“All Children Grow Up”
March 29, 2010
Despite having been in college when the show began, I have never really “related” to ABC Family’s Greek in the way that you might expect. While I certainly have met people like the characters in the show, I went to a school without a greek system, and so I was sort of like a pledge myself when the show began. One of the show’s best qualities is how they’ve managed to turn the fraternities and sororities into an integral part of not only the show’s universe, but also each individual character: while no character is solely define by their position in a fraternity or sorority, it remains an integral part of their identity that the show has given depth over the course of three seasons.
While the show has its love triangles and its relationship drama, and its fraternity drama can sometimes boil down to simple concepts of revenge or rivalry, at the core of the series is a sense of belonging, a community that is powerful enough to want Cappie to never leave college, for Casey to abandon the opportunity to go to law school, and for Dale to want to be a part of it even with his moral reservations. And while I may not have been part of a fraternity, I fully understand the characters’ anxiety about leaving all of that behind, abandoning all of that for the great unknown. While the machinations of a show working to set things up to potentially continue in the future despite lead characters graduating are apparent in “All Children Grow Up,” the drama is driven by a nuanced and subtle portrayal of the struggles which come with leaving everything you know behind for something new; that we so wholly believe their concerns demonstrates the effectiveness of the show’s world-building over the past three seasons.
After getting off to a bit of a rough start, as the drama surrounding the fire never quite lived down the moral consequences of ZBZ’s actions, this back half of the season really came together well. Even stories that didn’t entirely work, like Rusty’s relationship with Katherine, ended up offering something of value: while they were doomed from the beginning, I liked that they didn’t play the story entirely for humour, and that we got more time with Katherine, a character I liked quite a bit and missed at Myrtle Beach. This is a show that has gotten better with each passing season, maturing even when some of its characters have resisted those kinds of changes. And so while Rebecca and Evan took a while to realize that they were both letting their pride and their pasts get in the way of their happiness, the show is mature enough to not pretend otherwise, and so their reunion feels earned and consistent with the show as a whole.
The show has always sort of filled in the gaps when it comes to questions of maturity, maintaining a baseline that is always present even when the show focuses on more broadly comic characters. And so Cappie’s parents can shift from hippie stereotypes to self-aware divorcees, and Dale can shift from the awkward third wheel to the lonely best friend; the show doesn’t operate in two different worlds, but is instead capable of switching between drama and comedy at a moment’s notice. The “Revenge” plot in this week’s episode is an example of that: because we relate with both sides of the conflict to some degree, we laugh along with the Omega Chi troubles up until it seems like their charter might be taken away. At that point, we realize that this would destroy them and leave them more than stranded in Myrtle Beach, so things become more serious, and we’re rooting for Calvin to smooth things over. Then, just as easily, we go back to laughter when we confirm that it was all part of the plan, and then we realize why: comedy or drama, the story was designed to protect rather than threaten the fraternities, maturely settling the score forever rather than enacting some form of immature revenge.
I’m usually averse to Casey and Cappie drama, but I think the show is doing a fine job with it here. Both Cappie and Casey are driven by forces that they can’t ignore, but they’re at different stages of self-awareness: Casey is scared of moving on beyond her bonds of Sisterhood, but she knows that she should step out on her own now in order to overcome that fear, while Cappie is scared to move beyond Kappa Tau but has no easy options but uncertainty. While Casey has a clear sense of her future, or at least what she thinks her future should be, Cappie has no such direction, and so he’s not ready to leave the brotherhood he’s built at CRU. And while some of the rest of the episode’s developments (Ashley’s internship, Rebecca and Evan’s reunion) feel like the show tying off loose ends and preparing characters to move on to the next stage in their journeys, the show doesn’t pretend that Casey and Cappie aren’t in the same place, nor does it introduce some wild twist to create their breakup: instead, they simply state their true feelings, realize they’re not on the same page, and then are left to struggle to deal with reality as opposed to melodrama.
Obviously, if the show hadn’t gotten a fourth season order (of only 10 episodes), then this ending wouldn’t have been satisfying in the least: I may have more respect for the show’s depiction of bonds of brotherhood/sisterhood than for the individual characters who demonstrate those bonds, but I still care about what happens with Casey and Cappie, and whether Dale gets his real college experiences, and whether Calvin and Heath end up together. But in some ways, I think this would have worked as a finale if only because of how much the show’s central themes drove the action, and how little of the forced melodrama that once defined the show appeared in the episode. This is a show that has built its own little greek system world, and even for those with no experience in that area we understand why these characters would fear losing these sorts of bonds.
I don’t quite know if I fear losing the show, but I certainly would be sad were it to end after its fourth season without being able to investigate these subjects and these characters further.
- It’s interesting to me how much the show sort of rushed Rusty and Dana into a relationship, but I really like the character: she’s interested in without being disgusted by or intoxicated with the greek system, she shares many of his interests, and she’s not afraid to call him on his occasionally idiotic behaviour.
- It’s a bit strange that only Ashley, out of all the show’s characters, has actually made planes to move out into the world. However, considering that it is an unpaid internship with a fairly tenuous connection, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the show would have no trouble finding a reason for her to return to CRU (likely in that Denmother position).
- I’m also presuming, just so we’re clear, that Casey got waitlisted for CRU and was just too busy dealing with her rejection and its implications on her life to notice it – still, I appreciate not including that contrivance here, to at least create some sense of tension and suspense in the conclusion.
- Nice that we’re reminded about the fact that brotherhood is for life by the various “authority figures” hired by KTT actually turning out to be brothers willing to help out the cause.