Well here we are at the end of Odyssey's first four-part episode (unless you count Plan B, but I don't, because it had separate subtitles for each episode :D). My knee-jerk reaction is, I really, really liked it. Album 55 continues to get better and better.
At first I thought that a series of Kid's Radio broadcasts was a weird way to frame the episodes, but it grew on me. It was nice to have little snippets of film reel or radio that explained the parts that would be weird in dialogue. And I liked the way Eugene and Red were able to recap everything at the beginning of each episode instead of there being a "Previously on Adventures in Odyssey..." segment. But one problem I had was that I didn't think the chemistry between Red and Eugene was very good. They were polar opposites in their presentation, and while others may view that as a good thing and that it was good to balance out Eugene's boringness, I'm still not that big a fan of Red. But I have to admit, Red was probably a better choice than Wooton, who may have been the only alternative. I still don't like his accent very much though.
On the subject of accents, I thought that the southern accents throughout the show were actually pretty good. They were definitely better than that of Buck Oliver. Ugh. Although there were actually a few times where I felt like they were fake. I haven't listened to the podcast where the actors who played Alvin and Gracie were interviewed, but I suspect that they aren't native southerners. It showed at times, but it wasn't really bad like it was with Buck.
More than anything, I think I enjoyed the overabundance of references to God and the Bible throughout these episodes. It's been a looong time since we've had such a spiritually-oriented group of episodes. The Jubilee Singers came close, but I don't think it was anywhere near as deep as these. The AIO team decided to discuss a touchy subject, and I applaud them for it. I like it when difficult subjects are touched on, even when I know people will have many varying opinions. I think it's better that AIO take a side on an issue than to just leave it undiscussed. I personally think they took the right side, but even if they didn't, I'm glad they took a step in the direction of controversial subject matter. We haven't really seen any controversy since Album 49 when the writers discussed abortion, gambling, and divorce all in the same collection. I thought it was very reminiscent of the "old days" to have a character figuring out his own convictions based on what he read in Scripture. What a concept! Using the advice of the Lord of the universe to help you make a difficult choice.
The scene at the end of the second episode was my favorite of the whole four parts. It was very good to have an older, wiser character giving biblical advice to a younger, more ignorant character. Verses were used from both the Old and the New Testaments, which is always good. The scene even impressed my dad, which is very hard to do these days. ;P We need to have more scenes like that featuring Mr. Whittaker. The only thing I think we've had so far since the relaunch that was similar to this was Mr. Parker's conversation with Olivia in Wooton Knows Best. And you all know how much I loved that scene. :)
All the action in these episodes was great. The war scenes were very realistic; they were great food for the imagination. And they even got a little intense. It was great to have Dave Arnold introducing the last two episodes because of that intensity. It's
been a long time since we've had a parental warning on an episode. I'm
thinking maybe...somewhere in Album 49? It made me feel like I was listening to "the old Odyssey" again. It was sad when Alvin's two friends died: Robert and Murray. I was glad that Harry didn't die. He was my favorite of Alvin's friends. He reminded me of Liz Horton's brother Mark in Room Enough for Two. I think he may have been played by the same actor. Oh, actually, AIO Wiki says that he was the voice of Dirk Beggs, but not Mark Horton. All the same, he had a great voice, and very genuine emotions.
I was planning on addressing the historical accuracy of the episodes, but I don't know how much I can, since I hadn't read or heard anything about Sgt. York before the episodes aired. (I actually had it in my head that he was an officer during the Civil War, not WWI!) But I've heard enough from my brother and my best friend who have read York's journal to know that it was pretty close. They both liked the episodes a lot, so it must not have been that terrible of a deviation. ;) They said that the army commander was portrayed a little poorly at the beginning of the second episode. He wasn't really that hard on Alvin. But they said that the discussion about the Bible verses was very accurate. As Red mentioned in Episode I, the book doesn't really say too much about Gracie, so most of the scenes with her were speculation, but I was okay with that. His interactions with her before his salvation went far to show how depraved his heart was.
At the end of it all, I was surprised and amazed at the big accomplishment York made in capturing such a large squadron of German soldiers. I don't know what part that played in the overall ending of the war, but I can imagine that he was heralded as a hero in the hearts of many Americans. You have to do something pretty big to get a letter from the president.
So as you can see, I very much enjoyed these episodes. There were a few quirks, but the good far outweighed the bad in this case. I can't wait to see what is in store for us in the coming final weeks of Album 55!