Girl Meets She Don’t Like Me Review.
I want to start off by saying I really enjoyed this episode and I think it had everything. The subject matter was lighter than that of GLONY, but the (multiple) life lessons were still placed well within the episode, with the addition of seriously great Riley character growth and some of the best comedic moments we have seen this season and possibly on this series (with the exception of Eric Matthews centered episodes). The acting delivery was spot on by all actors, I enjoyed the direction choices and overall the dialogue was clean (with a few mishaps here and there). I’m going to do this review in a bullet point style format, because my thoughts are scattered and there are many of them.
*The opening scene. First of all, as Riley said “it’s great to have you back, Maya.” Say what you want about her growth arc and that she didn’t lose part of herself during the triangle, but her one liners suffered substantially for me during that time. She’s back to being her quick witted, sarcastic, dubious self and unlike in Bear (where they had her doing more physical comedy, something I think she struggles with), Sabrina seriously shines with this form of comedy.
“I don’t want to learn any new names, I’m still learning Zay…It is Zay, right?”
“We’ll get lice, that’s what we’ll get, my hairs too long for new friends.”
It was also really great to have the true Riley and Maya dichotemy back, with Riley’s head in the (relative) clouds and Maya being the realistic (and funny) counterpart.
“Don’t you want to introduce someone into our wonderfully special friendship?”
“I wouldn’t force that on anybody!”
*As Riley approaches the girl who doesn’t like her, this is probably the scene where I felt like the dialogue got a little bumpy. Riley introduces herself and asks to be her friend- great. The girls response “Yeah, I don’t like her at all” to Maya was just…awkward to me. Wouldn’t it have hit home better if she were to look Riley in the eyes and say “No I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t like you.” A small change, but I feel like that direction/dialogue shift would have flowed a lot better in the moment. The rest of the scene however, with Rowan “rewinding” and trying again, is hilarious.
*Here we are introduced to the first of multiple lessons. The surface lesson of it all is of course that some people just straight up aren’t going to like you. This is a hard reality for anyone. As the saying goes “you can be the juiciest peach in the world, but there’s still going to be someone out there who doesn’t like peaches”. It’s vastly different from Rileytown, because when there’s a bully in the picture, you easily don’t blame yourself. You can characterize that bully as the villain and yourself as the victim, therefore negotiating the idea that the bully is obviously wrong in their opinions of you. But when someone isn’t necessarily mean or hateful, they just don’t really like your vibe, that sometimes is an even harder reality to swallow. Especially someone like Riley who for the most part, is consistently around people who are constantly reassuring her and letting her know how wonderful and great her uniqueness and personality are.
*Maya saying “You’re being ridiculous” and Riley responding “Oh gee, thanks you’ve fixed me forever” was an AWESOME line for me. It just basically symbolizes the entire show in one short swift moment of dialogue and breaks the fourth wall just enough so that the writers can say “Yeap, we see Rileys main character flaw, we know it annoys you but guess what, we’re sticking with it anyway!”
*Just a completely unimportant side note…Mayas outfit is so on point in this scene.*
*Just want to point out how great Corey Fogelmanis, Ceci Balagot and Rowan Blanchard are at physical comedy (just like Will Friedle). Honestly, I feel like this type of comedy is the hardest to pull off because it can fall flat so easily and come across and cory and awkward rather than actually funny. But in this episode we see how much it can shine. Farkle falling on Smackle, Smackle dragging Farkle across the school (with a GREAT direction decision to give us an arial view), Farkle fainting multiple times in class (with perfect timing), Riley cringing and crying in Mayas arms or her reversing backwards to try and “start the conversation over again”. And of course, what is probably the best moment of physical comedy perhaps in the entire show- Smackle teaching the class about their bodies.
*The gym teacher is so underappriciated. His jokes got laughs but honestly so much of what he said slipped under the radar and was actually comedic gold.
“All right you little creepy child adults”
“You’re all gonna pass. Cause if you don’t pass I gotta meet your parent’s. I don’t wanna meet your parents, I don’t wanna meet you!”
“He’s the only on in here who knows what he’s doing.”
I mean, just awesome.
*I’ve seen a lot of commentary on this episode but no one has pointed out the incredible irony of Riley judging the gym teacher so harshly when she, at the exact same moment, is struggling over the fact that some random girl doesn’t like her. The teacher even says “why don’t you give me a chance”, just like Riley wants to be given a chance by the girl at the lockers, yet Riley fails to make that connection or to even realize she’s doing exactly the same thing she’s claiming to not understand. A great, subtle moment to show the importance of Rileys character finding growth here.
*It was really nice to see some Topanga/Riley parallels in this episode. It really breaks the “Riley is Cory” stereotype that we see so often and reminds the audience that Riley is, in fact, a meshing of BOTH her parents, even though the writers don’t give us that much Topanga and Riley interaction (but we get a lot more in Monster, which I can’t wait to see). We even see Maya comfort Topanga in the same way she does Riley and see it work. I thought that was a really nice small touch yet again, highlighting their similarities.
*Speaking of Topanga in this episode, that scene is GOLDEN. It is first and foremost, wonderful to see Danielle Fishel using her acting chops to her fullest ability and she absolutely delivers the dialogue to perfection. The first time I watched this scene I was laughing so hard I was almost crying. It reminds me of the complex Topanga we had in Boy Meets World, who was consistently funny but also the voice of reason. It also brought back serious BMW feels of “The Eskimo”, where Cory and Shawn have an assignment and Topanga has to do her best to stay out of it, sans Mr. Feenys request.
*The second day of health class. Again, GREAT direction move to have Riley and Maya enter the class with everyone standing there smiling, and then break away to reveal Cory. Worked so well, and even though you KNEW he was going to be there, it still landed impeccably and got great laughs. Then of course, we have Smackle teaching the class about their bodies, which I already touched on as one of the funniest highlights of this series to date. But I also want to point out the reaction shots. Notice everyone horrified BESIDES Lucas and Maya (hormonal telegrams, everyone!) And also HOW IMPORTANT REACTION SHOTS ARE TO THIS SHOW. They feed off of them more than almost any other show I have ever watched. They are imperative, they say so much without saying anything at all (and guess what, that is a sign of GOOD SCRIPT WRITING).
*Topangas comment that “sometimes you are just a leaf blowing in the wind, and where you land is meant to teach something” should probably bring everyone back to Rileys strange obsession with the dying leaf from Ski Lodge. This entire episode is CHOCK FULL of foreshadowing (ill get to that at the end) but this is an interesting moment that should probably make a viewer raise their eyebrow as what Topanga says is almost identical to what Riley says to Lucas about the leaf a few episodes before. If Riley and Lucas are leaves blowing in the wind, and you are “meant to learn something even if you don’t like what’s happening to you” it begs the question, what is the Rucas relationship meant to teach the characters? What is it meant to teach the audience? I’d really like to expand on this point, but I don’t want to spoil the rest of the season.
*The scene at Topanga’s. I can’t gloss over the direction decision to put Lucas not only in between both Riley and Maya, but to have him SIGNIFICANTLY closer to Maya, almost sitting on her, in the exact same way that Riley was sitting with Farkle in Bear, while she was a foot away from Lucas. Two different directors for these episodes (one of which I hated), so it’s very hard to believe that this is not one, but TWO instances of lazy direction notes, especially knowing how delicate the dichotomy between Rucaya is.
*I think this scene was great because it blatantly showed that the Riley Committee has in fact, disbanded. Instead of tying to comfort her in an infantile kind of way (which yes, Maya kind of did but cuddling her and singing to her in the beginning but if you listen to what Maya says in her song, she calls Riley a nut job who has to get over it so…) and being realistic with her, telling her not to care so much what one person thinks and to move on and let go. I think that this shows how imperative disbanding this committee was in order to continue with Rileys growth, especially because we see that she really LEARNS her lesson in this episode, opposed to other times where it seems to have slipped through her fingers.
*There was a lot of cute Smarkle in SDLM (Him falling and her dragging him, her calling him ‘Beloved’ and blowing him a kiss) but the scene in Topangas, for me personally, WAS NOT one of them. Smackle giggling at Lucas’ smile is one thing, but having Farkle do the same smile and having her react poorly too it, crosses the line for me. If their entire basis of the Lucadora dynamic is that she wants to make Farkle jealous, they basically just discredited that with this moment. If that were true, Smackles innate reaction to Farkle would still be one of adoration, as he’s still the one she supposedly really loves, right? And another poor direction choice to have hers straight up smack his face away and whisper to Lucas “he’s right here!”. I know that there is the autistic situation to deal with, and I am respectful of that, but I still think that this was unnecessary and basically just dug them into a huge plot hole for later episodes.
*Speaking of Lucas…what the actual fuck, dude. First of all, if you don’t want Smackle flirting with you, why are you turning to her in order to get a flirty reaction? One, that’s a crappy thing to do your “best friend” Farkle, her boyfriend, who is sitting right there. Secondly, it’s a crappy thing to do to your girlfriend, who is also sitting right there.
*Speaking of Lucas and his girlfriend…very interesting (and nice) direction choice to have Lucas smile at Riley first, and have her NOT be affected by his gaze, as opposed to Smackle, who fawns all over him. Very different reaction by Riley then that of the pilot, where he does the same smile, and she absolutely drools over him…actually, she giggles almost identically to the way SMACKLE does in THIS scene. If people do not think that these things are significant, that character development and evolution is not apparent through the actions they take, then they’re crazy. TELEVISION IS A VISUAL MEDIUM, PEOPLE.
*Speaking more about Rucas, still confusion on why the writers constantly write Lucas to not give an actual shit about Riley. Yes, the “anyone who knows you would like you” line was sweet, but unbelievably unhelpful and throughout the rest of the episode…where even is this guy? He has like, 5 lines at most this episode and does nothing to try and be there for her. I grow tired.
*Can’t move past Cory drawing the human foot on the board. Really nothing else to say because that moment of comedic beauty speaks all for itself.
*When the gym teacher returns, I think it’s great that they throw in a third and quick lesson about your body, taking health class to be more than something just played for laughs. That we all have one body, one mind, and it’s essential that we take care of it. We can control what happens to our bodies and minds (physically, spiritually and sexually) and we need to leave the rest up to the universe. Also, a nice subtle line about waiting until you are ready to have sex. Probably flew right over most of the younger viewers heads but, I’m glad they decided to put it in the dialogue, none the less. Also, side note, I think that adding the sweet moment between the gym teacher and Riley, where he calls her sunshine in an actual endearing way, and they come to an understanding, mixed with his surprising ability to actually teach difficult and delicate topics with finesse, was a nice touch to keep him from falling into the hardcore “stock character” category.
*Again, reaction shot moments being crucial. As the gym teacher is talking about “things being out of your control” notice that the reaction shots go DIRECTLY to Farkle and Lucas (then to Riley and Maya). This is foreshadowing what is to come, how there are obstacles these characters will face, and the direct difference in how each person will choose to handle things (spot the difference).
*Okay..the big scene with the balloons. If one or two were orange, I would let it slide. But every single damn balloon is orange…why Jacobs, why? I SEE YOU. We also once again in this scene, have Lucas NOT UNDERSTANDING HIS GIRLFRIEND and wondering why the hell they are standing there with balloons, not grasping the concept that Riley, the person he should “know better than anyone” has just learned an invaluable lesson about life and has grown and obviously wants to do something beautifully symbolic about it because thats who she is and anyone that has ever met her for 5 seconds would know that about her I mean GOD LUCAS GIVE ME A BREAK.
*To add to that sentiment…who does actually understand what she’s doing? I’m not even going to let you guess on this one, guys. IT’S FARKLE. Big shocker at this point, I’m sure.
Zay: “I’m not doing this:
Farkle: “You don’t control that”
Riley: “We never let go of each other” :Riley gives balloon back to Zay:
I mean, it makes me want to cry when people don’t understand how intentional this is on the writers part. Zay is Lucas’ best friend and Rileys girlfriend, Lucas could have delivered Farkles dialogue there. Maya is Riley’s best friends and close to Zay, she could have delivered it. But no, Farkle did. Please, please PLEASE take a step back and look at it from a contextual perspective. It’s not about ship goggles, it’s about the evolution of characters and their dynamics together, both subtle and blatant. This is what makes good TV, this is why you SHOULD want to watch this show. For moments like that, the moments that make you say “Wow they put so much in to every single moment they present to their audience”.
*STEM Riley officially has returned by the end of this episode. The balloon scene was totally beautiful, but what really hit home and touches the audiences hearts is her last scene with the locker girl.
“Yeah, I still don’t like you.”
“Well I like you.”
Confident, cool, collected, and completely at peace with the idea that someone doesn’t like her. Riley Matthews, accepting the fact that someone doesn’t enjoy who she is or want to be her friend. Riley Matthews, still being kind and understanding towards someone who has no interest in her. Riley Matthews walking away and letting it go. In some ways, this scene is one of the best growth moments she has had in the entire series. All her friends standing behind her, watching her become a better version of herself, her walking away with her head held high, the smile the girl gives after receiving Riley’s compliment. It was all just really moving and well placed. Jeff Menell, you really know what the hell you are doing.
*Lastly. I just want to point out that this entire episode was foreshadowing the rest of the season. The entire concept of not being able to “control things that happen to you” and how you “the world is trying to teach you something when it puts you in situations where you don’t like what’s happening to you” and that “you learn things about yourselves when you are forced to deal with something extremely difficult that is out of control”. All of these moments are letting you know that there is a storm brewing and these characters have to brace themselves. It’s why this episode had to be written, it’s why Riley had to grow so much in 25 minutes. Because if she didn’t learn this lesson now, things would have been an even bigger mess in about 4 more episodes. It was a great stepping stone in whats to come.
Overall, I rate this episode probably a 9.5. It really had just about everything. Subtext, multiple life lessons, foreshadowing, character development, consistent comedy. It would be harder to get much better than this for GMW.