''Never For Nothing'' is one of the few Adventures in Odyssey episodes where a child dies. I don't know whether or not I should be celebrating this but I admire their spunk.
Let's go through the history of children's deaths on Adventures in Odyssey, shall we? Thankfully, not too many have died. Some have almost died, like Cal Jordan, Jimmy Barclay and Mary Beth; others have actually died, like in "A Lesson from Mike" and "Karen" and "It is Well"; however, very rarely do we hear children die "on air", so to speak. Either their deaths occur before the episode, or the scene changes before it happens. That said, Adventures in Odyssey always handles the issue very well.
The most chilling and powerful death on Adventures in Odyssey took place in ''Greater Love''. Of course, there are many similarities between "Never For Nothing" and ''Greater Love''. Both are told from the perspective of older characters looking back on their lives, telling how God ultimately used the death of their childhood friends for good. And yet, despite the similarities, "Never For Nothing" never reaches the same level of greatness of "Greater Love".
First of all, one of the main problems with ''Never For Nothing'' is that we are never introduced to the characters in Lucia's story very well. Initially, I hard a hard time keeping track of who was Esperanza and who was young Lucia. These actors didn't strike me as particularly interesting to listen to. And then the worst happened: my mind wandered. And it kept wandering until Esperanza's death. The episode might have been significantly better if these kids had a little more personality or chemistry.
I'm not going to blame the actors, however. My lack of interest may have been because of the story. I wasn't given a good enough reason as to why I was listening to Lucia's story in the first place. Olivia merely asks her about the shell necklace and we are suddenly supposed to care about the story behind it. With "Greater Love", on the other hand, I was hooked from the very beginning. I immediately wanted to hear what happened to Timmy and wondered why Tom seemed so angry at P.D. Up until the moment Esperanza dies in "Never For Nothing", Grandma is essentially just telling a story about a boy who bugged her when she was young.
If the child hadn't died, how special would this episode have been? The death caught me off guard, I'll admit. I thought Esperanza was going to break her arm or, at worst, become paralysed. However, I'm not exactly sure how Esperanza's death helps to illustrate ''love'' any more than if she hadn't died. After all, the fall was an accident. Nothing more. Having Esperanza simply going off to find an adult, or a ladder, or a rock to knock down the shoe would have also been an example of her showing love to him too.
Sacrificing your life, I imagine, is the greatest way one can show love: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (NIV). Except in this case, Esperanza's death wasn't a sacrifice. The fall really has nothing to do with anything. In contrast, Timmy knew the risk of saving P.D Barnes. He showed selfless love by sacrificing his life, like Jesus did. And since Esperanza's death wasn't a sacrifice, her actual death doesn't seem to illustrate anything. It seems to be just a sentimental addition to the story.
Must we do something foolish like climb a tree to show someone love? Although I admit it would have taken away from the story, the episode never acknowledges Esperanza's foolishness. Esperanza herself says "the shoe is pretty high up", and Juan also admits how "crazy" of an idea it is: "That side of the tree is hanging of Morelos ravine. I wouldn't want to end up with a broken neck like Tomas did last year." Earlier in the episode, Lucia says, "I was the sensible one and she was the adventurous one". Shouldn't it have been "I was the sensible one and she was the crazy one"? Or at the end, Esperanza tells Juan, "You will be brave like she was". It's obvious how brave Timmy was, but how is Esperanza's act considered brave? It's stupid to climb trees; especially, in this case, to retrieve a shoe. There's nothing brave about it.
I think I liked Whit and Matthew Parker's scenes better. I liked hearing Whit give a Bible study. I remember Hal Smith's Whit doing something like that. The twist--Juan now works at the halfway house--was also nice, and I did not see it coming. However, after learning that Eugene's father lived in Odyssey, or Agnes Riley's pen-pal was actually Joanne Allen, or that Joanne Allen was around for Mrs. Meltsner's ultrasound, these ''it's a small World!'' surprises may have run their course. The nice thing about this surprise is that no one except the audience found out that Juan was the same man from the story. Not yet, anyway.
As I write this, fans are praising this episode. They are calling it one of the best of the season. Some are even calling it one of the best of the series. I'm sorry I cannot be celebrating with you all. ''Never For Nothing'' certainly has all the ingredients of a classic, unforgettable Adventures in Odyssey episode: a moving storyline, a dark tragedy, a nice twist at the end. I think it falls (no pun intended) short with Lucia's slow, uninteresting story and a somewhat sentimental plot addition.
That said, it's certainly nice to hear Adventures in Odyssey get serious again. Did it move me? Yes, I'll admit felt a little something. And that's why giving it a positive review. Just another good episode in a surprisingly good season.