Season 1, Episode 12
Date of airing: January 9, 2004 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 12.1 million viewers, 7.9/13 in Households, 3.2/10 with Adults 18-49
I don’t think the show ever mentioned in which state Arcadia is set, but I do believe it’s the California West Coast (is there any other California coast?), simply because of the closing scene. A kiss under real snow is romantic as hell, but when you can’t have snow, then you figure out a cheap way around your inability to bring in snow (and I do believe coconut as snow is not good enough, even if shows were using it — especially ER). JOAN OF ARCADIA used feathers, and the writers waited half a season for Adam and Joan to finally kiss in the middle of a feather storm, because it’s romantic and stuff. So, Arcadia must be in California, or the writers would have found a way to write in snow for Joan and Adam to kiss in.
The episode was super solid. My tear ducts were starting to open up on a regular basis, because watching the characters mourn for Rocky, and then Helen reading the note from Adam’s mom were definitely minor tearjerkers, and it made me remember that I always wanted to get into TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, knowing that I cried a few times when watching that show, back when it aired on German television. And remembering that one show made me cry after a show I’m currently watching almost made me cry is always a good sign for both shows. Also, all this proves the strength of JOAN OF ARCADIA as a human television drama, when the stories manage to get me invested like this, especially after only twelve episodes. Even a decade and a half after the show’s initial premiere, it still manages to be excitingly real and down-to-earth and dramatic, just the way I like it. What a shame there currently isn’t such a show out there at the moment, although THIS IS US is kind of such a show, but one that’s missing the spirit of shows like TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, its time slot successor JOAN OF ARCADIA, and that show’s time slot successor GHOST WHISPERER (weird – CBS must have intuitively looked for shows with similar premises in the mystical genre to follow up on each other).
Anyway, I’m starting to really love the continuity of the show. As expected, Rocky’s death would be an issue sooner or later, and it became an issue here, and it became a great plot device to have Joan face good and bad ripples after death, and give her a chance to not really do anything God says she should do, but instead just deal with the emotional consequences of life (and death) for a change. It’s almost like God purposefully put Joan into these situations in this episode, just so she can experience the grief and hurt and pain of life, because for some reason she might have to use all the knowledge she acquired while doing the deeds God told her to do. Learning about good and bad ripples, dealing with suicide (although in the softest way possible, which might have been one of the good touches of JOAN OF ARCADIA, or it might have been because of the target audience of CBS, who may not have handled a direct approach to suicide storytelling that well), having to go through the phase of losing someone you loved, even just for a few days… It’s certainly a way for Joan to grow up quickly, and it must be a way for Joan to learn what life is all about, or otherwise Joan wouldn’t have been shown the big picture — which of course we only got a glimpse of sound of (so, it’s World War Three? Will it mean she becomes the person Jeanne d’Arc turned to, essentially repeating the story?), and which of course isn’t even closely mentioned for the rest of this episode. It begs the question why the writers even included the moment, or if Joan can even remember that the big picture had been given to her.
But, the show has proven it has continuity, so chances are the big picture will be mentioned again. After all, the Bear returned in this episode to be a guide in life for Kevin; the semi formal kiss is an issue for Luke and Grace, but not the way you think it would be (okay, it’s exactly the way you think it would be, because it’s Grace); Will blowing up all the corrupt government and law enforcement officials has a follow-up in this episode, shuffling around his character arc, as does the whole Kevin/Rebecca thing, even if those latter two stories were expectedly to be continued in this episode, because those seem to be major character arcs for both Will and Kevin. Now one can only hope that the writers will go back to Helen’s past of being an artist, as well as her back story of being a survivor of sexual assault. I think that’s too much of an emotional back story to have been part of the show only once, and forget it for the remainder of future history.
This episode felt like it would have been the finale of the show, if CBS had cancelled JOAN OF ARCADIA by not giving it a back-9 order. The final images were too happy end-ish to not use it as a finale of sorts, and the characters of the show were on their feet. Joan and Adam had their first kiss, Kevin and Grace shared a connection, Kevin is chasing his own life, Will gets a new job he will most likely love doing, and in a way Helen has passively directed all of this into existence. The Girardi family and their closest friends could not have been happier by the end of the episode, ergo it’s a good finale. But we’re only halfway through the season.