Season 2, episode 4: “The Rise and Fall of the Kate Empire”

On the whole, season two of Lizzie McGuire has been better than season one. Last week’s episode was even kind of good – or at least cute and harmless, which is a step up from last season’s standard of nonsensical and infuriating. But this week’s episode is such an unpleasant clusterfuck that I started and walked away from this review five times.

This one starts with the trio realizing there are no tables left open on the quad. So why not just eat in the cafeteria? They do that sometimes. Gordo says he refuses to sit in the grass when there are three seats open at the cheerleading table and Miranda yells her agreement like they’re going to start a fucking riot. Sitting with Kate sounds a billion times worse than sitting on the grass, though.

At this point Ashlie Brillault is in something like a 30-way tie with herself for Worst Acting Moments on this show. Here she does the most inexplicable hand gesture, committing very hard to it. “Um,  Gordo? she says when they approach the table. “Are you and your friends a bit *brings hands up to her chest then flops them forward while sticking out the pinkies like a fancy meerkat* confused?”

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For what it’s worth, the usually much better Davida Williams makes a strange choice here too – I think she’s going for “delightedly gearing up to bully Gordo” but instead it looks like “wishing she could get into his baggy jeans.”

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Their attempt to sit with the cheerleaders fails so they sit in the grass glowering. The cheerleading squad starts practicing their cheers and stunts right in the middle of the quad during lunch, which is ludicrous. Lizzie says she wishes someone would knock Kate off her pedestal, which is a weird word choice for a middle schooler made worse by the fact that Hilary Duff thinks it’s pronounced “pedastool,” but then Kate totally falls down and dislocates her shoulder!

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What if Lizzie just, like, had the power to curse people for the rest of the series. How awesome would that be?

The next day at lunch, Claire tells Kate that she’s the head cheerleader now and Kate can’t sit with them because she can’t cheer with a dislocated shoulder, even though Kate’s probably only out of the game for like a month. Kate sadly sits in the grass alone. Lizzie feels bad for her and asks Gordo and Miranda if they should invite Kate to eat with them, and Gordo and Miranda respond by bursting into the “Ding-dong, the witch is dead!” song. I’ve mentioned before that I hated this show while it was on the air, but I loved this bit then and I love it now. The actors take SO MUCH DELIGHT in it.

At home Matt is a giant diva about being an actor because he has one line in the school play. I would have hated to be around him when he starred as Jet Li’s sidekick in that movie we never saw.

Being head cheerleader naturally makes Claire the most powerful person in school. She uses this power for devious acts such as blocking hallways (why?), kicking people out of bathrooms (okay, that is what the most popular girls in school do), and making everyone in school eat on the grass instead of at the tables (how?). They also strongly imply that she took a bite out of Miranda’s dessert just as a power move (how and why and what?).

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Matt becomes an even bigger diva, practicing his line nonstop (“Ah! The doorbell! I’ll get that!”) and making insane demands of his mom.

Kate now has a locker in the “dork hallway,” which is a) a concept we’ve never heard of before, b) a location we’ve never seen before, and c) logistically completely absurd because lockers are assigned by the school. Lizzie tries to be nice to Kate and Kate screams at her, so Lizzie realizes they need to be friends.

nope

Lizzie, Gordo, and Miranda have a meeting to discuss making Kate popular again, because Lizzie feels bad for her and because having Claire run the school is so much worse. I wish they’d just fire up Miranda’s rioting spirit from the top of this episode and start a social revolution at school to unseat the popular kids completely. The cheerleaders are so exhausting.

Matt continues to be completely obnoxious, which is actually a sentence I could use to describe every Matt scene.

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The trio starts a rumor that Kate’s aunt is a cheerleader for the Lakers, which is somewhat impressive but not that impressive, but it backfires when Claire accuses Kate of lying to be popular again. This scene has a good example of writers trying to come up with cutthroat tween dialogue and failing. Claire says, “I’m sure it’s part of some elaborate scheme to make you popular again…NOT!”

That’s not how “NOT!” works. Claire didn’t want to negate that sentence. It should be like “I’m sure that will make you popular again…NOT!” The whole “NOT!” thing was pretty lame anyway, even at the time, but at least use it correctly if that’s the only way you can think of to signal that a character is mean.

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At lunch, the trio sits with Kate on the grass and listens to her bitch about how she can’t cheer anymore because there are no stunts you can do one-handed. Lizzie responds that there totally are and she used them in rhythmic gymnastics all the time. Points to the show for continuity, but I find it nonsensical but Kate has never heard of one-handed stunts.

Matt loses his voice from practicing his one line so much. The McGuire parents almost ground him for being an asshole to everyone but decide that losing his voice is punishment enough. When will Matt get any boundaries or see any consequences? By high school he’ll be slashing the principal’s tires and his parents will tell the cops they think the principal’s disappointment is punishment enough.

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Lizzie teaches Kate some one handed stunts, which I thought was going to be a very cool scene because Hilary Duff is legitimately very good at gymnastics, but they just do cartwheels.

Lizzie, Gordo and Miranda watch Kate re-try out for cheerleading. A Kate body double does some cool stunts and Kate dares Claire to try them. When Claire does, she falls and sprains her wrist and Kate mocks her. That got dark.

Kate becomes head cheerleader again and the next day at lunch everything is back to normal. Claire starts to eat lunch alone but Kate invites her to the cheerleading table because she learned a lesson, get it? They show Claire and Kate chatting while Lizzie talks over it, and Ashlie Brillault STILL has not dropped her horrible fake talking she does when she needs to ad-lib. She’s very clearly just mouthing words, not speaking real words sotto voce, and it’s worse here because she does it while Claire is talking to her so it doesn’t look like a conversation at all!

Kate and Lizzie smile and make eyes at each other again as nice music plays, but it doesn’t last as long as it did last time and isn’t in slow motion so it doesn’t give me the same lesbian vibes.

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A lot of the pieces of this show are starting to fit together. We’re finally seeing consistent definition of the main trio, with Lizzie being the meeker, nicer one who’s always concerned with Doing the Right Thing. The bratty screaming bits that haunted me last season are finally gone. And yet Kate is still the absolute worst thing about the show, and episodes centered around her remain unbearable.

Notable fashion moments: The new costume designer for season two is making some big changes. Lizzie now dresses much more realistically for girls of the era, though of course her looks are exaggerated for TV.

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All of this looks like stuff that could actually be purchased in a mall by a middle schooler, which is a lot different than the zany shit Lizzie wore in season one.

The problem is that Lizzie looks extremely trendy, which is a problem when you compare her to the “popular girls” of her school.

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Their costumes are still so fussy and matronly! Claire looks like she’s cosplaying as Velma Dinkley. Lizzie is consistently wearing more form-fitting outfits, showing more skin, and wearing more hip fashions than the school’s hot girls. Even their cheerleading uniforms are thick, baggy and unflattering. It’s inexplicable.

The new direction for Miranda’s costuming seems to be “British punk,” always. In this episode she wears a Union Jack or plaid in almost every scene. We saw touches of that last season, but so far this season we haven’t gotten any of the Mexican influences her costumes used to feature.

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Jo’s new looks continue to baffle me.

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Other interesting tidbits: Do you need a bandage on your wrist for a dislocated shoulder? Kate wears one in this episode in addition to her sling. The body doubles used in the one-handed stunt scene are pretty obvious – Kate’s actually looks more Haylie Duff than like Ashlie Brillault, so much so that I checked the credits to see if Haylie was credited – but Claire’s is the worst because THEY DIDN’T EVEN GET A BLACK STUNT DOUBLE.

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3 thoughts on “Season 2, episode 4: “The Rise and Fall of the Kate Empire”

  1. Why did they put the tallest girl on top of the pyramid? Kate getting hurt was not Lizzie’s fault, it was the fault of whoever organized this lopsided pyramid.

    Like

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