Two Moments of Goodness from When Calls the Heart “Second Chances”
Hallmark Channel’s second scripted series, When Calls the Heart, is consistently good television, but this week, there were two moments that were just lovely and quiet and worth calling out.
“Second Chances” had three storylines–Elizabeth and Jack still dancing around each other, Elizabeth trying to connect with a student, and Abigail trying to figure out what her next act would be. While the first was charming, the second two get my focus here.
Elizabeth inherits a student, Bo, who was sent home by her predecessor because, at 14, he was still unable to read. For reasons that aren’t explained, he’s re-enrolled in school and taunted by the other kids. Elizabeth sends for medical books on the brain and teaching students with learning disabilities and her former professor comes through big time–sending her books and aptitude tests and the latest studies on word blankness, or dyslexia.
Elizabeth comes to visit Bo and when she goes into his bedroom, she sees several model planes that he’s created by hand, with no ability to read. She decides to test him, and he aces it. She happily shares the news with his parents and starts tutoring him. While Bo and his mother, Matilda, are overjoyed, Bo’s father, Carl, is reticent, and digs in his heels that when Bo turns 15 in a week, he’ll leave school again and go to work in the mines. Elizabeth explains there’s no guarantee that he will read in a week and Bo’s dad says that’s the deal.
This dovetails into Abigail’s arc.
Abigail counsels Elizabeth on Jack while Elizabeth mows through Abigail’s scones and tells her that her baking is far superior to anything she ever got from the classically trained culinary professionals employed by her family.
This plants a seed for Abigail to look into re-opening the shuttered cafe. Since it’s lilely to be a fool’s errand, she pursues it in secret. Gowen (Martin Cummins) agrees to let her have the cafe for 50% of the profits and her row house. That stops Abigail cold because it’s where she lived with her family, and she’s truly torn between what was and what’s next.
Elizabeth is concerned when Abigail comes home late and will only share that she’s working on a project. When Abigail gets emotional about the height markers for her son, Elizabeth asks her to confide what’s wrong, and Abigail tells her that she’s no longer a wife and she’s no longer a mother, and she’s not sure where that leaves her. Elizabeth says God closes one door to open another, and for her, that meant forgoing the notion of a big city teaching career for the position in Coal Valley that turned out to be infinitely more rewarding.
The next night, after Elizabeth has been shot down by Bo’s dad, Abigail doesn’t come home and Elizabeth goes to Jack for help. The only one in on what Abigail’s been up to, he takes her to the cafe, where they find Abigail asleep. Elizabeth wakes her and gets the full story of the cafe, and Gowen’s terms. Abigail says she’s at peace now that her husband and son will always be with her wherever she is.
Elizabeth tells her she can do this–the same as she safely delivered Carla’s twins and led the women into the mines to save their homes. Abigail points out the unbaked cookies she’d intended for the children. Elizabeth is amused by the shapes, and as she picks up a cookie shaped like a duck, the penny drops and she asks Abigail if she has more dough.
The next morning, Elizabeth heads out the door ready to help Bo only to find him heading toward the mines with his dad. She protests that they had another week and Bo thanks her for trying but says it’s for the best.
Undeterred, Elizabeth sets out dough letters, each shaped with a word association indicator–a C with a cat’s head, an A that’s a looped arrow, a T that’s a totem pole, so that Bo sees them when he comes home. When she heads out the next morning, Bo’s left her a verse from their study book spelled out in the letters on her porch.
Abigail goes to sign her agreement with Gowen and he’s very congenial until she’s signed and then he digs in the knife as she leaves, telling her he’s glad to have one of his row houses back, and that he doesn’t believe the cafe will make it because he would have reopened it himself if he thought the town would support it.
Abigail takes the insult and leaves. As a storm rolls in, she measures windows in the cafe and makes her list of plans when the roof starts to leak all over. Undaunted, she lights the oven, and starts baking. One of the children comes in the cracked door and says he smelled cookies and asks if she’s selling them. She says yes, but she’s not quite open yet. She puts a couple in a bag and tells him he’s her first customer and sends him on his way. Before he leaves, he tells her he hopes she has more because she’s going to need them.
She follows him to the door, and outside, a line has formed down the street of her neighbors and friends waiting to buy her goods. Lori Loughlin does a wonderful thing with her face as the shock of all the people registers and then relaxes and Abigail realizes she’s going to be okay. Later, when Elizabeth happens by, there’s still a line and Abigail is selling her goods from a table out front. I REALLY wanted a shot of Gowen having to choke that down but we didn’t get it. I hope we do in a future episode.
After Elizabeth finds the spelled out words, she goes to Bo’s house. When he and his dad come in from the mine, she asks Bo to read from the book, and his father objects, but Bo takes the book and can read the passage. Matilda is thrilled and a stunned Carl can only ask, “How?”
Bo leads all of them upstairs and opens the door. As they go in, we see dough letters formed into words all over the room–on the shelves, the table, and the window sill. Carl comes forward and picks up the snake letter S and asks him what that is. Bo tells him it’s an S. Then he asks what the words say and Bo gently tells him. Matilda comes up beside them and hugs them. Lingering in the doorway, Elizabeth realizes she’s just opened a door for Bo and his dad.
I loved the resolution of both of these stories because they were about hope, defying the odds, and unexpected blessings. When Elizabeth tells Bo how well he tested and that he can be anything he wants to be, he says he could teach, and we see with his dad, that the seed has been planted for that. Abigail wants the cafe for her own fresh start, and to give the townspeople a place together again, away from the saloon, and we see that happen.
Lori Loughlin and Erin Krakow did lovely work in their scenes together, and the casting of the Grady family was pitch perfect, too. Alex Zahara, who played Carl, is a familiar face from projects like Arrow and Hell on Wheels and his scenes with Connor Stanhope (who played young Lex on Smallville) as Bo and Jennifer Copping as Matilida were really special.
“Second Chances” repeats tonight on Hallmark Channel at 10 pm/9c and again Friday at 9 pm/8c. The next new episode airs Saturday at 9 pm/8c.
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