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Girl Meets World - Girl Meets First Date - Review

Girl Meets World finished its first season with this episode.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing. I didn’t until a few days ago, although I find it a little fitting. As I’ve said before, Boy Meets World was a show out of time for me, and probably for many others looking in for nostalgia. Season finales, season premieres—the terms were just as meaningless as the show’s simultaneous return and departure with “Girl Meets First Date,” though the episode puts in a solid effort. Cory’s fear of the inevitable helps spur Riley and Lucas onto their first real date—if Maya is willing to take on the burden of doubling it with Farkle. While not thrilled about the concept, Maya’s forever loyal—and it doesn’t hurt that with Josh’s romantic interests elsewhere, as he interviews for an NYU summer program, her options seem limited. 

If that doesn’t seem like a whole lot of plot to go around, congrats—you’re right. The first half of “First Date” races a snail and loses, as GMW circles the idea of propriety. Is it proper for Riley to start dating yet? Is it proper for her to date without her father’s permission? Is it proper to ask a guy out first? Wisely, the show never really answers any of these questions. It’s all tying into a question of change and growth, per our usual themes. But the consequences to this asking mean a long string of jokeless scenes, half-hearted flirting, and a nagging feeling that no one would be questioning any of this if this were still a boy meeting the world. 

Which is not to say it’s all bad. Riley, apparently inspired by Maya’s confidence, is the one to finally push her and Lucas over the edge, taking the kiss pilot Riley could hardly imagine. And it really does feel like the show is trying to say something in this: About how far Riley’s come, about how far all of us come as we mature into adults. But while honing this message might have given the episode some momentum, it feels like an afterthought, tossed in to refocus the story around the Maya/Riley friendship rather than blaze any trails in girl agency and empowerment.

It’s also, admittedly, just plain odd. After planting the couple flags at the beginning of the season, GMW has mostly stayed away from overt romance, choosing instead to develop the group as a platonic pack. It was a pretty comfortable arrangement. The kids are young and the pairings, while not terrible, don’t quite take advantage of the natural chemistry in the group. While it’s easy to see the temptation in making “First Date” a finale, as a finale specifically to this season, it feels more like three steps back than one step forward. A kiss between Riley and Lucas should feel earned, wanted—not a vague reminder that this is our couple of (well, someone’s if not mine) choice. A kiss between Maya’s hand and Farkle should—well, be funny, as it was until the vague sort of look that suggested possibly more; not feel vaguely uncomfortable.

It’s nice though that “First Date” ends with a statement of intent: Our two major pairs are here for the long run. Cory and Topanga, as our couple from the past, and Riley and Maya, as our friendship in the present, are powerhouses, able to withstand anything life throws at them. And mostly, that’s been true. Topanga doesn’t get much to do, tragically, but Cory and Topanga as a team is airtight. And Riley and Maya, through incredible luck, are a worthy heir to the romantic friendship throne Cory and Shawn have made. There’s plenty that’s worked alongside these two core dynamics. Auggie and Ava have become a very reliable runner pair; Shawn and his spiritual adoption of Maya is a gem; even Lucas and Farkle have a strange sort of bond that really charms. But it’ll be curious to see whether the show acknowledges these successes, and keeps working on expanding their options—or whether it shifts into the romance/dating show it’s sometimes promised, sometimes threatened.

Here’s hoping for the former.

What do you want out of next season? Am I just crotchety and old about the pairings? Let me know because it looks like it might be a while.

        About the Author - Sarah Batista-Pereira
        An aspiring screenwriter and current nitpicker, Sarah likes long walks not on the beach, character-driven storytelling, drama-comedy balancing acts, Oxford commas, and not doing biographies. She is the current reviewer for Girl Meets World.

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