The Great Golden Girls Marathon: “Sisters” (S2, Ep. 12)

Okay, I know I say this every time I begin a new blog post about The Golden Girls, but I really mean it this time. I have always loved this episode, and I can say in all honesty that it is definitely one of my favourites. In this episode, Dorothy invites her aunt Angela to come to a Miami for Sophia’s birthday, not realizing that the two of them cannot stand the sight of one another. The result is some of the funniest one-liners in the history of the show.

A big part of what makes this episode so side-clutchingly funny is Nancy Walker. After all, when it comes down to it, how can you not love Walker as Sophia’s sharp-tongued sister Angela? Somehow, she manages to come across as exactly the kind of person that you would expect to be Sophia’s sister, full of zingers and stories that are just this side of believable. There’s also an undeniable chemistry between the two women, even when they are in the midst of one of their truly epic shouting matches with one another, in which they call down various outlandish curses (such as “may you put your dentures in upside down and chew your head off!) This a fine display of not only the show’s writing finesse but also the ability of two tried and true actresses playing off of one another’s strength to exceptional comedic effect.

Yet beneath all of the hilarious banter, there are two serious issues at stake. One is the power of memory and our ability to contort the past to conform to our own agenda. The entire episode hinges on the fact that each women recall the events of a party 30 years earlier very differently, and they’ve allowed their skewed recollections to poison their relationship to a pathological degree. Its both hilarious and a poignant reminder of the importance of checking ourselves occasionally and keeping lines of communication open with our loved ones. It is, in other words, one of those key life lessons that The Golden Girls, particularly in the episodes devoted to family, is so good at conveying.

The other important issue is, of course, family, and the complicated factors that often go into the types of feuds in which Sophia and Angela have engaged. As Dorothy says to both of them, this may be the last time that they see one another alive and, while it seems like a bit of a throwaway line, it’s one of those statements whose real profundity really hits you. Neither of these women is young anymore, and since they are separated by an ocean, they really do have to confront the reality of their own impending mortality (another recurring theme in the show). Though of course it’s no surprise that they end up reconciling (this is a sitcom, after all), it’s still a touching reminder of the power of family to overcome difference and rediscover love.

All in all, I’ve always found this episode to be both touching and hilarious and, underneath it all, startlingly profound. And, thankfully, it’s not the only time we get to meet Angela (who appears in a later episode of season two). Of course, this does also cause some problems in the series’ continuity down the line–when Angela is replaced by Bill Dana as Angelo–but, as with so many other incidents in the show, you just have to go with it.

Next up, we once again get to see Dorothy’s ex-husband Stan, who faces a health crisis. See you next time!

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