The Wonder Years S03E13 – She, My Friend, and I

She, My Friend, and I started out pretty excellently, but became steadily less enjoyable as the half hour wore on. It is only the first half of a two-parter (as indicated by the “To be continued”), but, as a standalone, I walked away from She, My Friend, and I feeling… what’s the technical term… icky.

As a general rule, it takes some finesse for viewers to seriously consider shifting sides in a romance. That is — the entire series to date has paved the way for Kevin and Winnie to be together, so it’s hard for viewers to take seriously the idea of Paul being with Winnie. It could have worked if it was a sham the whole time, but the fact that Paul seriously invested himself in the relationship (Winnie, probably less so), made it very jarring and uncomfortable to sit through.

In real life, a situation like this might happen. In a sitcom, where we have the lens of one central character, it really shouldn’t unless the writers are going to flat-out commit to it as a serious character arc. These kinds of serious, potentially dynamic-altering  are a lot like fire. Handled properly, the flame can be pretty impressive, but it’s more likely that the someone’s going to get burned.

Notice the way they show Paul and Winnie together — it’s always for brief snippets, it’s always from far away, and it’s never intimate. This shows to me that the writers could never really invest in the idea themselves, or at least they knew it might put off viewers. It just feels wrong, and everyone knows it.

It’s a shame that most of the episode focused on a conflict that really did not work, because the beginning of the episode was so promising. Kevin’s denial of his feelings for Winnie have been hinted at, but I was ready for an episode to seriously reconsider their status after the very effective conclusion to Don’t You Know Anything About Women? The opening scene here provides a nice set-up for such a plot.

Paul also had an excellent opening to the episode. His post-breakup blues are very funny and very well-played by Josh Saviano. My favorite bit was when he said he couldn’t go watch a movie with Kevin because he and Carla always used to go watch movies together. I could easily watch a whole episode of Saviano playing hilariously miserable.

But then Kevin — and the episode — decided to play with fire. It could have been a really funny affair, Kevin setting up a pretty clearly not-interested Winnie with a desperate Paul. Instead they tried to play the plot semi-seriously, and it felt like a ham-fisted attempt at drama.

Even the resolution was unsatisfying; I suppose Kevin was so excited when he gleaned from Paul that Winnie may in fact be interested in him (the episode never confirms this is what Winnie actually said, but I assume that it’s true). But what on earth was he thinking when he a) immediately approached Winnie, and b) told her that Paul said what he said? How could he have possibly thought that was the right thing to do?

The only answer that I can come up with is that the writers wanted to wedge another conflict between Winnie and Kevin. I could buy everything that kept them apart before, but if the show places an artificial barrier between them based on this episode, I’ll be disappointed.

I was hoping that She, My Friend, and I would end up a humor-driven affair. Instead, it focused on an uncomfortable romantic plot and ended with an unsatisfying cliffhanger. There were some nice moments on the fringes of the episode, but my discomfort with the core of the episode detracted from them.

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