Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Journey

Welcome back, everybody.

After a strong episode last week, the expectations were high going into this one. More or less, this episode delivered. True, the pace was slower, and there were no big brawls, but it didn’t change the fact that this was an important episode and a good one to boot. As with last week, storylines moved forward, characters progressed, and it truly felt like a show worth watching. It’s not like anyone should be too surprised given that the show was, again, Ryan-centered, and that’s when the show is at its best.

Speaking of Ryan, he was featured in what I consider the most important scene of the season thus far (yeah, I’m actually saying something’s more important than Johnny dying…remember, I’m saying important, not exciting): the scene where he introduces Sadie to the Cohens. Oh but Drew, you’re just saying that because you don’t like Ryan and Marissa. Thanks for playing but no. Look, I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy seeing them apart because not only are they terrible together, but they’re somewhat endearing when they’re apart, but my reason for this is two fold:

1) Character progression
2) Ryan and the Cohens are officially a family

Looking at the first point first, you have to understand that this show is bad when nothing happens. And I’m not talking about the lack of a fistfight or gunshot. I’m talking about just the lack of any forward movement. Even if it’s just word to let us know the characters are thinking rationally, we need something. Look at some of the worst moments ever on the show: the first six episodes or so of 2005 and about eight episodes in this season. In the season two episodes, we had Ryan and Lindsay make no strides in their relationship, and we got bored of a nice relationship. In the season three episodes, we had Marissa and Johnny just sit and stare at each other as if the other was going to grow wings (I bet Johnny wished he actually had wings, huh? Not that they’d have done any good since they were probably as depressed and miserable as he was and wouldn’t flap correctly). And it’d be very easy for Ryan to fall back into this trap of staying still. He could have dropped the invitation off at Marissa’s, heard the CD, and then decided to wait around for her at the party, at the very least just entertaining Sadie instead of courting her. But he chose to accept her, to understand that Marissa isn’t what he needs at the moment. Ryan’s definitely not dense enough to believe Marissa doesn’t still care for him. She wouldn’t have made the mix CD if she didn’t. But he’s finally aware of what’s good for him and what’s not. His relationship with Marissa is unhealthy at this point.

Moving on to the second, it’s nice to see Ryan not just say, “These are the Cohens.” They are more than that. And even though the parenting has been noticeably lacking in the last two seasons, I think that watching Ryan, his chivalry and his decency, we understand that the Cohens have had a remarkable influence on him. Now I’m not saying that they should encourage him to tuck his shirt in every week because it makes him look like a complete ass, but we’ve seen where he came from, and he’s so much better now. And speaking of where he came from, it’s especially nice to know the Cohens are his family since we see what could have been. The decision to bring Dawn back was an interesting one, to be sure. I doubt that we’ve seen the last of her, so I like this idea that she’s coming back in his life. It’s a tie that was never fully severed, and though he’s fully embraced Sandy and Kirsten, he’ll never be able to deny Dawn. I think I would have rather seen Ryan’s father, actually, but I’ll take his mother now. Hopefully it’ll lead to familial complications. I’d love to see Sandy and Kirsten stand up to Dawn and the unnamed father. I doubt there’d be a custody battle—in fact, there couldn’t be—but legalities aside, it’s an interesting battle, one that could seriously tear Ryan apart and give him legitimate inner turmoil. And finally, Ryan’s brother, the brother who has supported him and caused him far fewer problems than Trey: Seth. What a great party he threw together. While I don’t buy that Seth didn’t remember Ryan’s birthday, I can buy that he put so much effort into it. Photoshopped pictures were the nicest touch, and I’m definitely sad we didn’t see Scientist Ryan. Brokeback Ryan was pretty funny, though, and clearly a nod to fans of the show who clamor for Ryan and Seth to hook up. And let’s not forget the Journey cover band who is actually a Foreigner cover band. What a perfect scene, amazingly executed. That Seth actually knew what he was doing was a terrific touch as the writers could have played it as Seth just being a moron. Totally not the case. Maybe Taylor, noticeably absent, helped book the party, as only she could bring such awesomeness.

Segueing from Seth to his girlfriend, who he really didn’t seem to deal with too much this week, I have to say that she completely owned her scene with Julie. Melinda Clarke and Rachel Bilson deserve at least three minutes of screen time together each week. It was brilliantly written and played with a perfect cinematic contrast: the fiery (used to be more) redhead versus the feisty brunette. “Awkward” was just a terrific way to describe the situation, especially considering these two have rarely, if ever, talked. Honestly, when else have they had actual scenes together? I’m drawing a blank, though I’m thinking I shouldn’t. Now, as for the engagement itself, I don’t know how I feel about it. I certainly don’t believe that Julie’s in it for the money this time. She’s put herself through too much just for money. She could easily attract someone else and steal his money. And even she’s not heartless enough to try to steal money from her daughter’s best friend’s father. It’s too touchy. So I think she’s in it for the long haul. It’s Neil that I worry about. They made a conscious effort to note just how quickly Neil proposes. His marriages are clearly failures, and I find it hard to believe that he just happened to marry two women who suck. So I fear we’re going to get the bastard version of Neil Roberts, the one who haphazardly proposes to Julie because the opportunity presents itself and not because he wants to. If that’s the case, we’re going to end up seeing Summer hurt, Julie hurt, and indirectly, others hurt. The fear Josh has of adding adult characters should not be a factor here. He has to overcome it and somehow let this storyline play out with everyone maintaining face. I actually believe that Julie hurting Neil, causing Summer to get pissed at Julie, causing Marissa to step in and defend Julie for some reason, leading to a Summer and Marissa catfight would be a brilliant move. We haven’t seen one since Hailey and Julie.

Looking at Marissa for a moment, I have to say that I’m impressed with the way the flashbacks were intricately woven into the episode in a believable manner. I didn’t feel as if they were forced. I felt they were legitimately triggered, and although Marissa falling down the steps was the height of melodramatic cheese, it somehow works given that Marissa has found herself in some pretty melodramatic situations. Some people dislike alcoholic Marissa, but I find her to be refreshing since I think Mischa plays unhappy much better than she plays anything else. And I’m not talking about “Johnny likes me” unhappy, I’m talking about “I am truly miserable” unhappy. It may be that playing unhappy requires a blank stare and Mischa excels at that, or it may be that she’s just really good. Whatever the case, I like her better this way. Now adding in Volchok, you’ve got an interesting dynamic. She’s pretty messed up now, and although she’s aware she’s better without him, he’s there. And sometimes, having someone else, no matter who, is much better than feeling alone. I suppose that it’s actually an improvement since Marissa’s been known to isolate herself when she drinks. I don’t know that Volchok will save her like Ryan does, but he seems to have somewhat of a vulnerable side, and I’ll be interested to see how that comes out.

Now, I’m hoping that if it doesn’t come out, he’ll pick a fight with Ryan and not with Matt. What writer sat down and decided to hint at a Matt and Marissa relationship? On what planet does it even remotely make sense? I know that many of us were basically statutory mind-rapists when Willa Holland appeared on screen, but no one actually acted on that. If Matt and Marissa becomes an actual storyline, they better handle it with extreme care and have some unbelievable twist (read: Marissa better not sleep with him and get pregnant) waiting for us.

And that takes us from Matt to Sandy and Kirsten, which essentially leads us to the end since they were minor characters this week. They functioned in the Ryan dynamic, and that’s where I like them at times, but I was a little disappointed to see the Sandy becomes Caleb storyline halted. Now, I’ve been clamoring for Sandy the lawyer to return, so I’m not exactly upset we saw it, but it seems like odd timing since the Caleb story was really picking up steam last week, especially with Kirsten’s reaction. I wanted more of that. Anyway, I don’t know if Sandy and Kirsten were thinking straight when they agreed Dawn should be at the party, especially since Ryan basically said his childhood parties sucked. But okay, whatever. At least the terrific letter Dawn sent had the childhood picture of Ryan and now the Cohens can add it to their photo album. That is if Ryan gives it up. And really, is Sandy the best lawyer ever or what? A woman in jail, in New Mexico, and Sandy manages to get her out. He knows everyone! Too bad he’s eeevvvilll now!

No real random thoughts from me tonight. This review came at an exceptionally bad time since it’s another terrible week. I swear to God, I’ll never have another semester like this again. I couldn’t handle it. So much reading, so much writing, so much more reading. I wouldn’t exactly trade it since I’m learning a lot and am being exposed to a lot, but still, c’mon, I’m starting to have chest pains from all the stress.

Knowing that, if anything came off particularly odd, particularly incorrect, particularly short, or particularly wrong then let me know. Next week should be better, but I can make no promises. We’ll see.

Hope everyone has a good week.

Questions, comments, death threats, marriage proposals:


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