Eli Stone: The Complete Second Season Review

Eli Stone has a lot to repent for. While a good many may have thought Eli Stone was the second coming of 7th Heaven, a family friendly show with strong Christian overtones, it’s not so much preaching to the choir as it is pandering. Maybe there’s a subsection of television viewers out there who don’t think Eli Stone is laying the Christian message on thick; but for a show that makes many strong biblical references and analogies it has an odd tendency to abandon its subtler points in favor of heavy handed exposition telling us exactly why each episode’s plot has some christocentric deeper meaning. Despite its inability to deliver its message without resorting to a bludgeoning force, Eli Stone does have a spark of ingenuity in its concept—too bad this second season set is the dying flare.

Eli Stone (Jonny Lee Miller) has a special purpose. God talks to him…via aneurysm. Yes, apparently if you want to be the audience of the almighty you’d be an idiot to just go to church. What you really need is a fatal condition that could potentially kill you at any given moment—oh, and a father (Tom Cavanagh) who was similarly gifted but had the foresight to write down everything God revealed to him amidst his drunken stupor. And so it went for Eli. His aneurysm would grant him visions (some well choreographed with musical numbers, some not) and he’d figure out how to link those visions to a stranger with a problem whom he’d meet soon after.

Did people think he was crazy? Of course. His co-worker and ex-romantic interest Taylor (Natasha Henstridge) has grown tired of Eli’s insistence of divine intervention. Whereas others have learnt to trust in Eli and his moments, like his brother Nathan (Matt Letscher) and Dr. Frank Chen (James Saito), his go-to-guy for interpreting and reliving his visions. With pressure on both sides to dismiss or embrace his visions, Eli takes a bold move at the end of the first season to have his aneurysm removed which then seems to provoke God into giving him the cold shoulder. What a petty higher being. The second season begins with the mantle of divine conversation being passed to his brother Nathan, only to have Eli snatch it back in an arch that will last the rest of the season. Eli realizes he has to own up to the visions or deny them completely—there’s no room for middle ground. This theocratic ultimatum comes with an unexpected price: apparently revealing your visions to the head lawyers of your warrants a little bit of ridicule from other attorneys. Who knew? To make matters worse, this new test of full-divine-vision-disclosure comes as the firm splits in half between Posner and Klein (Tom Amandes & Katey Sagal) and Jordan Wethersby (Victor Garber) one of the few good men in law and a man who just happens to accept Eli for who he is. Another added wrinkle is the pregnancy of Taylor by co-worker Matt Dowd (Sam Jaeger) who decides to join Posner and Klein in the split.

The relationships of Eli Stone are hideously forced and not a single one looks or feels meaningful. Romantic or platonic, all of the relationships feel stale. When Eli and Dr. Chen have a little spat over Eli’s use of a forbidden technique it’s devoid of any and all actual feeling. In the season-long struggle of Dowd and Taylor, very few moments feel romantic or heartfelt; the best moments the two share are in their fast to-and-fro banter which is actually the best dialogue the series has to offer.

With all those negatives, what really makes Eli Stone an interesting entry in the annals of television history is the use of musical numbers in Eli’s visions. Seeing Katie Holmes do a nice jazz/cabaret number is actually one of the most refreshing things I’ve seen in a show in a long time—but it’s an incredibly brief refresher and it doesn’t happen every episode. In fact, the musical numbers are considerably sparser in the second season, a true shame.

Eli Stone feels like one of the first Christian family-friendly shows to grace network television since 7th Heaven’s rapture, but it doesn’t deserve nearly that much credit. If anything, the potentially nauseating weight with which the show bestows its Christian overtones makes the show feel like it was originally intended to be little more than a show about a psychic lawyer; but then somewhere along the way someone had the idea that if they called Eli a “prophet” instead of a “psychic” they could reel in that neglected Christian audience. They might have, but the show’s discontinuation after this season tells you it wasn’t nearly as successful as it could have been. The worst part of the show’s early cancellation? Instead of ending the story with some thoughtful cliffhanger, they tacked on a horrible inter-snow globe dialogue that just makes the show’s agenda that much more obnoxious. It was already advertising its message with a neon-lit marquee, but with this final moment it added a loudspeaker.

DVD Bonus Features

So you get the typical gag reel and selection of deleted scenes alongside a behind-the-scenes featurette. But the most interesting caveat, and the one few other shows can even consider including, is the breakdown of a musical number. It may not be too in depth, but it’s nice to see them explore the sole factor that sets Eli Stone apart from its competition.

"Eli Stone: The Complete Second Season" is on sale August 18, 2009 and is rated NR. Comedy, Drama, Musical, Television. Directed by Michael Grossman, Perry Lang, David Petrarca, Vincent Misiano, Jamie Babbit. Written by Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Alex Taub, Leila Gerstein, Steve Lichtman, Brett Mahoney. Starring Katie Holmes, Tom Amandes, Victor Garber, Jonny Lee Miller, Natasha Henstridge, Matt Letscher, James Saito, Sam Jaeger, Tom Cavanagh.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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