Northern Exposure

Season 3 Episode 13

Things Become Extinct

Aired Monday 10:00 PM Jan 20, 1992 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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  • Nothing Lasts Forever

    Three great sub-plots are interconnected by the theme of inevitable extinction. Ed films an aged Indian craftsman making wooden duck flutes before the art dies out forever, Joel feels ethnically isolated and searches for a Jewish community in Alaska that has long since vanished, and Holling faces the prospect of his own eventual demise when news of his uncle's death triggers his mid-life crisis (?) at age 63.

    Holling holes himself up in an old distilling shack and binges on moonshine, spiraling deeper into depression and despair. The funniest scene is when Joel visits him to cheer him up, only to himself be dragged into Holling's psychic black hole of negativity and self-pity.

    Meanwhile, Ed forges a friendship with 69-year-old native flutesmith Ira Wingfeather, and realizes he needs to go the extra mile to preserve the flute making tradition. I liked the bonding scenes between the two, showing how getting to know someone can make all the difference.

    Holling's bender comes to an abrupt end when Shelley drags him out of it, with one of the sweetest, moving scenes in the show's six-season run.

    The best quote that unifies the entire episode comes from Ira Wingfeather:

    -Ira: Listen. It's not so tragic. The world used to be full of things which are no longer: Mastodons and saber-toothed tigers, Indian tribes, herds of buffalo. Everything gets gone sooner or later. It's the lay of the land. Things become extinct.

    Things Become Extinct is one more example of NX's ability to deliver humorous but insightful takes on many aspects of the human condition.
  • Holling is depressed by the news of his uncle dying, and spreads his depression around town.

    This is one of my favorite episodes of Northern Exposure. Sure, it's not the most perfect one, its rythm could be improved, and some of the storylines are not that interesting (I am talking specially about that Ed's flute master thing). But all this is shadowed by one of the most emotive and endings in any TV episode I have seen so far, when Shelly prepares a puppet show telling Holling's life, so that he can see that it has a meaning and that it is not a waste. I cannot avoid feeling moved every time I watch that last scene, that compensates for any minor flaw this episode could have. Truly, a Northern Exposure classic, and a must-see for any sensible TV-series viewers out there.