Thursday, October 12, 2006

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.

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Anonymous Jaynova said...

This was a great episode. I did think, though, that the scene with Caine teaching the preacher to "see" was a little corney...a little two quick. Otherwise, a great episode.

Oh, and you spelled "attack" wrong. :)

11:05 AM  
Blogger CharlieK said...

Dammit! Thanks, Jay! :D

9:20 PM  
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3:20 PM  
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4:06 PM  
Anonymous Dot B. said...

I know I am commenting rather late, but I just found this blog recently. This is my absolutely favorite episode (and I have seen them all-recently). I agree that Serenity Johnson was an extremely interesting character, but so was Davie Peartree in his all too brief appearance as an "ex-man". he really had some good lines, like "where were you half an hour ago".

I love seeing DC and his father together on screen. They should have done it move often. They had a fantastic scene together in Boxcar Bertha and a really funny scene in a Halloween episode of "The Fall Guy" (which also included Bobby and Keith Carradine). In that show, David says to his father:"You're insane" and John responds "and with a little diligence the same can be said for you." They took it off youtube, but I bet it will be back up again next Halloween.

Back to Dark Angel. In this episode, Caine finds his grandfather and discovers he has a brother. Not only does Caine help Serenity deal with being blind, Serenity helps Caine's grandfather accept Kwai Chang as his grandson. Finally Serenity builds his church, "Davie Peartree's Church of the Inner Vision" (the name cracks me up). Just so much packed into one episode. If I had talent I would make a comic book of this episode, starting with a scene of a sign post that says "Lordsville, 17 miles". I just love it. Those first couple of episode were written by Herman Miller and they are my favorite.

I like the first season the best. The third season starts to get supernatural-which I don't like.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Charlie Kondek said...

Welcome, Dot! Thanks for becoming a regular (great seeing you at Facebook, too) and am looking forward to your comments.

11:29 AM  

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