Chicken pox are no fun. I had it when I was little, and it was disastrous, especially for someone with an immune deficiency. I can’t begin to imagine what that same disease was like in the 60s. This is something Dean, his father Bill, and his grandfather Mr. Clisby had to discover first-hand. The Williams men are proud, and rather than admit that they might be ill, they did everything in their power to distract themselves from their suffering. The women of the family quickly exit the story because neither of them has had chickenpox and don’t want to be exposed to it.
The theme of “Goose Grease” is pride, and the Williams men have too much of it. Dean works very hard to try and connect with his father and grandfather. Unfortunately, EJ Williams does not have the expressive capacity to pull off the sincerity of a story like this. I can make this assertion because none of those emotions ring true in the most profound, most difficult moments of this episode when it’s revealed why Dean wants to spend so much time with his paternal side of the family.
Dean wants to spend time with his father and grandfather because, in the photo albums, Bill has many more adventures with his elder son than he does with Dean. Dean is continually jealous that his brother, who is athletic, a hunter, and in the military it’s appears to have been the perfect son. Dean wants to emulate that. Every attempt to do so comes across as forced. The real problem with Dean is he doesn’t know how to be his person yet, and becoming your person takes time.
I think this series has a lot of space to develop this idea of who the main character is as a person but throughout the first season of The Wonder Years, the writers have not done an excellent job of showcasing his path. Ultimately, this has made the show a challenging watch for me. I keep waiting for Dean to evolve as a person, but the writers seem to neglect that mission to make a lighthearted and fun show with the occasional lesson thrown in. Right now, that formula works for the network, but there will come a time when people want more from that main story. For this show to succeed, Williams and the writers will have to step up to the plate.
Hope for this series does exist. At the closing of tonight’s episode, the entire family learns that Dean’s eldest brother Bruce was injured in the war. It will be intriguing to see how the family dynamic changes when their favorite child returns home. Growing up is always going to be difficult, but how you handle the challenge makes you strong in the future. This is the lesson that I’m waiting for Dean to discover. I hope he does by the season’s end. The worst thing they can do is try.