Review: GIRL MEETS WORLD Brings a Familiar Face Home

girl meets world

“Girl Meets World” hasn’t shied away from welcoming “Boy Meets World” alums back into the fold. Tonight, the show is welcoming back one of its most beloved characters in hopes of giving him the happy ending he deserves.

In the episode (which was made available early via the Watch Disney Channel app), Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong) were (finally!) reunited, and though that’s cause enough for celebration, it’s not all the show – or Cory’s daughter – appear to be after.

In “Girl Meets Home for the Holidays,” Shawn returned 13 years after leaving New York, and Cory and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) behind, for a life and career that distracted him from what he really wanted – a family of his own. He left the day Riley (Rowan Blanchard) was born, both happy for his friends, and sad for all he still didn’t have.

Riley, who like her father, would do just about anything to better the life of a troubled best friend, put the pieces in place to give both Shawn and Maya’s (Sabrina Carpenter) lives more meaning. Maya wants what her absentee father and distant mother can’t provide, while Shawn knows what it’s like to grow up with regularly absent parents. If anyone is going to recognize just how important it is for a teenager to have a parental figure to look up to, it’s Mr. Turner’s former roommate, and he and Maya have more in common than initially meets the eye. (“Yeah?” “Yeah.”)

Riley’s plan to bring Shawn and Maya together plays endearingly over the span of 22 minutes, but the installment is only the start of an arc, with Strong set to appear in one more episode before returning for season two alongside Will Friedle and William Daniels. It worked as a standalone episode, but only as a means of reintroducing a familiar face back into Cory and Topanga’s lives in a way that felt natural to a show that is no longer about them, but about their children. As a result, fellow “Boy” stars Betsy Randle and William Russ had even less to do than their former kid co-stars upon their returns, but just having them back was pleasant enough. Amy’s concerns about Topanga’s cooking felt little like the matriarch we once knew, but ultimately worked as a device that allowed for the passing of the baton from one generation to the next. The same went for Alan’s one shining moment, as he complimented Cory on all he has achieved as a son, husband and father.

Though latter-day “Boy” was notorious for poking fun at its own continuity errors, Shawn’s troubled life was its one constant. It was also where much of the show’s heart came from outside of the Cory and Topanga relationship. So far, Maya’s troubled life has also been the one constant in “Girl Meets World” as the show continues working through its first year growing pains, and episodes surrounding her life have been amongst the show’s better outings. There’s no mistaking that “Girl” has been a less mature show than its predecessor would come to be, but tonight’s installment was a step in the right direction, and it did right by both new fans and old. It was less about adhering to a certain number of laughs per minute, and more about paying homage to a beloved character who had his fair share of grievances on the original series, and never quite had the time to get over them. Now’s the time.

“Girl Meets Home for the Holidays” makes its official TV debut tonight at 8:00 P.M. on Disney Channel.