"Life Before Death"

A review by Jenni:

What I love about this episode:

First off, I'm half Irish.  (As far as ancestry.  Really I'm American.)  And, if you want to get technical, that half is compromised by a half Protestant-Irish parent and a half Catholic-Irish one.  So this episode is pretty special to me.  It also aired not long after I did a presentation on the Troubles for my religion class.  I thought it was pretty awesome when I heard TBAA was doing this.  I actually really miss these destination types of episodes.  None of the shows I currently watch do them.  Anyhow...

All that being said, this episode makes me feel blessed.  Or lucky.  Maybe both.  Because while the generation before mine had some angst concerning Protestants marrying Catholics, it was more of a case of religious nuttiness with one or two individuals.  Certainly no one ever considered turning to violence.  The wider social group could have cared less.  The government certainly didn't.  And in my own generation, my cousins marry within the two groups freely and no one bats an eye lash.  And the Protestant family members sometimes do Catholic things and the Catholics sometimes share beliefs more with the Protestants than with the Pope.  It's just really a non-issue.  And I realize I take that for granted a lot.  Which, in a way, is a good thing because it means the tolerance and love is so ingrained.  But sometimes it's good to step back and realize that others don't get to live so free of such worries.  So that's what I did watching this.

I liked that both religious leaders were depicted as on board with this Project Children idea.  I know that both sides have/had their militant pastors but I liked to think that those who have chosen a vocation would be for peace, by and large.

Some of the writing was very emotionally effective.  When Maggie talked about throwing the stone at the little boy and how her mother was proud of her... it's just chilling and sad.

I love the accents!  And am so jealous!  I have a boring voice...  Although I must admit that I had some difficulty understanding them at points.

That car backfiring scene is still so sad.  Especially because I read that it was based off an experience Ms. Downey had.  How awful to be that shell-shocked. 

Beyond being touching, the writing also reflects what I imagine is how Irish speaking actually sounds.  Maybe that was improv on the part of the actors but by using phrases like "splashing out" and "row" (for a fight), the dialogue matched up well with what I've heard in Irish-produced films.

I thought it was cool that Tommy refused to skip the meal blessing and that Rose backed him up on it.  And I think "Thank You for the food" is a great prayer!

Yay tea!  I've been craving it more often lately and this is the second TBAA episode in a row to espouse the wonders of tea.  Last week on "Buy Me a Rose," it was comforting.  Here it's a means for which a Protestant girl and a Catholic boy to bond.  Aww.

"Gangs are stupid."  Good line, nameless American teen!  Seriously, did we get to hear that kid's name once?  I liked him.  I think he's maybe Dion cause there is a Dion listed on the touched.com guide and I don't recall hearing any of the Irish kids call for a Dion.  Plus, it's not really an Irish sounding name.  Really I just liked the parallel it created between the situation in Ireland and our situation with gangs.  Cause this episode was in danger of glamorizing America as a place where all groups get along.  Sadly, not the case.

This is a nice quote from Monica:  "To every generation the truth is born anew and with it comes the promise of peace.  This is your time.  This is your chance."  I can feel my idealism coming back a bit...

This is semi-good anti-shipper talk, again from Monica: "Angels are not created from human love but from a simple whisper of the Father."  So Monica and Andrew can't have little angel babies.  Although the shippers would probly just argue that they're created from "angel love" and so the quote doesn't apply.  Blech. 

I love Tommy's reference to "the God of love."  It's a beautiful way of thinking of God.

At the end, the shot of the dove in front of the barbed wire was really powerful.

What I didn't love about this episode:
Monica assumes Tess has never been to Ireland.  Why?  In all of Tess' years, Monica honestly thinks not once would she have ended up in Ireland? 

Tommy's eulogy made me sad.  I mean, duh.  But beyond the obvious.  When he was talking about how in America people of all beliefs were neighbors... I just don't feel that.  Sometimes, yes.  But I feel like the bickering and hate speech has increased, I'm afraid.  It's just gotten more intelligent sounding (though by no means actually intelligent) but really it's just mean.

Lingering questions:
I'm always thrown about what I hear as the missing "the."  Like here, the pastor says Rose should have "gone to university."  Here we would say "gone to the university."  Same with hospital.  When I watch Irish or English stuff they "go to hospital."  Last weekend I went to *the* hospital.  How do you suppose that change happened?  I mean since Ireland and England are older than the U.S., I would assume our "the" was a later addition.  So why?  And what's the situation in Canada?

Why does Tess welcome Monica home when she returns to the U.S.?  It would have made more sense to me if she'd said "Welcome back!" and not "Welcome home!"  Cause that's not Monica's home.  Unless it's more of a "home is where people you love are" thing.  That I can get.

Why didn't the Catholic kids cross themselves before the blessing and only after it?  Is that a real deal?  Here we do it before and after the prayer but maybe that's just a U.S. Catholic thing?  Or the camera just wasn't on them at the time?

What's that T word they keep calling the Catholic kids?  You'd think I'd know but no clue.  The only derogatory name I know for Catholics is "papists."  We don't care for that one!

Let's try to figure this out: Monica says she lived in eternity with the Father *then* she was placed in Ireland.  While there she experienced both "ancient cliffs" and the "first mists of creation still lingered."  So... does that mean Ireland was ancient or new when Monica was placed on its soil?  I'm gonna guess the former because "first mists" sounds poetic and not exactly literal.  "Ancient" is just a plain adjective and so likely the real truth.  So it's possible Monica was created well post-Earth.  Which still doesn't tell us anything definitively because everyone has their own idea on how old the Earth is.  Oh well.  And we still wouldn't be able to grasp her pre-Ireland eternity.

So she goes onto to say she took her first steps there.  Really?  So during that eternity with the Father... how was she getting around Heaven?  If she was floating, I sure hope it looked less creepy than when Andrew did it in "Have You Seen Me?" and "Into the Light."  Or did she just mean her first steps on Earth?

Parts that made me feel swoony:
Poor love.  He doesn't get much to do in this one.  And he seldom looks happy.  Does he smile at all in this?  Aww.  Hugs to Andrew if he were real!

He did look plenty adorable in his beige turtleneck.  Just too bad he was talking about a tragic death while wearing it so I couldn't rightly feel giddy.

Meanwhile... Andrew started doing Irish step dancing in my head.  With a bunch of kids.  And me.  While wearing flannel.  And smiling a lot.  And then he nearly stumbled over Lulu, laughed, scooped her up, and twirled her around as he continued to dance.  Yep... this is what happens when the TBAA writers don't give me enough to swoon over.  Also, he just did a Flatley impersonation.  Ha.  Well, he is the son of the actual Lord of the Dance...

Anyhow, so based on what I related above about Monica's origins, I thought some about Andrew's.  And I still say he has to be older than Monica.  If she's older than I have no choice but to think she's a lot stupid.  So I'm going with he's older.  But I still have no clue how old.  Personally, I like to think he witnessed creation and given that I believe the earth is millions of years old, I end up believing Andrew is at least that.  But now, with Monica's revelation, I discover that even if I somehow knew, say, that Andrew was created during Pangea's second break... I'd still have no clue for how long he was actually active.  Cause not only does he seem older than Monica but also more experienced.  That much is obvious.  Huh.  Anyhow, none of it's answerable!  I do wonder, though, where was Andrew first placed on Earth?  France maybe?  That might explain his wanting to go to Paris. 

Random thoughts:

Music:  There's an Irish reel in the pub when Tommy and his brother speak.  They all dance to the Irish jig in the house.  Too bad Andrew didn't...  Tess begins "Let There Be Peace on Earth" at the funeral and everyone joins in.

Okay... for future reference if I write a story in which Tess is acting as the head of a household, these are her ground rules as announced in this episode!  No smoking, no
drinking, no bad language, no bad attitude, and no shenanigans.  I think the Dyelanders and angels can abide by the first three.  The last two... a lil iffy.  Especially the last one.  :-)  I just finished a shenanigans-packed story.  Yay!

Aww.  This episode makes me nostalgic for the overalls fashion phase.  They were comfy...

Scenes Hallmark cut:
-Well, right off the bat I knew THC cut Liam Neeson's introduction.  They usually do cut those.  It's a shame cause I always thought it was pretty amazing who all TBAA got to do those (Richard Gere, Gen. Colin Powell, Mary Tyler Moore, etc.)  Basically, Mr. Neeson talked about the Good Friday Agreement and said how there would be no real change without a change of heart.  He then dedicated the episode to the children of Northern Ireland, saying that the key to lasting peace lay in their hearts.

-Right before the tea scene, Tommy has a nightmare of a riot (possibly when his father died, I think I saw a man fall to the ground but it was really blurry and all blue-toned so hard to see).  Rose has a nightmare of standing near a window and her parents calling for her to move right before the window shatters.

-After Rose and Tommy fight, we see that Tess and Monica have been listening.  Monica laments that she needed leaders, not lovers.  Tess comforts her by saying that the best leaders in the world can't make peace work without love.  She tells Monica that she knows she had a plan to stop hate but that God's plan is to begin love.  Monica begins to cry, saying the situation breaks her heart and that she wants to do everything she can.  Tess tells her she can't do everything just one thing: trust in God.  She assures that God knows how important Ireland is to Monica.  They hug as Monica cries.

-After Monica's post-fight discussion with Rose, you hear the door bell ring and then Monica excuses herself to get it.  You hear her say hello.  Clearly it's the Irish band.  Not terribly vital.  But it leads directly into...

-Tommy and his friend are working and the friend ponders where Andrew's gone.  Apparently, Andrew had said he was going away on business so the friend ponders what business Andrew is in when he's not with them.  It's actually a bit chilling how lightly this conversation happens when now I know where Andrew was.  Then Angus bursts in which THC kept.

Further on down the road...
Rare occasion.  I'm watching this one from my bed.  I try to keep electronics out of my bedroom but this week calls for some exceptions, I think.

I was going to watch Schindler's List but decided to watch this instead.  I totally forgot Liam Neeson introduced this.  Guess I was meant to see him today in some form or another.

"Miracles happen every day!  All you have to do is say yes!"  I can't believe I skipped over that lovely Tess quote before.

4:47 for Andrew's first appearance.  I'm zonked and feel like I'll still be zonked when I cap this episode.  So I definitely wanna keep track of Andrew's scenes so as not to spend time searching.  There he is again at 12:00.  Sigh...  This woulda been a good week for a really Andrew-filled episode.  Oh well.  Been writing so getting my Andrew fix that way.  There he is again at 15:20.  Actually, Andrew's in this more than I remembered.  Yay.  20:15 briefly. 33:33 looking gorgeous in that sweater.  Finally, he's in the final scene.

I still have no idea what that derogatory name for Catholics is nor what its origins are.  I guess that's a good thing.

Watching that part where they all react to the car backfiring...  I can't help but think of the people in Boston and the surrounding neighborhoods and wonder how many of them will experience those sorts of panics for a while now.

Is shenanigans an Irish word?  It sounds like it.  m-w.com says origins unknown.  Will look further into it sometime.

Maybe I can blame my Irish heritage for my growing tea addiction...  Maybe also for my love of potatoes. 

As much as I'm not crazy about Romeo and Juliet, the new film version does look pretty good and watching this makes me want to see it.  Dumb kids .  But it is a pretty play...

I'm confused about where exactly the Center is in relation to the house they're fixing.  Rose and Tommy appear to meet at the house at night.  Yet they travel by bus when the group goes.  So did they take long walks to reach the house?  Or was the bus for some other excursion we didn't see?

Gee, Monica.  So sorry a couple kids' tough first love spoiled your plans.  Sorry but she totally rubs me the wrong way in that scene.  Rose and Tommy are struggling about personal trauma they're directly related to and can't escape but it's all about Monica's plans.

The whole planned explosion v. gas main issue paranoia is a lil too familiar.  I started watching that part thinking "How terrible to live assuming an accident is a terrorist act..."  Then I realized that's basically life here now. 

As the product of a Catholic/Protestant union (actually two generations of that), it is startling and kind of humbling to realize that what I take for granted as entirely normal would be a huge issue in other times and places.

With Easter having just passed, I've been thinking about various Jesus movies.  Watching this now, Monica's revelation specifically, it makes me think of the 99/00 version starring Jeremy Sisto.  One of the reasons that's my preferred version is because it's the only one I know about in which Jesus is shown as being unhappy about people killing in his name.  I hope that in reality Jesus didn't have to deal with that during His earthly life.  But I'm quite confident He's not happy about it now.  I really wish He'd had a better showing in the finale...  Issues with the actor aside, Zack's scene with Monica at the end was just so... chilly and blah IMO.

I'm almost positive "Let There Be Peace on Earth" is in my church's hymnal so I'm kinda surprised Tommy didn't know it.  But I guess I'm American Catholic... not Irish Catholic and it is an American song apparently.

Back to the Episode Guide

(The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)