Throughout a less-than admirable Army Wives Season 6, many of us wondered what would happen to Claudia Joy Holden. We found out in "Ashes to Ashes," as Michael received news his beloved wife had died in her sleep while on tour with the First Lady in Germany.
It was a perfect decision for Michael to drive to to Denise's house to talk about Claudia Joy before he broke about her death. It was right that the two people who loved her more than anyone discussed it first. Michael was at Denise's side when he made the call to Emmalin. After the death of her sister and one of her best friends, Denise's son, Jeremy, breaking the news about her mother had to be one of the most difficult calls he ever had to make.
So each character talked with the next to pass on the news of Claudia Joy's death. The first flashback to Claudia Joy (and Kim Delaney who played her) was Roland remembering the day of his daughter's birth, Claudia Joy at their side.
Amazingly, it wasn't until Kelli Williams - as Jackie Clarke - appeared that I felt tears. Until that moment, none of the characters seemed genuinely affected by the death, as if it was difficult to pretend it was unexpected given Kim Delaney's rumored behavior that brought her character's demise about. Jackie, who had the most difficult relationship with Claudia Joy on the show when she moved to Fort Marshall, seemed to find the greatest loss in their friend's death.
I didn't take the time to think that Denise's breaking point would come upon hearing Frank's voice. It will be their relationship that will be the driving force on Army Wives now that Claudia Joy is gone. They will be the couple the younger group looks up to, and they've made so much headway in recent seasons that it's greatly deserved.
It was so weird when Frank called Michael, because despite their friendship and the nature of the call, Frank called him "sir" while sending him well wishes. I suppose one will never truly understand the military unless they are a part of it.
In the obligatory salute to fans past, Roxy and Pamela returned to Fort Marshall at the news of her death and amidst everything else, made promises to keep in contact with each other, come what may. Although we'll likely never see their friendship continue, we can take heart in knowing it will never die.
There would be no funeral for Claudia Joy, but a simple celebration of her life with her closest friends in attendance. Michael, Emmalin, Denise, Roland, Pamela and Roxy. At the start of Army Wives Season 7, the core who kept the show afloat for the first five seasons were together again.
As I watched the episode, I kept thinking about all tragedy they had been through, and how hopeful Claudia Joy remained throughout it all. She finished her degree and passed the bar, but never got to really practice law. She and Denise both lost grown children, and held each other up. Their friendship hit so many road bumps, but they saved each others' lives more than once - quite literally.
The hour ended with the aforementioned friends reminiscing about Claudia Joy, how they met and what she meant to them, wondering how they would get through tomorrow. But tomorrow won't come until next week.
Considering the weight of the episode and the reveal of the death of a major character, there wasn't a lot to ruminate upon. I'm not sure it was meant to be more than a knee-jerk reaction to Claudia Joy's loss. When something like this happens, it's not time to introduce side stories or new characters, rather a time to remember and embrace what was. In this case, we're not only remembering a character, but what made Army Wives so successful. A grateful nod to the original cast before reaching out to a new audience with new relationships and the stories that will surround them.
Given the ambiguity of the situation, it was the right decision to kill off Claudia Joy. As we play out the end of an era next week, I'm getting excited to usher in the new as new faces will emerge and their stories will be told.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.