** This post contains spoilers.
I wrote this post in chunks as I processed my feelings after watching When Calls the Heart: Close to My Heart. My emotions have gone up and down and have spun around all day and no doubt it’s reflected in this post. I still love this show and have great respect and admiration for those involved with the story of When Calls the Heart. #Hearties
Wow. I’m writing this less than 24 hours of viewing When Calls the Heart: Close to My Heart and I am still so emotional over this episode. By nature, I am a feeler (ISFJ on the Myers Briggs) and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I cried when Matthew Cuthbert died in Anne of Green Gables, I cried when Ashley Baxter lost her baby in one of the Karen Kingsbury books, and I cry over soldier homecomings and over long-lost family reunions on TLC. Most of the times, those tears are short-lived and are very much in-the-moment. However, last night’s When Calls the Heart episode about topped it all. I started sobbing from the moment I saw Elizabeth walk to the graveyard. I lost it again when one of the kids asked Rosemary, “Do we still call Mrs. Thornton, “Mrs. Thornton” or “Miss Thatcher”?” And again when Elizabeth spoke with the widows. And again with all the flashbacks. I ugly cried my way through the entire episode.
An Emmy for Erin
Erin Krakow hit it out of the park with the emotions she portrayed last night. She did a phenomenal job and while I can usually separate fiction from reality, I had to remind myself multiple times that this is a fictional story. I had to remind myself that Erin and Dan are actors portraying very fictional characters. Throughout the entire episode, Erin did a marvelous job portraying Elizabeth’s anger, bitterness, and grief wrapped into one phrase— “That’s how I feel. Cheated.” (Spoken to Clara, Molly, Florence, and Abigail in the cafe) Erin’s acting was so powerful in this moment. I’ve never been so moved by one’s acting. Elizabeth’s emotions felt very real to me, which is why I cried my way through this episode. If I could, I’d give Erin a standing ovation (and an Emmy).
Others did a marvelous job— Lori Loughlin, Jack Wagner, Eva Bourne, Ava Grace Cooper, and Pascale Hutton all stick out to me from this episode. You can tell that they poured their hearts into this episode. So for that, I say bravo!
Comparing WCTH: Close to My Heart to Anne of Green Gables the Continuing Story
Here’s where I am going to get completely honest. I did not love this episode. The acting was fantastic. The storyline however…that’s another issue.
For me, Elizabeth and Jack were end game. Just like Darcy and Elizabeth, Anne and Gilbert, Christy and Todd, Felicity and Gus Pike (Road to Avonlea), Ross and Rachel, the list goes on. It took Mountie Molasses four years to propose and another year for he and Elizabeth to get married. All for what? For Jack to die an untimely tragic death.
Viewers, especially the Hallmark audience, want and even expect a happy ending. People wanted to see Jack and Elizabeth start a family together and face obstacles and overcome trials as families do. Here’s a perfect example: Anne of Green Gables the Continuing Story. Fans BEGGED for TEN years to see Anne and Gilbert (portrayed by Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie) tie the knot and get married. Sullivan Entertainment gave the viewers what they wanted—a wedding and a child. However, viewers were not happy with the third movie. Why? For starters, it completely deviates from the books (which from my understanding was maybe due to legal issues) and viewers wanted the romance and the romantic and idyllic tone from movies 1 & 2. They did not want a shotgun wedding and they didn’t want Gilbert gone for most of the movie. LM Montgomery die-hard fans wanted to see a marriage. And fans felt cheated by this movie. It’s the same concept in When Calls the Heart. Fans are feeling cheated because the audience waited for five years for a wedding. But even more, they wanted to see a marriage. And now that door has been closed.
Personally, I think had viewers gotten to see a glimpse of their marriage, perhaps, a proposal in the Christmas movie between season 3 and 4, a wedding mid-season 4, then sending Jack off to war in season 5, would have softened the blow. Then again, I think viewers would still be upset either way.
As I’ve processed the last two episodes, I’ve thought about other scenarios given that Dan Lissing has left the show.
- A dream sequence: That is a terrible storyline. I hate dream sequences, Period.
- A recast: For me, Dan Lissing IS Mountie Jack. It would be so weird to see someone else play his character. Yes, we’d get used to it (maybe), but that poor actor would forever be known as “second Jack.” Just like the two Becky’s in Roseanne or the two Aunt Viv’s in Fresh Prince. Plus, Dan and Erin have such an amazing chemistry onscreen as Jack and Elizabeth. I don’t think anyone else would do justice as Mountie Jack.
- The MIA/Wrong Identity: You guys… this isn’t even a realistic storyline given what was written. Jack was training new recruits. They knew everyone there and each other. Plus, it wouldn’t have been fair given the emotional roller coaster between episode 9 and 10. I would have felt Punk’d.
I’ve been chatting with some of my new Twitter friends (shout out to Rachel and Amber from the Hallmarkies Podcast) and they brought up in their podcast recapping Episode 9 that the way Jack’s death was announced didn’t fit the feel and tone of the show. I believe it’s Rachel who mentions that When Calls the Heart has a romantic tone (not romance as in love, but idyllic) and the way the Mountie and the way Hallmark just announced Jack’s death was cold.
Now that we know Jack died in a landslide, I absolutely 120% agree– his death seemed cold and cruel to the viewer. I feel like an illness, again, going back to the Anne of Green Gables comparison, like Scarlet Fever would have fit the tone of the show. Or at least seeing one last moment between Jack and Elizabeth would have been good closure for the viewer.
Addressing World War 1
I do understand that sometimes circumstances for actors (who are real people with a real life outside of TV) change and there are things out of the network’s control. However, could they have not written in World War 1? And send Jack off to war? Season 5 is set in 1915 and the war doesn’t end until 1918. And okay, I get that Mounties didn’t go to war, but honestly, it’s not like Hallmark has been super accurate in the historical aspect. But the WW1 storyline would have at least given Dan Lissing the opportunity to come back if he wanted to.
Then again, a World War 1 storyline would have opened up a Pandora’s box. Jesse, Hickam, Carson, Lee, and the other young men would have had to enlist too. And then there are all the logistics that come with that and I have no idea how Hollywood works. Plus, viewers would still be upset at Jack’s absence.
Finding Closure and Getting Answers
As I processed the Season 5 finale episode throughout the next day, I started to realize that maybe, Jack’s death was the best option for the storyline. Do I love it? No. I still don’t love it. But now, I’m beginning to find acceptance.
The Facebook Live Aftershow with Brian Bird (Executive Producer and Co-Creator), Dan Lissing, Lori Loughlin, and Erin Krakow seemed honest and heartfelt. I am one who likes knowing the “why” and the “how” and Lori did a wonderful job explaining what’s been going on behind the scenes. She mentioned that after Dan made the decision to move on, the writers pitched several scenarios including a recast, and a break up.
A BREAK UP!? Shut the front door, I almost spit my water when Lori said that. Going back to what I said earlier, Jack and Elizabeth are endgame– til death do us part. I’m glad they nixed that idea because that would have been worse than a dream sequence and worse than death for a whole slew of reasons. Plus as Lori said, at this point in the game, a break up would be uncharacteristic for Jack.
In the end, I do respect the writers, the producers, and the creators for doing the best they could with the hand they were dealt. The cast and crew of When Calls the Heart have been so gracious interacting with their fan base, the #hearties, on social media that I think we take that for granted. They don’t owe us anything and we should consider ourselves lucky they even interact with us at all. I mean, what other leading star chats about watermelon, Cinnabon, and procrastinating on packing with fans on Twitter? (Erin Krakow, I’m looking at you! 😉 ) And to Dan Lissing, I wish him the best on his next endeavor.
Thoughts and Feelings Aside
Thoughts and feelings aside, I thought that the actual episode was extremely well-done. From the cinematography to the makeup— everything was perfect. Grief and loss are very tricky subjects to handle. I know Hallmark is the land of happy endings, but I’ll admit, they did a wonderful job handling grief too. I have never experienced a close loss as Elizabeth and many others have. But this episode opened my eyes to the Stages of Grief and the importance of empathy for those who have lost loved ones, especially in the weeks after a loved one’s passing. I’ve heard many times from people who have been there that the hardest days are the weeks and months after the funeral. I never quite understood that, but in watching the finale, I saw a glimpse of what that may look like for someone who has experienced a great loss. Many times, especially in our now Facebook/Texting/Instagram society, we forget or we don’t know how to empathize when someone grieves. My biggest takeaway– sometimes, you need to be the encourager like Rosemary, that shoulder to cry on like Abigail, and the honest “I’ve been there too” friend like Clara.
My biggest takeaway– sometimes, you need to be the encourager like Rosemary, that shoulder to cry on like Abigail, and the honest “I’ve been there too” friend like Clara.
There are many actors who love their job and want to continue telling their characters’ stories. And because of them, I will keep watching. My hope for Season 6 is that they concentrate on the residents of Hope Valley and stop bringing in new people. Season 5 had way too many guests, in my opinion. I hope to see a storyline with Florence and Molly, and a climactic story arc for Rosemary and Lee. Of course, there is also little Baby Thornton, and watching Elizabeth tackle parenthood will make for a great drama as well. I had written down my Season 6 predictions in this post, buuuuut I’m saving that for another day. 🙂 Stay tuned!
What did you all think about the Season 5 finale? Comment or send me a tweet @hallmarkmywords. I’ll do my best to respond!