Something beautiful and wholly unexpected happened on a recent episode of Girl Meets World — and no I am not talking about Shawn and Katy Hart getting engaged. Shawn and Katy's engagement has been in the works since they first met in a confrontational diner scene. What was remarkable was Girl Meets World also produced an essential episode of Boy Meets World — and let me tell you, you were ever even a casual fan of Boy Meets World, you need to see "Girl Meets Upstate."
Girl Meets World has done a superb job of carving out its own identity. Season 2 of the series grounded its storytelling in the lives of Riley, Maya, and her friends without relying on Boy Meets World throwbacks to carry the show. The amazingly talented stars, Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter, did that all on their own by delivering one knockout performance after another. The truth is, despite sharing a universe, Girl Meets World has reached a level of quality where it does not have to entice older viewers in with the promise of a Mr. Feeny cameo, and that could very well be the reason why "Girl Meets Upstate" felt so true to the spirit of both shows.
Shawn Hunter is a character almost everyone loves. He grew up poor with parents who were absent more than they were ever there — but he found family with Cory. Despite having all the odds stacked against him, Shawn made it through middle school, high school, and college. He ran away to find himself more than once, but he always came back to Cory and the Matthews in the end. As an adult, he found a way to express himself through photography, and even though he didn't get married or have kids, he carved a life out for himself that was solid — albeit a little lonely.
Then, he met Maya, and later her mother Katy. I will admit, the relationship between Katy and Shawn has always felt underdeveloped despite the insane chemistry that exists between the two characters, but Maya and Shawn's connection never felt forced. When Shawn met Maya, he embarked on an arc of his own, one that has been unfolding for three seasons now.
In recent weeks, Maya has been going through an identity crisis as she tries to be more and more like Riley in hopes of capturing some of the normalcy of Riley's life. Maya lost herself in Riley, and in many ways Shawn lost himself in Cory. He stopped being spontaneous, and instead opted for caution. He kept looking to the past and wondering why he and Angela didn't become the next Cory and Topanga — and in the process, he stopped moving forward.
His confusion rubbed off on Maya, who was following a similar path with Riley. Neither Shawn nor Maya could find a way to own their scars, their anger, their hopes, or their dreams on their own — at least, not until Shawn was confronted with Maya's situation. In that moment, Girl Meets World delivered some of the best Shawn scenes from either series as Shawn decided to take control of his own future and confront the truth about the life he wanted for himself. Shawn was well and truly back in all his glory, and it was amazing.
Every Boy Meets World fan knew Cory and Topanga were going to be OK. Even without a followup show, it seemed inevitable that they would have kids, solid careers, and live out their happily ever after. Shawn, though, was always a question mark. Would adulthood swallow him whole? Would he find his own kind of happiness? Now fans have an answer and it is an extremely satisfying one. Shawn has found his people. He has Maya and Katy to build a life with, Cory will always be at his side, and he became a good, maybe even great man.
"Girl Meets Upstate" gives Boy Meets World fans everything they could possibly want. From a wonderfully silly, but perfect Shawn and Cory confrontation to dialogue that is so perfectly in-character it will make you squeal from happiness, the episodes honors Shawn's journey while pushing Maya's forward. As an added bonus of joy, Cory declares Shawn the best thing that ever happened to him, and when Riley asks about her mom, he hilariously retorts, "I know my own life!"
Even if you stopped watching Girl Meets World for some reason, you should watch "Girl Meets Upstate." It is a beautiful ode to Shawn Hunter, the boy he was and the man he became. It turns out the kid is going to be alright after all.
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