“Let’s Make a Deal”
September 9th, 2008
As last season wound down, I was spending a fair amount of time blogging about ABC Family’s Greek. The show is of a surprising quality considering the network, and at the time the schedule was light on shows and as a result I felt Greek deserved some more coverage. At the same time, though, this is not a show that requires much deep analysis: it may be smarter than your average teen-driven dramedy, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t filled to the brim with every cliche you could imagine.
But, I am still really enjoying the show’s second season, especially this week’s episode. The first two segments were as predictable as they come: the drama from Franny and Evan’s new relationship, the further meltdown of Rebecca’s family life, the continued drama surrounding everything Casey touches, etc. This part of the show isn’t bad, but it’s better when there’s elements that are more interesting. Last week, we saw the beginning of this as Rusty’s first individually driven storyline in a while brought the introduction of his RA, Max, and a new chapter for the series.
“Let’s Make a Deal” is really about that chapter, actually expanding on where these characters are going this season versus just paying off their storylines from the finale. Cappie, Evan and Casey represent the three pillars of the series’ drama, and here we get some sense of their individual arcs (even if two of them lean a bit too closely to the other member of the triangle). And there is something interesting to be found in each, something that continues to remind viewers why Greek has an identity that sets it apart from similar series.
One of my favourite things about this episode is the little touches: that it is Ashley’s short term replacement for her ex that is the card marker, that the alcoholic ZBZ pledge is also easily addicted to gambling, or that the trash talk at the final poker table is entirely related to different branches of science represented at the table. The show is great at balancing its cast because it knows who to use and when: whether it’s having Calvin assist in helping his close friend Ashley, or having small recurring characters play particular roles, one feels like the show’s lexicon is more full than any other in the genre.
But they always go back to the central three characters, each here seeing a glimpse of their future. In Cappie you have fear of commitment, as Rebecca is trying to quite literally buy his love (with the best of intentions, and a KITT of his very own) and he realizes that he’s terrified of the implied ownership. With Evan, you have the suddenly condition-filled trust fund, having to choose a path for the rest of his life before he’s truly ready to do so. And with Casey, you have a boy – okay, so hers isn’t quite as profound, but it certainly is profound for Max, whose lack of social skills is certainly going to be tested by this scenario.
I really like what they’ve done with Evan and Cappie, to a point. In both cases, it is perfectly within their characters and echoes some of the series’ broader themes, including the idea Casey explored last year of being willing to course correct when you feel like your path in life is misguided. Ultimately Cappie will probably regret being so hasty in saying goodbye to Rebecca, and chances are that Evan will eventually want to go back in time and not listen to Franny in regards to his trust fund, but that they’re facing these types of decisions does help to build their characters.
The one problem I have with both is that they ultimately revolve around Casey. In breaking up with Cappie, Rebecca plainly states that the only person he could ever settle down for is Casey. When Evan is talking to Calvin about his decision to take the trust fund, Casey drives by and we get a nice little slow motion shot of her catching Evan’s eye, as if she is the path he is giving up. I get that this love triangle won’t go away so easily, but there is a danger in the viewers not taking Franny or Rebecca seriously when they seem like nothing but stopgaps.
The same goes for Max. Yes, he and Casey are obviously on some type of collision course, but at the same time we know that there’s no future for them considering that Evan and Cappie can’t seem to get their minds off of her. If the show is just going to be an endless cycle back to these three people, I do wish that they would make it less about Casey and more about someone else. Yes, I know I’m not a fan of Casey to begin with, but here I just think that she can’t as a character sustain this type of narrative focus. Let her and Max have some fun, don’t turn it into some kind of Love Rhombus.
But on the whole, Greek is still what it needs to be: a show that pays attention to its ensemble cast in a way that overcomes some of the more frustrating elements of its central stories. And the central stuff isn’t bad: here, I’d say that all three storylines actually worked really well, even if their Casey connection is something that concerns me.
- As an RA in real life, I can say quite equivocally that I would be a horrible person to ask for help counting cards, and I actually wonder whether there’s a morality to the question. I have very little knowledge of counting cards, and I still need to watch 21 when I want some mindless entertainment.
- One has to wonder how the show is doing in the ratings following the final episodes of American Teenager’s first season, and how that will change next week when it no longer has the lead-in.