Friday, 25 November 2016

Series 20: The Way She Does It

And so the final episode of the year has arrived. It's safe to say that we've had some highs and lows in terms of episode quality in 2016, but will The Way She Does It end the year on a high?

Alright, I'll come clean. The first time I watched this, I didn't like it. I thought Daisy was too pretentious. I felt she'd taken a step back from Ryan & Daisy and the plot structure felt similar to one you'd see in the Sam Barlow/Sharon Miller era. But having seen it again with a more open mind, my opinion has changed on it completely.

I do have problems with it though, and I'll get them out of the way first. I do still believe that Daisy has taken a small step back here, but considering the lesson she learnt in Ryan & Daisy affected her dynamic with Ryan rather than her as a character, I get why they'd need to do that. Also, proper development for new or returning characters takes a series to come into play (unlike a staple character who should've developed properly by now!). So for now, I can let it slide.

Then there's the Barlow/Miller era feel to it. Yes, it does get repetitive (Daisy talks to three engines and passes three lots of passengers twice), but it actually works here. First off, Daisy has an actual personality, and it's just as entertaining here as it was in her last two episodes. Because of that, the repetition feels more like a distraction than a frustrating problem that overshadows the whole thing.

The repetition works with the story as well, if you think about it. With every engine she meets, Daisy's mind begins to run away with her more and more to the point where she talks to Duck in French, and posh French at that. It's very subtle, but effective.

Oh yeah, and she talks to a bull. I'm not sure why they have to have a bull (possibly the same one) in every episode she's in, but I'm not complaining. It's a really fun, yet random, running gag.

Getting to an actual problem (not explaining why initial issues aren't a big deal): Thomas' appearance. Whether you think he was necessary or not is up for debate (I like seeing him interact with Daisy, so I'm not too bothered), but why in the world was he at Arlesburgh?! They had a scene at Knapford a minute or two later anyway; why not put him there? At least he wouldn't have felt out of place, and any unnecessary discussions would've been avoided!

As for Arlesburgh, why not have her meet Duck and/or Oliver there? Heck, you have three small engines who deserve to be more than background props! Why didn't she interact with them?! Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure hinted that they (especially Rex) liked to tease each other, and it was a regular focus on their dynamic in The Railway Series, so why not have them tease Daisy? It would've given them something to say and solidified one of their characters before they're all seen together (like Bill and Ben in Percy's Lucky Day).

That Misty Island line was pure fan... trolling (I guess?), though. And it wasn't all that good of a joke either. It's been four years since we've seen that place. Many of the target audience have actually grown out of the show since then, while new fans have jumped aboard, meaning that whole reference would probably have flown over their heads.

Also, can stupid jibes like this just stop? They were petty and immature the second time one was written in; now they're petty, immature and annoying. We get it: that era was bad, but kids are more bothered about what you have to offer now, not to be constantly reminded of what you replaced! It's beating a dead horse by this point, and rather than make me laugh, it builds more sympathy towards Sharon.

Moving away from that and towards the ending, which is one I really liked. It showed some positive development for Daisy's character, which I hope will be carried into series 21. It was similar to James' (laughing at your own character traits), but it's one that works fine for her too. Mostly because they didn't force in a line that implied that Daisy learned nothing; they just had the camera pull back from the puppet show.

Not only that, but it actually showcased a character's ingenuity. Rather than go back and fix a mistake she'd made, Daisy just worked with the situation and found a solution. It's a great way to teach kids how to solve a problem, rather than just fixing a mistake which, in the real world, isn't always possible.

There was another moral that, while a bit more subtle, was still rather effective. Daisy had hyped herself up for the show so much that anything else would've been disappointing which, in a world where hype can be built much easier thanks to the internet, is a lesson that we all should learn. We shouldn't get caught up in that hype, and just make our own judgements based on what we see, or play, at that particular moment.

Also, the Punch and Judy theme of the episode made it feel quintessentially British, which is rare for a show that's now trying to broaden its international appeal. It's really nice that the team do care about where the franchise came from, and it would be nice if we got one or two "British themed" episodes a year.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
Davey Moore has been one of the best writers this series (Helen Farrall being the other), and this was another very good one from him. Sure, Daisy takes a bit of a backwards step after Ryan & Daisy, the "parcel van" was rendered as a hooded open wagon (nitpick that annoys me) and Thomas was stupidly misplaced, but the dialogue was probably some of the best in the entire show, Daisy was as entertaining as ever and he produced a plot that wouldn't have felt out of place in the previous era and made it work brilliantly.

That said, I think Daisy's other Daisy-centric episodes were slightly better this series. The Railcar and the Coaches felt more entertaining (and it was a great way to bring her back) and Ryan & Daisy had the better character dynamic (and heart). This one still stood on its own merits however, and it cemented Daisy as one of the most entertaining characters on the show after years in the abandoned character wilderness.

Episode Ratings
Series Rating (so far)

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