Road to Avonlea Review: Old Friends, Old Wounds

avonlea old friends old wounds

Episode Summary: When Marilla Cuthbert unexpectedly passes away, Rachel Lynde is at risk of not only losing Green Gables, but also custody of Davey and Dora. With the help of Gilbert Blythe (Jonathan Crombie) and the entire town of Avonlea, Rachel is able to continue caring for the twins in the house.

Directed by George Bloomfield, Written by Heather Conkie, Music by John Welsman

My Grade: So, if you’re familiar with the show The Sopranos, you probably know…where I’m going with this. When a major actress from season one and two passed away, the producers digitally put a few snippets of various past scenes together to create the effect that the character was still alive for one more episode. That’s what Sullivan and co. did with Marilla. Colleen Dewhurst unfortunately passed away after season two aired, thus she couldn’t appear in this episode. So they took clips from Anne of Green Gables, Lantern Hill, and even an earlier Avonlea episode and created the illusion that character was around…at least for a couple more scenes before she died. My question is…Was all that necessary? Couldn’t they just have Marilla die off screen? Did we really need a “last words” moment with Marilla? The effects are impressive…but still noticeable. I have mixed feelings. I think a lot of poignant stuff could have happened if we had focused more on Rachel dealing with the death…than the death itself.

Another big issue I have with this episode is…yes…the lack of Anne. What’s the point of having Gilbert come back if we couldn’t have Anne? I’ve heard various reasons from various sources as to why Megan Follows (who played Anne) couldn’t/wouldn’t appear in this episode. I don’t really want to get into that. Whatever the reason is…it still created a big gaping hole in the narrative. How could Anne not be at Marilla’s funeral? (Or even Diana for that matter). Yes, Anne had scarlet fever. But that seemed like more of a convenient way explaining the actress’s absence. It doesn’t contribute to the narrative in any way. It honestly would have been better if Gilbert hadn’t been there. Gilbert without Anne at Marilla’s funeral just seems weird and unsatisfying. (And don’t get me started on the line about them having children…) Overall, this episode had a lot of emotional moments, but this episode should have been better, right? It’s like no one‘s favorite episode. (B-)

avonlea rachel marilla

Spotlight Performance: As ambivalent as I feel about Marilla’s appearance in this episode, I still think Patricia Hamilton gives her strongest performance so far. Post-Marilla, I really enjoy Rachel’s arc on the series. I really enjoy that she’s given more layers. No matter how sad, emotional, or caring Rachel becomes, she never loses her bite and wit. Hamilton is the perfect Rachel.

Favorite Scene: Again, I think the best, most affecting moments in this episode are when Rachel’s grieving over losing her friend, particularly at the gravesite with Hetty. It represents the fact that Hetty will become Rachel’s best friend and confidant post Marilla. Honestly, I could have used a couple more scenes like that. I also liked the scene where Felix tries to convince Mr Harrison (Bruce Boa) from buying Green Gables. I don’t know where Felix came from in this episode, but it’s a nice bit of emotion from him otherwise.

avonlea old friends old wounds

Final Thoughts: Because this is the last episode of the season, I have a bunch. First, let’s start with “episode specific” stuff. This episode was directed by George Bloomfield. It’s his second and last episode. He also directed “High Society” from this season. A Gemini Awards favorite, he’s mostly known for his work on the hugely popular comedy/drama Due South. He’s directed a bunch of other Canadian series, including SCTV, Fraggle Rock, The Campbells, ENG, My Secret Identity, Emily of New Moon, and The Jane Show. He passed away in 2011.

Jonathan Crombie guest starred in this episode as Gilbert, reprising his role from the Anne of Green Gables movies.  He’s done a lot of theatre since then, and guest starred on shows like Slings and Arrows and The Good Wife. He unfortunately passed away earlier this year (2015) at the age of 48.

Another season…another season. This one took a bit longer than the first two. Again, “hit or miss.” I think season three is a transitional year. The kids clearly aren’t little kids anymore, running through the meadows. However, the kids aren’t necessarily mature enough to be given real “coming of age” story lines. We’ll get more of that during the next two seasons. So…season 3 is kinda weird, but obviously there were some great moments, from Felix losing his horse to Sara finding her long lost twin, to Felicity and Gus getting closer. This is also a season where characters like Janet and Rachel are given more development. And, of course, the show still did well with awards.

avonlea gilbert

In 1992, the show was nominated for three Primetime Emmys. Christopher Lloyd and Kate Nelligan received Emmy nods for their guest performances, with Lloyd winning. The show also received a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Program, for the episode Lloyd won his Emmy for, “Another Point of View.”

The show received fourteen Gemini nominations, with 4 wins, including one for Nelligan again, one for Allan King’s direction (“Felix and Blackie”), and one for Leading Actor (Cedric Smith for “Friends and Relations.”) Zachary Bennett was also deservedly nominated in the Leading Actor category for his performance in “Felix and Blackie.” Sarah Polley was once again nominated for Lead Actress (although, curiously Jackie Burroughs was snubbed). Michael Mahonen, Lally Cadeau, and Patricia Hamilton also received nominations for the supporting category. John Welsman received a nomination for Music Score. Gordon McClellan received a nomination for Editing. And both Heather Conkie and Charles Lazer received nods for their Writing. I don’t know why I feel it necessary to list these awards. It’s just nice that the show got credit somewhere.

Well…on to season four! There are a few other things (book reviews, awards talk) that I want to get to before I begin that season, but I will definitely will get to it. There are some great “Sara” and “Felicity” moments in that season that I want to get to. And of course we meet the Pettibones. Ooh! I’m already so excited. Please stick around. Don’t unsubscribe. I promise more Avonlea reviews are coming soon!


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