"Amazing Grace Part I"

A review by Jenni:

Okay, so Season 5 is officially on Hallmark's schedule now.  And I only have this weekend and two more to get through the remaining six pre-S5 episodes.  I'm hurrying!

What I love about this episode:
The opening of this episode is difficult to watch.  There's something Abraham and Isaac like about it.  And that's not a particularly cuddly story.  So I gotta give TBAA credit for doing something decidedly not easy in taking 16 year old Josh away from his mother without even a good bye.  Tough stuff and yet God does sometimes ask things of us that are very, very difficult to do.  So I have respect for the scene even though I don't particularly like it. 

I definitely have my issues with Monica but gotta hand it to her here.  She's very peaceful and not at all "woe is me" about her blindness.  And she's very sweet with Chanice.  People touching my hair is a pet peeve of mine and while I wouldn't have shooed Chanice away by any stretch of the imagination, Monica being so gentle and comfortable about it impressed me.

I love the Keb' Mo' music in this.  You can hear him singing "Perpetual Blues Machine" in one of the scenes set in Mary's sandwich shop.  But he gets another showcase, too!  The choir sings "Hand It Over" during the church service.  I really like Keb' Mo's version a lot but it is pretty awesome as a choral number, too.

I think one of my favorite aspects of this episode is how it depicts racism and prejudice.  Those problems would be much simpler to solve if all people who bear racism in their hearts really were the ignorant, loud mouthed, wife beating monsters making and acting on violent threats as sometimes depicted.  But the truth is scarier.  So I applaud TBAA for showing that a nice person can still harbor prejudices.  Mary's a wonderful woman.  Josh is a great kid.  Those are just two examples.  Yet, it's Mary who first latches onto "the Korean" as being the gun owner.  And Josh just really wants to get away from the place and sees color before much else.  Neither are bad people.  They're good people with bad reasoning and assumptions on points. 

Further, I like that the show didn't just go the "here are white people harboring ill will towards black people" route.  Racism isn't just about whites discriminating against blacks.  Here the Korean couple are also victims of prejudice.  Michael, too, faces assumptions being made about him before anyone even knows him personally.  Nearly all the human characters at some point act based on prejudice.

I also really loved the idea of music bringing us together.  It's explored more in the second part, maybe.  I don't remember.  But Anderson and Michael playing together was pretty cool to watch.

Thus, it seems fitting that the episode ends with a haunting vocalization that's beyond characterization based on style or origin.  The final scenes seem epic in a tragic way.  That music, the slow motion, the angel of death surveying the scene.  The DVD box describes it as "chilling" and I agree.

What I didn't love about this episode:
While I like the opening scene, I think Tess' explanation to Russell could have been stronger.  She says that Josh needs to go with her to see pain, fear, and find his true self.  At the point this episode aired, Promised Land had been going for over half a season and I definitely think Josh had seen plenty of fear and pain.  In a later scene, Monica seems to stress that the point was to get Josh to relate to what it feels like to be a minority.  That made a lot more sense and seemed less redundant to me than what Tess says.  Plus, I guess going off Tess' words I couldn't help but think "Ha!  You think he needs a road trip with you to find fear and pain?  Believe me, it'll come knocking no matter where he is."  Because it will. 

This is nitpicky but... there's a point shortly after Tess picks up Josh wherein she looks away from the road for way too long as she's talking to him.  Maybe it was just the way the scene was cut but it made me nervous!

Lingering questions:
How does one play their own self in chess?  Wouldn't you know all the moves and, thus, it would be pointless?  But then I don't play chess so maybe not.

Was anyone else not really taken aback by the idea of a church in a mini-mall?  I can think of at least three churches here that are based out of spaces originally meant as places of business.

Does anyone use the phrase "the bomb" any more?  Calvin using it totally took me back to the old days.

Parts that made me feel swoony:
Andrew's barely in this and I wouldn't say his first scene makes me swoony.  But I do feel a bit of awe when ya just see him standing by the abandoned caddy in the night and there's that haunting sound effect they sometimes use for him.

We finally see Andrew once more as he drives into the parking lot and the shooting begins.  There's not time to be swoony.  But I can't help but feel a bit chilled by the pained look on his face as he looks around and sees what's happening.  The impression I'm left with is that it's hardly the first time Andrew's witnessed something like that but it still hurts him to see people suffer in such a senseless way.

Random thoughts:
For what it's worth (nothing), I've never understood girls taking forever in the bathroom, either.  And I am one, unlike Nathaniel.  I think advanced make-up must be a large portion of that time.  Dunno.  I'd prefer to spend that time in one of my other rooms.

So obviously it was bad for Josh to act surprised about Calvin having read Don Quixote.  But I couldn't help but think how many people (myself included) make references to Don Quixote yet haven't actually read it. 

This episode makes me a lil wistful.  The choir in the church kinda sounds like the choir at my most recent church.  Lotsa clapping and toe tapping there, too.  I miss it.

I also, apparently, miss New Age music.  I was really quite into that in the 90s.  Not making it.  Just listening.  I thought Michael's stuff was pretty.  But Anderson was right.  He had no business throwing the word "jazz" in there!  It wasn't New Age jazz.  It was just New Age.

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