Every time I watch this episode (which is very often), I feel like standing on the roof and shouting with joy about the amazing Christmas show I just watched. It blows my mind that anybody could watch this ingenius and epic story and not be thoroughly moved. Freelance scriptwriter Cathleen Young crafted one of the most genuine and poetic pieces of literary art of our time in my opinion, and I cannot say enough great things about "The Madonna". It takes many viewings to appreciate the depth of this story, with its many layers, and to appreciate how the on-screen imagery dovetails with the angellic theme. The execution of this episode was pitch-perfect, and the acting was pretty impressive as well (particularly by the inimitable Jeanette Nolan) given all of the unpracticed child actors. The characters were all amazingly well drawn and the way in which their lives all got touched by this visiting bag lady was truly profound. Ultimately, it was predictable that she would bail out the Challenger's Club in its imminent financial diress, but the way it was done was memorable and deeply moving, with a masterfully directed final scene of Carol leaving for the evening with a particularly angellic glow to her.
It all culminated in the resolution of the missing Madonna statue. While it ultimately seemed unsatisfying for the random neighborhood kid to bring back the statue in a wagon after all that hype, one quickly realizes just before the final freeze frame that the entire theft of the statue was merely a clever distraction for the audience and that the Madonna ultimately needed to be removed from that perch for her human incarnation (Carol) to perform her mini-miracles on these lost souls. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get any better than this, the final episode of 1989. It was a fitting close to 1989, which was the series best and most prolific season, generating 25 episodes, including nine of my 15 all-time favorites.