The Wonder Years S01E03 – My Father’s Office

Taking a diversion from the Kevin-Winnie romance, “My Father’s Office” instead explores a character who had been marginalized during the first two episodes: Kevin’s dad, Jack.

All we had known from the first two episodes of The Wonder Years is that Jack is hard man. He’s impatient and assertive and comes home tired after every long day of work. I love Future Kevin’s analysis of Jack’s unwinding rituals, sitting in front of the TV and looking up at the stars, the latter of which is given more significance by the end of the episode.

We learn that Jack just fell into the job he has, that it’s unrewarding and tiring, and that there’s always someone hounding him. Kevin fancies his father as powerful and authoritative where Jack sees himself as mundane and pressured. Jack’s wife, Norma, seems to know barely more about Jack’s job than Kevin, so we know Jack isn’t getting much home support other than his peace and quiet in front of the TV or the telescope.

I really dug Kevin’s brief fantasy of power as Jack — forcing fictional workers (including a Wayne caricature) to take care of mundane tasks. But he learns by the end of the episode that real responsibility can mean taking accountability for unpleasant tasks, and taking blame when something goes wrong.

This bleak realization, that the work world is just as cold and unforgiving as Jack’s evening temperament, is countered by the nugget  of Jack’s romanticism left in him. After the worst days of work, he looks up to the stars — a beautiful image that ties nicely to his lost dream of being a captain. It echoes Kevin’s romantic ideals, and it shows us that Kevin might be destined to look at them through glass (as his father does) if he doesn’t reach for the stars.

Another excellent episode, and one that I hope signals the series taking closer looks at some of the supporting characters who have only had small moments here or there otherwise. Can’t wait for the Paul episode.

Dan S.

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

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