Episode Reviewed: Square One (674)
Writers: Marshal Younger, Paul McCusker

Director: Paul McCusker
Sound Designer: Christopher Diehl
Music: Tim Hosman
Theme: Trust
Original Airdate: 11/20/10

Review Written by: Ben Warren, Staff Writer

Rating (out of 5):


Episode Summary

Matthew joins a mysterious new club and refuses to tell Emily about their activities. Emily decides that this is a mystery that she must solve.


The Review

Square One reminds me somewhat of Opposite Day; both are down-to-earth, friendship focused, kid-centric episodes that keep things relatively light and probably won't turn out to be season favorites. Both are fine episodes on their own; however, Square One avoids the mistakes Opposite Day made and is ultimately the stronger of the two.

Yes, the "Jones and Parker Detective Agency" is back. This time, their presence is forgiven since the episode focuses on the club's disunity rather than unity; for those who dislike their presence on the show, this is good news. Obviously, we see that the lives of the mystery-solving duo isn't all fun and games largely because of Emily over-possessiveness. Emily wants the team to focus on the group's new logo and has a problem with Matthew tinkering with a pen and accuses him of being weird. Really, Emily? Really? You're the only child who has their own detective agency, and you're calling Matthew weird for wanting to know how a pen works? Really? You spend afternoons spying on others with binoculars; you blackmail others and photograph them from trees; you even suggest that these group of boys are involved in a conspiracy, but Matthew can't look at your little pen? Really?

Memorable characters make Adventures in Odyssey the success that it is. Lately I've been wondering why we've had to endure so many dry new characters lacking interesting or attractive personalities. This was the root problem with this reboot. Some simple slice-of-life stories were instantly deemed failures the moment they announced which characters were starring in them. A glimmer of hope is now creeping around the corner; Odyssey is slowly solidifying a core group of children who, dare I say it, have the potential of becoming as memorable as those in the show's golden age. Is Ryan the new Jack Davis and Nelson the new Oscar? In today's episode, the chemistry between its characters seemed different. These characters no longer seemed one-dimensional, but were fleshed out, and surprisingly worked well together. I thought Ryan, Pete and Nelson made up a neat threesome, with compelling and contrasting personalities (though I still find Pete somewhat aggravating). For once in a long time, the episode ended and I immediately looked forward to when these same group of kids will appear on the series again.

Admittedly, even Emily Jones, who I still somewhat detest, works quite well here. For once, the story acknowledges her character faults as the pompous, egotistical, big-headed individual that she is. The fact that Emily was blackmailing people and incessantly putting down Matthew made me dislike her character all the more, but strangely, her attitude worked well with the story being told. The reality is that Emily Jones isn't the likable child protagonist that the producers initially made her out to be--unlike Ryan, who proved his likability in The Owlnapping. Marshall seems to have understood this. The listener both easily and rightfully sympathizes with Matthew, feeling frustrated as he does when Emily Jones interferes with his private business. In the end, she is humbled--and I don't really mind hearing more from this humbled Emily. It was even refreshing to hear from a wiser and more sincere Matthew Parker than the brooding or passive character he played in
The Inspiration Station and Stage Fright, respectively. Essentially, both lead characters did a fine job here.

I appreciate how the episode didn't feel the need to waste time having a separate subplot. The show told a simple story about Matthew's relationship to a group of guys, and Marshall did a good job at developing the story thoughtfully and at a comfortable pace; scenes never felt rushed or feel the urge to end with stale punchlines. While the dialogue ranged from occasionally lame (Emily's "Yea. In Another Universe *giggle*") to funny (Pete's "Pasty Resistance"), Matthew's scene with Whit, confrontation with Emily, and apology to Ryan, were three consecutive well-crafted scenes.

I realize that I've been ignoring Whit in recent reviews. This isn't on purpose. It goes without saying that Andre Stojka has been doing an excellent job this season. But has Whit's role in show not become a little too gimmicky lately? Whit has only been showing up in the final half of the episode behind the counter, almost as a Deus ex machina, immediately setting all things right in the land of Odyssey. I know this is who his character is, and this is how us fans like him best, but it is also starting to feel a little too formulaic;
Square One will mark the third time in a row his character is used in this manner. Thankfully, next week's A Thankstaking Story shakes his role up a bit.

This episode gets three stars for not only being a satisfactory episode, but for being a somewhat satisfying one as well.
Square One is nice, simple, and well thought-out. In addition to this, it has those extra elements which distinguishes it from other kid-centric, slice of life episodes: good chemistry and sincere performances.





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