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Joan of Arcadia Season 2

Updated on September 11, 2010

When we last saw Joan Girardi, she had just been overcome with doubt on here ability to see and converse with God thanks to the revelation that she could have been hallucinating due to Lyme Disease. The second season opens with her being released from a adolescent mental health camp, and more than a little resentful of God for the whole experience. However, she gets over it relatively soon and soon is back to being at God's beck and call.

The fact that Joan's loss of faith and internment in what was essentially a dolled-up insane asylum for the summer has no significant plot relevance is easily forgotten, however, thanks to the introduction of Judith played by Sprague Grayden, who soon grew to be my favorite character of the series. A fellow patient at the camp, Judith soon turns up at Arcadia High and worms her way into Joan's friend group. Although she definitely starts out annoying (being self-centered, insecure, and more than a little bit of a jerk to Joan and her friends), she quickly reveals hidden depths and endless charisma, and it is a truly sad experience to see her go halfway through the season.

The other major new character is Lily, played by Constance Zimmer. Lily is a former nun who becomes the catechism teacher for  Helen, Joan's mother. She also later on gets involved with Joan's older brother Kevin, and their relationship is a somewhat marginalized but very interesting affair all told. Lily is an interesting character, appearing both in dress and in attitude as a very secular individual while being inwardly incredibly pious and religious, with very strict morals. but too often she seemed to be abrasive merely to be abrasive, so she was less likable. This suffers the most in her relationship with Kevin, as after awhile it's unsure whether you're supposed to hope for their relationship. 

While Lily and Kevin's relationship is problematic, I loved the relationship between Joan's younger brother Luke and her best friend Grace. Becky Wahlstrom's Grace is somehow better able to portray an abrasive yet sympathetic character (possibly because we've had longer to get to know her) than Constance Zimmer's Lily, and it's very cute when she softens up around the lovably nerdy Luke, especially when she tries to cover up how very much he means to her. Pretty much every scene with them in it was simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming. Another good relationship, although much too brief, involved Luke's friend Friedman (Aaron Himelstein) and a girl named Stevie (played by Haylie Duff), as well as Friedman's one-sided love of Judith in the first half of the season, both of which really helped expand Friedman's character from the one-dimensional joke he had been in the previous season to a fully developed character.

Unfortunately, the main relationship, between Joan and her boyfriend Adam was less than good. Since the two had become an official couple in the first season, it could only go down from there. Cue an entire season of manufactured tension, which was just painful to watch. Especially weird was that much of this tension came from how Adam had a hopeful future for himself at a prestigious college while Joan had to fight discouragement due to her lack of academic success. This totally reverses the dynamic of the first season, in which Joan was academically curious (although admittedly not always successful) while Adam was kind of a slacker, intelligent while being uninterested in academics. it was all rather jarring. 

A worse relationship, however, was between Joan's dad and his boss, a woman named Lucy Preston (played by Lucy Potts) who gets promoted to the head of the Arcadia police department. The fact that it's a one-sided love on Lucy's part doesn't make it really all that much better, and the fact that a supposedly straight arrow former Internal Affairs cop becomes that morally bankrupt over the course of half a season is jarring to say the least. I was glad Lucy Preston only showed up for the first half of the season.

As you may have noticed, there were a lot of people and plotlines that only seemed to last for half or less of a a season. This makes the whole thing seem a bit unplanned, as if the writers were just throwing anything at the wall to see if it would stick. Perhaps the most egregious of these under-developed concepts was Ryan Hunter (played very well by Wentworth Miller), a young man who could also see God but had a much more hostile relationship with the almighty than Joan did. the problem? He was only on the show for the last two episodes! If it had gone on a third season, I'm sure they would have dealt with him, but as is, it just seems a stupid thing to do.      

But even its flaws don't keep Joan of Arcadia's second season from being awesome and very watchable. Interesting characters, nice dialogue, and interesting twists all kept my interest most well. Definitely check this one out if you can. It's worth at least a rent, if not a full buy for sure. Check it out if you see it somewhere, after watching Season 1 for context. It deserves your attention, and you should certainly check out if you encounter it.


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