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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There was a storm coming. The winds blew something fierce. As folks
prepared themselves for a possible blizzard, Charles and Edwards were
playing Santa's helpers by making Christmas deliveries, up to and
including a giant, genuine sewing machine Ted McGinnis at the Feed &
Seed bought for his lovely wife, Lottie, who was with the other women
folk at Harriet's house making up the decorations. The schoolhouse was
abustle with making festive decorations as well and Willie helped by
consuming the paste. That's when they saw it was beginning to snow, and
Miss Beadle, feeling the generosity of the holiday, let the students go
home early. For the most part, it seemed like a mild snowfall, but
little did they know that disaster loomed on the horizon. A genuine
blizzard had hit Springfield and was slowly moving south to Walnut
Grove. Almost instantly the town was blanketed with a thick snow and
much more of it blowing in the fierce winds. The women made it to the
schoolhouse to find all the children except Nellie and Willie, who were
asked to stay after and clean up, were gone. Charles and Edwards
arrived soon after, but had to go back out in the storm in search of
the poor kids who were no doubt stranded and near frozen. After loading
up on supplies at the mercantile, all the men folk started out in
search of their missing children, even though Mr. Hanson had no
children of his own, far as we know, and Nels' children were safe at
the school, still a few extra set of hands couldn't hurt. As they set
out, Doc Baker brought all the blankets and alcohol Nels could spare
over to the schoolhouse, which was now a make-shift hospital. They'd
found a few kids and were trying to warm them up. While Doc Baker
instructs them all what to do in case of frostbite, Mary, Laura and
Carrie struggle to make their way home in the blinding snow storm, as
do Carl and Alicia, both parties lost and freezing. When they hoped for
a white Christmas, this isn't exactly what they had in mind.
Through all this, Miss Beadle felt responsible for the kids being lost in the blizzard, and it was Willie Oleson of all people who consoled her, letting her know she was not to blame. Just then, another frozen kid showed up at the school: Henry McGinnis. Out in the snow, Jim Bowers found his own boy, Joey half-buried in a snow bank. Mary, Laura and Carrie meanwhile were as lost as could be, but they did manage to find shelter in a burnt out barn and build a fire with the candles they made in class. By now it was nightfall, the temperature dropped several more notches below zero and visibility did the same. As luck would have it, Charles found his girls, but Edwards went on alone in search of Carl and Alicia. Ted, meanwhile, alone in the blizzard and having no idea that his son was back at the schoolhouse with his wife, staggered around in the snow, until he gave out and collapsed. Back at the school, all the mothers could do was wait and worry. Fortunately Nels and Hanson returned with some more found children, so now the only ones unaccounted for were the Ingalls girls and Edwards' kids. Well, about an hour later, Charles arrived safely with the girls, and he brought some bad news for Lottie McGinnis, as he'd discovered Ted's body on the way back. She went hysterical, and then Grace became hysterical. It was a very desperate and very, very long night. But by morning, the Ice Age ended and it was a clear, beautiful Christmas morning, and what better way to start it off than Edwards, Carl and Alicia coming through the front door, all in good shape, or as good as one can expected to be after being out all night in a blizzard. The families all rejoiced and Charles read the Christmas hymn from the Bible. They had weathered the worst storm in history...so far.
Fantastic, edge-of-your-seat episode that will keep you guessing and worrying all throughout. The cast did a superb job, as did director Bill Claxton, writer Paul Cooper, and all the people who worked the snow machines. Those who live in places where it snows, you can probably relate to what the folks of Walnut Grove had to endure here. If you live where it doesn't snow, like I do, then I guess you'd be feeling mighty grateful. I'm not sure if snowstorms are as severe today as they were back in the 1870s, but today there are more advanced tools to maneuver your way through it, like snowmobiles, snowplows and such; Many great moments in this episode, like the scene between Miss Beadle and Willie. Very intense seeing the characters lost out in the snow in contrast to the calm, yet tense environment back at the school. It's good when you're indoors while there's a storm outdoors, but if your loved ones are out in it, it can't be very comforting for you inside. But anyway, I definitely recommend Blizzard. Much like with Season 1's Survival, I suggest watching it on a hot summer day.
We've all heard how quickly blizzards can pop up in the west back in
the 1879's. Laura Ingalls Wilder even wrote about it in her novels. But
watching this one still makes you cringe and glad that modern
technology helps in situations like these.
Miss Beadle thought she was being nice when she let the children go home from school early. Snow was falling, but it didn't seem anything dangerous. But like so many other things in nature, things can change in a second. And they did.
Most of the children were still on their way home when the full-blown blizzard struck. Parents fretted. Mothers waited for fathers to bring back their children safely. People teamed up together, because it's not safe to be out there alone.
I don't know how many times I've watched this episode, but for the first time I noticed just what Jim Bowers did when he found his son. He ignored Mr. McGinnis and pushed him aside, desperate to get his son back. I'm sure many a parent would have done the same thing, but I'm sure in the aftermath, Mr. Bowers thought about this and may have even blamed himself for the death of this man.
The episode is suspenseful enough, and keeps you interested wondering what the outcome was going to be. And of course, you gotta love Mr. Edwards!
You can even ALMOST like Mrs. Olsen in this one as well. In the time of tragedy, she's actually nice...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Blizzard is perhaps one of the most memorable episodes of Little House.
This is a realistic look at how these pioneers could be quickly at the
mercy of any number of natural disasters or outbreak of bad weather.
Nowadays, we hear about advancing snowstorms often several days in
advance, and this makes it much easier to deal with them. Unfortunately
for the people of Walnut Grove, this Christmas Eve blizzard hits with
little warning, and at the worst possible time. Miss Beadle has sent
the children home from school, not knowing how bad the storm was
getting. The menfolk have to form a quick search party to round up the
kids caught out in wintry mess, with darkness quickly setting in.
This is such a suspenseful and well-crafted episode that a viewer can quickly forgive some plot contrivances and the technical limitations of filming a snowstorm in Simi Valley, CA. One of the biggest problems in credibility that this series suffered from was not being able to actively portray the Minnesota climate and landscape that the story takes place on. It was not uncommon for some "winter" episodes to show us a small smattering of snow underneath trees with green leaves and whatnot. But for the raging storm depicted here, shots of children and searches trudging through the snow and wind obviously had to be shot on sets rather than location. Hence all the tight and medium shots. None of this diminishes the power of this episode, however.
The final scene is particularly moving. Most of the townsfolk have gathered in the school/church to wait out the storm. Some, including Mr. Edwards and two of his children are still missing as of Christmas morning, even after the storm has past. Charles is just about to head back out to look for them when the door bursts open and in comes Edwards and his children. He has apparently used whiskey and his knowledge as a former mountain man to keep them alive through the night. Most of the town rejoices at the news of their survival, save for the woman and boy who have lost their husband/father in the storm. Charles recognizes their grief and does the only thing he can for them. He begins reading aloud the story of the birth of Jesus directly from the bible, and this serves two purposes. First of all, it reminds them all what this day is really all about. Also it serves to give the widow and orphan hope for the future. Although their loss is great, life will go on. It is a very touching moment, back when the series had many of them. My goodness, think of how far NBC's moral compass has gone astray since those days.
9 of 10 stars.
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