With this episode, Picket Fences turns out its first genuinely great episode. When a cancer patient dies under mysterious circumstances at a local hospital, Rome finds itself cast into turmoil by the revelation that a nun has been providing assisted suicides. This episode really digs into the “right to die” issue and the episode gets really heavy as it addresses all the ethical and moral and legal issues surrounding this question. It sets Jill & Jimmy at each other’s throats, exposes rifts within the local church community and puts the Rome court system in a painful position. Ray Walston is wonderful as Judge Bone; prior to this, he’s been mainly a comic relief figure, but his final speech in this episode is a masterpiece of dramatic acting. Akuyoe Graham is very good as the troublesome nun; her implacability has the genuine feeling of moral rectitude, but it also makes the viewer very frustrated with her at times. And there’s a subplot in which the town nutjob (forever confessing to crimes he hasn’t committed) is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The show has been using him as a comic figure and it’s gotten some big laughs out of his “craziness.” But in this episode, the show challenges the audience to stop and think about the fact that we’ve essentially been laughing at a man suffering from some kind of serious mental issues. Not so funny now. This episode doesn’t have any answers to make the audience achieve closure on these issues. The final shot of the episode is a great one, just two characters, in the aftermath of all the chaos, left dissatisfied & unsure. It’s a bold ending of the kind one might see on a particularly good episode of old-school Law & Order; the show is deeply ambivalent and refuses to pick a side as the curtain closes on this episode. This one’s a must see. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Picket Fences produces its first great episode, a challenging, morally complex exploration of “right to die” issues; heavy dramatic script bolstered by brilliant performances. 4 stars.