There are lots of reasons to watch a TV show. If you like to laugh without having to think (ever), you probably loved Friends, and now you’ve got How I Met Your Mother. If you like your entertainment to stretch your brain, you were probably really into X-Files, and you probably tune into Lost. Maybe you like to be inspired? You might have liked Touched by an Angel, except if you did, you were probably over the age of 40. Maybe now you like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. But after a while, the repetitive nature of EM:HE probably makes tuning each week redundant (or maybe blubbering like a little schoolgirl every week gets old ! ehem). And if you’re anything like me, many moons have passed since you’ve grown tired of the cockamamie second-rate drivel that often gets passed off as “Christian” entertainment.
But there’s never really been a show like Eli Stone.
Does it rely on wishy-washy religiosity for occasionally implausible plot points? Yes. Does it dabble intermittently in the silly? Sure. Is there a caricature or two that I could do without? No doubt (although we seem to be seeing less of them as the producers are figuring out which characters work where.) But along with all of that is an emotional realness that is rarely found in a freshman-year show, and makes me quickly forgive and forget. There’s also one of the most interesting performances in all of the current TV landscape by the perfectly-cast Jonny Lee Miller. There’s also an intelligently quick-witted, on-point humor that belies the seriousness of the show’s theme, which is the believing man’s internal conflict between faith and empirical skepticism.
If you’ve never believed in anything beyond yourself, this show is going to ring hollow. Its crowning moments are going to be lost on you, because it relies on an experience (if not a comfort) with the spiritual for its considerable poignancy. But if you have ever felt like God was talking to you, and you weren’t sure if it really was God, or just some natural phenomenon or random chemical brain process, you will probably quickly identify with the weekly dilemmas Mr. Stone finds himself in.
If that sounds like it might be your style, here’s all you need to know from this season to be ready for Thursday’s finale (warning: some spoilers):
- Eli Stone was a high-priced, low-morale corporate attorney with a penchant for winning (at all cost).
- One day he started seeing things. His acupuncturist/spiritual guru determined that the hallucinations were actually visions sent from God. His brother (a doctor, who clearly represents man’s practical side) believes they’re caused by the potentially fatal aneurysm that an MRI shows is too deep in Stone’s brain to safely remove.
- The visions seem to guide Stone to take certain cases, and often give him clues as to how to win them. The more of these underdog (often pro-bono) cases he takes, the more his co-workers think he might just be crazy.
- Stone finds out that his father, who he hated due to his torturous alcoholism, had the same visions (and the same aneurism), and used alcohol to drown them out rather than acting on them.
- Because he doesn’t want to torment his own family the way his father did, he leaves his fiancÉ (Natasha Henstridge), whose father is the managing partner at Stone’s firm. The fiancÉ, who is also a lawyer, joins the firm to be close to Stone, but seems to be developing interest in another co-worker.
- In the last episode, Stone represents a seemingly-crackpot scientist who is predicting a major earthquake. Stone also saw a vision of the same earthquake in a past episode and as it turns out, he saved thousands of residents of a neighborhood by having them all evicted, which is also a great example of how following the vision’s direction often seems to cause more damage than good. In the end, the earthquake did happen, which seemingly will give Stone some credibility.
Which brings us to the finale: A few weeks ago, Stone’s brother found a surgeon who was willing to operate to remove the aneurysm. He has decided to go ahead with the operation, even with the knowledge that the surgery could leave him a vegetable, or could possibly put a stop to the visions. Also in the penultimate episode, Stone had a living will made, which states his desire to not remain in a vegetative state (and potentially setting the stage for some difficult decisions in the finale). The preview of the season ender indicates that the surgery will have complications and that Stone will have “the ultimate vision,” during which we hear him say, “Are you God?”
Marc Acton is the editor of The Sub.Standard, a pop-culture news and commentary blog.
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