Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a huge hit in the early 90’s. Today I wanted to take a look at one of the more serious episodes. It tackles the issues of gun violence head on. But does it work, or fail?
“Bullets Over Bel-Air”
A very special episode that actually works….almost.
Plot Summary:A routine camping trip goes very wrong when Will and Carlton are held up at gunpoint at an ATM. The gun goes off, and Will is shot. Carlton goes through a major crisis of faith while Will tries to keep his spririts up.
Best Line-“Give me the gun Carlton. You owe me man I saved your life. Now give me the gun”….Will in one the series strongest moments
Nitpick of the episode-There is one major problem with this episode. And it isn’t within the narrative of the episode itself. No my friends, the trouble starts with the next episode. Why? I think I will hold off till the end but chances are you already know what I am gong to discuss.
Standout Character-Carlton. Finally Alfonso Ribeiro shows he can actually act and the scenes are chilling.
Syndication Edit-This episode gets an extra commercial break after Uncle Phil tries and fails to calm Carlton down. The scene where the family gets the call was cut from the broadcast version.
Episode Fun Fact-There are all sorts of goofs with the medcial equipment around Will. Some stuff is not hooked up and one piece of equipment vanishes between transitions.
My Thoughts-This is a very good “very special episode”. Of course when you call something a very special episode, you know what you are going to get. Heavy drama not typical for the show you are watching. Why does it work here? Hard to say, but he writers did a fantastic job of not overwhelming us with the heavy stuff. There are some genuine light moments and good jokes in here. The characters all act they way they should, and nothing feels forced.
The funny thing is the way this episode starts. Sometimes a very special episode will start off a little more dramaticÂ than usual, but here it’s a perfecly ordinary episode.Â There is nothing to indicate what is about to happen, we don’t even get a drawn out transition to the ATM scene. It’s just another scene and even that feels normal..until the robber appears off screen. Then things gets dark fast.
The scenes with the family, and then Will entertaining the family and his girfriend, are well done. We know Will is really in pain but refuses to show it. Carlton is clearly traumatized, and even when Uncle Phil tries to talk him down it doesn’t do any good. Carlton knows the bullet was meant for him and doesn’t know how to deal with that. Of course the big moment is at the end with Carlton and Will. The scene where Carlton reveals he has been so shaken by the incident that he purchased a gun is just so well done. Will then tells Carlton to give him the done and the moment is just perfect. There is hardly a flaw in it. It’s also nice that Will Smith kind of sat back and leat Ribeiro do the heavy acting. We really believe that Carlton has been affected by this and that the incident will change his life forever.
Sadly, this is a sitcom not real life. The one big disapointment for me is that the next episode, all that character development and drama is thrown right out the window. I am amazed they even had Will still recuperating. Cartlon is back to normal as if he just woke up the next morning and shook off the events like it was a bad hangover. It’s nothing new for a sitcom to have something happen to a character and then the next episode it’s forgotten. But this episode is clearly taking place right after the previous, and to just have Carlton back to the status quo is just insulting. It’s bascially the creators being so afraid to lose their fans that they refuse to change the character as he is. But in truth doing that is insulting to the fans who were invested in the other episode and wanted to see what happened next, and it’s insulting to the character because it means that he is just one dimensional and will never change. It’s the same reason why giving Data an emotion chip only to have it taken away in the TNG movies was so insulting. We watch these shows to see our characters evolve and change and if they aren’t then fans will get bored very fast. I mean for pete’s sake at least establish how and why Carlton got over this so fast!!!
Thankfully I was barely a fan of this show then so it didn’t really bother me at the time. And that gripe aside, the episode stands very well on its own. It is strongly written, strongly acted, and is deffinetly a high point of the series. It doesn’t feel like the situation was forced, it feels like a natural event which could happen in real life.The ending is very nice, no long speeches just beautiful acting with a few tears and a fade to black. This is a very good episode and absolutely worth a watch.
Grade-A, Strong episode with NO follow up. Highlight to an otherwise lukewarm season.