Season 5 Overview
Season Five is one of extremes: some of the best and most consistently funny episodes, as well as some of the most annoying, embarrassing, and gruellingly dramatic episodes.
On the plus side, Season 5 is the height of Shawn's cuteness. He has the right hair and style to be adorable. This is noticeable in almost every episode. For Shawn fans, Season 5 is classic.
Season 5 also seems to mark the first of the Latter Seasons, which is especially evident thanks to the new credits. In syndication, seasons 1-4 have this strange, surf-music-scored, black-clad-cast-riding-in-a-red-convertible credit sequence (even season 1, though I'm sure from the ages of the actors and the images shown that that sequence was made for season 4). Beginning with Season 5, though, there's this new sequence, which shows candid-looking film clips of the various characters goofing around and sticking their tongues out and dropping water on each other. This sequence has more of a gritty, underground sort of feeling (appropriate, since Cory is a filmmaker in 5-2 "Boy Meets Real World"). Also, for the first time in BMW history, there's a theme song! It's good to know that in the last few seasons, you can turn on any episode and hear the soothing male voices crooning, "It's good to know my friends will always stand by me... When this boy meets world."
In my opinion the new-credits seasons are on the whole more entertaining. They tend to involve goofier, sillier happenings, and smarter, hipper dialogue than before. The show tends to be more self-aware in its later episodes. Additionally, with more and more characters in college and away from home, the latter seasons focus more on the more-interesting kid characters and less on the parents and families, who tend to be boring and sappy.
Perhaps most importantly, Season 5 is really when Will Friedle seems to blossom into a fine comedic actor. Previously, Eric had been cool, pretty, dumb, and sometimes amusing; but from Season 5 onward, Eric is consistently hilarious, from his fishhook eyebrow to his funny voices. Bravo, Will!
Season Story Arc Synopsis
Shawn moves into a strangely cushy apartment with his newly-found long-lost half-brother Jack and Eric, both of whom are struggling through their freshman year at Pennbrook College; Shawn finds steady girlfriend Angela; Cory and Topanga break up and get back together; Shawn and Angela break up and get back together; Topanga asks Cory to marry her.
I will now examine these topics in greater depth.
Jack Hunter and the Apartment
A new addition to the cast is introduced in the first episode in the form of Shawn's long-lost half-brother, Jack (Matthew Lawrence, in 5-1 "Brothers"). Jack is very different from his brother in that he comes from money and he possesses the skills and attitude necessary for academic success.
Jack and Eric are classmates at Pennbrook College there in Philadelphia, and they become housemates in a chic off-campus apartment. Chet also convinces Shawn to move in with them in order to get to know his older brother. Jack is really the glue that holds that trio together: in their year living together, Shawn and Jack become brothers; Eric and Jack become best friends; and yet Shawn and Eric don't seem to forge any independent relationship.
Shawn and Angela: "I Just Want What Cory and Topanga Have"
A two-episode arc, 5-7 "I Love You, Donna Karan" and 5-8 "Chasing Angela", introduces Angela, a real girlfriend for Shawn.
Angela begins as one of Shawn's many, many meaningless dates. Both she and Shawn have two-week time limits on their relationships, and they like it that way. But thanks to Cory's efforts, Shawn decides he wants the same kind of stability that Cory's relationship with Topanga offers--though not necessarily with Angela.
Shawn finds a purse and subsequently falls in love with the owner based upon the items he finds inside. He later discovers that the objects belong to Angela, and he eventually convinces this two-weeker to give him another chance.
Shawn and Angela begin to date exclusively and form a fairly solid relationship, especially considering Shawn's history and reputation. It seems that Shawn, on his second major attempt at establishing a real relationship (after Season 3's Dana), is finally ready to settle down to one girl for an indefinite period of time.
Shawn and Angela have a good eight episodes together--dating, having fun, fighting occasionally, but ultimately feeling pretty committed to each other--before Shawn second-guesses the relationship. Shawn is made to realize by a group of ex-girlfriends that he is prone to saying things he doesn't mean, simply because he knows girls want to hear them (5-15 "First Girlfriends Club"). He really likes Angela and doesn't want to do her an injustice, so he asks to cool off with the relationship for awhile and become her friend, in order to build a more solid foundation, and see where things go from there.
I'm not exactly sure how long this just-friendship lasts--they seem to be broken up in 5-17 "And Then There Was Shawn", but by 5-20 "Starry Night", they are back in each other's arms and at each other's lips. (Methinks the re-kindling occurred in 5-18 "If You Can't Be With the One You Love...", which Disney Channel skipped on purpose.) Angela has luckily enough applied to the same college as the rest of the gang (John Adams High must be a feeder school for Pennbrook) and they remain together into season six.
Cory and Topanga: From Barelli's to the Mountain Girl/Starry Night Snafu to Graduation
Cory and Topanga start the season strong, relationship-wise. Amy comments that things between them have "never been better" (5-3 "It's Not You...It's Me", a title which refers to strained relations between Cory and Shawn [see "The Future of Cory and Shawn"]). Sometimes Cory and Topanga's relationship seems too good: they act like an old married couple (5-8 "Chasing Angela"). Sure, there are problems: Topanga is unnerved by Cory's jealous side (5-10 "Last Tango in Philly"), and Cory questions his ability to join lives with Topanga when her Christmas traditions trample all over his (5-11 "A Very Topanga Christmas"). But all issues are relatively easily solved by talking, mutual compromise, and an unbelievable appetite for kissing.
Things hit a major snag when, on a senior ski trip, Cory sprains his ankle and is nursed back to health by a pretty young ski lodge employee named Lauren while Topanga skis (5-14 "Heartbreak Cory"). Cory spends an entire night talking to Lauren and feels guilty, but, certain that nothing else will happen, he doesn't tell Topanga. Later, Lauren kisses him, and before they leave, she gives him a love letter.
Topanga finds the love letter and learns all about the all-nighter and the kiss. Those things in and of themselves don't concern her as much as the fact that Cory lied to her, which really makes her re-think the validity of their relationship. Cory spends most of the next episode (5-15 "First Girlfriends Club") trying to track down, corner, and apologize to Topanga.
Shawn is extremely emotionally invested in the Cory-Topanga relationship, as he makes abundantly clear in the following episodes. Shawn actually gets Cory and Topanga to meet and talk in 5-16 "Torn Between Two Lovers (Feeling Like A Fool)"; but to his dismay, Lauren shows up. Cory insists that he wants to be back with Topanga, not Lauren, but Topanga tells Cory to go out with Lauren to make sure. Cory does and he has a good time but. But, ultimately, it's Topanga that he loves, wants and needs. He tells her this, but she still cannot believe that his time with Lauren meant nothing. Despite the fact that she gave Cory leave to explore his feelings for Lauren, and that he chose her in the end, she decides to end the relationship.
For the next few episodes, Shawn thinks about his involvement in the proceedings: he explores the feelings of anger and powerlessness that his friends' misfortune cause in him (5-17 "And Then There Was Shawn"); then, he and Topanga decide they can be friends even though things aren't working out with Cory (5-19 "Eric Hollywood").
The couple's problems come to a head in 5-20 "Starry Night", when Topanga flirts with and is kissed by another guy. It is only then that Topanga realizes that a kiss can mean nothing. She goes to Cory and kisses him, and they decide to start over.
But the fun isn't over yet. Cory and Topanga decide they want to fool Shawn into thinking that he got them back together, in order to boost his ego (5-21 "Honesty Night"). But Shawn's attempt to couple-counsel them brings up issues they really should have tackled in the first place, and it is only after witnessing a spat between Cory's parents that they realize that a couple can have problems and issues and still love each other. They get back together for real, supposedly a stronger couple than before, and remain together.
Soon after they reunite, they consider sex, but ultimately decide to wait until marriage (5-22 "Prom-ises, Prom-ises"). In fact, so intent are they on spending their future together that Topanga turns down acceptance to Yale in order to join Cory at Pennbrook in the fall (5-23 "Things Change" and 5-24 "Graduation"). And at graduation, Topanga pops the question--leaving the season with a cliffhanger marriage proposal.
The Future of Cory and Shawn
The gang begins to think about their post-high-school careers at the beginning of Season 5, when Cory upsets Shawn by considering schools out of his trailer-trash friend's league (5-3 "It's Not You... It's Me"). This causes a temporary rift in Cory and Shawn's friendship, but they realize they love each other too much to let future worries stand in their way.
The subject is not revisited in a major way until the end of the season, when Shawn upsets Cory by deciding to keep his part-time job at a photography studio instead of going to Pennbrook with his friends. This willingness to exist independently of Cory shows real growth on Shawn's part, but Cory still needs to learn to let go, and he seems to do that. We are left feeling that both characters have matured (although we may second-guess ourselves when, in Season 6, Cory and Shawn end up as Pennbrook roommates after all).
Cory Matthews ....... Ben Savage
Shawn Hunter ........ Rider Strong
Topanga Lawrence .... Danielle Fishel
Eric Matthews ....... Will Friedle
Jack Newman-Hunter .. Matthew Lawrence
George Feeny ........ William Daniels
Angela Moore ........ Trina McGee-Davis
Amy Matthews ........ Betsy Randle
Alan Matthews ....... William Russ
Morgan Matthews ..... Lindsay Ridgeway
- Matthews Home (kitchen, living room, Cory's room, backyard)
- Jack/Eric/Shawn apartment (plus elevator/hallway leading to the apartment)
- Mr. Feeny's classroom
- Senior Hallway (The Senior Hallway is different from the seasons 2 thru 4 school hallway. It lacks the small wall & stair area on the right side. Instead, at stage left, there is an alcove containing a trophy case, a dingy aqua vinyl couch, and the door to the janitor's closet.)
- Chubbie's restaurant
Big-Name Guest Stars
- Ted Lange and Bernie Kopell (The Love Boat) guest-star as themselves in 5-4 "Fraternity Row".
- Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains it All, Sabrina the Teenaged Witch) and Candace Cameron (Full House's D.J.) guest-star as witches in 5-5 "The Witches of Pennbrook".
- Larisa Oleynik (The Secret World of Alex Mack, 10 Things I Hate About You) returns as Dana in 5-15 "First Girlfriends Club".
- Jennifer Love Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer) guest-stars as Jennifer Love Fefferman in 5-17 "And Then There Was Shawn".
- Jake Thomas (Lizzie McGuire's Matt) appears as a child writer in 5-19 "Eric Hollywood".
- Old friends Ethan Suplee (Mallrats, American History X), Blake Soper (Salute Your Shorts) and Lee Norris (The Torkelsons) return as Frankie "The Enforcer" Stechino, Joey "The Rat" Epstein and Stuart "The Little Nerdy Kid from Season 1" Minkus, respectively, in 5-24 "Graduation".