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Girl Meets World - Girl Meets Goodbye - Review

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Series finales are always hard. Some are unplanned, and feel it. They have cliffhangers, they open up new questions—or worse, they don’t really resolve anything at all. They’re an episodic tale, from a time in which everyone involved thought there would be more stories still to tell. Or, some are unplanned, but have an accidental finality to them, as we read into it something more than was intended, giving everything a sad, dark feel. Some are even planned, and still fall short. They traffic in nostalgia, or wrap up storylines fast, but there’s still dissatisfaction, in the hows or the whys and sometimes the very whats themselves.

I don’t know, exactly, where “Girl Meets Goodbye” falls. The rumors of this show’s demise date back months and months. And as a two parter with a conclusive ending (will Topanga go to London, hah, no) and no real story but that ending, it feels impossible that no one suspected this might be The End the end. Let’s just look at the checklist: There’s a near full cast reunion, including both Morgans in a cute tag team nod, though I’m not sure any Girl Meets World purely viewers got enough context to get the joke. There’s Maya’s adoption, practically wedged in with a crowbar to fit, lest we not get a tidy bow on what stands as the only semi-successful long term arc the show has had. There’s even a neat, hasty verbal conclusion to nearly every character and relationship (though the sense of closure it brings feels false and only falser, once the show gets around to revealing no one is going anywhere). Zay is told that he really does belong in the group. Smackle is told she’s getting better at this feelings thing. Lucas and Riley assure each other that they will always remain special to one another, even if they’re not together.

But perhaps most importantly, there’s simply so much grief in “Meets Goodbye.” Grief that doesn’t come when Riley et all think they’re doomed, but when they should all realize they’ve been saved. Danielle Fishel’s eyes well up, even though she’s telling them all firmly and proudly why she’s staying. Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard, even though they know they are staying, are barely keeping it together in their last “Thunder”/”Lightning” exchange. When everyone’s gathered, Ben Savage is sober, but he’s also reciting his final Boy Meets World ending speech—in sure, what could, if the show came back, be read as yet another passing of the torch moment, but we have so many of those already. And if the Meets World quest is to know what life is like, it’s hard to move past the girls finally getting the title, just the way Cory did in his series finale years ago.

It’s particularly hard to imagine what an alternate series finale would look like in terms of Riley and Lucas. Or rather, as possible endings to their storyline go, it’s hard not to hope that this was always the ultimate end goal. It’s the sort of breakup scene that could be set at any point of their high school career with enough of a trigger, enough so that this viewer is left wondering if Jacobs already had it prewritten. The scene tries nothing big. It's not about either of them realizing they’re wrong together. There’s no sudden realizations, no quick about turns. There’s just quiet, comfortable knowledge that they are each other’s first loves, and only first loves—and that it’s A-OK they feel that way. However questionably clear things have been between these two, I think the show is presenting an argument that Riley and Lucas counter the idea of Cory and Topanga love being the end all, be all, with no other kind having value—and while it’s not my ideal course for the show to say that Lucas and Riley’s love does have obvious, demonstrable, serious weight to it, both Blanchard and Peyton Meyer play it sweetly and sensibly here. As bad romantic set ups go, it’s certainly not the worst ending in the world, learning that sometimes love is a short story; that you can always remember it, even if you can't live it again, and look back on it fondly and happily.

The eternal GMW question remains though: Does all of this work? Well, its pacing is truly reprehensible. (Will we see the entire cast of Boy Meets World interact on screen as if they’re seeing each other for the first time, even though they’ve apparently been standing in Topanga’s living room for at least an hour? Yes. Will we see some of them disappear without explanation after that initial reunion just so we remember they were there? Also yes. Does anyone actually offer much real advice to Topanga as she tries to decide whether to transplant her entire family for a financial boost that, however sizeable, doesn’t feel needed, other than the venerable Feeny? Not really, no.) Its character moments are pleasant to downright delightful, but telegraphed too strongly, in too small of doses, to feel like much more than a tell. There’s no real B story and worse, there’s no real story—the episode is, in typical Worst of GMW fashion, merely a series of conversations, whether or not they makes sense or sound like actual characters speaking to one another.

That’s all pretty typical as an episode of Girl Meets World goes, though. You could sum up most GMW episodes that way. There’s promise all over, hints of what could be in nearly every glimmer of a character, every exchange between loveable cast members. There’s ruin all over, poor decisions stacked messily on other poor decisions even as the good intentions are clear. Really, story and logic are not why “Meets Goodbye” exists. The reunion is not because narratively these characters need to be here—it is because now is our last chance to see them ever again. Topanga possibly leaving for London isn’t to create a story wrench, shake some dynamics up—it is to provide a plausible reason for Riley to make all our capstone speeches, and remind us how far we’ve come. If there’s dissatisfaction to be had in the hows, the whys, the whats of it, arguably it’s really just dissatisfaction in the show—and at this point, three seasons in, it’s hard to expect much more from it, even if it feels plausible there’d be more to get if the show had tried to deliver that more.

What it did deliver was this: “Meets Goodbye,” whether or not there was hope it would not be the end, is here to end things all the same; to say goodbye. And that, at the least, I can give it.

Goodbye, Girl Meets World. It was certainly a time.

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