By Cameron White
Season 2, Episode 9 and 10: “Second Generation” and “OOPA”
Original airdates: Oct. 22 and Nov. 5, 1999
What Fiona does on So Weird is pretty close to science fiction. In fact, if the show didn’t readily reach for the fantasy genre so easily, much of what happens on this show would be given some sort of scientific explanation, which would put it well within reach of The X-Files in terms of execution. However, So Weird is often stronger for choosing key points to deploy science fiction; by showcasing the infinite possibilities of the paranormal in the fantasy-themed episodes, the show can drop science into the mix and show how similar the two genres are. Infinite possibility is, of course, key to both forms—just ask Fringe. Coincidentally, “Second Generation” and “OOPA,” two of So Weird‘s more overt sci-fi incursions, also feature the Phillips girls going on dates with nerdy science guys. The comparisons and contrasts are so easy to make due to how close these episodes aired to each other. It’s as if the show was edging towards a parallel between the two women by building on the complicated dynamic of the season, first laid out at the end of “Medium.”
Dolly the sheep caused major news waves in the late ’90s and early ’00s by being a successful product of animal cloning, and “Second Generation” is partially a way to nod to the natural continuation of that process (human cloning) that was part of the conversational zeitgeist at the time. It’s also a romantic comedy in which Fi meets a cute boy who is just as smart as she is (okay, he’s a bit smarter), but is on the complete opposite end of the “believing game” spectrum. Cara DeLizia and Kevin Zegers shoot off sparks right from the first scene, a good sign that the episode is going to deliver.
And the episode does deliver, and in some unexpected ways too. Ryan Ollman seeks out Fi because he’s been creeping on Fi’s website and thinks she might be able to help him locate his mom. Fi gets uncharacteristically stuttery during this first conversation, which is appropriately cute, and later, she completely smears toenail polish all over her feet while watching her computer, waiting for Ryan to e-mail her. Things get complicated, though, when Fi starts to get mixed up in the Ollman family matters. The uncanny similarities between the father (a geneticist looking for a cure to Huntington’s disease, the very same incurable disease that haunted Thirteen over on House for most of that character’s existence) and the son leads Fi to the conclusion that Ryan is a clone of his father. Ryan disagrees, on scientific grounds.
This is the part of the rom-com where the two love interests have a wall beyond which they must pass if they are to be together. In this case, it hinges on the fact that Fi reached for her comfort zone (the paranormal) for an answer, while Ryan relies on his comfort zone (science). The benefits of doing this story on So Weird, though, is that those two zones actually intersect on a regular basis. Ultimately, Ryan’s scientific curiosity wins out: he tests Fi’s hypothesis by stealthily snagging a hair off his dad’s head and comparing the DNA to his own, in a sequence beautifully underscored by the theme song to the show (“In The Darkness”).
Molly happens to be performing that song as part of a showcase set up by Irene in order to snag a delicious record deal. Fi was meant to be there, but instead she chooses to stay at the lab and help Ryan. That would almost be an indication that Fi is ready to move on from her father’s death, or at least the pain of it, and finally grow up. (Indeed, Ryan is about to become a long-distance boyfriend to match with Gabe, Jack’s girlfriend from “Angel” to whom Fi apparently says nice things about Jack behind his back.) Even so, when Ryan’s father finally has to own up to his experiment of cloning himself in honor of his former lab assistant, who died of Huntington’s, Fi challenges him on whether he cloned himself simply to have another pair of hands around the lab, or just as an experiment, and asks: “Don’t you love him?” So it would appear that, even when looking for love in Alderaan places, Fi is still sensitive to issues of parental love.
A similar arc occurs in “OOPA,” an episode whose Plot of the Week is more of an homage to The X-Files than anything of tremendous substance. (If you’re interested, it’s about the CIA discovering an ancient computer of unknown origin and specific purpose, like this one, and asking Tad Raxall to assist them in discovering its purpose.) The focus here is instead on the return of Tad Raxall, CEO of Star-Dot-Star. As the gang checks into a Polynesian-themed hotel to await news of whether or not Molly successfully scored a record deal after her showcase in “Second Generation,” they encounter Tad, who has been waiting for a week just to ask Molly out on a date. After some hesitation and a cute story from Ned about how nervous he was when he first asked Irene out on a date, she agrees. The date appears to go well—the two adorably come to an agreement that they share one thing in common, “paranoia”—but at the end, Molly performs a song on the piano for Tad: “More Like a River,” a song about Molly’s struggles to move on from Rick’s death. Tad and Molly may be cute together, but as with Fi’s parental issues, it’s hard for them to move forward when Molly’s still singing lyrics like: “‘Cause when I miss you/When I’m dying to kiss you/I gotta let that flow/More like a river.”
Nonetheless, there’s something remarkable about the fact that So Weird managed to sneak in not one, but two episodes where the main female characters end up dating super-nerds and ultimately finding them charming. Disney Channel doesn’t really feature these types of characters as romantic interests anymore. In fact, they may be hard to find in any young adult television these days; the only one that fits the bill in recent years that springs to mind is Freddie on iCarly, whose primary defining traits in the pilot episode of that show are that he is a) a tech geek who can assist Carly and Sam with their web series, and b) he’s completely head-over-heels for Carly. Mix in So Weird‘s penchant for darkness and twisted parental stories and suddenly, “Second Generation” and “OOPA” feel very familiar.
Cameron White is a freelance writer currently residing in Arkansas. He writes about television over on his blog, Wayward Television, and tweets about the long dark of Moria. His obsession with television was founded in 1996 by The Disney Channel and fostered by his discovery of Firefly in the summer of 2007. He hears your heart beat like the beat of a drum, BOOM BOOM.