Greek – “War & Peace”

“War & Peace”

April 14th, 2008

If there’s anything we know about ABC Family’s Greek, it’s that it rarely becomes heavy-handed. In some cases, such as Cappie’s charming Southern-general act, this is an ideal development that heightens my enjoyment of the series. In other cases, however, there are moments where you wonder whether the light-hearted solution to, say, Casey’s affair with a 16-year old doesn’t cheapen the whole thing.

Her young beau didn’t get a mention this time around, and in many ways the episode cleared the air of a lot of broad conflicts in favour of emphasizing smaller ones. The rivalry between our two central fraternities and the struggle between the ZBZ leadership and their National-appointed nuisance Lizzie both disappear in this episode, at least temporarily, which means we’re left with the broader interpersonal questions.

I think that this is perhaps the show’s most difficult balance to strike, defining interpersonal relationships in a world where broad stereotypes define most social interaction. I don’t quite know if it has the balance, considering it had to dump a fair few of its supporting players to make it work, but I definitely don’t think it was a failed exercise.

The episode may be named after one literary masterpiece, but it was themed on another: George Orwell’s Animal Farm may well be the most well-known allegory of all time, and here it was put to heavy-handed but effective use. The Kappa Tau and the Omega Chi are at wit’s end, as the battle between their leaders spills over into all-out war with super soakers filled with hot sauce and fish juice.

This is really the consequence of the power struggle of the Russian Revolution, a factioned populace divided by leaders who aren’t on the same page. On the other side of the coin is a different type of leadership struggle, one where Casey has to decide whether she is willing to accept Frannie (Who was booted as sorority leader) back into the fold to get overbearing Lizzie off her case. Here, we have more the opening throes of the power struggle, so it really covers a lot of the various triumvirates at play.

Now, these storylines didn’t only remind me that despite having always known its plot (Russian History classes FTW), I’ve never actually read Animal Farm and should put it on my summer reading list; it also reminded me that I don’t understand Frannie’s shunning by Casey. Sure, Frannie was occasionally manipulative, but a lot of that was Casey rolling over and playing dead. Her role in the sorority’s ouster, trying to keep quiet, really wasn’t that ridiculous – a little misguided, but not “I HATE YOU FOREVER YOU WHORE” worthy in my books.

More realistic, and well-played, was Rusty and Calvin’s struggle with friendship, a more subtle sense of the damages that revolution and war can cause (In other words, in the film adaptation, they’re the fictionalized civilians who demonstrate the cost of mindless conflict). Rusty tries to mediate the situation, and Calvin lets him get duct taped to the wall as “a prank.” Rusty retaliates, helps Kappa Tau pull off the real life animal farm prank in the Omega Chi house, but the truce that is called doesn’t include Rusty and Calvin, the latter being kind of pissed off.

Everyone’s being hypocritical here, and Cappie’s right: college friendships are all about evolution. Some friendships evolve, and others don’t, and there’s really no way around that. I think the problem at this point is that there are no other friendships – our core group is pretty incestuous when it comes to gatherings, as Rusty and Calvin both seem to be relative outcasts within their fraternities. This episode was particularly clear on this with the lack of characters like Dale and Rebecca – it was a welcome break from too occasionally shrew characters, but they help to flesh out this world that much more (Plus, how was Rebecca not part of the ZBZ drama, exactly?).

But really, this was necessary – we’ve moved past the very broad struggles between these groups and moved to a more personal level: chances are that we’ll move back to the love triangles, perhaps get Ashley a real boyfriend, and maybe find time for someone to go to class. I’m just sayin’.

Cultural Observations

  • I am really hoping that Ashley’s foray into a Travis-like relationship with the downright annoying Geek Fraternity Social Chair is a way for her to get out of these rather worthless storylines – the character has never been given anything to do outside of her friendship with Calvin, so this is just doing nothing for the series. Plus, he was a bit too much of a jerk, I didn’t really buy it. But that might just be me being defensive for “geeks” as defined by the series. Which seems to be fairly broad.
  • I know that the show probably films in a very warm climate, but I still wish we’d get at least some sense of season. It’s getting distracting.

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