Mr. Turner was last seen in the 1997 Boy Meets World episode "Cult Fiction," in which he tried to talk Shawn out of joining a cult and then crashed his motorcycle. Aside from an offscreen mention here and there, the coolest English teacher this side of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society was never seen again. This has driven fans of Boy Meets World nuts for nearly two decades. How could Mr. Turner go from debating being Shawn's legal guardian to disappearing into thin air?
The real-life answer surely had something to do with contracts and story line issues, but it was the onscreen answer I was after, and in the Girl Meets World episode "Girl Meets the New Teacher," all my questions were answered in the best way possible. Dreamer Cory hired a young new English teacher, Harper Lee — who taught Frank Miller's The Dark Knight on her first day of class — because she reminded him of an English teacher he once had. Her unorthodox approach to teaching led to an abrupt firing by the principal and the superintendent was called in.
I think you already know who the superintendent was, but just in case you need clarification, it was the one and only Mr. Turner. After all these years, he's still cool, still totally crush-worthy and still fighting to reach the kids everyone else has written off as unreachable. After the motorcycle accident, he married his nurse (in case it happened again) and stayed close to Cory and Shawn, even if the viewers weren't privy to their continued relationship. Mr. Turner is so well known in the Matthews household that Riley calls him Uncle Jon.
Curiously, Cory didn't appear to have told Riley his history with Mr. Turner, but in an inspired and downright tearjerking moment, it was revealed that Mr. Turner was the one who took a chance on Cory and gave him his job as a history teacher. It was a definite "all I ever wanted" kind of moment and it provided even more proof that Girl Meets World can work on multiple levels. Riley and Maya have their very own special English teacher who will guide them through every corner of literature now, but they also got to meet a true legend.
Even better, the writers went ahead and tied in the Maya and Shawn connection for maximum emotional overload. Shawn himself was absent from this episode, but even without him there, Mr. Turner's conversation with Maya hit hard. Maya, who is still longing for Shawn to love her like a daughter, timidly asked Mr. Turner if it was possible for love to transcend biology. Mr. Turner responded, "I loved Shawn like a son. I still do."
Suddenly, Shawn's attachment to Maya gained another level of meaning. Once upon a time, an adult saw promise in Shawn when no one else did and he is paying that life-changing gesture forward with Maya. Just like Mr. Turner, he never asked for the responsibility of raising a teenager, but he chose it because he sees what a special, amazing young woman Maya is and everything she can one day become.
Mr. Turner believes teachers should see their students as more than just transient beings who will pass through a class. He knows from experience that each one of those students can grow up to be so much more. He sees it in Cory, in Harper Lee and in Maya, who admitted she could see herself maybe becoming a teacher one day. He saw it in Shawn and look how he turned out.
When Girl Meets World creates a bridge to the past, it enriches its own storytelling. Bringing Mr. Turner back sounded like the ultimate piece of fan service on paper, but it was executed flawlessly. The connections people make even at the earliest stages of their lives can last and pay off in beautiful and mysterious ways.
Mr. Turner is proof of that. The mystery of his life post-"Cult Fiction" has been revealed and it makes me incredibly happy to know he spent his life doing something extraordinary. He is the man behind the curtain in this story, the guiding hand who brought Cory to Riley's school and helped Shawn find a path. Even if every step of his journey wasn't shown onscreen, the weight of it is felt across the board. That is quite an achievement from a character who hasn't been seen since 1997. Old fan or new, you have to admit Girl Meets World outdid itself with the tale of Mr. Turner.
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