The Waltons: Season 8
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Waltons: The Complete Eighth Season (DVD)
In Season Eight, war brings the family closer together, even as it sends them far apart. “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son, John Walton, Jr., has been reported missing in action…” The telegram that every parent fears brings sudden heartache to the Walton family. But the penultimate season brings joy as well. Olivia returns home, her health restored. Ben and Cindy welcome another Walton into the world. Cousin Rose and her rambunctious grandchildren fill empty rooms in the Walton home. Mary Ellen and Erin challenge scoffing men in a horse race. Jim-Bob graduates from high school and makes a decision that fills the family with profound pride. And throughout the emotional season, all the Waltons pitch in to help the war effort, eager to defend their country… and to bring the Walton sons, each in uniform, safely home.]]>
Narratively speaking, The Waltons: The Complete Eighth Season is overwhelmingly defined by World War II and its impact on the Walton family and their friends. Make that the Waltons' extended family: a new character, Rose Burton (Peggy Rea), cousin to matriarch Olivia (Michael Learned), moves into the Virginia clan's home with two troubled grandchildren, Jeffrey (Keith Mitchell) and Serena (Martha Nix). Their numbers swell the household considerably. But with Olivia's sudden departure--halfway through the season--to become a Red Cross volunteer, and with three of the Walton boys in various kinds of active duty and Grandma (Ellen Corby) on an extended visit elsewhere, the Walton population goes up and down almost daily.
Despite all the commotion, season eight tightly focuses on the ripple effect of the war. The two-part season opener "The Home Front" finds John Walton (Ralph Waite) in the unenviable position of running the local draft board and making determinations about the fitness of local boys to go into the U.S. Army. When one young man (Glenn Withrow) has to be talked out of going AWOL and ends up dead while shipping out, the boy's grieving father comes gunning for a Walton offspring in revenge. The story also illustrates the backwoods nature of much of the community in the shadow of Walton's Mountain--people suspicious of the government, of outsiders, of educated folk. (In the episode "The Diploma," Mary Ellen (Judy Norton-Taylor), a nurse, rides horseback to go on rounds checking on skeptical hillbillies who want no outside interference.) "The Innocents" finds Olivia advocating for the unsupervised children of women working in a local factory while their men are off at war. "The Journal" finds Olivia and John forced to confront the disappearance of their oldest son, John-Boy, who is missing-in-action. "The Silver Wings" is a Summer of '42-like story involving the Waltons' youngest son, Jim-Bob (David W. Harper), and his attraction to a woman whose husband is off flying bombers in Europe. "The Unthinkable," arguably the best episode in the eighth season, concerns a Jewish army buddy (Todd Susman) of Jason's (Jon Walmsley), who encounters anti-semitism in the service at the same time he receives a letter indicating his beloved grandfather died in a Nazi extermination camp. What makes the show special, in part, is the way patriarch John must deny to himself and others that such camps, in all their inhumanity, can't possibly exist in modern times. There are a few episodes that don't touch on the war theme, the sweetest of which is "The Traveling Man," in which an old beau (William Schallert) of Rose's turns up, ready to marry but torn by career aspirations. --Tom Keogh
- 24 episodes on three discs
- A Waltons Retrospective Special
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I've loved watching this show and think it's one of the greatest dramas ever on television. One more season to go!
In Season Eight, even though Grandpa is gone - anytime he is mentioned either by something he said or someone looks at his picture, it is like he's right there. When Grandma has short cameos in these latter years because of Ellen Corby's illness, it's like she was never gone. That's high quality TV writing. As I see it, there is not a lot of difference between 1936-1945 and 2009 in the world when it comes to what really matters and what's at stake. War is war. Tyranny does not change much. Economic woes come and go. What endures through all of that is the human spirit and the strong family connectedness.
Season Eight continues to maintain the same high quality as all previous Walton seasons have. I highly recommend Season Eight and all other seasons of the Waltons to anyone interested in really fine TV viewing.