Man I love the ‘80s, and I really love THE GOLDBERGS. In this season’s halloween episode, “Stefan King,” The Goldbergs does what The Goldbergs does best: give us heartfelt humor amidst absurd characters and classic ‘80s references. The show wasn’t quite a fright, but it was a treat to watch.
In the spirit of The Goldberg saga, this week’s episode has Adam dealing with his Smother, Beverly, and the thinly veiled “Momster” based on her in his first foray into writing. Meanwhile, Erica gets caught in a lie about having a date to the costume dance and has to convince Barry to go with her in disguise. Though the show has never been a laugh-out-loud riot, this episode has some great punches, particularly between Erica and Evy’s rivalry, the costumed humor and references to Little Shop of Horrors, and the amped-up parallels to actual Stephen King stories and tropes.
The real highlight of the episode, though, is the dynamic between Barry and Erica. The show dives into their sibling rivalry and hones in on the really forgiving aspects of Barry’s personality. Erica has hit a low point in her social life, and is afraid she’s becoming “a Barry,” which frankly, is not a very flattering thing to say when you’re also trying to convince THE Barry to help you. But help her he does, despite his better judgment to let Erica flounder in her own undoing. And even after things amplify to mortifying levels, Barry enlists Geoff’s help to cheer Erica up. It’s a great storyline for Barry, really bringing him into the spotlight as a superhero of a brother, if not a complete dope of one as well.
The episode opens with older Adam reflecting back on his love for Stephen King. He was so enthralled by King’s books that he was inspired to try writing his own. Young Adam tries to find inspiration to write a terrifying thriller. He looks for a good hook – a scary monster he can create and write about. One thought pops into his head: What’s the scariest thing in his life? His Smother.
Adam begins writing the first chapter of his book, “The Momster.” Meanwhile, Erica is dealing with a dilemma of her own. The costume dance is coming up, and she has no date. But Evy is going with Geoff as Seymour and Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, and jealousy and desperation provokes Erica into claiming that she has a date to the dance with Lainey’s hot cousin, Nate.
Beverly finds the first chapter of Adam’s “The Momster” and reads it. To his horror and subsequent relief, she loves it. So much so that she forces her book club to read it. But Beverly is so blinded by her love for Adam that she doesn’t realize that the momster is a poorly disguised literary characterization of her…until her book club points it out.
Meanwhile Erica is having problems of her own. Lainey’s not sure she can convince her cousin to go to the dance with Erica. There might be a way out of it, though – Evy’s grandmother has had a fall and is in a coma, and so Evy won’t be able to go to the dance after all. Erica offers to go with with Geoff in Evy’s place, just as friends. Geoff agrees, and Erica rents an Audrey II costume. But Evy is on to Erica, and decides to go to the dance after all, telling Geoff that her grandmother has recovered, even though she’s still in the hospital. So Erica is back to square one.
At the same time, Beverly forces Adam to stay in his room and rewrite The Momster so that the momster is not actually a terrible, horrific monster, but a wonderful mother. But it’s Halloween, and Adam really wants to go trick or treating. Lainey gets her cousin Nate to come over, but Erica is moping in her room and looks horrible, and the second he sees her he leaves. He’s not going to the dance with someone who looks like that.
Just in time, but also unfortunately for him, Barry happens to come into Erica’s room right at that moment. Lainey convinces Barry to help save Erica from embarrassment by getting into the Audrey II costume and pretending to be her date. They go to the dance, but Barry is a total ditz and can’t see a thing through the costume. He runs into the punch bowl table and falls. The top half of the costume comes off and everyone at the dance is able to see that Erica’s date is actually her brother. Mortified, Erica runs and hides in the music room. Feeling bad, Barry sends Geoff in to cheer her up and it works.
Back at The Goldberg’s home, after a failed attempt at escaping to go trick or treating, Adam finishes a new draft of his story just as Beverly wished. But when she gives it to her book club to read, it’s not nearly as good as the first draft. Pops has a heart-to-heart with Beverly, convincing her to make peace with the momster, and let Adam write whatever he is inspired to write. So Beverly finds Stephen King’s home address and sends him a copy of The Momster on Adam’s behalf.
Season 4, Episode 5 (S04E05)
The Goldbergs airs Wednesdays at 8PM on ABC
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
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Tasha Cerny | Contributor