Episode 2: Dark Angel
This one was deliciously weird and featured powerful performances by David Carradine as Caine, his father John Carradine as scallywag preacher Serenity Johnson, and his brother Robert Carradine as Serenity's mute assistant, Sonny Jim. (Keith Carradine also appears in a role he frequents throughout the series, a younger version of Caine, that is, Caine between Radames Pera and David Carradine.)
The plot is that Caine comes to the aid of a prospector who has been wounded in an Indian (there's that word again) attach. Caine fights off the warriors in a wonderful sequence filled with taut action and little dialogue, then learns that the prospector has evidence of a claim in the wilderness. Caine is too late to save the man from succumbing to his wounds, so he takes the body into town. He is apprehended by a mob but his neck is saved by Johnson.
Again, we have a supporting character in the series that is just as interesting as Caine, even more interesting in some ways. Johnson is an enthusiastic and sincere preacher. He takes care of the town's vagabonds and is sincerely affectionate to all around him, including his deaf mute valet, Sonny Jim. But Serenity is also a whiskey-sipper and a gambler, always on the look out for a buck. He is eloquent, and uses his powers just as often to bilk rubes as to save souls. Still, he tells Caine, he dreams of building a church – that's what he needs the money for, really. And when he learns about the claim Caine has preserved, he teases it out of Caine and goes after it.
Bad move by Serenity. The natives find him and bind him to a tree with his eyelids forced open so that his eyes are burned by the sun. Serenity is now blind. The plot of this episode takes an interesting turn here in that Caine – inspired and instructed by, of course, his old blind teacher, Master Po – begins to encourage Serenity and then to teach him, teach him to continue his work despite his blindness.
It works, spectacularly. That's the main plot of this episode, and the most interesting, to me. The sub-plots are: Some local toughs try to take the prospector's claim from Serenity by force, a move which Caine thwarts, and, meanwhile, Caine's grandfather lives at the edge of town and Caine is trying to learn more about the roots. The grandfather is an ice-hearted racist and refuses to acknowledge Caine, but the newly empowered, Po-like Serenity Johnson intervenes, and at least gets the man to help Caine with information about Caine's half-brother. At the end of the episode, Johnson is building his church – the Church of the Inner Vision (I can't help but think of Stevie Wonder every time I picture that) – and Caine is moving on to learn more about his half-brother, Danny.
As I said, to me the most interesting character is Serenity Johnson, crusty on the outside, quick with a wink and a quip, genuinely spiritual and strong on the inside. Caine sort of remakes him in Po's image; actually, it's more accurate to say Caine helps him remake himself (something he will do often in the series, not often as effectively portrayed as it is here). The strength of the Serenity Johnson character is borne out by John Carradine's magnificent performance. If you see this one, look at the deep lines in Carradine's face but especially at his hands. The guy walked right out of a Eugene O'Neill play. Some interesting factoids about him at IMDB here, and here is the IMDB info for this episode. Four out of four yin-yangs.