25 December 2014


Early Edition: Bomb Scare

What the cat said!

If you had started wondering a couple of months ago where the Early Edition episode guides/reviews were, well, now you know why I waited so long to publish this one. The timing had to be right, you see. =)

And happily, the writers do more than just deck the halls of this episode with Christmas stuff. The holiday setting is tied up nicely with the two mysteries of the story: the mystery with the serial bomber and the mystery with the changing headlines.

Now there's some nice news!

For yes, the newspaper is a riddle, wrapped up in a mystery, inside an enigma . . . but we're not totally in the dark about it. In the Pilot, for instance, we learned that the newspaper is more a reflection of the present than of the future, which is how the headlines are able to change with our minds. A little later, in Episode 3, we got our first sense of The Paper as a character in its own right (deserving of a capitalised proper name)--for it seems to like teasing Gary's friend Chuck. This "teasing" is seen as something more akin to temptation in Episode 9, when The Paper reveals to Chuck and to Gary's on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again girlfriend Meredith exactly what their fatal flaws are and nearly wafts one of them all the way to death. But there's none of that darkness in the present episode, when The Paper gets to show its sweet side again by offering Gary a well-earned holiday . . . which Gary doesn't take. =P

Surely you also noticed that it isn't until after our hero says that he can't use Chuck's gift of an all-day ski pass because The Paper might need him to do something, that The Paper does need him to do something!

Be careful what you wish for!

Indeed, if you analyse the plot carefully, you'll see that if Gary had gone skiing, he wouldn't have been able to cause an event that sets off a chain which ends in the headline. Not that the moral of this episode is "No good deed goes unpunished": if Gary had gone skiing, there might not have been any bomb scares that day . . . but an even greater good would also not have happened.

And if Chuck had gone skiing . . . we wouldn't have that execrable subplot with him and one of the worst Santas I've ever seen, which reminded me of this great talk about Hollywood featuring the Catholic writers William Biersach and Charles Coulombe:

If you're one of the TL;DR people, which means that you're also a TL;DL person, here's my point . . . Biersach and Coulombe have a great analysis of Hollywood's so-called Golden Age : they show that while its "secular" movies (Musicals, Westerns, Screwball Comedies, etc.) were steeped in some incredibly high ideals and therefore very good . . . its religious movies were pretty lies and therefore pretty bad. (You'd be hard-pressed, however, to find a Catholic bishop of the time condemning them. If anything, the clergy were enthusiastic in promoting them!) And this is relevant now because this episode's Santa is also a lie--and not even a pretty one.

Now, I've long been a supporter of Santa Claus as a cultural play, which I think Catholic communities should be more active participants in. But I must admit that the further we get from both St. Nicholas of Bari and from our ability, as a community, to perform these plays properly, the more the essential meaning of Santa Claus--the very point of doing it--is obscured. As it is in this episode, through a Santa who bears absolutely no resemblance to the original alter Christus Who inspired him and yet says things about himself that only one who is the Christ could properly say. Like, "If I am who I say I am . . ."

As in the Golden Age of Hollywood, it is the "secular" side of Early Edition that gets things right. Its Santa may be a failure as an alter Christus, but its Gary Hobson is often a wonderful Jesus figure.

Merry Christmas, my friends! =)

Your Turn to Be the Hero: Who are your favourites among the people who must give up their Christmas Eves and Christmas Days for the sake of the rest of us?


Brandon said...

I think you're quite right. The plot and the subplot have a number of parallels, and on each one the 'secular' plot does better than the 'religious' plot. Probably the most obvious example is the value-of-belief theme -- which shows up far more effectively in the actions of Detective Crumb trusting Gary despite his misgivings than we ever get in Chuck, despite the fact that they played up the importance of the theme to his subplot right at the beginning. Which ironically also means that Gary was a better Santa Claus than the Santa Claus. I usually don't like value-of-belief stories because they botch the entire nature of belief -- but the Gary + Crumb plot worked reasonably well. And I think you're right that in great measure it was more honest, not straining after slogans and cliches in a way that shows it doesn't understand them.

Enbrethiliel said...


"Gary was a better Santa Claus than the Santa Claus": oh, exactly! What a great way to put it!

I think that the last time a value-of-belief story worked was when we learned about the nature of faeries in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.

Sheila said...

My aunt is a nurse who always has to give up her Christmas to deliver babies -- is that the sort of thing you mean? Though when I first read your question, I thought of Little Women and how they gave up their Christmas breakfast for the poor.

I rather think that giving up one's Christmas is the only way to enjoy it. Every time I've tried to "enjoy Christmas," it always ends up somehow hollow or disappointing. I guess our expectations are too high, whereas if you think you are "giving it up", you expect nothing, but it often ends up being surprisingly fun anyway.

Enbrethiliel said...


Yes, your aunt is a great example of who I mean! A doctor friend of mine has told me that she has just celebrated her first proper Christmas with her husband. For the past few years, she had had to take her vacation after the official Christmas break, and while it was nice to have some time to decompress with loved ones, not having it be the actual time was a little deflating.

But you're probably right about giving up our ideas of an ideal Christmas. (Does anyone ever have one of those? Well, I think that I did . . . back in 1987 . . . and then never again. =P)