How Boy Meets World Made a Better Slasher Than Most

If you know me, you know that one of my favorite shows of all time is Boy Meets World. I have numerous fond memories of growing up watching this show only to still appreciate it today—maybe even more than when I was younger. It has such a feel-good vibe about it with some great humor, great characters, and great life lessons that included dealing with alcoholism, racism, and abuse among other difficult topics to tackle in a show that’s targeted towards teens/young adults, for the most part. The special thing about Boy Meets World is that it not only discusses those topics, but it did it in a relatively raw and honest way.

A huge standout of the show is the great characters and the sense of humor they have. That’s why when they tackled the horror genre, they did it in the best way possible with the episode “And Then There Was Shawn.” Sort of…well, okay, not sort of, but completely riding on the coattails of the slasher boom of the late ’90s, Boy Meets World tried its hand at making a Halloween episode that pokes fun at and draws an amazing amount of inspiration from those late ’90s slashers such as Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Urban Legend. What makes it really pop is that they tied it into the overarching storyline going on in the current season, which adds a great charm to the episode and the goings-on in it.

Just Another Day In The Writers’ RoomThe group stand in awe as they spot a message on the chalkboard that has been written in blood.

During the fifth season, a lot of things are going on, but the most important is that the two characters Cory and Topanga break up, which—if you’re a fan of Boy Meets World—broke your heart. Although it broke all of our hearts, nobody was more affected than Cory’s best friend Shawn Hunter. That brings us to “And Then There Was Shawn” and what happens in it. The episode starts off like any normal episode: a few Feeny jokes, a pencil joke or two, and the group getting into trouble with the lovable Mr. Feeny which ends with them getting detention. This is where all of the fun starts.

The gang and their classmate Kenny are stuck in detention as Mr. Feeny leaves them to it and exits the room. Shawn, being Shawn, gets up and is about to leave to grab his “cheese product” (no idea, either) when he notices that the door is locked. Dun dun dun! Just after that, they spot the janitor whose name is “Freddie,” which is either just a Freddy Kreuger reference, or it’s referencing Scream‘s reference to the famed slasher—I like to believe it’s the latter; it’s more meta that way. Anyway, the janitor does his creepy thing and leaves. Just after the janitor leaves, a message appears on the chalkboard written in blood that says, “No one gets out alive!” Oh yeah, it’s serious now. After a little bit, Cory’s brother Eric and Shawn’s half-brother Jack show up. Conveniently enough, they came to play some basketball at the school.

Now, this is where we learn that the character Angela is an absolute scream queen. Seriously, she’s got some pipes, it’s great. The lights go out, and when they come back on…Kenny is dead, leading Eric to shout out, “Oh my gosh, they killed Kenny!” which is an amazing South Park reference. The group is absolutely shaken at this point with Shawn accusing Mr. Feeny of setting this all up. They leave the classroom and head out to the hallway where some great creepy music plays, and Shawn addresses Feeny and compliments him on his work. Right after that, Mr. Feeny shows up, standing upright in the hallway. The gang surrounds him, laughing and joking until he falls over with scissors in his back. This is where everything Shawn thought he knew falls apart. Also, Cory does a great job of accusing the janitor afterward which…basically signs the janitor’s death warrant.Cory, Shawn, Jack, and Eric stand over the janitors dead body that's been stuffed into a garbage bin. There’s an absolutely hilarious moment when they find the body of the janitor. As context for the unaware, Eric Matthews isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He means well, but he isn’t always clued in on events. Case in point: when they find the janitor’s body, everybody begins to freak out while Eric doesn’t quite seem to understand why. This is where, as the janitor’s dead body is wheeling away, he pauses for a moment and with excitement says, “Wait a second, the killer’s dead, we’re off the hook, up top!” as he tries to score a hi-five from one of the others. It doesn’t work out, one thing leads to another, and he’s out in the hallway alone on the lookout for the killer when Jennifer Love Hewitt pops up as a new student at John Adams High. Her name in this? Obviously, it’s Jennifer Love Fefferman, what else would it be?

Being the friendly patron he is, Eric and Jennifer instantly start to make out as the rest of the group spies on them from the classroom, extremely skeptical of the new addition to their group. They come out to the hallway and quickly become acquainted with JLF when the phone rings, and Jack picks it up. While on the phone with the killer, he gets asked if he “likes scary movies” to which he responds that he “likes that one with the hottie-hot-hot from Party of Five.” Jennifer Love Fefferman asks if he means Neve Campbell, and Eric responds with a “duh.” Moments like these make life worth living, you know?

Anyway, they decide to make their way up to the library to look for the killer, and Eric is surprised they even have a library in the school even though he already graduated. The group splits up (mistake) and searches for the killer as the killer picks them off one by one until the final showdown happens. It’s Shawn, Cory, and Topanga face-to-face with the killer; Shawn confronts the killer and removes his mask to reveal…himself. It’s a great moment on the first watch (sorry) that sort of felt like a punch in the gut to a young Bronson that made me instantly fall in love with this episode.

Now, you might be thinking, what makes this so special? It sounds like a pretty straightforward slasher, right? Well, yes, but there are some things that I left out on purpose that enhance the experience alongside the prominent humor and care that was taken when making this episode.

Digging A Little DeeperA message written on a chalkboard that reads "No one gets out alive!"

I think most of this episode’s charm comes from their attention to detail and their seemingly obvious love of slashers. They really have fun with this one. They drop a few hints in the episode that Shawn will turn out to be the killer. The first one is when Kenny asks Topanga for a pencil at the start of the episode, and Shawn butts in and says, “I’ll stab that big pencil through his heart, you hear that Kenny?” It might seem obvious that Shawn is the killer after seeing and hearing that, but when you watch the episode for the first time, it’s not so obvious, especially because Kenny gets a pencil stabbed through his forehead.

Another time that Shawn is hinted at as being the killer is when Mr. Feeny breaks up all of the noise of the group yelling at each other, and Shawn asks him if he recalls ever being stabbed in the back, which turns out is how Feeny is killed, being stabbed in the back with a pair of scissors.

Another big factor is the show’s sense of humor and the way the characters interact with their environment and each other. A great joke is that when Kenny dies, his body slides down, and the pencil in his head draws a line downward as he falls. Cory walks up to it, puts a finger where the line starts, and says, “We’ll always remember he was that tall,” which absolutely kills me (get it?) every time I watch this episode, which for your information, is every year around Halloween. It’s the self-awareness that makes this show a perfect candidate for a slasher episode. Nobody is taken too seriously, and everybody is open to a great joke about them said by someone else or even themselves at points. For instance, in the episode, Shawn is the stereotypical know-it-all horror nerd and is filling the group in on the rule that virgins are safe, to which Cory turns to Topanga and says “Alright, thanks for saving me.” Also, to that same point, Eric says he’s dead, Jack also says he’s dead, Shawn says he won’t die, but will “get as sick as possible without dying,” and then they all realize that Feeny died and cheer for Feeny.

They throw small, normal jokes for the show in there, but they work in the setting so well. There’s a moment where Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character screams after the phone rings to which Angela gives her some sass and screams even better, showing JLH that she’s the scream queen in this show. After Jack is done on the phone, Eric grabs it, tearing it from the payphone…but it still rings again and he picks up. Being Eric, he makes some mocking gestures and then calmly and blissfully explains that the killer wants to kill them all and for them to wait where they are…and then it clicks. Everybody begins to run away, Eric included, but Eric doubles back, hangs the phone up, and tries to grab any change from the change slot but doesn’t get any. Throughout this episode, Will Friedle gives his absolute all as Eric, and it’s always been a standout performance for me—it’s just great.Shawn unmasks the killer as himself and stands in shock with Cory and Topanga. But, the thing that brings it all home is the fact that Shawn ends up being the killer and the reason why he is killing everybody. You see, Shawn has been Cory’s best friend for years at this point, and even though he’s Cory’s best friend, he knows that Topanga is what makes Cory whole, even when Cory or Topanga don’t believe him. He never gives up on them, and even when they’re broken up, he holds a pang of guilt in his heart that it’s his fault somehow because, throughout his whole life, everything that has gone wrong in his life has been blamed on him even if by himself.

This episode lets him get rid of all of the noise surrounding Cory and Topanga and tries to drive them closer together during a horrific event to somehow, maybe, possibly, get them to see that they belong together. Shawn killed everybody so Cory and Topanga could be together, even if it’s by design. I know that all of the other horror tidbits are great, and the references are funny, but I think the most important part of the episode is Shawn and his deep emotional attachment to Cory and Topanga. All Shawn wants is the best for his friends, and he’s willing to kill to give them even a glimpse of hope together.

So now, you can take everything that I’ve been talking about: the humor, the characters, the emotional attachments, and the twist at the end, and you have got yourself an unironic good slasher that has more reason to it than a lot of the post-Scream slashers. The most impressive part of it all is that no character was compromised to make this episode work; everybody is themselves and does the things they would normally do.

At the end of the day, this is my favorite Halloween episode of any television show, and if you’ve never watched it, I advise you to give it a shot. Although knowing the rest of the story of the season enhances the episode’s impact, it’s not fully necessary. Plus, if you’ve read this, you know at least a little about the surrounding story so hopefully, that helps you out.

Boy Meets World has been a big part of my life, and this episode was fairly important to my developing love of horror back in my early days, especially when it came to slashers. So again, if you’ve never had the pleasure of watching this episode, please do. It’s streaming currently on Disney+ and is part of the fifth season of the show, my favorite season. I hope you all have a great Halloween and stay safe.

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Written by Bronson West

Bronson fell in love with horror (mainly slashers) at the age of 6 when he watched Halloween at his babysitter's. Fitting, right? He also thinks he's funny, but apparently that's up for debate.

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