Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: October 12, 1994 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 12.9 million viewers, 9.4/14 in Households
This episode is something of a miracle. It is 1994, and a spiritual show about God, Christianity and spirituality that could have come out of Marianne Williamson’s book on love she decided to release while running for the Democratic nomination to be president, and the central back story deals with a woman who was a call girl and made money by having sex. An unmarried black young woman is the focal point of a story about prostitution in this television show from the mid 1990s. Okay, maybe I now know why African-American actors were used for this premise, but that would make TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL an unconsciously racist show and I haven’t watched that many episodes yet to know whether or not the writers decided to be spiritual in favor of being inclusive. It’s actually going to be an interesting thing to watch out for while I’m watching the show, because religious people tend to follow the tropes and cliches of their religion and like people that are not of their race a little less than themselves. Then again, I have no idea about religion and all I know about it is what I read on my Twitter timeline.
The episode was solid. While I liked that Monica is starting to learn something about herself while dealing with humanity for the first time through these cases (hasn’t she been dealing with humanity while working for Search & Rescue?), there was something odd about Angela being the only one dealing with her own problem and past, and how it quickly spiralled out to be a life-ending deal for her. It’s like Angela never figured out to tell Carter the truth about her past, and before her secret as a call girl is out and destroys Carter’s chances to become a United States Senator, she would rather kill herself and make life even more difficult for her husband. That makes Angela a tragic figure in Carter’s life, which makes this episode essentially about Carter and his run for office. Angela decided to keep quiet because of Carter and Angela decided to kill herself because she could not face Carter — it makes me wonder how this episode was written in the writers room and why no one realized that Angela was completely under the spell of two men that were far above her in importance and size, almost directing her life to the death. If Angela wasn’t ready to tell Carter the truth, then something else must have been wrong with their marriage, because otherwise this entire situation didn’t need Monica’s intervention. Yet the script did not think about depicting the troubled side of Angela and Carter’s marriage.
Besides that, who is such an idiot and blackmails Angela over her job as a call girl? Marshall must not have been the brightest of white men in this world, and it almost looks like Angela was his only call girl in his life as a pimp, making me wonder how Angela got into the business in the first place and whether she and Marshall sort of accidentally got into the call girl business after the first guys left the money on the nightstand. Besides the script not going into why Angela’s marriage to Carter was troubled for her to never have found the courage to talk to him, the script also decided to not go into Marshall’s motives of blackmailing Angela. Why did he need the money so much, and what was he spending it all, considering he seemed like a solid man to make something out of his life? Was he just a random white male villain too lazy to get a job and instead pressure a woman into giving him money, or else? I can only hope that TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL won’t portray villains like that for the entirety of its nine-year run, because at one point the portrayal of white male chauvinism and villainy is going to be ridiculous, especially when they further showcase that the women in this show don’t have any say in their lives, when they happened to be deeply involved in a man’s life.
I’m almost thankful that Angela was portrayed as a kindergarten teacher as well, because it she would not have, it would have meant she was only here to make the men either look good in front of the camera (like Carter), or rich (like Marshall), all while getting dropped in the pool of depression that leads straight into the open sea, where suicide is apparently the best and quickest option to come by. By the way, the premise of suicide has also not been handled quite well — for a show about spirituality, one might think that there would be more of an inspirational message for life and against self-inflicted death. In addition to that, I find it weird that Monica was allowed to intervene in this situation and give Angela visions of the near future, showing her how the world started to crumble after her death. Wasn’t Angela’s death “fated?” Why is the third episode of the show depicting for a second time Monica’s involvement in a person’s death? Is suicide handled a little differently than terminal illnesses, and therefore can be “cancelled” if the decision is made to do so? I think TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL has to establish a few spiritual rules before it continues on…