Saturday, February 21, 2004

Joan of Arcadia - Night Without Stars 

Eh. I felt like this one was just dropped on us, as if the writers felt a need to go in some new directions, but lost the patience for story development that I've come to expect. It all made sense by the end, and the closing scene had me crying as usual, but I didn't have the satisfaction that comes from watching the story unfold, following it along, putting things together, and being drawn into the emotions and motivations of the characters.

They've been developing Will's post-traumatic stress disorder for a few episodes, but I didn't feel it was actually developed rather than inserted. There was no build up, no escalation, no sense that he sensed anything was wrong until the very end. It just seemed bizarre in a character that had been developed as being sort of a sensitive new age guy in tough guy's clothing. I can completely see his character getting to where he was in this episode, but it would have been helpful to have seen it rather than imagining having seen it.

That said, they won me right back over in the closing scene. How do they manage to find the perfect music with the perfect lyrics, and intertwine them so well with the dialogue and actions?

The Adam-Iris thing. I'm not liking Iris so much. I'm kind of with Grace - I don't want to break in another character. At least not this one. Again, her choices regarding working with kids from abusive homes and refusing to make a pinata made sense by the end, but I didn't feel any development along the way, or any resolution at the end. Joan realized that she was being blinded by her own emotions, but that was pretty much it. I saw no real understanding between the two, and no real benefit for Iris. I did love that Joan put Little Girl God in charge of the kids' group, and that Little Girl God then escorted Joan home. And Joan truly seemed comforted by it.

I really didn't buy Helen's in-class lashing-out-in-the-guise-of-teaching at Adam and Iris. That's the kind of behavior that her character up to that point seemed completely against, particular in an adult in a position of authority, and particularly when it comes to art and expression.

Kevin and Rebecca. I'm not feeling the love for or from them. It feels like a tertiary storyline that gets checked up in each episode, but without adding to the story. In her first couple of episodes we got a bit more insight into Rebecca's motivations, a hint about her background, a glimmer into her work and personal ethics. Now I'm starting to see her as simply a convenient foil for Kevin's character and whatever (apparently backward) development he's going through.

Luke. Again, I could see where his motivations came from, right from the first time they showed Kevin whacking him on the arm and ridiculing him. I've been there. But they never gave us a hint of this before. This was some deep-seated resentment here. I can believe that perhaps in the 18 months between the accident and the start of the show that Kevin and Luke's relationship had changed to one of more caring and respect, such as was shown in the episode where Kevin was lashing out by shoplifting and Luke defended and protected him. But then why did it suddenly snap back to the pre-accident mode? Maybe it had been gradually building up but I don't recall seeing it, at least not to the level that justified the breaking point we saw on this episode.

I know I rant about Tru Calling not trusting our ability to follow the nuances of a story, and praise Joan of Arcadia for trusting the audience to make the connections on our own. But in order to make a connection, they do at least need to show us a couple of points between which we can draw our own line.

But even with these questions, I still love this show and feel it is one of the best dramas on television. Certainly the other "teen" or "family" dramas can't hold a candle to it.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:14 AM