The Wonder Years S02E12 – Fate

I spent a good fifteen minutes after Fate ended trying to decide which episodes of the 18 I’ve seen that I’d recommend for newbies of the show. I ultimately settled on Steady as She Goes and Coda, the former featuring the show at its funniest and the latter at its most thematically rich.

But Fate definitely makes the short-list: It’s a very good episode that gives us a little bit of nearly everything that makes The Wonder Years great: well-constructed visual sequences, funny use of a narrator; moral complexity of its main characters; good use of side characters; and Josh Saviano.

There is one element of The Wonder Years formula that’s missing in Fate: an poignant ending that uses narration to tie up the theme of the episode. It’s kind of an odd episode to leave that element out, too: There’s lots of untapped undercurrent here about making your own fate or how your fate can ultimately be decided by how nice you are to people.

Still, I wasn’t bothered that the show let viewers figure the point of the story out on their own; The Wonder Years showed in Hiroshima, Mon Frere that a closing monologue doesn’t always work, and I’m all for variety. Plus, plenty of people will be pleased simply to see some development in Winnie’s and Kevin’s relationship.

One reason that I think this episode would work pretty well as an intro to the series is that the guest characterwas a really good one. Eddie Spinetti, aside from having a fantastic name, gives us a bully we can enjoy rooting against. He doesn’t have the complexity of other bullies Wayne or Gary (from The Heart of Darkness), but Robert Jayne drenches his role with such malice that he’s a fun villain-of-the-week.

It’s also nice to see Kevin get some redemption. I agree with Winnie that he’d been a little bit of a jerk these past few episodes, to Becky and otherwise. Standing up for a friend even in the face of a vicious beating was a good note to end the episode on.

A few notes on the episode, and then some thoughts on the series at this point:

  • One nitpick in the direction and editing this week: the set-up of Kevin’s punch, which made it way too obvious too early that the punch wasn’t going to do any damage.
  • Paul’s resignation that he was going to get swept up in Kevin’s carnage was my favorite moment of the episode I think.
  • Winnie continues to get more personality here, but if I’m going to take her seriously as a recurring lead, she needs an episode that explores the character as something other than a romantic interest.
  • Eddie had a bit of Fonzie in him, the way he hit the locker with his fist and it magically opened.
  • Eddie dating Winnie was a well-done twist that I legitimately did not see coming

Now, a few thoughts on where the series stands:

During the first ten or so episodes of the series, my pleasure from this show was about 75% character development and thematic depth, 25% plot and comedy. The past couple of episodes have swapped that, which doesn’t really reduce my overall enjoyment of the show by much, but it does give me less to write about.

I think this is a pretty logical progression. I hope they continue to sprinkle in episodes like Pottery Will Get You Nowhere or Angel that rise above the plot and tackle larger issues, and I also hope they don’t abandon their attempts to thematically tie up episodes at their conclusions.

Still, we now understand enough about these characters and their world that I’m ready for the show to ramp up the storytelling and the conflict.

Dan and Brian from Earn This now have a film review site and podcast:

The Goods: Film Reviews

The Goods: A Film Podcast

Available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, and more.

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