Highest Stakes - Happy Endings
By Snow Whit
| December 29, 2007

People complain about happy endings. I'm not so sure we got one in the episode "Highest Stakes." A happy ending is generally an uplifting finish that resolves all issues and ties together all loose ends. This certainly did not happen in "Highest Stakes." While the ending was certainly uplifting, it didn't bring full resolution to the situation. As far as we know, Carson's debts are still unpaid and he is still being tracked by Wilson. I also believe this is not a "happy ending" because this is not a happy situation. This can also not be called an ending at all. It is a beginning. It has a certain anxious quality about it, leaving the listener thirsty for more, yet strangely satisfied. This is the beginning for the McKay's; there are so many changes for them to cope with. Grady, a new Christian, will be facing struggles and hardships without the support of a Christian family. How will Wooton interact with Grady now that the void of a father has been filled? Wooton will continue to be a Christian father figure for Grady of course, but somehow that is entirely different than a plain "father." How will this affect Carson? Christie was obviously struggling at the end, hurting for herself, her children, and even her husband. She's trying to believe that letting Carson back into their lives is the best thing to do. And she doesn't even know about the potential danger if his debts are still unpaid. While Carson leaving would have been a bittersweet, melancholy ending, perhaps in some ways it would have been happier than the current one. There would have been no struggle for acceptance, no process of forgiveness, no struggle for change and adaptation, now all of which the McKay's are facing.

Carson himself very much reminds me of another famous Odyssey character: Richard Maxwell. There's the quest for forgiveness, the tinge of the underworld, even leaving (or trying to) on a bus, only to be stopped (temporarily or permanently) by forgiveness. The parallels are amazing, whether intended or not.

Part 2 of "The Highest Stakes" was given a rushed feel that is strikingly appropriate. It shows how time is running out; decisions must be made. Carson's confrontation with Whit showed plainly his insecurity and vulnerability. It also showed us just how much Grady is like him. Carson is now grappling with the meaning of forgiveness, not only from his family, but from Wooton. He will be fighting the idea that Wooton makes a better father than he does. Throughout this episode, we get to hear Carson's character evolve. In the beginning of Part 1, he is a bit distant, defensive, and somewhat of a smart-aleck. When he meets up with Grady and Samantha, he is vulnerable and afraid. When Christie confronts him, he is smooth and polite; insisting he understands, and believing himself that he does. His attitude is that of submission. When he interacts more with Grady, meeting him at the motel first, he is still nervous, though more commanding as a father - trying to step into the role. As he drives him home from school, we see his heart. When he appears at Grady's soccer game, he is still submissive and apologetic, but is more respected. At Burger World, he is trying his best to be a father, and genuinely enjoying himself. The beginning of Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off. He has much the same attitude, though we can feel the tension beginning to pull at him. As the show progresses, he becomes more and more distant, gets tenser and tenser, and seems to grow very nervous. His confrontation with Whit shows most of his emotions: anger, disgust, vulnerability, love, hatred, and guilt. The entire episode is riddled with his guilt. At the end of the episode, he sounds very much like he did at the beginning of Part 1: distant and slightly bored. As Christie talks to him, his love, as a father and a husband, is once again evident, though cloaked by his nervousness and uncertainty. Then we hear him break, hear him swallow his pride and he comes home.

Is this a happy ending? A father that's been gone for years coming home? It really depends on what happens next, but even if it is, that isn't the end. Too much is unanswered. Carson's character is fascinating and his interaction with his kids and Christie is begging to be explored—not to mention with Wooton. His inevitable confrontation with Wooton will truly be something to hear. I repeat, is this a happy ending? No. But it's a good start.

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