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In this Riley growth episode, the rose colored glasses are knocked off and Riley is asked whether the world is good or evil, for a debate. A question she struggles with.
Riley | Auggie | Maya
Main Plot (with Commentary)
Topic 1: The One-Sided Opinion (Riley)
In a debate about sunlight, we learn Riley isn’t much for considering opinions which don’t match her own. In fact, she takes a stubborn child’s stance to such things. Thus forcing Cory to come up with a new debate on whether people are good or evil and placing the whole class, but Riley, on the belief the people of the world are good. Leaving Riley alone to argue it is evil.
Taking note of how Cory acts when Shawn is around, it is starting to make sense, in theory anyway, why Riley can bounce from someone who is mature to someone who would call their father by their first name in class, among other rude actions. She is emulating her father. The problem is, Riley has yet to learn the time, place, and severity of when she can apply some form of silliness or immature behavior. Which is the main problem. Well, that alongside the one below.
Topic 2: No More Rose Colored Glasses/ The Enablers (Riley & Maya)
Riley has always said Maya was her gatekeeper to the wild side, Riley’s version of the wild side anyway. So, naturally, when it comes to learning what darkness is in the world, Maya is there to guide her. Thus leading to Riley breaking as if, perhaps, she thought all the bad things of history were fixed now. Which is an old thought because this man she knows as Two Shoe Louie is likely homeless. Much less, considering Katy for most of her life was working a multitude of jobs to make ends meet, a prime example of poverty was always there. But, as we see Riley ask if everyone knew, you can tell they all enabled her to stay in her little box, her little dreamland, all because they wanted her to be their example of a good person. Someone who she feels she may not be anymore with all she knows about the world now.
We have always known Maya has been using, for a lack of a better term, Riley, and her family as a sense of hope, the belief that a mom and dad can be together, happy, and be there for their kids, among a multitude of things. But it isn’t until this episode you see how much others have relied on Riley. Hence why, perhaps, despite the situation when they started high school, and a lot of Riley’s eccentricities, they like having her in their lives. A lot of them live less than ideal lives and yet here is Riley with an ideal one. One she is willing to share with others and it doesn’t feel like she shares it out of charity, but because you are inherently deserving of the kindness, love, and attention she has known her whole life.
Topic 3: A Beacon of Hope (Riley & Auggie)
Learning about poverty, war, and the effects of climate change, all at once, not only bums Riley out, but causes her to do bad things. She eats Zay’s cookie, refuses to initially apologize, and she is even mean to Auggie when he talks about how he cleaned part of a local beach. Yet, when the debate comes up after Riley speaks on how the world sucks, Cory asks her to now speak on the goodness of the world, how people are actually good, and then that Auggie moment comes to mind. With that, she wonders when do we lose that desire to do good and Cory tries to explain how that happens and that sometimes good people do bad things. It’s your usual Cory speech.
The thing about Riley growth episode is that, after 3 seasons, it honestly is hard to gauge whether they are simply using Riley to make a point or bring up an issue. That is, as opposed to Maya episodes which may bring up a point or issue but are just as much about establishing the growth of a character. In this episode, one could argue the goal was about young people being informed about the news and yet still having a bright outlook, maybe even remembering that even when you do something small it matters to someone or even many. However, being that Riley is very much like Cory, but a little less balanced, it will be hard to say if her, strangely, just now reading the news and learning of modern issues, will mean anything for the character. Though with this being an election year, maybe that might be a setup for the return of Mr. Squirrels?
Smackle and Farkle’s relationship honestly remains one of the best things not just in this episode, but this show. I’d even argue Smackle is benefitting from it so much she is starting to outshine the more subdued Farkle.
Why was Maya stealing a printer from school? That was just a joke, right?
On The Fence
I would like Riley to grow, but I think with most of the cast growing up meaning they are less silly, a la Farkle, and perhaps just learning what it is like to have hope, the writers want to do something different with Riley. Maybe have her be someone who always knew who she is but just needed to learn how to adapt that person to different situations and people.