Season 1, Episode 23
Date of airing: May 21, 2004 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 8.5 million viewers, 5.6/11 in Households, 2.2/9 with Adults 18-49
Whatever this episode tried to do, it was confusing the hell out of me. Of course, the notion that God was just a constant hallucination within Joan’s imagination was always a potential twist for the writers to come back to, especially when JOAN OF ARCADIA was about to be cancelled or closed for business after this episode, and of course, the notion that there must also be a devil here, when God really exists in this series universe, but throwing those two elements into the mix at the same time fried my brain a little bit. On the other hand, ending this season of television, which could have been the only season of JOAN OF ARCADIA, with Joan telling herself (and her parents) that God doesn’t exist is not only a nice way to have potentially ended the show just in case, but to also move ahead to the second season, as Joan and God will have a bit of a difficult relationship from now on. After the Lyme disease situation, Joan will think differently of God, and when you include evil yellow eyes that of Mr. Pryce in this episode, there is even the chance that God will ask Joan to act against the devil, potentially making this episode the beginning of God showing that there is evil in this world and that it will be her mission to stop it. Kind of like in TRU CALLING, when Eliza Dushku’s character was trying to act against someone who hoped to see the people die instead of saved by her (Jason Priestley’s character in the very shortened second season of that show). JOAN OF ARCADIA is still a family show though, so I can’t imagine it ever going so dark as TRU CALLING sometimes did. Except of course the second season of JOAN OF ARCADIA will deliver a Jason Priestley type actor to counter everything God asks of Joan.
It was a solid season finale, albeit less exciting than some of the executives might have wanted it to be. Joan and Adam aren’t at risk, even if Adam figured he shouldn’t be believing in Joan’s story of her interactions with God, making Joan think she is at risk of losing her boyfriend over that. Kevin didn’t have a story in this episode, so he goes into the next season with a fresh slate, maybe even as a reworked character. The only story that can be considered part of a finale was the thing between Luke and Grace – their relationship has begun, and this at the time the season has ended, which means the writers had all the opportunities in the world to let them have a summer fling, but be separated by the end of it, which means the writers could jump over the summer months and not do anything with that relationship they have just created. That reminds me of the season three finale of the Disney Channel show LIV AND MADDIE, which brought together Joey and Willow after three seasons of it being a running joke, but the fourth season premiere had them separated already. Television makes for terrible history and comparisons sometimes. But hey, since Grace will officially be a main character with the next season, maybe something will come out of that moment with Luke.
Anyway, there must be a reason for Joan to have gone through the Lyme disease spectacle. First of all, she obviously had the illness, and who knows, maybe God was saving her life with something they did or didn’t do (like forcing Joan to do the egg run, so she can quickly grow unconscious, for everyone to notice, which might not have been the case if she had been by herself later — exhaust yourself to save your life), but all in all, I still don’t get why God needed to be so cryptic and mysterious in this episode, all while Joan was unable to do anything. That scene in the hospital with some of the Gods that have appeared throughout the season may have been a interesting way to close the season with (by looking back at some of the actors who have portrayed God this season), but I really have no idea why God needed Joan to have a crisis of faith and why they had to be silent all the time Joan asked questions or grew annoyed. Was this all to let Joan walk back from God on her own terms, just for them to return in the second season and weird out Joan anew? Now, I can buy that God appeared in front of Karen and Will (I assume that Mrs. Washington was another version of God, leading Will to the right clues before another life gets destroyed), because otherwise only Joan’s current health status would have affected them both and I believe they needed a much weirder day for the sake of character development, let alone figure out something important in their lives — Will needed to find the scars and Helen needed to find out she believes in God. Although all of it does make me ask why God was so interested in taking action now, when situations like the hostage taking in the precinct shouldn’t even be in their peripheral vision. I mean, does God really care about a 5-minute hostage taker getting abused by his pregnant girlfriend? Does it really have a purpose in the greater picture of what’s going on in this world and in Joan’s life?
But yeah, the notion of Joan’s crisis of faith is great, especially since it’s gonna be the starting point for the season premiere, although it kind of looks like a repeat of how Joan reacted to God showing up in the series premiere. Then again, I have no idea if this can be considered a crisis of faith in the first place, since Joan isn’t much of a believer to begin with (she only started to talk about whether God exists or not, because God showed up for regular conversations), and because who would have a crisis of faith during a moment of illness? Lyme disease is kind of serious, and trying to put that in connection with God giving you the illness for whatever reason is pretty far-fetched, especially for a spiritual show like JOAN OF ARCADIA. So, maybe the writers overshot a little bit with this episode?