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REVIEW: ‘God Friended Me’ Season 1, Episode 2: “The Good Samaritan”

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of God Friended Me.

In the introduction of last episode’s review, I talked about Pure Flix films and how God Friended Me gave off a similar vibe. This episode, titled “The Good Samaritan,” makes me re-think that comparison a little bit.

Pure Flix films tend to depict atheists or the concept of atheism as an “antagonist” of sorts. Take the movie God’s Not Dead,  for example. In that film, the only character that could really be  called an “antagonist” is the professor who lost his faith when his  mother died. He’s hateful, spiteful, and outwardly negative against the  good religious people shown in the film.  They aren’t trying to create  an open dialogue; Pure Flix films are quite literally preaching to the  choir.

God Friended Me takes a different approach. This episode  literally has Miles Finer mention that he wants his podcast to create a  dialogue between people with faith and people without, and the show  almost reaches that idea. It doesn’t quite achieve in creating a  discussion, but it does send a message of acceptance for people on both  sides of the argument. It’s admirable that a show with a premise this  dumb tries to do that. It doesn’t make it any better of a show to watch,  but it’s still admirable.

“The Good Samaritan” delivers a refreshing message despite stale problems

Image from CBS

This episode is a direct continuation of episode one, following  podcaster Miles Finer as he tracks down and tries to help the friend  request of the week: a woman named Katie Banks. Katie is a single mom  struggling to make ends meet when Miles inadvertently gets her fired  from a waitress job. In an attempt to fix his mistake, Miles, possibly  illegally, finds Katie’s home address and discovers that Katie’s son,  Nate, has autism. Miles is then roped into helping babysit Nate while  Katie interviews for a job, in which Miles accidentally does a better  job parenting and ruins the whole situation. Some time later, it’s  discovered that Nate wandered off, and our cast of characters finds him  playing his mother’s favorite song on a stray piano in Central Park.  Katie and her son connect through music, and a bunch of C and D plots  resolve themselves quietly in the background. It’s all a part of some  hack writer’s plan.

This episode shares a lot of the same issues that the first episode  had. The writing isn’t much better, though there were some better bits  of humor in this episode than the first one. The acting is as good as it  can be with this script, with a lot of bad line reads once again coming  from Rakesh. The lack of any real establishing shots make it hard to  get a good judge of the scope of the show. It takes place in New York  City, obviously, but there’s no real connective tissue so we can get an  idea of where everyone is in relation to each other. And finally, once  again, the ridiculous amount of in-your-face symbolism and ridiculous  coincidences make the show a bit of a joke, but it’s still kind of funny  to see it all come together.

Image from CBS

A new issue is that there’s no real sense of time within the show;  things just happen and resolve within what feels and looks like minutes  worth of time. The pacing of conflict within this episode is bizarre as  well. A character would show up, exchange one or two lines of dialogue  with another character, and then they would be mad at each other almost  instantly. Then, when the plot demands the characters patch things up,  they do it just as quickly. It’s particularly noticeable in the scene in  the music shop where Cara speaks with Miles about helping Katie. In  mere moments, they are sour towards each other for pretty much no  reason. Pacing was a problem in the first episode as well, but this one  escalates the problem as quickly as problems do in the episode itself.

There’s also a point that I’d like to talk about here: the depiction  of autism within the show. Hollywood has this problem where it likes to  depict what can be described as something akin to “romanticized autism.”  An example of this would be The Good Doctor on ABC, a show where  the main character is an extraordinary doctor but also has autism and  struggles to communicate. In situations like this, autism is treated  like magic that makes someone really good at something. There’s a huge  spectrum of autism disorders, and a lot of shows don’t do a very good  job a depicting autism accurately. So, color me surprised when I say  that God Friended Me has one of the most accurate depictions of non-verbal autism I think I’ve seen in any piece of media.

Image from CBS

Nate is non-verbal, meaning he isn’t able to communicate his thoughts  and interests verbally. He sort of just operates independently of  what’s happening around him, although it’s evident that he’s listening  to what people are saying and is aware of his surroundings. While Miles  is babysitting him, something catches his eye and he follows it. The  attention to detail with Miles actually respecting the kid’s space and  not touching him was nice to see. Plus, credit given to the child actor  playing Nate, he did a phenomenal job playing the role. Although the  resolution had him magically learning to play the piano flawlessly  despite no actual training or preparation, aside from that it was pretty  much pinpoint accurate. As someone who has a little brother with  non-verbal autism, I’m glad to see a show depicting it properly, even if  it is God Friended Me.

Aside from that shining element of the episode, the idea of the show  trying to create a discussion between those who are religious and those  who aren’t is an unexpected twist on the typical Pure Flix fare. As  mentioned in the introduction, the show puts in effort to try to bridge  the gap between millennials who are questioning faith and older  religious folks (read: baby boomers watching primetime CBS on Sundays).  Does it succeed in sending the message? It tries, but it misses the  landing just a little bit. The show doesn’t really depict the point of  view of an atheist, or even a religious person for that matter. There is  conflict between characters but, aside from the podcast producer being  cartoonishly anti-religion, it paints them all in a positive light. It  just shows that there are signs and odd coincidences that are evidence  of a higher power working in mysterious ways.

Except, this show writes God as incredibly predictable and, again,  surprisingly petty. Plus, coincidences in real life may seem like  evidence of a higher power, but coincidences in a TV show are signs of  lazy writers. At the very least, it treats everyone (and the audience)  with at least a little respect, which is definitely admirable for both  Christian programming AND a primetime CBS show.

Images: CBS

Featured Image: CBS

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