The second episode of The Wonder Years was decidedly weak in terms of moving the character of Dean forward. He is struggling with the fact that his best friend kissed his love interest the day prior. During this revelation, people are still dealing with the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Due to the heartbreak that Dean is suffering, he uses his anger and grief over the presumed new relationship to give him an excuse not to do his homework. The reason why his homework isn’t completed surrounds his feelings about his friend. He uses the death of Dr. King as an excuse. Surprisingly, every teacher he comes across believes this excuse. Meanwhile, his sister is trying to become a part of the rebellion movement with her activist boyfriend, Kwame X. Dean’s parents do not take kindly to their daughter wanting to date a revolutionary.
The first half of this episode feels like a complete waste of time. Dean spends most of it angry. He is entirely selfish when it comes to processing the grief he feels and what’s even more stupid is that he drags grown adults into his pity party. What he actually needed to do was move on but remember, we’re talking about a 12-year-old boy, so he’s not going to have the capacity to actually make that decision. He’s clearly very smart, but he doesn’t use his intelligence to further help explore the world around him. That may be the show’s greatest weakness. You have a main character who can be strong, but you’re not using him correctly. Dean made a special report on the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King. The work of his friends was subpar at best.
The one thing that really worked for this episode was the fishing analogy. Dean learned to analyze his life in the quiet during a fishing trip with his father. Being in such a distilled environment allowed him to reflect on what he was losing in terms of his friendship and made him fight for their relationship. He realized how much it mattered to him. I love how that’s the moral of the story, but the first half of the episode showcased that lesson so poorly that it was hard to get invested by the end.
I wish the writer had worked harder to use a different example to showcase Dean’s pain. The given scenario made the character feel way too whiny. The only funny scene in the entire episode actually ended up being the weakest part of the episode. Hearing Dean scream why God why during the church service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King was hilarious but also showcased how much immaturity Dean still has.
The episode could have been much stronger than it was, but I’m glad that the showrunner gave us a solution to how Dean was feeling and gave him clarity on how to face similar problems in the future. We constantly need our characters to grow so that we can grow with them. Hopefully, this show learns that lesson quickly.