Liz and I watched Eli Stone last night, mostly for being too lazy to get up and do something else after Lost (which on most nights means slinking back to our computers). But there has been some good buzz about the show’s ability to integrate faith in God (shudder to think) with the show’s narrative. The main character (a trial lawyer) gets visions from God via a handy little brain aneurysm, but through them he’s attempting to migrate toward a more virtuous life. Given he’s a trial lawyer, this has built in conflict for years to come. But last night’s B plot narrative ended up being the more compelling twist in the episode. It concerned a custody fallout between two former lesbian lovers, one of whom was carrying the other’s child (the male donor was conveniently never mentioned). Problem was, the pregnant woman had become a Christian (or had renewed her faith) and no longer saw gay life as appropriate for her child, or something “she wanted.” Naturally, I was groaning in the first scene, because we generally know where this goes: crazy Christian has irrational judgmental delusions based on some confused dogma and ends up doing much harm (or murder, if you’re on CSI or Law and Order). Or: crazy Christian is really just putting on an act to get what he wants, but by episode’s end will see the “light” and revert to his previous lifestyle. Almost true to form, the turn that forces the pregnant woman to eventually lose the custody battle did feel like it was signaling the latter premise. But strangely, the show never landed there. In fact, the Christian woman tearfully decides in her closing scene to give up full custody to her former lover, thinking it best to simply leave her past behind her. Whoa.
It’s still too early to decide where this is all heading (with the show’s continuing narrative, the neo-Christian still has time to return later in the season to denounce her faith), but it feels like there might be some really smart work underway on this show. Think about it. How clever would it be to introduce a wildly popular “buzz” topic like lesbianism (to wit: one of the show’s characters even says “isn’t everyone a lesbian these days?”) but then drop a bomb at the end of the episode by having the Christian character do something so out of character with the world, but so in character with God; totally self-denying, totally self-humiliating. I can only picture the thousands of annoyed viewers who watched that scene with their mouths hanging open. Really, why on earth would anyone in their right mind do that?
Could it be that living for God as if He matters above all things might just trump any personal sense of entitlement, rights or wounded justice? Go figure… In the meantime, we’re keeping a curious eye on Eli Stone. (full episodes can be seen online at abc.com)