Archived Ramblings



I can not say this was an impressive season. Far too much of the season was empty and substanceless. Not a single episode this season in the "Too Cute" or "Arts N Crass" mold, and "Legends of the Mall" had to be the most pointless episode of the series, rivaling even "Depth Takes a Holiday." There were several bad episodes, and some bad trends, but it wasn't a total disaster, as there were a couple good episodes.

This season really suffered from an attempt to address too many characters in too short a time period. Kevin and Brittany were way overused, but Brittany also got her best episode appearance ever in "Groped by an Angel." They haven't changed at all all series, except to get even more irritating.
The Fashion Club is likewise going nowhere fast and being obnoxious while doing so. Although Tiffany does get a number of good lines and Stacy gets a great appearance, they were very much overused, although thankfully we weren't exposed to much Linda this season. Quinn and Sandi finally have a confrontation in the movie, but it's way too soon to tell whether or not this is actually going to impact things. Most happenings in the show don't seem to have any impact beyond two episodes, and that's usually when it's the season finale and season premier.
This, yet again, ties in with who's writing the show. Unfortunately, with this season all the blame can't be placed on the non-core writers, as Glenn starts one of the worst Daria trends and writes one of the least humorous episodes we've seen.

I guess that one of the lessons of this season is to be careful what you wish for. I wanted more exposure to Jodie's character, and did not at all like what we saw. After "Partner's Complaint" she gets some good lines, but that's about it except for making it obvious that although Daria and Jane like/respect her a bit more than the rest of their classmates, which is not the same as saying they're friends. Unfortunately this makes "Partner's Complaint" even less likable, but I'll be getting to that.
Mack and Charles are pretty much as ever, not used enough but used fairly well the little they are. Charles being totally absent from the movie is probably an indication of just where he fits within the cast, and it looks like Mack's only real importance is as Jodie's boyfriend.
Andrea gets her biggest scene since "Cafe Disaffecto" but that's really about it. Her appearance is more noteable for what it says about how Daria and Jane are perceived than anything else.
The teachers remain as ever, and except for Mr. DeMartino's part in the movie are used as nothing more than plot setups.

Quinn finally starts to actually think. Not much, and not for long yet, and it technically happens after the season, but it does happen. Before that she's as shallow as ever and gives Daria some good setup lines. Unfortunately the main Quinn appearances were tied to undermining Daria's character, especially as done in "Groped by an Angel." Quinn's little brush with spirituality was meant as a nice family bonding moment, but turned out as Daria spouting lame, potentially harmful platitudes, and the entire episode serves as little more than an answer to the "what's the harm?" question asked in the beginning.
Jake and Helen don't really change, and we get yet more highlights of their relationship problems, which are less-than-believably toned down a lot at the end of the season for an episode.

Tom is exposed some this season, but mostly what he does is fight with Jane over little things. He is shown as smart and educated, but he's also got some very intermittent relationship skills. Of all the guys on the show, this is really the only one that could fit as Daria's first boyfriend, but the likelihood of them staying together long-term seems pretty slight.

Jane gets some good and some bad appearances, and what we mostly find out about her is that she gets really jealous. This season definitely shows her in a less favorable light than any other, as in addition to her easy jealousy we see her insecurity (which she manages to hide from everyone, even Daria), her relaxed ethics, her impulsiveness, and her ability to lie to herself. This latter one is usually moderated by Daria, but we have to fall back to Trent a couple times.
Trent, now that most of the shipperisms are gone, is probably the only character who can be said to have had this as their best season. Without his every appearance being primarily used to embarrass Daria he actually gets to show through.

The worst trend of all this season involves Daria's crumbling ethics. It starts off in "Partner's Complaint" and is highlighted a couple of time later in the season, in "Mart of Darkness" and "Groped by an Angel." This also ties in with the tacked-on Link subplot in "Is It Fall Yet?" and the focus on character development. I have no problem with character development, but what's been happening doesn't count. Change is not the same as development, and this season has shown a devolution of her character, especially as it regards ethics and morality. I've seen this point somewhat brought up on some message boards, in connection with the recurring theme of Daria being bribed into something that's run through the show. The key point that's been missing is that Daria never accepts a bribe in regards to something she's objecting to on moral grounds. Everything she gets bribed into involves an activity she dislikes, finds irritating, or considers a waste of time. Once she develops a moral objection to it, she quits.
Unfortunately, that's ended this season. Daria apologizes to Jodie for being right, and as we saw this season the two of them aren't even really friends. She also incidentally supports Jodie in her behavior in that same episode, and gets her nose rubbed in her fight with Jane. Daria also, at several points, helps someone hurt themselves in a way that isn't simple embarrassment. Helping Mrs. Johensen with the chocolate is a cave to expediency, something she flatly refused to do in "Cafe Disaffecto." She stated in "Arts N Crass" that she doesn't really care what other people do to themselves, but she also hasn't been willing to be an active participant in that harm. Then in "Groped by an Angel" she gives flat out bad advice to someone who's already unhealthily superficial and self-absorbed, again for expediency (although it can be argued who's expediency we're talking about; comforting Quinn or the writer's desire for "development"). She at least suffers a relapse of honesty in "Dye! Dye! My Darling" but whether or not this is a return to things as they should be is another matter that won't be answered until next season.
Her ongoing relationship with her family is mixed. Sometimes she acts like first season, sometimes like third. The "hero" thought about her father was totally out of place and without any real antecedent. Her getting closer to her mother might make sense (Helen must be fairly smart to hold down her job, after all) if not for Helen's amorality, which rather clashes with Daria's principles. Even granting that Daria's standards have been lowering this season, we've still got the "you're reading a book about cats with wings" factor...
There's likewise little basis for any tightening of her relationship with Quinn. Outside of "Is It Fall Yet" Quinn is just as shallow, self-absorbed, ignorant, and obnoxious as ever. She still won't admit that Daria is her sister, and all their "bonding" moments seem randomly scattered among the more usual bickering. From Daria's little comforting talk in "Groped by an Angel" we get a total blow-off of Daria by Quinn in the very next episode, and then in "Is It Fall Yet" Daria is once again trying to help Quinn. Quinn has done absolutely nothing to deserve this treatment from her, rather the opposite in fact, and this doesn't tie in well with the same sister-sister relationship that had Daria telling Quinn's dates about being stuck in traffic with an empty soda cup after Daria's been insulted by Quinn.
Daria and Tom I guess should have been seen coming. After all, everyone knows what happens when two people of opposite sex hate each other at first sight, right? Sigh. The good part here is that Daria at least acts (mostly) in character about this in "Is It Fall Yet". Unfortunately, we also get "I Loathe a Parade" contradicting the whole point of "The Misery Chick," which was one of the strongest episodes they've ever done (and one of the best single episodes of any show) and should not be diluted.
Daria's relationship with Jane is also problematic this season. Outside of the first episode and last two episodes they go on pretty much as usual on-screen. We get lots of indications that Daria's been put in second-place by Jane, in favor of Tom, but we don't really see it. We end with the emphasis that this friendship is very important to both of them, but it comes from Jane and comes off hypocritical.

Overall, this season was funnier than third, but I don't think it even quite matches it in quality, which is a very disappointing thing. Aside from Daria's ethics the most troubling trend is the increasing amount of filler, both full episodes and subplots within the episodes. The show is really starting to look thin; the animation is better, but the stories are much weaker, and they no longer seem willing to do anything that challenges societal conventions. It just looks like they mostly ran out of ideas during third season, didn't have enough lead time on fourth to work up any plots other than the Daria/Jane/Tom thread, but weren't willing to stop just yet. Hopefully fifth season will contain better ideas that weren't developed in time to make this season.
The most disturbing trend is obviously Daria's character. After making such a big deal of her ethics in first season it was a major mistake to relax them so much this season. She doesn't have to (and never could) win in every situation, but the compromises she's been making are just ridiculous. I'm going to continue picking on "Partner's Complaint" for this, and unfortunately I've seen some comments that were recently made by Glenn that makes me believe this trend is not likely to change.


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