With only 22 minutes to use each week, half-hour network shows have to be very selective about how they tell their stories. Walk Out chooses to be a meditation on the general concept of protest by youth. It considers why political protest by youth is at once hypocritical — how can a 12-year-old have proper perspective of the world — and vital — the purity of youth provides valuable moral compass.
I’ve loved previous episodes that considered the unique sociopolitical situations of the late ’60s — Angel and Our Miss White come to mind. I also enjoyed Walk Out, but I found myself disappointed it didn’t have a stronger focus on the characters. I really wanted to hear more of what Kevin’s parents thought of him organizing a rebellious walk out that could get him in trouble? Just how proud is Karen of Kevin?
And what about Winnie Cooper? If the show wants to do an episode about the protest of Vietnam, Winnie should be at the center of it. She’s the one, after all, who had a brother die in Vietnam at the start of the series. How does she feel about the war? But Winnie was nowhere to be found.
Even if I was left disappointed about what wasn’t in the episode, I enjoyed most of what was in it. Mr. Dipema is a compelling character (and we’ve all known a Mr. Dipema — mine was Mr. Soch) so I hope we get a bit more of him in the future. Too often, TV teachers play the role of villain. It was nice to see a fun, proactive educator play the hero. I wonder if the end of the episode meant to imply that the principal had fired Dipema for encouraging student rebellion or if he really was sick with the flu; I couldn’t tell for certain either way.
The double use of the “some men have greatness thrust upon them while they’re in the bathroom line” worked really well, even if I didn’t buy from a plot perspective that Kevin’s visit to the bathroom would be enough of a spark to light the whole school. And, seriously, there’s no way Kevin should have thought the way he walked to the bathroom would be interpreted as anything but starting the walk out.
The closing scene of the whole school singing “Give Peace a Chance” is nice, but Future Kevin’s monologue sounded a bit too mocking of the event for me to really be convinced the episode is really in favor of youth political protest. Certainly the writers acknowledge the pitfalls of this type of protest, but they deem it ultimately worthwhile? Future Kevin’s words seem to say “no,” the unison of 800 voices seems to say “yes.”
(One slight anachronism I noticed: Give Peace a Chance didn’t come out until the summer of 1969, but this episode takes place sometime around early spring 1969, a few months too early.)