Both the characters and the writers struggled at times in Season Four of The Wonder Years during a transitional year for Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), his family, and his friends. In Season Five of the iconic series, which Time Life released on May 24th, 2016, the writers and Kevin display more confidence and maturity in episodes that are arguably some of the most poignant in the series. It’s extremely enjoyable to watch the writers stretch their own boundaries while creating scenarios in which Kevin does the same.
Whereas brother Wayne (Jason Hervey) continues to display the attributes associated with a middle child. In many of the episodes this season we see Kevin breaking free of the youngest child reins and striving to get out on his own. We see Kevin strive for independence not only in “The Lake” but also in “The Hardware Store” in which he gets his first job. By the end of the season, Kevin totally breaks away and returns to the lake looking for something he feels he lost. As in many episodes in this series, and much to our enjoyment, Kevin finds much more than he expects.
As Kevin grows so does his ability to relate to others. This is most notable throughout the season in the relationship between Kevin and his brother Wayne. We see Kevin push back more in this season as it becomes obvious Kevin is outgrowing his brother physically and, in some situations, emotionally. We see changes in both brothers in “Triangle” in which Wayne’s girlfriend (Carla Gugino) initiates a relationship with Kevin.
With the oldest child (sister Karen played by Olivia d’Abo) already out of the house, she is featured less this season. Unfortunately when we do see her, the stories remain centered on her unwillingness to tell her parents (Dan Lauria and Alley Mills) the truth. This continues to distract and detract from the stories, most obviously in “The Wedding” in which Karen and Michael (David Schwimmer) prepare to not only tie the knot, but make other significant changes. Gugino and Schwimmer are not the only young actors seen in Season Five who would go on to highly successful careers. Those with a keen eye will also spot Seth Greene, Alicia Silverstone, and Jim Caviezel.
Where the writing really shines in season five is the narration by Daniel Stern. As our characters get older and more complex so do their stories and telling these stories in 22 minutes is clearly challenging. The narration adds much value this season as the thoughts of the viewers are articulated and the storyline is brought to conclusion in a fashion that often garners emotional reactions.
As in previous seasons, the sound and visual quality of this four-disc release is excellent, but the bonus material continues to disappoint. Producer Mark B. Perry takes a final tour around the set, as he leaves the series at the end of season five, in a short video that is mildly interesting. The featurette “Will You Love Me Tomorrow: The Wonder Years‘ Love Stories” is both redundant and annoying. With the last episode of the season serving as a retrospective on the relationship between Kevin and Winnie (Danica McKellar), much of the material in the featurette was already covered. One of the relationships highlighted in the featurette should not yet have been covered since it is from Season Six. The interviews with Olivia d’Abo and David Schwimmer respectively are simply too long.
Recommendation: This season stands well on its own if you don’t already have the previous four. It covers the assent of Kevin into High School and young adulthood and tells a complete story. For those who own the previous seasons, it’s a must have.
If you were an avid viewer of the series when it originally aired, season five can be difficult to watch as you get a true sense of the series coming to an end and can’t help but dread the final episodes that we love, but leave us longing for more.