By Cameron White
Season 2, Episode 24: “Encore”
Original airdate: Aug. 12, 2000
Performing has always been a way for me to express the things I can’t say any other way. I think it started when I was around four, and I used to dance around the living room while my dad played the piano, and then I’d poke him if he didn’t applaud. The first time I saw Rick, he was on stage. And I could tell that he loved it just as much as I did, connecting with people that way. Performing with him was like being one person. Those are some of my favorite memories of our time together. I’ve been on the road as a solo for almost two years now. I still love it. But I sometimes wonder if it’s starting to do things to my head. See, I think the downside of being on stage too much is that everything starts to feel a little… unreal. And I’ve never experienced that like I have on this tour.
In one sense, an encore is a repetition, a repeat performance by an artist for the people that love that artist and that performance. In another sense, an encore is a return, a chance to revisit and reconnect with people one more time. Solo artist Molly Phillips is, predictably enough, not a fan of these anymore. As she tells Carey near the start of the episode, “When the show’s over, it’s over.” But “Encore” brings back a lot of So Weird‘s core elements and simultaneously celebrates the show while also pushing forward a little more with its myth arc. As with many great encores, “Encore” is the show in rare, raw, emotional form.
The refrain for the episode is the second set of the Molly Phillips concert, one of the last concerts on the tour. One of the main purposes of this climactic episode is to showcase the various songs that have featured in the show over the course of the two seasons. That, plus the episode’s intense focus on Rick Phillips, means the episode weighs almost entirely on Mackenzie Phillips’s shoulders. She, too, is in rare form, fully engaged with the emotional material backstage while singing her heart out on stage (with added emotional material to boot). Fans of the series keep this episode close to heart, because it is the only chance to hear full-length versions of “More Like a River,” “In The Darkness” (also known as the So Weird theme song), “She Sells,” and most importantly, “Another World,” which features an emotional beat for Molly that rivals the one in “Rebecca.”
More than just being a miniature soundtrack for the show, the song choices are also very particularly selected for the themes they carry. This is executed in two ways. The first is through a specific choice of clips to accompany each performance. For “More Like a River,” the clips are largely of Molly and Rick, portraying the two as a loving couple and wonderful parents, but with Rick’s dogged investigation into the paranormal ultimately being his downfall. “In The Darkness” is a song about the demons that “come from every side,” so naturally the show cherry-picks some of the scariest and weirdest moments from past episodes, like “Werewolf,” “Nightmare,” and “Angel” to name a few. The upbeat “She Sells” is accompanied by clips of the show’s more comedic or happier moments (rare as they can be on this show), while “Another World” is appropriately clipless.
The second way is through what is essentially the episode’s B-plot, despite the fact that it’s the only thing that can really be called a “plot” in the episode. Fi is more convinced than ever that the series of coincidences in her life—discovering her father was into the paranormal as well, the places they’ve been, the people they’ve met, the events they’ve witnessed—are all connected, guiding her to her father. (In the context of the airdate, this seems to re-emerge suddenly, but this episode was produced right after “Destiny,” a vital mythology episode for the series.) This makes Molly’s decision to prematurely end the tour and go back home to Hope Springs all the more devastating for her, and puts her in conflict with Jack once again. “Just because you and Dad shared a hobby doesn’t mean you’re right about everything,” Jack says to her. “I know what I’ve seen, Jack, and you can’t talk me out of that,” is her reply, kicking off the “In The Darkness” section of the concert.
Fi ultimately can’t convince Molly to change her mind. (Irene, however, manages to pull a few strings and convince the label to let the band record an album at home, and to let the tour take one more label-mandated stop in New York. The Bells have been absent for a while, but “Encore” is an encore for them as well, giving each of them one last hurrah before the season comes to a close.) But it still hurts her to watch her mom give up after everything they’ve been through. “I can feel Daddy in my heart,” she tells Molly, “like he’s near us. Like he’s watching over us.” That proves more than true when Molly gives her encore performance, the Phillips-Kane Band classic “Another World.” At the bridge, the spirit of Rick Phillips is visible on stage, singing along with Molly, and in that moment, it’s made clear to the audience that feeling of “being one person” Molly describes in her opening monologue.
In the Campbellian hero’s journey, the journey eventually leads to what Campbell described as “the meeting of the goddess.” In simple terms, it’s a moment of peace when the hero has a revelation about herself that reveals why the struggles were necessary in the first place. It’s fitting that, just as Molly is ready to give up the life that she loves, Rick makes an encore of his own to return her a feeling of oneness and peace. Rick Phillips’s spirit on stage is Molly’s meeting with the goddess. The problem, of course, is that moving past this point requires that the hero choose to do so. Fiona is ready to pull together the disparate pieces of her journey and figure out the truth behind her father’s death. But Molly has all but given up. How to resolve this intricate conflict? With two episodes left in the season, the answer is anything but simple. That’s the real beauty of “Encore.” It’s 10 percent clip show, 50 percent Molly Phillips concert, and 40 percent story, but it’s 100 percent heart and soul, which means a lot of emotions and precious few easy answers. It’s also an encore of the characters and the very core of the show itself: the darkness that lurks in a heart when a loss occurs.
Cameron White is a freelance writer currently residing in Arkansas. He writes about television over on his blog, Wayward Television, and tweets intense personal feelings about the band fun.. His obsession with television was founded in 1996 by The Disney Channel and fostered by his discovery of Firefly in the summer of 2007. He’s like the barlights, dancing in time to Mexican music and taunting the pavement.