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Episode: 4.7

Title: The Bad Seed

Written by: Mitchell Burgess

Directed by: Randall Miller

Aired: November 16, 1992

Log line: Everyone is shocked when Holling’s unknown illegitimate daughter arrives in town – especially Holling who believed he was sterile. Maggie assists Marilyn in her search for her dream house. Ed is excited about his annual visit from Princess, a crane he took under his wing when she was abandoned as a baby.

Listen to the podcast discussion of this episode here.

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The episode “The Bad Seed” is all about parenthood, especially involving daughters. Ed is worried that Princess, the crane he raised is going to become a “lonely geek,” while Holling is surprised to meet his daughter who he didn’t even know existed. Meanwhile, Marilyn and her mother are struggling to redefine their relationship after years of living together. Keen watchers of the show will recognize that we have had the “surprise child” storyline before, with Maurice in “Seoul Mates,” but while Maurice’s son (eventually) becomes a source of pride, Holling’s daughter Jackie is portrayed as being utterly devious and unredeemable.

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What we want to focus on, however, is the imagery of birds that is used throughout this episode. Of course, we have the relationship between Ed and Princess as a central storyline (Ed, an orphan, is taking care of another orphan), but the entire episode is framed with the idea of birds. In the opening scene, Chris remarks that “cranes carry this heavy mystical baggage you know, they’re icons of happiness and fidelity. The Vietnamese believe that cranes cart our souls up to heaven on their wings.” For Chris, birds are also a symbol of freedom, and they tempt him to go south. In the final scene of the episode, Ed and Chris do a crane dance to put a switch on Princess’ hormones so she will find a bird mate. Birds are bookends, and birds are marked throughout.

We have written about Northern Exposure‘s use of bird imagery before. But let’s fly through these specific ones, shall we?

Chris orders chicken, with a side of jerk sauce:

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Chris reads a book about cranes:

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Shelly tells Jackie that Holling is out taking pictures of cranes (while wearing a earrings that look like a basket of eggs):

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Ed wears a raven t-shirt:

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Marilyn and her mother talk about the arrival of birds:

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They eat eggs:

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Marilyn is looking for a house that will accommodate her ostriches:

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On Marilyn’s desk: two ostrich figurines.

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Dave wears a Seattle Seahawks cap:

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Jackie calls Holling “chicken”:

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Chris refers to himself as a “sorry bird” as he tells us about the time he got arrested for stealing records:

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Ed doesn’t want Princess to be a “lonely geek” like Liza Minelli in The Sterile Cuckoo:

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On Holling and Shelly’s walls? A bird painting:

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Shelly muses on “goosing” up her highlights:

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Frog tastes like chicken, apparently:

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Themes / Recurrences: Parents and children; nature vs. nurture; war and sex.

The Good: We really enjoyed the scenes between Ed, Chris and Princess, as well as those between Marilyn and Maggie. Holling’s struggle to accept his daughter was also wonderfully played by John Cullum. The music was also quite well integrated into the scenes — especially the final song, “Lay My Love” by Brian Eno and John Cale.

The Bad: Though we appreciated Valerie Perrine’s fine performance as Jackie Vincoeur, we have to admit that we found the character she played fairly one-dimensional, not to mention unlikeable.

The Notable: With all this talk of birds, it’s interesting that Jackie, who is “preying” on the residents of Cicley wears a leopard print blouse in this episode (Holling also describes her ‘claws’ getting into Shelly).

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On’s rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Shane’s rating: 7.0 out of 10.

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