Written by: Thom Edward Bray
Directed by: Aaron Lipstadt
Episode Number: 119
Original Broadcast Date: April 14, 2000
Guest Stars: Doris Belack (General Roskin), Timothy Devlin (Special Agent #1), Joseph Urla (Minister), Jay Patterson (Librarian), Karl Kensler (Father)
After watching "There Are No Words" a second time, I realized that I had to put my review out before the IGN Sci-Fi review. As I write this, I suspect that the IGN reviewer will just hate this episode.
That's not to say the episode was bad. Anyone expecting suspense, chase scenes, et cetera, probably found themselves sorely disappointed watching this episode. But those expecting good writing, thought-provoking questions, and a hysterical ending were probably quite pleased. I was pleasantly surprised at this episode, given the premise. In the hands of another writer, it might have become interminably sappy. But "There Are No Words" was very cleverly written.
I had some major issues with the pacing in this episode; even with the premise, parts of it moved too slowly. The discussion between Heather and Lisa about books becoming a memory was too long and drawn-out, and there was an overdose of Theo-angst. I was half-hoping the Pentagon would try to quarantine Michael and Theo would fight back just for a little bit of suspense.
That, however, was my only quibble with "There Are No Words." The general premise was a bit odd, but the episode took it to some fascinating places. How could we cope without books or any form of print whatsoever? We probably couldn't, and that was addressed in great detail: the rioting when ink vanished off money, nothing but news on the television (all the teleplays would be wiped clean), schools being shut down, laws regarding unaffected books, book burning, et cetera. And while I thought the scene was a little slow, Heather and Lisa's discussion near the end was touching and thought-provoking.
While the Michael/Lisa interaction was a dream sequence - it was civil, so I should have picked up on that right away - it was appropriately bittersweet. Brief, but well done, especially on Eric Close's part. He looked like he was really on the verge of tears. I would have liked their meeting to have been a bit longer, but it was a nice moment.
I thought at first that the parallel to "A Christmas Carol" could have been a tad subtler, but some people I talked to didn't get it, so maybe in that respect I could be wrong. The idea of Theo as Scrooge had me chuckling, especially at the end.
Ah, yes, the ending. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing turning out to be a dream. I suspected the dream sequence before the episode aired, so I wasn't too surprised... but watching it again, it was a nice twist. It was made quite obvious that the scene with Theo reading "Tom Sawyer" to a crowd was a dream, but until "What do you mean, what blood work?" it wasn't readily apparent that everything after the teaser was all a fabrication of Theo's subconscious.
Some people have read the dream ending as a copout, that the writers wrote themselves into a corner, but I don't think so. The surprise was staged deliberately. We got to see some details that Theo couldn't have possibly known about, like Heather's report card and the last Lisa/Heather conversation. Those were included to throw us off the track and really make us think that it was all really happening. The nanobot explanation was actually quite feasible, although it makes me wonder what would happen in reality if one became airborne and how Theo could safeguard against that.
So the twist when Theo discovered that the entire thing (and not just the Tom Sawyer scene) was a dream became even more of a surprise if you weren't suspecting it already. Besides, we did get a hint or two. Lisa and Roger reacted surprisingly mildly to Michael and Theo, and no one questioned Michael's health after surviving eight bullets point-blank. The Pentagon took no steps to quarantine Michael when the nanobot threat was determined.
In fact, the entire third act, after the Pentagon revealed the source of the threat, was haphazard at best. The "Christmas Carol" discussion was really the only necessary scene in there. I kept hoping for some tiny bit of suspense.
Having said that, the ending was utterly hysterical. I loved Michael driving the bald agent up the wall ("Are you on crack?") and his reaction to getting the books. What really made it click, though, was having the agent observing all this in the background, wondering what the hell was going on. Timothy Devlin's character needs a name; he's popped up more than any other recurring character in this series.
Coming after "Lizzard's Tale," this was an incredibly redemptive episode for Theo. I wouldn't be surprised if he lapses back into the cold, clinical facade, but "There Are No Words" marked a turning point for the character. By lifting that restriction, he has recognized Michael as a human being.
The "no reading" restriction is one I've never understood. While I could justify no newspaper, television, or radio, the complete lack of mental stimulation never made any sense to me. The episode failed to explain the restriction, but it finally put it to bed without deviating from character, which is a hell of a lot better than just ignoring it. And maybe, just maybe, Michael will have something to do at night that doesn't involve balled-up socks and a makeshift game of basketball.
Notes of Interest:
- Wow. Second episode in a row the Grisham book has been brought up. Continuity is good. :)
- So while Lisa was still at Buff State, Michael was working in NYC. Wonder how long they were apart writing letters back and forth.
- Heather could read at four and a half? Cool. I know someone who could read at age two... but like Heather, that was no indication of whether or not she was a good student.
- Michael's immune system is (apparently) comprised of nanobots in his bloodstream. I say apparently because it all turned out to be a dream.
- According to an e-mail I got, the library scenes were filmed at York College. (Thanks for the info, Roland! Hope you got to see the ep!)
- Roger called the police and the fire department and all the papers? Typical. Wonder if he's still on Lisa's couch.
- By now, wouldn't Lisa at least suspect that Theo and Michael don't really work for the IRS?
- Since DH mentioned this in an interview earlier this year - we finally got to see where Theo lives, kind of. Useless fact: his apartment number's 74. (I was so hoping for 42...)
- Well, Theo finally learned his lesson after "Lizzard's Tale" - there's finally someone there in case he doesn't show.
- The music playing when Theo leaves his apartment is "Joyful, Joyful."
- This is the first episode the bald agent and Michael have actually spoken to one another. I don't think Tim Devlin has had so many lines in one scene before. (And now we know they use the pool for something.)
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