Joan of Arcadia (“No Bad Guy”)

Season 1, Episode 17
Date of airing: February 27, 2004 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 10.8 million viewers, 7.0/12 in Households, 2.4/8 with Adults 18-49

As always, I am asking myself if and how God’s tasks for Joan are supposed to have an affect on her and her surroundings. Most of the times it’s pretty obvious, and twice God even explained what was happening, or what was supposed to happen, if Joan would not have gotten involved in a particular situation or with a specific person. And in the previous episode we got a taste of not knowing what happened, even though it’s obvious that something positive happened. But this episode kind of takes the cake, because I have no idea what happened and what result came out of Joan getting involved with the school’s band, or why Angela’s online diary needed to be hacked into, just so her mother’s breast cancer is revealed to the school audience, let alone the fact that Iris was the one being the evil person who committed this crime out in the open for everyone to see (maybe Iris reading from Angela’s diary was supposed to happen with Joan’s involvement?). Joan in band practice was a minor story, and there to bring some humor into the show by depicting how Joan fails to do something. Now, it could be part of a bigger story, because the band practice mate Joan almost started a friendship with felt like she was supposed to be in more than just this one episode. But then there is the laundry thing Joan was tasked to do, and that one felt like it was written into the script because maybe Amber Tamblyn really had an accident during the shooting of this episode and needed to be in crutches for a week. Because tasking Joan to do the laundry, so she sprains her foot and is annoyed by all the hopping and slow-walking might be another added comedy element (this episode was kind of funnier than every previous hour of the show), but it didn’t have any purpose for the story itself. I have no idea if Tamblyn had foot problems during the production of this episode, but if she did, then I must say that the writers did a great job in accommodating the script and make the injury an issue for her character, even if it had no purpose for the character. And if that wasn’t the case, I still don’t know why God tasked Joan with doing laundry.

Joan just learned she can break drum sticks in half.

The episode was good enough. Joan is properly jealous of Iris now, and all the back story that has been delivered with Iris’s introductory episode are gone now – I really would have thought Iris and Joan will be best friends, due to the fact that Joan can test out her social working skills with a victim of parental abuse, but I guess Jan’s feelings for Adam are overclouding everything, so jealousy it is instead of being friends with the “competition.” Which is a shame, because the friends premise was the better one, and could have made for a great few episodes, or for however long it takes for Adam and Joan to get (back) together. Now it seems like Iris isn’t even an issue for the show and the main pairing in general, since Adam only needed to come to Joan’s house, tell her that he also not just likes her, gets back home, and leaves her behind with a tear and potential hope of a romance. So, what do we need Iris for now? Has she basically been written off the show now by being the evil diary presenter who has not managed to capture the imagination of her would-be boyfriend?

I was however impressed by the revenge story of the episode, despite the fact it was to be expected for something bad and worse to happen during it, which then mirrored Will’s story of trying to figure out whether or not the senior driver could be considered evil and murderous after killing six people. I have no idea if Angela becomes a more important character in the mix, now that her mother’s illness has been revealed, or if the whole story was just here to showcase that even Joan can be a “bad person” every once in a while (notice her silent laughter after Iris started reading the diary), since revenge is such an intriguing premise, and one that promises happiness, especially when you were dealt a horrific blow to your own happiness. One might wonder though why Angela was out to bully Joan like that, when she was also going through the illness of her mother at the same time — she turned into two people, basically, and I get the feeling that by itself was a premise the writers wanted to get into, but might not have had time to do so. Or did Angela learn of her mother’s illness between her sending the underwear picture through school and Friedman’s act of revenge? By the way, both things are a great way to show that you are an asshole.

Never has it been so hard to tell a man that he won’t go to prison.

Meanwhile, the writers obviously tried to connect Joan’s revenge arc with the accident Will was investigating, as well as trying to get his emotions in order. We never knew if Mr. Hansen was just a sick old man, accidentally having killed all these people (because maybe he had a heart attack or a stroke when he drove into the farmer’s market, which would have been an easy story to write), or if he was just a confused old man, not realizing he was killing all these people, while confusing the break with the gas pedal. I’m pretty sure the writers left the conclusion to that case open for reasons, and that Will’s thoughts of revenge (arresting the man, putting him in jail, relieving the victims’ families in the process) were more important, especially when Joan was going through something similar at school, but once more, the writers didn’t really take the time to fully get into it.

Now, if they would have decided to remove Helen’s story of getting bad reviews, then maybe there would have been time for Angela and Will to have bigger stories here, but I even believe Helen needed to go through this phase, if only to showcase that she likes to drink a lot of red wine when in panic mode. My paranoid TV-watching mind can already see an alcoholism storyline coming up, and I am not happy. But Mary Steenburgen is a good actor, so maybe it will be a good story if it ever comes up.

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