"Deilver Us From Agnes"
Written By: Shadowpaw
Eleven years ago, in "Truth, Trivia & 'Trina", we were introduced to Katrina Shanks as a potential love interest for Eugene Meltsner. Their troubled romance was forever on the cusp of reaching a satisfying climax, but listeners were endlessly teased as our heroes met obstacle after obstacle that they needed to overcome. Ironically it wasn't until the couple faced their biggest hurdle, with both actors no longer working on the series, that the lovable characters finally tied the knot in a way that left many fans with a disappointing taste in their mouths. I was one of these fans and longed for the day in which my favorite couple could be given a proper wedding. Thankfully this episode was written to satisfy those discontent fans and provide a ceremony that could live up to eleven years of hype. The show was nice, but ultimately fell short of such lofty expectations.
However, considering how high those expectations were, perhaps it's not that big of a surprise. Growing up with Eugene and Katrina, I've always envisioned their wedding to be this spectacular, epic event to make up for the years of being led on by the writers. How many times did we feel they were close to being truly happy when a new wrinkle would rip the two apart? Perhaps it is only fitting that "For Better or For Worse" mirrors the same troubled path the two have been on since day one: a glimmer of hope that ultimately leads to disappointment. The first part of this two-parter reflected the former while the second part appeared as the latter. In the end, there was so much to like about these shows but also so much to hate.
Surprisingly, Audrey Wasilewski as Katrina was not one of the things I hated. The small sample we heard from her in "A Most Surprising Answer" made me long for Pamela Hayden's voice, but aside from making a mental note, I was never distracted by her presence in either of the two episodes that make up "For Better or For Worse I & II". She was kind, funny, slightly nerdy and had nice chemistry with Will Ryan. I may not like that it's a different actress but I do think I'm going to be able to accept her as an alternative. It's not like Katrina was switched in the middle of a season... she was switched years after we last heard from her. To go back to Pamela Hayden now, after Audrey has been involved with two of the biggest Katrina episodes, would make these episodes seem silly and awkward. In comparison to Whit, where it was clearly Hal Smith's performance that made him into a man we love so dearly, I feel it is the character not the actress who makes Katrina popular with fans. I think, given time, most fans will be able to suppress the distractions associated with it being a new actress and embrace the character again.
Besides, having Eugene around makes everything that much better! And he was great again in this show, which I imagine will be the norm in nearly every episode from this point forward. Though I did find it awkward in part one when he referred to Whit, Bernard, and Tom as exactly that: Whit, Bernard, and Tom. Since when was he on a first name basis with anyone in town? And why were Bernard and Tom so mean to him at the bachelor party? It certainly reminded me of the good old days when the two would gang up on him, but the difference was Whit was around to discourage it. Instead, Whit is making excuses for their comments on the basis that it's "custom". I did think the scene was quite humorous though and hearing the four together in the same room was a treat as usual. However, where were Jack and Jason? Both characters have played crucial roles in Eugene and Katrina's relationship and to have them missing seemed like a fairly major oversight. Would they not be in attendance at such a close friend's bachelor party? In their place, we get Millie Shanks and Agnes Riley: my primary reasons for disliking part-two and my overall disappointment of the two shows as a whole.
Their storyline made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and question why was it even necessary. The focus of the two episodes should have been on Eugene and Katrina, along with their wedding, not fifth string characters who have only a few episodes to their name. The bizarre plot of Agnes, who abruptly appears, goes missing, puts on Millie's gown, thinks Millie is her mother, and then gets married left me completely baffled. It was such a huge focus of the show and (at least for me) stole far too much of Eugene and Katrina's thunder. Looking at part one on it's own, there was so much potential for the strongest season finale in years. But the build-up to something great was ruined by this silly subplot as it distracted, befuddled, and ultimately annoyed fans who have been waiting a decade for this day. The idea that someone else gets married in Eugene and Katrina's place might sound funny on paper (well slightly), but considering Agnes' mental condition, the humor lost out to an awkward silence during her scenes.
It would have also been nice to hear Eugene's distress call over KYDS or get more information on the fire and how/why it started. Both scenes would have been interesting and memorable (Whit's astonisment that he hears morse code coming over the radio and Tom/Bernard frantically trying to put out a fire that they started) but these moments were likely sacrificed to squeeze in some of Agnes' airtime, which is incredibly unfortunate. I would continue my rant on how this random, pointless storyline ruined a wonderful opportunity for a remarkable episode but that won't change anything. I will say, however, that I'm hoping they lock Agnes up for good and never let her out to ruin an episode again!
Overall, this show didn't reach my expectations and suffered from a few glaring problems, but it still was a relatively strong episode to end an overall very strong season. There was also an interesting tidbit that I hope is explored in future shows: the travels that Eugene and Katrina went on. Considering how long they were gone and their apparent journeys across the globe, there must be a story to tell there. A flashback scene would be entertaining (and enlightening) and perhaps add some depth to their overall story arc. This is to say nothing of their potential to have children or deal with problems unique to new couples. There's a lot to be excited about in the seasons to come!