My least favorite episode of the previous season, Hiroshima, Mon Frere, was a Wayne-centric episode, just like Wayne on Wheels. But where that episode struggled to make me care about Wayne, this one depicted him in a way that made him more interesting and human without betraying his garish, bullying, slightly crazy ways.
Kevin pursues a romance with a good-looking girl he discovers at the mall, and it’s a pursuit we can guess from the outset is doomed. His parents force the recently-licensed Wayne to drive Kevin to the mall essentially at Kevin’s whim. Wayne just wants to hang out with his girlfriend, who hints she has a present for him if he gets his license (what goes on in the back seat of cars, again?).
We know from previous episodes that there are some legitimate reasons for both brothers to resent the other. Wayne is bullying and oafish, always managing to appear at the worst times and say just the thing to humiliate Kevin. Wayne, meanwhile, has to share a room with Kevin and be reminded about how he’s not as good a student as his brother. Plus — let’s face it — Wayne got a little bit short-shrifted in the looks and charm department compared to Kevin.
The conclusion of Wayne on Wheels — a childish standoff followed by a dangerous accident that reunites the brothers again — worked well, in part because a car accident is one of those shocking moments that really can cause an immediate paradigm shift. And the closing shot, of Wayne again teasing Kevin about letting him get into the car, worked so much better than the similar shot of Kevin and Wayne wrestling in Hiroshima, Mon Frere because, it showed Wayne making a kind gesture to his brother even as he teased him.
Not only did the main plot of the episode work for me, so did a lot of stuff on the fringes. Josh Saviano’s growth spurt is still a bit jarring, but I’m starting get used to it. When he’s as funny and endearing as he is here, it’s hard not to like him — though I’ll admit that this episode’s iteration of the show’s tried-and-true scene of Kevin having a conversation with Paul while Kevin has something else on his mind but Paul inadvertently makes comments about what’s on Kevin’s mind, was not one of the better implementations of the technique.
Still, we had Paul misting up at Romeo and Juliet (and having a hanky!), quietly hitting it off with the dream girl’s friend as Kevin gets humiliated, and considering the purchase of the most wretched pair of black boots imaginable. Dan Lauria was also a delight as usual; I particularly liked his face of furious comprehension as he pulls the corn husk from the car’s grill.
In all, Wayne on Wheels is an entertaining, very good episode that finally gives us a fitting Wayne-centric episode.
A few other thoughts:
- I loved the opening of old crayon drawings by Kevin. I’m glad that The Wonder Years continues to give us creative ways to open the episode that effectively tie to the episode’s plot.
- Well, now that we’ve met Delores, I’m eager to learn more about her. What kind of girl falls for (or at least agrees to date) a guy like Wayne? She gives off a slightly bitchy vibe in this episode, implying that maybe they’re the only two who can put up with each other.
- Another great moment to really humanize Wayne was when Delores and her friends drove off without him as he waited, riding his bike. Makes you question how into their relationship Delores really is. I really felt sympathy for Wayne at that moment.
- This episode used an extended version of the opening sequence. I wonder if this was a fluke or will be used from now on. I really have no preference between one or the other.
- Wait, did this episode say Wayne’s 16? That makes sense if he’s getting his license, but I thought he’s a freshman and only one year older than Kevin. Something here seems off.