"Written in Dust"

A review by Jenni:

Without planning to, I realize that I watched "Elijah" and "Written in Dust" on Rosh Hashanah.  That seems appropriate.  I was really struck by parallels in the two episodes so on this and the "Elijah" page you'll see mentions of the other.

What I love about this episode:

The original reason I chose to watch this episode this evening was because I'd been thinking about dust and ashes earlier.  Yes, I know I'm weird.  I'll blame it on this being a vampire-friendly time of year and both dust and ashes figuring into that mythology.  A bit later in the day I was thinking about my Grandpa.  So despite intending to watch "Secret Service," I felt pulled to this.  It's got dust right in the title and it's about a man and his grandpa.  The only thing that woulda made it better were if it was about a woman and her grandpa but oh well.  Anyhow, I just love the generational struggles and triumphs as depicted here and in "Elijah."  They kinda seem like companion pieces.

One reason I like this episode is it gives me a lot to think about.  Like:
- How do I feel about differences of religion in marriage?
- What is the role of science in culture and religion?  Is it okay to disturb a grave so long as no one living cares? 
- How does one forgive family members for hurt they've caused? 

They're great questions, I think, and this episode raises them all.  It doesn't really answer any of them but like Monica says late in the episode, at least if you're speaking then it's a start.  So just to get conversation going about these topics is a good thing.

I really like Dillon's grandfather visiting him in his dreams.  Of course, I would have preferred it if, instead of Andrew describing him
as Dillon's memory, he would have been depicted as truly present.  In other words, I wish he'd been a spirit instead of a played back memory.  Nonetheless, I like the idea that our ancestors still play a role in our lives, however people choose to conceptualize that.

I have a lot of appreciation for Monica's lines to Henry about how something may be sacred to someone and not to someone else, with the idea being that he (and by extension us) should respect that.  I think the world would be a lot nicer place if everyone embraced that idea.  There are a lot of things about religions I don't believe or personally value, but I think we need to bring respect to them anyway because to others they could mean everything.

On a goofier note, I get a kick outta Monica giving Tess a hard time about not knowing the various functions of the buttons on the camera.

As "Elijah" did, this episode does an awesome job of showing parallels between two cultures.  Unfortunately, one of the biggest parallels in this case (as Edison points out) is a shared history of genocide.  But the writers do a good job of also drawing parallels in sayings, burial rites, concerns about the survival of the culture and religion of a people, and the hope of survival through children.  Both this and "Elijah" present culture "clashes" but as the episodes enfold we see less of clashing cultures and more of cultures that compliment each other and share common bonds.  It's really astounding when you think about it.  We all share so
much more than I think we realize!

 Tess brings this parallel between "Elijah" and "Written" full circle for me when she starts up with "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."  Both this song and "Go Down, Moses" are African American Spirituals with basis in the Hebrew Scriptures. 

The instrumental music in this episode seems so much more dramatic to me than in many other episodes.  I really like it.  It's very elegiac.

I really love how this episode ends with the three angels praying one after the other.  It's just... lovely.

What I didn't love about this episode:
Other than wishing that Dillon's grandfather had been explained differently and, of course, wishing Andrew was in this more I don't really have much.

I suppose I do think it would have been more balanced to bring up somewhere in the series that sometimes children have perfectly valid and even morally right reasons to leave behind their childhood religions.  I don't think that was at all the case with Henry but here and in "Elijah" we have characters that are made to regret that falling away.  But I do think we need to keep in mind that sometimes people do have perfectly good reasons for abandoning their original religion and even religion entirely.  It's sad but not altogether wrong.

Lingering questions:
Why could Dillon see Andrew?  I've always wondered what it is that determines who can see the angels and when.  Obviously Dillon needed to eventually hear from Andrew and his grandfather's memory but I don't entirely know why he kept seeing Andrew days before.  What was the purpose?  That being said, I'm glad Dillon could see him because then so could we!

Parts that made me feel swoony:
First, if I ever have a mirage in a desert like Dillon thinks he has, I hope it looks like Andrew!

So... any time Andrew's in a rather billowy, white shirt it's pretty much dangerous.  He looks wonderful! 

It makes me feel sorry for Andrew and his fellow AODs when Tess says "Angels of death have many jobs.  Sometimes to bring us good news, sometimes to bring us bad news."  I dunno.  I guess it just made me wonder if the regular angels give much thought to how the AODs feel about bringing bad news.  And so then I wanted to coddle and cuddle Andrew which is generally bad when I'm trying to seriously watch an episode.

I really love the shot of Andrew walking into the moonlight with Sam.  This episode has a sentimental pull for me because we used a handful of quotes from this episode when we made a scrapbook for my Grandpa.  He passed away 10 years ago and that scene of Andrew walking away with Henry's chuckling grandfather, assuring him that Heaven is beautiful is really comforting.  It's stuff like that which, I think, contributes to this teenage crush turning into something that's lasted over a decade.  It's hard to move on from someone who has inspired you at really difficult times.

Random thoughts:
The no touching outside of marriage rule that Sam brings up must have been really difficult.  Course, I'm such a wacko that my thought was "Aww... that must have been very hard for Andrew."  I guess cause earlier I'd mentioned on the JABB YG how much I think he thrives on hugs and pats on the shoulder. 

I think one reason I felt oddly pulled to this episode is because it reminds me of something that happened while I was in college.  I was assigned a book about a massacre in South America.  It was native people slaughtered by the government.  So a similar scenario to what happens here.  On the cover of the book was a Grim Reaper chasing down a family.  And seeing that, reading the horrific account... I guess I lost my belief in angels of death.  I went around covering up photos of Andrew cause they just made me so angry.  I felt like I'd been lied to.  How could anyone witness that and survive unless there was something cold and dead in their hearts?  I eventually got pulled outta that, thank God.  Watching this episode tonight I thought back on that.  Seeing Andrew's determined yet distraught face as Dillon's grandfather speaks about the massacre... I know that if angels of death exist (and I believe they do) they go about their jobs with great courage, maybe even self-abnegation and they definitely do not turn a cold, unfeeling eye on anyone.  And maybe their role is not only to comfort the dying but also to bear witness to the atrocities that occur so the victims don't have to.

Finally, I wish there was a Catholic version of Kaddish.  Maybe there is and it's just not widely taught.  Psalm 23 is nice, of course, and Catholics share in that with the other People of the Book.  Still, I'm surprised there's not something more specific to my religious group.

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