||Home: Episodes: 1.4 - Fallen Angel: Spoiler Guide|
Spoiler Guide by Jeannette Jolley
by John Forte
Siobhan looks exhausted as she packs up after an early morning vet callout. She climbs into her car and her spirits lift immediately as she listens to the cheery voice on the air, as she drives back into Ballykissangel. It's coming from the new pirate radio station, Angel FM.
Although it's his birthday, Fr Peter Clifford is having a bad start to the day with his motor scooter refusing to start when he's due to say mass in St Columeille's Hospital. He soon gives up and makes a run for the bus into Cilldargen.
As he waits at the bus stop, Peter sees Assumpta. She's sympathetic to his problem and when he tells her that Fr Mac has been putting pressure on him to have driving lessons and get a car; neither of which he can afford, she suggests he start charging for confession.
At the hospital after mass, Peter observes a new patient in a private room. The man is identified as the retired judge, Michael Bradley, who is terminally ill with a heart complaint. He had no family, nor friends, so Peter drops in for a chat. Mr. Bradley makes no secret of his antagonism towards the church, and accuses it of being only interested in his money.
Brian Quigley is releasing a new housing development that he's advertising on a large billboard. He's making inquires about Angel FM because he'd like to advertise over the air as well. Guard Ambrose Egan is also trying to find out who is broadcasting illegally after he was the butt of a joke broadcast on the air.
While visiting Fr. Mac, Peter mentions Mr. Bradley. He is informed that the former judge’s wife died about 10 years ago, and that Mr. Bradley never got over it. Fr. Mac describes him as a 'demon chess player', but admits that they never saw eye to eye on most things. Their conversation concludes with Fr. Mac threatening Peter that if he doesn't get himself mobile on four wheels, he may have to leave BallyK.
That evening when Peter arrives at Fitzgerald's pub, he's greeted by all his friends who have organised a surprise birthday party. He is given a present of booklets setting out the Irish Road Rules, and from Assumpta a card in which she offers him 6 free driving lessons.
On his first outing in her van, after just admitting to Assumpta that he failed his second driving test for lack of observation, Peter nearly runs down Kathleen, who is crossing the road. As they drive to Cilldargen, he gains confidence and declares that he's getting the hang of driving.
This time when he visits Mr. Bradley they start a game of chess. Peter tells him how he's learning to drive, and asks the former judge about his wife. He answers Mr. Bradley's questions about his family and vocation. They seem to be getting on very well until the older man has an attack of some sort, and then insists that Peter leave.
Peter has quickly become very confident and relaxed behind the wheel of Assumpta's car, and they drive out into the countryside for his next lesson. They are deep into a heated discussion about Peter's interest in Mr. Bradley when a small truck driving in the middle of the road forces them into a ditch.
Assumpta is furious, and she makes Peter push the van out. Peter and the van are covered in mud. She informs him that he doesn't need anymore driving lessons as the tests are fixed anyhow; that priests in these parts never fail their driving tests. Peter is astounded, but doesn't believe her.
Brian has made a radio advertisement for his housing development, and through the sound recordist he makes contact with Angel FM's broadcaster. At the same time Ambrose has carefully followed instructions and put together a kit radio transmission detector, and he's determined to catch the culprit.
On his next visit to the hospital, Peter is relieved to find that Mr. Bradley is much better and has resurrected the chess game. While they play, Mr. Bradley tells Peter about his wife and her last days. He confesses to Peter that he helped her die, as he'd promised her, by giving her an overdose when the pain became too much to bear.
Peter is shocked by this revelation, and he can only respond by quoting the church's view; that "All life is sacred in the eyes of the Lord". Their fragile camaraderie is lost, and when Peter leaves, he goes to Fr. Mac to talk over the conflicting thoughts that the conversation with Michael Bradley has initiated.
However, Fr. Mac is more interested in informing Peter that he has fixed (in more ways than one), his driving test for Thursday. Peter is unhappy to find that what Assumpta had told him was true, and he tells Fr. Mac he'll have nothing to do with it, because it's cheating. Fr. Mac ignores this, and insists that Peter will take the test wearing his dog collar.
The DJ from Angel FM comes to Peter during confession and asks him "if there are times when you should break the law for the greater goo?" It makes Peter rethink his attitude to Mr. Bradley helping his wife to die. He did it out of love for her, after she'd made him promise to do so if her pain became too great.
On the way to his driving test, Peter calls into the hospital, and tells Mr. Bradley that he promised to give him a game of chess and that "we should try to keep our promises if we can". The former judge understands what Peter is trying to say, and they play a couple of moves before Peter has to leave. It's the last time they meet, because Judge Bradley dies later that afternoon.
Peter takes off his dog collar and does the driving test as Mr. Clifford. He passes it comfortably and he and Assumpta return to their friends at the pub. They hear that Ambrose has caught the illegal broadcaster, and he tells Peter he'll probably just receive a fine. Peter suggests that the culprit might benefit from doing some form of public service.
Next time Peter visits the hospital, the DJ is cheerfully broadcasting a music request program in the hospital. Peter is handed a set of car keys that were left for him by Mr. Bradley. The keys belong to a valuable vintage Jowett Javelin car. So Peter now has transport with four wheels.
It explores the issue of euthanasia and contrasts it to another very different crime; illegal radio broadcasting. It illustrates clearly one of the areas in which Peter's beliefs or attitude differs to the accepted teachings of the Catholic church. Although he starts by quoting the churches teaching on the subject with "All life is sacred in the eyes of the Lord", after some thought, he changes and says that "If you truly believe that what you're doing is right, and for the best interests, then perhaps you should follow your conscience". Here Peter is clearly not blindly stating the church's point of view on this, and is why Fr. Mac refers to Peter as a "liberation theologian".
This is an excellent example of where Peter has difficulty just accepting the church's teaching, and seeing everything as either black or white. It is probably a very good illustration of his philosophy of encouraging the people to think for themselves.
I'd give it 9/10
© Rebecca Stunell 2000
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