Road to Avonlea Review: Nothing Endures But Change

avonlea nothing endures but change

“Blair Stanley, like it or not, we’re bound together by those we love.”

Episode Summary: After finally being cleared of the embezzlement charges against him, Blair Stanley (Robert Collins) comes to Avonlea to pick Sara up so that they can be together in Montreal again. Blair has always had a fractured relationship with the King family, particularly with Hetty, who still blames Blair for her sister Ruth’s death. When Blair and Hetty refuse to make amends, Sara decides that she does not want to leave until the two can make up, fearing she may never be able to visit Avonlea again if they don’t. After hiding out a bit in the King farm barn, she accidentally falls through the door and gives herself a concussion. Realizing she could lose everyone she loves as a result of her stubbornness, she finally decides that she and Blair need to be civil towards each other since they are technically family. In turn, Blair decides that Sara can stay in Avonlea for a little while longer. The episode ends with a town skating party.

Directed by Stuart Gillard, Written by Heather Conkie, Music by John Welsman

avonlea sara and blair

My Grade: So, I’ve read a few places that Road to Avonlea was just supposed to be a one season miniseries, sort of like Anne of Green Gables, except obviously longer and more episodic. However, clearly, the popularity of the show, led to it being renewed for a second season. The biggest part of me is glad this show continued because the loose end that I needed to see tied up was that of Olivia and Jasper. Yes, they developed a solid friendship in the last episode…but I needed to see more…because something closer between the two is hinted in this episode. So…we needed a second season because of that; and also because this is such a great show. Why would anyone want it to end?

However, at the same time, if this show had only lasted one season, then this was a really great finale that does offer closure for some moments of tension from the season, including Blair’s acquittal, and Blair and Hetty’s reconciliation. While, in the very first episode, Felix and Felicity (and even Janet to an extent) show some major ambivalence toward Sara’s arrival, in this last episode, the entire King family rally behind Sara staying. There are some nice parallels between the first episode and this season finale (Hetty first seeing Sara through the window vs. Hetty seeing Blair through the window). This is a mostly satisfying conclusion…but considering we haven’t even gotten to some of the absolute best episodes of the series, I would not suggest anyone to stop here. (A)

avonlea hetty

Spotlight Performance/Favorite Scene: Let’s talk about Hetty for a moment. The main conflict in this episode is between Hetty and Blair. Hetty holds a pretty serious grudge against Blair for “taking Ruth away.” I’m not sure if this implies that Hetty’s simply angry at Blair for marrying Ruth and making her (god forbid) live with him in Montreal, or if Blair was a tyrant husband who never gave Ruth the opportunity to keep in touch with her family. Maybe it’s a mix of both. Throughout the episode, Sara’s of the opinion that both adults need to put aside their differences and get along. She places the blame on both her aunt and her father equally. Frankly, every time I watch this episode, I can’t help but feel that Hetty’s the more unreasonable one. Ever since Hetty forcefully separated Sara from Nanny Louisa, she hasn’t really handled this whole situation with too much grace. In this finale, I’m not sure why Hetty thought it would be a good idea to throw Blair out of her house instead of trying to level with him. Blair can be an impulsive blow hard himself…but I think his anger is a little more justified here. I mean, Sara is his daughter. He’s been through a lot. It’s not completely wrong that he wants his old life back, even if he should probably be more conscious of how Sara feels about this arrangement.

Hetty is someone who thrives on tradition and structure. She has never left Avonlea, or even the King farm, and, for the most part, she expects everyone in her life to do the same. Ruth leaving (and then dying shortly after) was certainly one of the worst periods in Hetty’s life. Now that Sara’s in her life, she doesn’t want to part with her as well. On top of that, Olivia is getting closer to Jasper, maybe in a similar way Ruth got closer to Blair. In short, Hetty’s afraid that her family and stable life is disintegrating before her eyes.

Jackie Burroughs does a wonderful job portraying Hetty’s fear throughout the episode. And, yes, even though I still find Hetty’s actions in the episode problematic, Burroughs still injects Hetty with enough humanity to allow the audience to not completely turn on her. My favorite scene in the episode is the one towards the end when Sara is at a critical point of her recovery and Hetty reaches her breaking point. Olivia tells Hetty that she doesn’t always have to be the “strong one.” And Hetty tearfully admits that she’s losing both Sara and her (Olivia). It’s a great tear jerker of a moment. I mentioned in an earlier review that Hetty’s best moments are the ones when she really humbles herself – this is probably among her most humbling. And the music in the scene by John Welsman (the same music we hear when Aunt Abigail breaks up with Malcolm in “Aunt Abigail’s Beau.”) always devastates me. It’s a perfect, poignant motif.

avonlea hetty blair

Final Thoughts: So, Robert Collins guest stars in this episode as Blair Stanley. Before Avonlea, he played Diana Barry’s father in Anne of Green Gables. He also appeared in the Kevin Sullivan television movie Promise the Moon. A recent picture of him was just posted on his IMDB page and…he…looks…old. Like, it’s not bad that he aged naturally but…it’s jarring. I’ve only seen him in the Avonlea programs so I was not prepared for that.

If this had really been the final episode, then what a nice note to end on. The ice skating party at the very end is so nice. And with the “King Family” score, it’s perfect. I haven’t mentioned this before…but I love the end credits for this show. I like them so much that I literally watch an episode until the very end. Sometimes the end credits are played over an exterior shot. Other times, the last scene is sort of continued through the credits. That’s what happened this episode, and I love it. It’s as if  the season isn’t ready to end just yet.

avonlea snow avonlea snow

Recycled Footage: I’m pretty sure the beginning shot is used again in the series. It’s definitely used for the Christmas reunion movie. There’s a shot towards the end of the episode when a sleigh is riding towards the ice skating party. I remember that shot being used again for Anne 4. Ya didn’t think I’d find out, Kevin Sullivan! But I did! HA!

Let’s Talk About Awards: I think (well, actually, I know because I’m my own person) for every season finale, I’m going to discuss the Emmy and Gemini nominations the show received for that season. The show was, overall, very well awarded. In terms of Emmys, it’s a little difficult to keep track of what season was represented for what year because, on the Disney Channel, the schedule for the show was, uh…it didn’t make much sense. Episodes were aired out of order, and there were long hiatuses between seasons. However, it’s clear that Colleen Dewhurst was nominated in 1990 and 1991 for her guest role as Marilla in “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s” and “The Materializing of Duncan McTavish” respectively. Colleen Dewhurst was certainly an Emmy favorite before and after those nominations. In 1989, she won two Emmys for her guest performance in Murphy Brown (as Murphy Brown’s mom) and her performance in the TV movie Those She Left Behind. The next year, she received Emmy nods for Avonlea and Sullivan’s Lantern Hill. The next year, she received two more nominations for Avonlea and Murphy Brown. Two days after she passed away, she receive one more Emmy for Murphy Brown.

sarah polley young

The Geminis were/are sort of the Canadian equivalent to the Emmy. Because Road to Avonlea was a hugely popular Canadian show, it did better picking up nominations here. It received eleven nominations, including for Best Drama Series. The show won four awards: Martha Mann for Costume Design, John Welsman for Music Score (beating fellow scorer Hagood Hardy, who won a few years earlier for Anne of Green Gables.), Stuart Gillard for Direction (most likely for “Conversions”), and Jackie Burroughs for Lead Actress (beating Sarah Polley…and two actresses from Degrassi High…go Degrassi!).

The show’s other nominations included: Best Guest Performance (Colleen Dewhurst), Best Supporting Actress (Lally Cadeau…most likely for “Aunt Abigail’s Beau”), and Best Photography (Manfred Guthe). I think the only inexplicable snub is for the show’s writing, but the Geminis will make up for that later.

I’ve had such a great time reliving this season. It’s been a joy. Thank you everyone for reading and subscribing and following along. I’m pretty much going to start on season 2 right away. See you then!

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