What's wrong with Buck Oliver?

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BuckDeservesBetter
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What's wrong with Buck Oliver?

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Alright, please forgive the forthcoming essay... I've been building all this for awhile πŸ™ˆπŸ˜…. Also, props to you if you make it to the end!!

Ok here we go! Seat belts, everyone! *seatbelt buckle noises* I know there's a lot of different feelings about Buck Oliver as a character and his development or how often he is/isn't in stories etc etc, but I've got some THOUGHTS on a lot of what's going on currently.

A lot of Odyssey characters, prolly most noticably Whit, have been acting kind of out of character recently and, from what I've read, the fans are all noticing and very confused. I hold that not only has Whit been acting out of character, but Buck has been too--for awhile!

Since the beginning it's been established that Buck is incredibly loyal, kind (despite his... mmm... less than desirable upbringing πŸ˜³πŸ˜†), incredibly charismatic/charming, and fairly moral (again, despite being raised in a pretty amoral environment, he's always had a strong sense of doing what's "right" even if that "right" is sometimes misguided). Basically, he's kinda like a puppy πŸ˜‚. He's showed with pretty much any of his relationships that he's dedicated and once you have his love and trust, he'll always give you the benefit of the doubt, fight for you, and do pretty much anything for you--even if it puts him in a bad situation. Now, you could reasonably argue that this is perhaps partly due to being raised by Skint who required that kind of loyalty or you were out, but I think that at this point anyway, a lot of it is truly genuine on Buck's part. I think from the start this is who Buck was established to be, and that's only been more deeply established since he moved to Odyssey. It's seen in pretty much all of his current relationships (Eugene, Katrina, Jules, Connie, etc).

Alright, now that we've established where I'm coming from, let's get to what is wrong with Buck currently: personally, I was let down by The Long End (TLE). I thought that Buck, and Skint, were out of character and that the ending was horrible. Skint is smart--he taught Buck everything that he knows about the art of the con. Sure, they kinda imply that Buck is a protegΓ© of sorts, so maybe he surpasses even Skint? But it seems rather unlikely to me. In Friend or Foe, Jules comes to Buck and asks him to con Valerie to get back at her for what she's doing to Jules. Buck responds by saying that you can't ever con a con because they know and will get you back. Then, a few albums later, he takes down Skint by conning him???????? Huhhhh??? Why would Skint believe that? Why would he fall for it?? Yes, I understand the argument that Skint still loves Buck, in his own way, and still misses him, but would that be enough for him to make such a massive blunder as to fall for the old "oh you walk into the vault before me" trick?! It felt really unbelievable to me. So that was the beginning. Second, a HUGE part of TLE was Buck (and Jules a bit) struggling with the idea of can I/do I ever change? They seemed to imply that his end conclusion was that he CAN change and has and will continue to. However, since then, he's been still resorting to cons as a way of solving problems. Again, I understand that TLE isn't necessarily gonna be the end all be all of any of Buck's problems or tendencies towards The Lifeβ„’, but even for something as simple as a football playbook, he immediately resorted back to conning and tricks. Then, in LCTWTO, he steals a bunch of cell phones and starts a whole thing to get a journal.

Which, I suppose, could bring us to the case of Buck's relationship with Jules. I've seen a lot of posts of fans saying they don't like Buck with Jules (platonically or otherwise) because she's a bad influence on him and he regularly gets into trouble for her. While I agree that that seems to happen, I'd argue that, again, that kind of comes from a place of sincere affection (again, platonic or otherwise, we really don't know) and puppy-like loyalty. With the Valerie situation, he wouldn't do a con, but he did return all the purchases and try to kind of make restitution on Jules's behalf. He flew to California despite being in the middle of a fight and being ignored for at LEAST 6 weeks just to make up and try to keep her from making a decision she'd regret. He pulled together a cell phone thing in like idk 20 minutes or whatever just to get back her journal (don't get me started on what must be inside that journal... I NEED to know but have 0 faith that Odyssey will tell us and give us the wrap up to that that we need). He used a free period to go all the way out to the Riley-Clemens farm to get her reeds for her clarinet. I think that they have a really interesting relationship and I'm looking forward to seeing how Jules FINALLY starts changing as a result.

Now, the clarinet reeds brings us to my next point. Eugene and Katrina have always showed Buck their love and appreciation. They've never given him any reason to doubt their love and he's really never struggled with feelings of idk abandonment or feeling unloved etc. Then suddenly out of nowhere, he steals Connie's car to see if the people of Odyssey actually love him??? Huuuhhhh??? I feel like there would've had to have been a LOT going on inside for him to get to that point. But we don't know any of it. The story was more Polehaus-centric and REALLY left me wondering what in the world had driven Buck to that point. Last I knew he was fine. Then suddenly he's stealing cars!

Essentially, aaaaalllll of this to say that I feel like the Odyssey team has established and reinforced some particular character points about Buck and who he is and how he thinks and what he values etc. However, recently, I feel like he's been going against everything that's been established about him! They took a character (who in my opinion [and I know a lot of people disagree, that's fine, you do you, boo!] is one of the best characters, and the best current kid character) that they'd established a lot of deep points about and now they're throwing it all out the window and he's doing nothing that they've worked so long on establishing. At first, I had high hopes that this was all leading up to something and that we have some HUGE upcoming reveal that will leave us all SHOOKETH, but I don't know anymore. I'd still LOVE for that to happen, but recently I've been severely disappointed in Odyssey's follow-throughs. They leave a lot of points hanging or sloppily wrap up long-term arcs with stories that I feel still leave a lot of loose ends. So I don't know if Buck will get the continuing arc that he deserves. I think that the character has always had big arcs, he has a big story, he's such a fun character and has a lot of potential! He's been a favorite since he first appeared in Odyssey (like 10 years ago 😱😱) and I'm looking forward to seeing the character grow and develop further as the show continues. But as of right now anyway, Buck deserves better.

If you've made it this far, I applaud you πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ ! You absolute champion, you! My sister gets kinda salty whenever I listen to a Buck story (which happens... a LOT πŸ™ˆπŸ˜…) cause I always come away with a new rant about how they're messing up the character. Do y'all have any thoughts? Anybody else out there feel me???
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PennyBassett
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Oh boy I could talk about this character for so long... and I have... and I will continue to do so. Because I know you'll appreciate it, I want to first say that YES I AGREE Buck is one of the best characters Odyssey has ever had, and I think a huge part of that is actually the wrench he throws into every relationship he's in. More on that later. Loved your lil essay XD! You made some fantastic points and I agree with a lot of what you're saying. He has felt inconsistent at times, I didn't like The Long End for many reasons, including the ones you mentioned, and Odyssey has definitely been letting us down when it comes to storylines recently.
I would like to defend Buck's writing a little bit because I think there's an explanation, but first, some background about me because I have ADHD and Buck Oliver has been my special interest for the last five years. So I can quote nearly every line he has, I have analyzed, and continue to analyze his scenes and relationships, oh and I write WAY too much fanfiction about him. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that the fanfics I have posted on here aren't even half of the Buck fanfiction I've written. So all this is to say, I know Buck pretty well and usually write from his perspective. So I have some theories.
I want to start by going through his character's presentation album by album, kind of breaking down how he sees the world, not taking too much context from other albums.

The Green Ring Conspiracy:
Buck Oliver is fourteen. He is introverted, smart, conniving, and strives to make his con-artist guardian, Mr. Skint proud by doing his will and manipulating people. This manipulation is often paired with Buck's masculine/southern charm that tends to make girls his age let down their guard. Although not as successful, he also puts on some of this charm with Katrina Meltsner, who first meets Buck when she interviews him for a job at the ice cream shop her husband helps run. As the album continues, we see that Buck is an excellent liar, he finds the con-artist life fun and exciting, and he is a naturally compassionate person. At the end of the series, when Buck has to make the choice of going with Katrina, or letting Mr. Skint capture her and staying with him, he decides to go with Katrina. This decision saved her, but also meant he would have to be turned in to the police. Overall, in this album, Buck has a lot of walls up, is dedicated to Mr. Skint and everything he has him do, but is ultimately a good person who doesn't know how to live without criminal patterns. It's really a story of how he becomes de-indoctrinated by Mr. Skint. Skint had been so manipulative for so many years, that Buck trusted the worldview he'd fed him above most people. At this worldview's center is the idea that life is about survival because no one can be trusted. But if you know how to play people, you can become comfortable. It was jarring for Buck to see people live for the people around them instead of just for themselves. We see him realize that you can live inside the law and be comfortable and smart. He'd never be exposed to that lifestyle because he could con most people, and he couldn't con Katrina.
The Ties That Bind:
We don't everything about Buck's experience in prison, but we know that it was an uncomfortable environment, one he was relieved to be out of. We know he talked with his innmates about why they were in JD, that he spent his time doing chores and homework, reading, and watching tv. He also painted a wing of the detension center, but it is unclear if it was voluntary, a punishment of somekind, or an average prison task. While he was there, Katrina sent him letters, up to a week before the album began. Buck says he appreciated them and they made the other kids jealous. Katrina couldn't visit him while he was there, since they aren't related. It's unknown for sure whether or not Mr. Skint visited, but it seems unlikely given his relationship with the law. One prominent figure in this time of Buck's life was Pastor Juan, an all around advocate for prisoners and ex-prisoners. We don't know how close Buck and Pastor Juan were, but the pastor knew him well enough to know how much he liked Eugene and Katrina, going as far as to say when he visited the two, "you're all Buck talks about. Katrina, this. Eugene, that." It's clear that their in-person influence and Katrina's letters brought him comfort and hope while he was incarserated. After the conversation with Pastor Juan, Eugene and Katrina agree to become Buck's foster parents, acting as a "half-way house" as well as spiritual role models. Buck recieves an early parol for being so well behaved and Eugene and Katrina go to pick him up once he is released. In this album, Buck is much more introverted, hesitant, and genuinely polite. He still shows many self-reliance instincts, but they act as a defense mechinism more than a manipulation tactic. Although he doesn't explicitly communicate his feelings as much as he did in TGRC, it's clear he has a desire to ammend his reputation and the damage he caused in Odyssey. He is extremely grateful for Eugene and Katrina's acceptance of him into their home, but feels like a burden, and keeps them at arms-length emotionally. We see in his relationship with Jules a more protective instinct that gets him into trouble with a school bully, Vance and his gang. Buck gets beat up by them, and once Eugene and Katrina find out, he convinces them that he should be the one to handle it. His character arc is rounded off in three scenes toward the end of the series. The first is with Detective Polehaus, where he is forced to ask for help from the police and Eugene and Katrina in a sense, by finally telling the three of them that Vance's gang was responsible for his bruises. In a conversation with Camilla, he makes it clear that he desires an average life with a family he grew up with. This is a clear desire for him, but it's obvious that his fear of rejection, emotional vulnerability, and being decieved is keeping him from entering into that kind of relationship with Eugene and Katrina. Buck's last scene in the album is one with Eugene, where the father figure offers to take him fishing for the day. Buck is excited and even a bit flustered at the idea of Eugene dedicating a day to spend time with him. The scene ends with Buck and Eugene calling that activity "family time."
Taking the Plunge:
Buck's relationship with Eugene in this episode is focused on more than his with Katrina, especially since she's only referred to and doesn't make an audio appearance. Buck and Eugene are definately more comfortable with one another than they were in TTTB, but most of their communication is casual and even professional in nature. Buck's main arc in this album is his relationship with Dion, one of Vance's gang members, and his scheme to get Vance arrested. Buck's approach to the plan communicates his love of justice, redemption, but also deception, as he didn't make Eugene and Katrina aware of his plans. When Buck and Eugene talk about his lack of communication with he and Katrina, Buck says that he's afraid of disappointing Katrina. Eugene assures him that he is not a disappointment, but someone they are call part of the family. He hopes Buck begins to feel like he belongs in the family and in Odyssey as a whole. In this album, Buck is more assertive, better at communication, and actively tries to become friends with Dion, a person he sees as in need of redemption. This album also hints at Buck's need for control and the idea that Buck blames himself for bad things that happen around him but also beleives he needs to fix these bad things. Perhaps due to underlying guilt over his criminal past.
Head Over Heals:
Buck is only in one episode in this album, but this episode makes it clear that he doesn't want to be seen as a con artist in any sense. However, in the end his knowledge helps Emily and Matthew solve their mystery. This is the first instance of Buck working with other people to apprehend criminals in a safe and competely selfless way. He also comes across more depressed and distant than he did in Taking the Plunge. This episode also hints at that feeling of self-blame that was first seen in the previous album.
Without a Hitch:
Old Tricks is an iconic and extremely well written episode. We get to see how the Meltsners are coping with their addition to the family. Buck is far more comfortable around Katrina than he is Eugene. He finds conversation with her easy and he tends to be a bit more relaxed and honest with her. With Eugene, Buck is a lot more passive and hesitant. It is clear in this epiosde though that he cares deeply about the well-being of Eugene and Katrina, and is willing to fall back into his criminal patterns to secure something Eugene wanted in his career. THE scene (we all know which one I'm talking about) is not only brilliantly written, it is extremely complex and telling of Buck's relationships, instincts, and character. There's a lot to cover here, so I'm going to listen to the scene again and go through my observations.
Buck wants to set the table for Katrina, Buck is excited that Eugene is home, Buck asks how the interview went and acts surprised, even though he already knew it was very likely Eugene got the job. He's acting here. Buck notices when Eugene isn't excited. He confesses to being at the college instead of school when Katrina assumes the best about him or asks about it, not when Eugene asks him. Buck isn't used to being disapplined or having to explain himself, so he hopes to get out of telling the truth by asking for privacy. He knows that the information he is going to have to share with Katrina will end up disappointing her, so his communication with her overall is passive, delicate, and self-victimizing. "I'd rather not say, if that's alright." It's worth noting the paralelism between that plead for privacy and the one he gave about Mr. Skint: "I'd rather not talk about him, if you don't mind." He knows this kind of request has worked in the past. "I was only trying to help" is another thing he says while avoiding Katrina's questions, and it's an attempt to put himself in a better light. When Eugene brings clear evidence and starts speaking with authority about what he knows Buck did, Buck begins to feel out of control, and his anger comes out through demands of information. If he knows as much as he can about the situation, he will feel more in control. Eugene's firm avoidance and quick answers of these questions, only makes Buck feel smaller. He becomes more defensive through more anger. When Eugene asks about the phone, Buck gives in a little to Eugene's control of the conversation, realizing resistance to confession could result in less control down the line. Katrina's anger and disappointment as a result of this confession, brings up more excuses. He wants her to think of him as highly as possible. Another very clear indicator of Buck's relationships with Eugene and Katrina is how easily Buck asks Katrina questions. Even when it comes to insignificant things, Buck is hesitent when asking Eugene anything. He doesn't bat an eye when asking Katrina questions about Professor Ellingwood or why Eugene would get fired for Buck's mistakes. The "I know what graud is" line is the first example in Buck's character of feeling misunderstood by his foster parents. But more on that later. Buck admits the reason he broke the law was to make Eugene happy. This is a hard confession as well because it makes his emotions obvious to those around him, leaving him feeling out of control again. He covers this by arguing that his plan worked. Eugene takes control away from him again by explaining that he declined the job. Buck immediately feels responsible, bringing back that self-loathing. When Eugene begins his lesson teaching with, "Buck, what you did was wrong." It takes him awhile to finally let Eugene have control of the situation. At "do you understand?" Buck has lost all control, but has accepted that. He realizes that he shouldn't have tried to fix something he wasn't responsible for fixing and being seen, supported, and even disaplined by consistent parental figures is soothing. I don't think he's ever felt safe after admitting to doing something wrong. But Eugene and Katrina showed anger and love in the same conversation, and this makes him feel safe. By the end of the scene, there is a clear and very beautiful shift in Buck's communication. He isn't fighting for or trying to earn Eugene and Katrina's protection. It's just there. He can be himself. We see this reflected in Buck and Eugene's ending scene as well.
I'll pause there for now, because that's the first character arc Buck goes through, and it's gonna be easier to discuss these in chunks instead of all at once. I also applaud anyone who made it this far. It's a lot to read through, so the main argument I'm making is Buck was raised to be in control all the time as much as possible, because when he's not in control people can take advantage of him and make him unsafe. He can only trust himself. Eugene and Katrina, through their consistency, calm control, and protection, proved to Buck that he could be vulnerable with people and that life was not centered around survival or being in control. He also realizes he's not responsible for saving everyone, and that sometimes, people don't need (Eugene) or won't accept (Dion) saving.

So what are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Let's only discuss these albums first so that we can be on the same page. I think we can argue that he's at least consistent through these episodes, so it's gonna be easier to judge the writing of his character in later episodes if this is our baseline for him.
P.S. Sorry for any gramatical kinds of errors above. (I did not proof read lol)
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
BuckDeservesBetter
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Sorry I'm responding SO late! I didn't see your reply for awhile and then I'm a teacher and school started this week so I've been super busy with that. Is it embarrassing to admit I'm an adult listener and still this invested?? πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ

Lemme just start by saying, I'm so glad you responded!! πŸ™ˆπŸ˜† I've read a lot of your comments about Buck (and even some of your fanfics on here) and I've always thought Wow, here's somebody who gets it!! Somebody else who over listens to and over analyzes all the Buck stories--I'm not as crazy as my younger sister seems to think! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Or, maybe I am, but at least I'm not alone.

Ok, to the analysis! First off, just YES. To everything. Yes. Yes. YES. What a great character! Definitely doesn't get the love he deserves. I 100% agree that up to this point, Without a Hitch, Buck is consistent. We see him growing and developing in all the ways we'd hope and assume based on what'd been established about him so far.

THE scene in Old Tricks gets me everyπŸ‘ time!πŸ‘ That whole story is so underrated. I feel like it's just casually kinda slipped into the album and never really mentioned again and kinda just forgotten but it's SUCH a turning point for Buck and his relationships with Eugene and Katrina (prolly especially Eugene).

I really like the point you bring up about Buck always needing to be in control of a situation! I think that's a really interesting point and I agree. I'd argue that he really didn't have much control over his situation when he was with Skint. But! He was taught that if Skint wasn't there, like he was off on his own for a con or whatever, he had to make sure he was in control of the situation cause it'd be the only way to make things all work out. It's very much a self-preservation technique that he didn't seem to know how to move on without for awhile. It's the consistency of Eugene and Katrina showing love and support that starts drawing him out, as you're saying. Which, then, is why I feel like he's kinda been all over the place recently. Cause, yes, after 14 years of being taught one way, it's not gonna be a one and done for him to let go of all that. But it's kinda feeling like he's just learning that same lesson over and over and over. But not in ... The best ways? Like they're not addressing the changes taking place. Which, πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ is what I hate so much about TLE! Cause we hear that Buck is really struggling and he doesn't know if he's changed or if he can but then the next thing we know he's got it all sorted and doesn't care and ugh. Sorry! I know we're not quite there yet! πŸ™ˆπŸ˜…

I really liked your point too of Buck feeling like he has to save everyone! And then realizing that maybe he can't and that's ok. I've definitely noticed that too and it's a trope that low-key I'm always there for cause I think it's so interesting. I kinda feel like he's still kinda got some of those feelings and stuff going on cause of how he treats Jules??? Idk. I guess you could also argue that he kinda sees her struggling with the same things he's struggled with and is trying to show her the same safety and love (platonic or... otherwise 😏🀞) that he's experienced in Odyssey. Again, I know we haven't quite delved into the Jules part of Buck's life yet, but I always associate them with each other. I love all the stories just about Buck, but I also feel like Buck's overall arc is, by this point, very much wrapped up in Jules's and vice versa.
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