Tuesday, September 25, 2012

College Bored


Worried that Daria won't get into the school of her choice, Helen takes the family on a college tour, sparking Quinn's interest in "Greek Life."

The review for "the Invitation" can be read here.

Likely conceived as a commentary on the importance of higher education, this episode meanders around it's point and eventually lands nowhere near it's intended target. Daria's (Tracy Grandstaff) dreams of college life are cast aside here in favor of her short-lived black market business and Quinn's (Wendy Hoopes) hard partying.

Despite how dissimilar they are in their interactions with people, the sisters Morgendorffer have very similar styles in imparting their knowledge to others; Daria, on the one hand, is teaching college students how to write essays by explaining the flaws in current approaches while Quinn is delighting in teaching the frat boys how to play a math game, convincing them that it will be far more fun than their previous non-learning game. Were their ultimate goals not so different, it seems that the sisters would have a much easier time getting along, and the main obstacle keeping them apart is Daria's desire for solitude and Quinn's need to be among the people.

We are granted a brief sequence of Daria's classmate's fantasies, all of which are fairly telling of their current mindsets and goals, but the most interesting might belong to the cheerleader. Brittany (Janie Mertz) dreams about being a runway model, but the interesting portion of her fantasy is boyfriend Kevin's (Marc Thompson) declaration of love, and his eventual removal from the premises. This is indicative of the fact that she's not as interested in him as he is in her, she's happy to be in a relationship with him in high school, but she clearly has no plans to retain said relationship into their adulthood. While it's certain that Brittany really does enjoy her boyfriend's company, and she likely even loves him as it is, there's no doubt here that she understands that many high school romances don't last, and there's a maturity about her here that allows her a sense of practicality that has yet to be fully showcased.

One of the subplots of the episode involves the prep course instructor hitting on Quinn with discussion about a "make-out" scholarship. Quinn is 14 years old here while the instructor is, at the very least, 23, making a nine year (probably more) difference in age between the two of them. The storyline is played for laughs, with no consequences coming out of their date, when in all honesty this is not the least bit legal. As a lawyer, Quinn's mother (Hoopes) should have put a stop to this, and despite her antagonistic relationship with her sister, it strikes me as odd that Daria wouldn't have stepped in to stop this from happening when any hint of sexual activity came into the conversation.

This episode suffers from the fact that the characters never actively choose a destination for the plot, but instead spend the entire story being led around by someone else. It's difficult to get involved in a story when the protagonists themselves remain completely uninvolved and separate from their own situations.

The voice acting in this episode is quite good, everyone has a good grasp on who their characters are, and, while there are still a few adjustments being made by the actors, they seem to have settled on who they are. Despite her very brief appearance in this episode, Mertz's performance as Brittany here sounds slightly less stereotypically dumb than it has in the previous episodes without losing the essence of who the character was intended to be.

Directed by Margaret E. Rutherford, this episode could have used a few trims and adjustments; while there was no time wasted, there were no lulls, and the story was straight to the point, it was still somehow dull due to the characters having no destination in mind.

Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil write everyone involved at the college as being completely incapable of functioning in their own setting, from the students contracting their workload out to others to the campus police who punish the Morgendorffers for having attended the party rather than penalizing the fraternity for having had underage girls at their kegger. The tour guide seemed completely nonchalant about her job, letting Quinn wander off without a word and abandoning the tour to take Daria to a party when, at some point, she should have been worried that the Morgendorffers would grow hostile upon hearing the news that one daughter was lost and the other was being contracted to write essays. The writers clearly haven't figured out what Quinn is meant to be yet, flipping back and forth between hiding her intelligence behind a vapid facade and actually being partially brain-dead. On the positive side, it's nice to see the continuity of Daria doing other people's assignments for a nominal fee remains intact, and it's good that Helen finally took charge and punished Daria for said deed.

There were a few subtle hints here that Helen might not have been as uptight in college as she is now, but more importantly are the clues that Quinn might be more than she lets on. Daria and Jane's (Hoopes) views on college are set up here, with Daria being interested in learning, despite the "college experience," while Jane is significantly less interested.

The review for "Café Disaffecto" can be read here.


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