Written By: Shadowpaw
This episode marks the third time that angels have been a central part of an episode. Though unlike the much better "Malachi's Message I, II, III", this angel theme isn't all that straight-forward. In fact it's rather confusing. Despite young Bernard's insistence that Ezekiel is an angel, old Bernard doesn't acknowledge that fact and said Ezekiel was just making himself useful for God. It was a good lesson though: Bernard was helping Tamika realize she shouldn't wait around for angels to clean up her neighbor's yard. Though explain this to me: Tamika learned an angel protected a missionary, so she jumps to the conclusion that angels should cut her neighbors lawn? The two situations aren't similar in the least. My first thought was "Tamika, just get off your butt and do it yourself!". Maybe I just don't have the mind set of an eight year old, but it was obvious what Bernard's message was going to be. I tend to associate angels with miracles... special things that we humans just aren't capable of. When it comes to doing house chores, I don't immediately hope an angel will fly down and do them for me.
They also did a poor job of explaining who Ezekiel really was... they have him mysteriously vanish (rather anti-climactically I might add), just before getting the award and barely explain his past. He also heals a bird, which leads young Bernard to believe he is in fact an angel. Fine, but old Bernard insists he was just making himself useful for God. It's a conflicting message: He is an angel, and he isn't. At least "Malachi's Message I, II, & III" was perfectly clear on the matter and despite mysterious happenings, didn't leave the audience confused at the conclusion. Even in "Someone to Watch Over Me", where Nagle (rearranged to spell Angel), helps Jimmy... you know what he's supposed to be. It's not spelled out to the audience, but it's there. There's also "Timmy's Cabin", which contains a wink to the audience when it's implied that the John Chapman who saves Timmy's Cabin is really Johnny Appleseed. It's not dealing with angels, but it's a wonderful ending where you think "wow". No such thoughts here at the end... I was just left scratching my head trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to take away from the episode.
But the main thing I didn't like? Well, I'm a bit miffed how similar this episode is to one of my favorite books: "The Green Mile". For those who haven't seen the movie or read the book (and I imagine quite a few of you haven't), I'll quickly outline some of the elements that are shared by the movie and this episode. One of the main plots of "The Green Mile" is about a man named John Coffey who is falsely accused of killing two twin girls in a small farm town. The man is eight feet tall, black, incredibly strong, soft spoken and kind at heart. Now, if that's where the similarities ended I wouldn't be so concerned. However, there's more. The antagonist of the story is a fellow by the name of Percy, a prison guard whom you absolutely loath and who also happens to have no respect for anyone or anything. On day at the prison, another inmate's pet mouse is scurrying about the hallway. Being the malicious guy he is, Percy slams his foot down on the poor mouse and leaves it for dead. So what does John do? He takes the mouse into his hands and mysteriously heals the creature. The mouse scampers away and lives a very long life as a result. Percy is very angry by this and storms away. Similarly in "The Girl in the Sink", Ezekiel whispers a prayer into the ear of a dying bird who happens to have been shot by a character named Percy, and then releases him into the air. As a result, Percy storms away. I don't mind paying homage to another story, but the similarities seem more like a stroke of unoriginality than anything else. While listening to the episode I thought to myself "I've heard this before." And with each passing scene, it seemed to be a direct take off of things from "The Green Mile". There was even an angry mob made of the townspeople who go searching for the little girls' kidnapper. Are all of these things coincidences? Perhaps... but as John Avery Whittaker would tell you: there's no such thing as a coincidence.
And what's with Bernard? Did Maude file for divorce or something? Not only does he sound depressed for most of the episode, but he even snaps at Tamika for cutting him off. Sure Bernard would get a bit peeved when Artie or the Jacobs' girls would interrupt, but there was a slight laughter in his voice as he questioned what kids were learning these days. This time however, I would have been afraid to hear a story from a grumpy old janitor who angrily told me "I'm getting to it! Why do you kids need everything in 30 seconds!" Unfortunately, while some of the fingers could be pointed at the writers, I think the larger share of the blame has to go to Dave Madden. God bless his soul, but I think his age is finally catching up with him. There were many times throughout this episode (and it's happened several times in each of his last half a dozen shows or so), where he sounds irritated with everyone and everything. Bernard's character used to be the endearing old grump... unfortunately, it seems more and more like he's just an old grump. I still have fond memories of Bernard and don't want to see him off the show, but I surely hope his energy level rises in his next outing. Maybe somebody should take Bernard's advice... slap him! It may just wake him up a bit. :o)
So did I like anything about this episode? Yes, it wasn't the worst episode I've heard and it was still kinda fun to listen to despite it's short comings. I just happen to have a lot to say about the aspects I didn't like. The kid who played young Bernard was terrific. He reminded me a lot of Timmy Riley in "Greater Love", minus the accent, and has a great voice. To top things off, he's a believable character and a strong actor. I hope the team can incorporate him into future episodes as a new character. Percy was also good.
My final note isn't so much a comment, but a question. Is "Hildy" a codename for police dispatches? I only ask because Hildy was the name of the police dispatcher in this episode, and that's also the name of the police dispatcher in "Hold Up!". I thought maybe it's just a term they use for dispatch... though my research into the matter didn't show that was the case. Perhaps I just didn't look hard enough.
To summarize: The production was top notch, the acting was terrific for all the actors inside of Bernard's story, and it was a well flowing show. It just had some story elements I felt were unoriginal, and a rather confusing message about the angel (or lack of one) involved. Still not a terrible show, just one that didn't have everything going in it's favor.