"Dear God"

A review by Jenni:

This incredibly powerful episode was also the first episode to list John Dye as a regular cast member.  So it's special to me for a couple reasons.

What I love about this episode:
Right off the bat I got a laugh out of Tess being horrified at the 32 cent postage rate... which has now shot up to 42 cents.  Some of this stuff really does date TBAA but it makes me laugh so I'm not complaining.

Tess sounds like me when she's griping about junk mail and how all it does is waste trees.  Amen!  Lately I've been trying to fight back at direct mail groups and if I didn't think I'd get sued I'd attach an audio file of Tess' junk mail comments to each C & D email I send those companies and organizations.

I've been really impressed by Elliot Gould's performance in this for a long time.  Prior to seeing this episode I only knew him as Ross and Monica's dad on "Friends."  He's sooo different as Max.  Amazing performance.

I wish TBAA had done more historically themed episodes.  I often found the ones that incorporated the past more moving than the ones set solely in the modern day.  This one is incredibly powerful and I still get chills thinking back on moments from "Beautiful Dreamer" and "The Compass." 

I love the interaction between the angels when they're debating opening God's mail.  Andrew and Monica are so conspiratorial.  And even Tess admits to being curious.  It's cute to see them all acting so playful and curious.

In one of the flashbacks you see Max's dad buttoning up the boy's shirt and rolling up his sleeves.  Then he smiles so bravely and lovingly at Max.  This moment makes me consider how many brave and selfless parents gave their everything to try to make the hell that was the death camps as livable as possible for their children.

The way similar visuals or sounds lead into the flashbacks is particularly powerful.  While no one ever brings up PTSD, I would guess Max has a form of it.  And sounds and sights that recall aspects of the trauma are often triggers for PTSD episodes and memories.  So that struck me as a very realistic transition into Max's memories.

The shot of grown Max laying under the cot in jail is heartbreaking.  I think that may have a little to do with PTSD also.  Regardless, it was a quick but powerful way of showing the pull that time in his life still has on Max.

I am so glad that Max  angrily asks Monica if his family members had a purpose.  Because before he said it, I thought it.  So I am very grateful that the TBAA writers didn't just let Monica's statement that Max has a purpose rest at that.  She assures Max that they did have a purpose but terrible free will intervened.  It's what makes the exchange work for me.  I also like that when Max asks where God was, Monica's answer is "weeping for His children."  Because there's no way TBAA was going to be able to explain the Holocaust.  No one can in a completely satisfactory way.  Genocide defies reason.  Instead they opted for showing that God was still bound to those people and that He felt sorrow.

 I've taken Andrew's direction to "Go back" to heart.  In the episode, Max finds his faith and his peace by going back to the last place he saw his father and felt God.  Since seeing this episode, I've often thought of Andrew's words and tried to go back to vital times in my life to find answers and encouragement as I go forward.  It's good advice, I think, and a beautifully done scene.

Max getting his shoes back was a perfect way to end this episode, in my opinion.  The look on his face and that stirring music... powerful.  I keep using that word but so much of this episode is exactly that.

What I didn't love about this episode:
I'm annoyed by Monica saying she wished she's been there during the Holocaust.  The line would have been more palatable to me if it had been longer.  Like "I know it must have been terribly difficult but I wish the Father has assigned me so I could have helped those brave people and reminded them of His love, even in the midst of such hate."  Simply saying she wishes she'd been there strikes me as flippant.  Not only that but as worked up as she gets just working with Max... could she have really handled that?

It bugs me that Monica gets that accusatory tone in her voice when she asks Andrew if he's there for Tanya.  Does she think Andrew loves the prospect of taking abused kids home?  The way Monica sounds you'd think she thinks Andrew's personally responsible for Tanya's plight.  Grr.

Really Monica just annoys me a lot in this episode.  I want to stomp my feet when she and Tess are discussing Max and Monica makes the "What heart?" comment.  I'm glad Tess scolds her.  She deserves it.  She has a horrible attitude.  And it's hypocritical.  She gets upset reading Tanya's letters and acts nasty to Andrew and Tess.  Max survives genocide and she can't understand how maybe that could make someone a little cold or fearful?  Shame on her.

An actual non-Monica gripe: Does anyone else find it a little weird that the police are investigating Tanya's disappearance and instead of keeping the apartment as a crime scene or at least impounding her furniture and belongings they just get trashed?  I would think they'd at least want to keep her desk and its contents for a while.  Unless the property owner trashed it without their permission, maybe?

Lingering questions:
What do you think was in the letter Andrew was carrying into the post office during his first scene? 

What exactly is a steamer?  Monica tries to order a "nonfat steamer with hazelnut."  Lattes, mochas, fraps, caps, espresso, etc. I know.  Never was clear on the steamer thing.

I wonder why Max could see Andrew?  Did Andrew expect him to or was he surprised to find a boy still there?  Maybe Andrew was sent simply to smile and bring a loving aura to Max after all the terror and hate he had witnessed that day.

Parts that made me feel swoony:
I know I've said this before but Andrew's really cute with kids.  He's adorable helping Tanya to mail her letter.

Even after Monica rails at Andrew about Tanya, he still sets his hand on her shoulder to comfort her.  Whatta guy.  Too bad Monica doesn't realize what a good friend she's got.  Stuff like this, though, makes me wonder what show the shippers were watching.  If this were a romantic relationship it would be a very uneven, borderline abusive one.

I get chills when Max shouts at Monica that she wasn't there in the death camps and an off screen Andrew says simply "I was."

Andrew looks good in a fedora.  But that entire scene is just sad.

Andrew utters a couple statements in the jail scene that, for me, express how and why I've come to believe in angels of death.  First, he says "I didn't bring it [death], I just helped them through it."  Then he adds "It was a privilege to witness such courage."  The former is important because I don't believe AODs in any way cause death.  Their first duty is to help people make the transition.  The second statement, and Andrew's recollection of Max's father's death, speak to what I see as their second duty: forming memories and bearing witness to those memories.  Without Andrew, Max would likely have never learned of his father's final moments and prayers.  In a way, as angel of death, Andrew serves as a bridge between the past and present.  He delivers the lessons of the past into the present.  And that's one reason why I love this character and hope there are real angels like him.

Random thoughts:
Tess knew Ben Franklin.  I'm just making sure to note all these lil bits of trivia since one never knows when it might prove useful with JABB.

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