meets Bay Window” suffered from this as well, with the girls arguing about redoing their special bay window to being in sentimental tears the next. A lot of these episodes had the feel of the writers trying to cram an hour-long story into 30 minutes.

-That said, there were some very good episodes. The aforementioned “Girl Meets Texas” three-parter, and “Girl Meets Rileytown” were some of them. “Girl Meets Mr. Squirrels Goes to Washington” featured the return of Tommy, who Eric befriended as a little kid in Boy Meets World. “Girl Meets Hurricane” saw the evolution of the relationship between Shawn Hunter and Katy Hart (Maya’s mother), and unfortunately ended any hopes of a Shawn-Angela reunion. “Girl Meets the Forgiveness Project” was probably Sabrina Carpenter’s best episode, in which Maya confronts her anger at her father for abandoning her.

Maya confronts her father over his abandonment when she was a little girl.
Maya confronts her father over his abandonment when she was a little girl.

Fortunately, GMW was renewed for season 3, so we’ll get to explore this world further starting this spring. I’d like to submit, for the writers’ approval, some topics that I’d like to see them explore in future seasons. Note: I don’t think all of these should be explored in season 3. In fact, one of the weaknesses of season 2 was that the writers tried to do too much, and some of these topics wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss just yet. But I’m taking the optimistic view that the show will continue on for 6 or 7 seasons like Boy Meets World did, which would give them plenty of time to work with. I feel like, with Rowan’s budding activism, many of these will inevitably be explored.

I’d like to see an episode about body image. I think this is essential for GMW to tackle, since the main characters are girls. Boy Meets World couldn’t address this as effectively (yes, I know boys have body image issues too… it’s just way more common with girls), and I think GMW could confront it head-on this season, with the transition to high school providing a good opportunity for it.

-I want to see them include a gay character in some way. This would not be unprecedented for a Disney show, as Good Luck Charlie did it a few years ago. It would also aid the diversity of the show, whose main characters (aside from Zay) are largely white, suburban, and straight. Rowan herself even self-identifies as queer on social media, so you have to think this is coming. I think it would be cool to see the “core four” characters help someone come out of the closet. I think, if done well, that could have a really good message.

-Teen drinking was addressed really well on Boy Meets World, and I want to see that at some point. This would probably make more sense in season 4 or 5, when they’re in the later years of high school. I think it would be very useful to explore this from a girl’s perspective, because their experiences often differ from boys’ in this area. They could even wait till Riley’s college years to tackle this, and pair it with…

-An episode about teen sexuality. This seems like it will eventually happen, but not in season 3. Issues of peer pressure and giving consent could be talked about from a different perspective. Actually, I think a good (and potentially funny) way to address this would be if Riley and Lucas are in a relationship down the road and Riley really wants Lucas to take that step, but Lucas wants to wait. That would fit both of their characters’ personalities, and would gender-flip the typical situation, where boys are typically the ones more eager to have sex.

All in all, while season 2 had its issues, I largely enjoyed it and am looking forward to season 3 🙂

Amir Mitchell Townes was a welcome addition to the cast as Zay Babineaux.
Amir Mitchell Townes was a welcome addition to the cast as Zay Babineaux.
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4 comments

  1. I don’t find this show compelling, but I nevertheless enjoy your well-written review. It seems very Disney, and I wonder how far it can go as a from g-rated blandness. Does it have the chops to succeed beyond the obvious appeal to sentimentality?

    • It is kinda Disney-ish, but I think there’s more substance to it than the typical fare from that channel. I’ve seen bits and pieces of other shows on the network and it seems better. The actors are solid and the writers, when they’re on, write some very good plots. Remember that Boy Meets World was a similar show during its second season (I actually think GMW season 1 and 2 are better than BMW season 1 and 2), but matured into a great show later on.

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