The Wonder Years S01E02 – Swingers

Wow, that was fantastic. Even better than the pilot.

In just two episodes, The Wonder Years has already started crafting a portrait of the complex, often paradoxical nature of growing up. The closing monologue hit the nail on the head where so many other coming of age tales stumble; growing up is not a linear process. There are “advances and retreats” and self-deceptions and nuances.

The opening scenes capture perfectly the strange, underrated dilemma of feeling the wrong emotion at the wrong time. In this case, it’s Kevin’s infatuation with Winnie clashing with the grief he knows he’s supposed to feel — and sort of does — about Brian’s death.

His brain tells him he should be sad right now, but his body tells him otherwise. And “Swingers” spends a bit of time contemplating the chasm between brain and body — particularly when it comes to sex. Everyone but Kevin and Paul can see that Wayne is bluffing when he says he already knows (or can “intuit”) everything he needs to about sex, but the talk — along with a perplexingly boring sex ed lesson — are enough to push Kevin and Paul to try and uncover what’s so mysterious and tantalizing about sex.

The plot ends with a punchline as Kevin’s mom scolds him, but the confusing combination of urges and pressures driving Kevin and Paul are genuine and well-earned. On an emotional level,  “Swingers” is a very, very good follow-up that enriches an excellent pilot.

One thing I failed to mention in my recap of the pilot was how perfect the soundtrack is so far. One highlight is when Swingers starts with “For What It’s Worth” and a shot of a military graveyard, anonymous and terrifyingly orderly in its acknowledgment of mass death.

And one minor complaint I noticed in the pilot but failed to mention is also present in “Swingers:” The sporadic, silly use of special sound effects. The pilot used the sound of a fighter plane to literalize the aggression of the PE teacher, and here, we get a simulated skidding sound as Kevin and Paul rush in to the book store.

Speaking of Paul, he had another series of great small moments here, exercising boldness twice (once stealing the book, once trying to take it out of Kevin’s room after they’re caught). Wayne, for the amount he hassles our likable protaganist, is well-acted enough to be enjoyable.

Winnie, who was short-changed a bit in the pilot, is still kept pretty closed (and I’m starting to figure out that’s part of the point), but there’s some implied complexity that I hope the series explores as the series progresses.

Dan S.

Dan is the editor of Earn This. He co-founded the site in 2009.

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