Girl Meets World’s third season ended yesterday. I’ll get to the sad part later, but let’s not think about that for a minute. The season opened with a 9-episode arc that, while not without its issues, showed off the potential of what the show could be. The series’ titular girls, Riley Matthews and Maya Hart (Rowan Blanchard & Sabrina Carpenter), entered high school along with the rest of their friends: Farkle Minkus (Corey Fogelmanis), Lucas Friar (Peyton Meyer), Zay Babineaux (Amir Mitchell-Townes), and Isadora Smackle (Cece Balagot), Farkle’s onetime rival who received an expanded role in the show after audiences responded well to her character in previous appearances. The arc showed them going through the usual growing pains of high school, and then finally resolved the “love triangle” between Maya, Riley, and Lucas. The show’s creators had always insisted that the triangle wasn’t really a triangle, which didn’t seem to make sense, as it clearly seemed that way. The explanation that slowly unfolded was essentially that Maya had taken on Riley’s personality, which involved developing feelings for Lucas, to make sure Riley would be safe with him. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking… I thought it was a little weird too. But the episode still ended up being special, and while the girls fostered relationships with others (Maya explores her feelings for Riley’s uncle Josh during the arc as well), the show kept the central focus on the two girls’ friendship at all times.
After that arc concluded, though, the show kind of drifted. We never got to see Riley and Lucas really act like a couple at all (forget kissing, they barely even held hands). This was especially odd given that they did kiss way back in season 1. Most of the rest of the seasons’ episodes were unremarkable, and while they did address some relevant topics (cultural diversity, growing up, parental relationships, etc.), there weren’t that many standout episodes like in past seasons. Some of the other plotlines, such as when Riley “meets the real world” and suddenly understands there’s evil in the world (which she somehow didn’t realize before she was 14) were weird and badly executed. Sure, there were some highlights. “Girl Meets I Do,” featured the marriage of Shawn Hunter to Maya’s mother Katy, which I liked but that probably pissed off plenty of fans who wanted to see him reunite with college girlfriend Angela Moore, who appeared in an episode last season. In “Girl Meets Her Monster,” Topanga and Riley got a rare a-plot together. “Girl Meets a Christmas Maya” featured a touching moment between the series’ central friend group. But I’d be hard pressed to find an episode that really impacted me the way some in previous seasons did.
I think it’s telling that possibly the most poignant moment in the season happened when the girls were out of character. In the episode “World Meets Girl,” the cast did a sort of behind the scenes/audience participation special. One of the segments they did was called “Bay Window Confessions,” where they selected groups of friends to sit in front of GMW’s iconic bay window and tell the stories of their friendships. At the very end of the show, Rowan & Sabrina did their own version, and it was the most emotional. Sabrina was already in tears before either of them had said a word, and you could tell that the actors love each other in real life just as much as their characters do. This was especially significant given that some online trolls had been questioning their friendship for whatever reason. Watching that scene knowing that the show was about to be canceled just wrecked me.
The season finale was a fairly standard “Is my friend gonna move away?” plotline (following a weird one that involved the girls wanting to throw a Sweet Sixteen party before they turned sixteen). The highlight of that show was that the creators, maybe sensing that the show was about to be canceled, brought in a slew of Boy Meets World characters to make one last guest appearance. Cory’s parents Alan and Amy, his brothers Eric and Josh, his sister Morgan (featuring both actresses that played her, in a funny fourth wall joke), Mr. Feeny, and bully-turned-janitor Harley Keiner all came back. At first, I thought the Matthews family was going to move away, and I was really really hoping that I wasn’t going to be left with a sad ending in the final episode. Fortunately, I wasn’t, but man I got worried there for a moment.
In my season 2 recap, I talked about how I thought Peyton Meyer’s acting ability had come a long way since the previous season. This season, the actors I thought made the biggest strides were August Maturo and Ava Kolker, in the roles of Auggie Matthews and Ava Morgenstern. Most of that was probably simply due to their gaining three years’ worth of maturity, but I enjoyed their chemistry and friendship a lot more this season than any other (and I didn’t even like Ava that much at first…). They even have a sweet moment of their own when Auggie helps support Ava in the season premiere following her parents’ breakup. Kolker in particular showed a lot of versatility, and I hope she keeps acting, because I think she could be a comedic tour de force by the time she’s an adult.
But, sadly, as I alluded to above, this looks like it this will be the last season of Girl Meets World. As is typical for Disney Channel shows, it was canceled after three seasons. However, overwhelming fan response to the cancellation (which involved fans mailing paper airplanes to networks), has led executive producer Michael Jacobs to say that he is “making an attempt to find a home for the evolution of the franchise,” whatever that means. So there is a small glimmer of hope that we may get more of the show. While Netflix has said they’re not picking it up, other streaming services such as Hulu always could. If they’re lucky, they could even get on another network. I hope they do, because I think these characters and stories have a lot of potential, and I would be excited to see how they chose to approach different topics. I do feel that part of the reason we got some watered-down stories was because of Disney Channel’s insistence on keeping the show aimed at a younger demographic (which was something I feared from the start) . On a streaming service, the show would hopefully be able to appeal to a wider audience, just as Boy Meets World did. But even if this is the end, I enjoyed getting to relive my childhood and watch another generation of kids grow up with these characters :).