‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “The First Day”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 2: “The First Day”
Original airdate October 10, 2017.

Synopsis: (deep breath) It’s the first day of school for the Huang boys. Eddie gets a little insecure when he sees the jocks flirting with Alison, so he tries out for the football team without his mom’s permission. Emery is excited to finally have middle school to himself, now that Eddie’s in high school, but the charmed life he has lived seems to have turned: the girls don’t respond to him, and he spills a droplet of milk on his school pants — right on the pleat! Evan has a little surprise for Emery too. Louis has some trouble with a Kenny Rogers representative, now that Michael Bolton has sold his interest in Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch (now Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch). I sorta can’t believe I just typed that sentence.

Yay: Evan and Jessica don’t really have their own stories here, and that’s completely okay! There’s still too much going on, but maybe the writers are coming around to one of my biggest complaints about this show: they try to cram too much story into each episode. There’s a teeny bit of further development of the secret Nicole shared with Eddie in episode one; I like that the writers don’t feel the need to push it way up front. I’ll be pleased if it takes its time.

I was worried last season that Hudson Yang as Eddie had hit a dead end as an actor, but he seems to be growing into his skin. He’s still a little cardboard at times, but he has his moments, especially with his timing in dialogue with his mom. That’s probably a reflection on Constance Woo as an actor too. Isabella Alexander as Alison continues to be the best of the regular young actors.

In case you’ve lost track of the timeline, it’s the fall of 1997. The Huangs move to Orlando in the spring of 1995 (as it still says in the opening music), so season two begins in the fall that same year, season three begins in the fall of 1996, and here we are in 1997, as confirmed by Grandma’s declaration that it’s the year of the ox in the Chinese zodiac. It’s good that they give us enough to keep this straight.

Eddie’s cafeteria scene with his estranged friends is really well edited. Not quite an O Captain My Captain moment, but you know, at least a distant cousin.

Boo: This Cattleman’s Ranch arc is getting ridiculous. The acting by Forrest Wheeler (as Emery) and Ian Chen (as Evan) is both awkward and charming at the same time. I’m not sure what I’m reading here, especially after Wheeler’s very good season last year, but I suspect they’ll find their groove.

FOB moment: Grandma tells Emery that everyone has bad luck during his or her zodiac year. Emery is smart: why doesn’t he ask her why it doesn’t seem like everyone else in his grade is also having a bad luck year?

Soundtrack flashback: I didn’t hear anything. Did you? Seems like they missed the chance to flash us back to almost anything great when Nicole is driving Eddie to school.

Final grade, this episode: Kind of a boring episode, but I do like the way what seems to be the A plot resolves fairly early while we get resolution on the antagonistic friends, which seemed to be a C plot at best. Nicely done. The Dolly Parton jokes are bizarre and funny, but this Kenny Rogers story has to go. B-minus.

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About Mitchell K. Dwyer

@scrivener likes movies.
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