An hour before I watched this I received the news of my godfather's sudden passing, which got me thinking about powerlessness and grief. The process of grief consists of three phrases denial, acceptance and healing. War is the most grievous situation imaginable, though it is hardly deniable (although we've flirted with phrases like "police action" in the past), but owning up to the truth that grief can't be dealt with alone is as difficult as, say, admitting an addiction. This is not to say that people are addicted to war, but no one likes to admit he's scared. Smoke is a pothead for a reason he's trying to escape. But he's been trying to escape all his life, which is probably why he couldn't take his mother praying for him. He doesn't believe in God, let alone redemption. But her stroke cracked this loner's angry façade. It's bad enough that he's being excoriated by the world's press and a target of the insurgents (who blame him for killing a mother and child), but what torments him is the guilt he feels over his mom's stroke. Tariq, Angel and Dim know it, and despite their past difficulties with Smoke, they gather around his cot and offer him their support. For the first time it occurs to Smoke that he is among brothers. That the scene wasn't played out with a dramatic brass stab, like a M*A*S*H episode, made it all the more poignant. Smoke emerged a changed man. When given the chance to sit out the mission to retrieve kidnapped journalist John Moffet, Smoke said, "If they're going, I'm going." He even took the point when they entered the kidnappers' hideout. Despite his animus toward Moffet, Smoke achieved honor by risking himself to rescue the journalist. Moffet was not to be saved, however. His head was severed before Scream's men could kill his captors. But their failure hardly diminishes the power of Smoke's emotional metamorphosis. By contrast, Vanessa remained in denial, totaling Dim's car in a drunken stupor and using it as a convenient excuse for her miscarriage. Her defiant attitude toward the drug counselor was that of an irresponsible child. Unlike Smoke, there is nothing inside that compels her to change, just a compulsion to satiate her bottomless appetites. The slightest discomfort knocks this woman off the rails, but she won't admit that her biggest problem is herself. Bo is the antithesis of this. He never gives up. When he sees the access ramp Terry has constructed outside their house, his first impulse is to break out the tools and dismantle it. Bo may be physically impaired, but his will is unshakable. When Bo embraced Terry, it was as if he was embracing life, on its own terms, joys and heartaches intact. Thank you for helping me do the same, Uncle Frank. G. J. Donnelly
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