Monday, January 4, 2016

Notes about Everwood Season 3, Part 6 ("Good To Go" & "Where The Heart Is")

#321-“Good to Go”

What do the “kids” say “these days”? “So many feels…!” This episode has “so many feels.” Julia Brown’s letter narration played over a montage at the end of the episode. Ephram left for an uncertain future abroad; Amy graduated in her living room, in front of her sickly mother, and the rest of her family. Julia’s letter touched on a common high school graduation theme: the uncertainty of the future. Her words mean something for all of Everwood’s prominent characters. Andy’s uncertain about performing the surgery for Rose. The Abbots feel uncertain the future. Rose is uncertain she’ll survive the surgery. Ephram’s uncertain about life. Jake’s uncertain Nina can run a restaurant, and Nina’s uncertain about her new life with Jake.

The episode accelerated Rose’s cancer. The end of “He Who Hesitates” jumped ahead three weeks. Her tumor’s nearly inoperable. Chemo may not work. The situation’s dire. The emotion works. Merrilyn Gann, Tom Amandes, Emily Vancamp, and Chris Pratt rock the episode. By the time Harold can’t keep up the positive façade in front of Amy, the audience, like Amy, is crumbling into tears. Season 3, however, seemed directionless—aside from the central Madison/Ephram pregnancy drama. Rose’s cancer storyline always struck me as a desperate move to give Everwood the urgent, emotional health crisis, and the season a significant end-point. It happened rapidly (though the writers snuck in the lingering illness in #318 and #19 for Rose). It’s wildly effective on the heart, but it’s a contrived plot device (that reveals itself as such in the finale). Andy’s scene with Rose in the hospital room is wonderful; Bright carrying his mom upstairs is sweet; everything with Harold break’s one’s heart.

Aside from the central Rose storyline, “Good To Go” is the best Brown family episode of the season. Ephram significantly softened towards his father. The letter and his learning of Rose’s cancer provided him an epiphany of sorts. Andy told him a story about a 38 year old patient, a mother of 3, who died on the table during Andy’s residency. Julia felt for the children who’d grow up without a mother. She bought Ephram and Delia various items through the years, wrapping the items, and attaching a note to it, in case she died. Andy told Ephram losing her was never part of his plan. Ephram sincerely thanked his father. Following the scene, on the day of his departure, Ephram asked Delia to look after their father, care for him, and be good for him. Delia, knowing something happened between them, asks, “Maybe I should hate him too?” Ephram told her no, that he means well, that she can’t hate him. When he comes back from Europe, he does not hate Andy, because he forgave him during those two scenes, and because of Rose and Amy. He’s not a shithead in “Good To Go” after acting so much the shithead since “Fate Accomplis” Julia’s letter to him concluded: “And if you should ever look up and find yourself lost, simply take a breath and start over. Retrace your steps and go back to the purest place in your heart. Where your hope lives, you'll find your way again.” He’s going to do that in the final season.

Last episode, we lost Brenda Baxworth. This week, Jake name-dropped her because he bought the space where Mama Joy’s used to be. Art sold it to live out his Las Vegas dream, leaving Nina without a job and destined for bankruptcy by the 4th of July. Jake asked Nina to run the place. Jake decided she couldn’t after they fought about tile. Brenda, entirely off-screen, set up interviewers with potential business owners. Thurmond and Mr. Jensen, another quality pair of ancillary characters in the show, pitched him something involving a strip club. I don’t remember. Nina won the job, though. Anyway, Brenda’s last appearance was “He Who Hesitates” and the writers took away goody Mama Joy’s the very next episode. That’s a more agonizing loss than The Red Wedding.

#322-“Where The Heart Is”

Greg Berlanti had one season of story for Everwood: season one, the story of the broken Browns becoming a family, and the story of the town that regained its heart only to lose it again. “Home” is a tremendous finale that concludes the story of Everwood. Network TV will renew anything with decent ratings. The show never regained the charm of season one. Season 2’s good. Season 3’s worse. Season 4 had a different vibe without abandoning the essence of the show.

I see the last three seasons of the show as an extended epilogue of the series: network TV’s own War & Peace epilogue. Vladimir Nabokov admired in Anton Chekhov’s works his inconclusive endings. Chekhov’s stories sometimes end at the beginning, or end prior to the resolution of the fates of characters. Network TV dramas (sitcoms, too, as well as streaming series, and cable series) not only conclusively conclude stories, but they extend the stories months and years. Nabokov liked imagining where Chekhov’s characters went and what happened to them. Nabokov’s forward his own novel The Gift invites the reader to imagine where his main characters travel after the book. If a TV drama concludes inconclusively, fans want to murder the show runner(s). TV fans want what they cannot attain in life: order and answers. They don’t need to imagine anything. The TV writer will do whatever they want. Fan service is a thing because it’s a thing. Give them what they want; however, it should be “give them what they don’t know they want.” Joss Whedon’s maxim is “Don’t give them what they want; give them what they need.”

“Where The Heart Is” definitely ranks as the worst finale in the series. The writers resolved Rose’s cancer surgery storyline in a scene in the first act. Of course, the cancer storyline has a ripple effect. Harold tore Andy’s character apart after Andy saved his wife’s life (because Harold thought Andy was too close to the patient for the surgery). Harold’s outburst, Ephram’s absence, and Nina’s new life with Jake motivated Andy to consider moving to Chicago for a surgical director job. Harold learned about Chicago, completely reversed his harsh teardown of Andy, and arranged an “Andy Brown celebration party.” Andy’s party featured returning guest stars—all the people he helped by being in Everwood. Andy thought he failed as a father, friend, and physician. He failed all the reasons he moved to Everwood. He accomplished everything in the magisterial first season, but the demands of TV means ripping apart what writers put together for drama and filler and whatever. Andy hated the party, but Rose ordere him to stay, so he stayed. And then he confessed his feelings to Nina in monologue form, kissed her, and left her in a quandary. Jake moved in, and he happened to turn heel during an unfortunate remote control experience (and that preceded Nina letting him know she knew about the Percocet, which he dismissed as nothing, but is anything but nothing and will lead to a drawn out drug addiction storyline in season 4). Season 3 ended as the new triangle came together on a lovely spring day.

Hannah and Bright became a couple. The subplot with Topher’s amusing. He did not know Hannah broken up with him when she broke up with him. Bright also confessed his feelings in monologue form.

Rose’s cancer lets the writers keep Amy in Everwood. She wanted to stay in Everwood with her family rather than living 2,000 miles away in Princeton, New Jersey. As for Rose, she’ll have the summer to recuperate and be on the rebound in season 3. It’s as if the writers had barely an iota of interest in telling the Rose’s cancer storyline. It’s rushed, contrived, and a hard part of beating cancer occurs off-screen. Of course, the show couldn’t repeat the beats of Colin Hart’s arc.

So, this marks the end of my notes to Everwood’s third season. The third season’s the worst of the four. Despite a few good episodes, the season didn’t come together. It’s scattered. The Anne Heche storyline was a disaster. None of the central characters had defined focus in the final six episodes, aside from Ephram being hellbent on destroying his life’s most important relationships. Will I watch the season again? I’d watch the entire series with a girlfriend who hadn’t seen it. I’d show my son or daughter the series in their teenage years if I ever have a child. On my own? No way. I’ll return to 2-3 episodes. I can’t watch the Amanda/Andy thing again. You know, I may lend the DVD to a lady friend instead of watching the season again.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.