If You're Lost You Can Look And You Will Find Me #TimeAfterTime #ABC #3weekroundup
All pictures courtesy of ABC
The time has come for yet another review/recap of a new show. This time, we're going after
NBC's Timeless ABC's Time After Time (#TimeAfterTime). So how does the newest time show stack up to, uh, the other time shows? Is it a fun romp-hop across the twisted rocks of time's great river? Or is it just another show that'll one day have you saying, “Remember that one time where, like, there was this show and, uh... Dang it! I can't remember what happened,” kinda show (gosh, that sentence was terribly worded)? Read on to find out! NOTE: I was slacking on my posts and while I wrote this weeks ago, I didn't get to post it until the show was already canceled, sorry. I also didn't edit it.
ABC's Time After Time follows the exploits of two time travelers as one chases madly after the other. Why? Because one is a historical serial killer: Jack the Ripper. Now, before I go on (I know, it's only three sentences into the review and I'm already getting off on a tangent? Yikes! This is not a tangent), I must note that much of the advertising for this show is actually misleading but in a somewhat good way because they don't bury the lead. The lead, the draw, the thing that really is supposed to pull you in is the fact that one of the time travelers is the notorious late-19th, early-20th century killer dubbed by newspapers as Jack the Ripper. However, what most of the commercials and promo material did not tell you is that the guy who is supposed to be his best friend on a quest to stop him is none other than... H. G. Wells. That's right, literary legend H.G. Wells, writer of such books as The Time Machine, The Isle of Dr. Morneau and The Invisible Man. A young version of him (pre-publishing fame), in this fun and twisted account, is best friends with a man named Dr. John Stevenson, a surgeon in 19th century London. Played by Revenge's Josh Bowman, John or Jack (you see how clever they are? Honestly, I know it's a little cheap, but I would've made the same joke myself) is charming, dashing and also deadly, not to mention sleek enough to look like a man who is intelligent enough to adjust on the fly. He is also the complete opposite to H.G.
H.G. Wells, played by Freddie Stroma, is somewhat of an awkward-looking baby-faced hero. Honestly, the guy often has a shocked expression on his face that looks closer to a child who has just learned that he got that number one best toy for Christmas but his parents forgot to get the batteries. His child-like dismay speaks nothing of his overall intelligence, and had me asking whether the character is like that on purpose or is Stroma just very... British. I know, that's probably offensive. But, for whatever reason, the man plays younger than he is. But this is all excusable as you get more used to both characters.
We open the series in the yellow-tinged streets of London. A night filled with young women ripe for the picking, John does exactly that. He sneaks a willing woman into an alley and stabs her to death in the most brutal—yet, surgical—of ways. He then sneaks off into the night to H.G.'s home. Wells, playing host to a few men who were happy to entertain his fanciful predictions about the future and his dream for a Utopian society, waits until his friend gets to his home before telling all the men of his latest project outside of his books.
His latest project, as some might guess, is a time machine that looks similar to one of those submarine exploration pods that you saw at the beginning of Titanic. It has a chamber window, some buttons and levers and other stuff. But, Wells points out, the most important part of it is a key and key hole that control it. Now, the way the key works on first thought is very simple, but when you see the machine in practice it becomes a little more complicated because you start to think about it. The machine can work without the key, OK? However, the key, when used, allows for the user of the machine to dictate if the machine stays where the traveler has gone. Without it, the machine will snap back to the time from which the traveler originated. Got it? I'll be explaining it again once we start time traveling.
So, all of the other men save for John/Jack dismiss the time machine as foolish and wishful. But Jack wants to know how it works and all sorts of things. As Wells is explaining it, the men are called back upstairs. The police have come in search of the ripper as he has struck again, and the body is still warm enough for them to know that his latest kill happened moments earlier. They're searching all the homes within walking distance. The other men are quick to leave while John/Jack slips back down into the basement. While the cops start to search Wells' house, they stumble upon the good doctor's medical bag he left at the door when first he entered. It contains a bloody blade used by Jack. They all hear a boom, rush down to the basement and find it empty of both John/Jack and machine. The cops think he escaped out the back door and rush back upstairs to find him while Wells stays, flabbergast that his invention worked. And then boom!
Not explosion boom but abra-cadabra boom. The machine reappears and thrusts Wells back as it lands back in its same place. Without hesitation and thinking nothing of that maid woman, he gets the key, hops in, reads the date to where John/Jack went, and goes there himself. The machine's viewing window freezes over, as I guess traveling through time is cold (I've got to brush up on my theoretical thermal dynamics). In any case, it makes for a rather cool reveal as he wipes at the frost to see that he is in... our times, of course. Where did you think he'd go?
Wells fumbles out of the machine with the key and lands smack in the middle of one of New York's great museums in March of 2017, in his own exhibit of all things. He looks at the guided tour group, sees the banners of an older him hanging from the wall, and eyes the many depictions of things and characters from all the books he had yet to write. All fascinating and awe-inspiring his bedazzled eyes don't last long as he is quickly escorted away by security to the office of the assistant curator. Enter Jane Walker played by the lovely Genesis Rodriguez (probably best known from Identity Thief). Jane is the assistant curator who finds Wells cute and charming because... well, she's an eligible bachelorette in modern New York City, and have you seen some of the guys on the dating scene in NYC? She also finds his 19th century chivalry—after he apologizes for assuming that he needs to talk to a man because she's a woman and she can't possibly be in charge—rather charming. She informs Wells that he is just as bad at this as the other guy that came through before him and that whatever stunt they're pulling is not going to get him any free publicity. She thinks he's part of some period-piece play on H.G. Wells. They throw him out and he gladly goes because he has to find Jack.
Meanwhile, Jack is having himself a ball in the city. He hasn't any money until he finds a pawn shop and pawns his own watch that is an “antique” and in “mint condition,” so much so that the pawnbroker could swear it was just made a year or so ago. They negotiate a few thousand dollars for it. Jack, the sly devil he is, then goes to a nearby hotel where he uses the cash, his charm, and that velvety British accent to persuade the front desk attendant to bypass the credit-card-only policy and work something out for him to get a room. In no time, he even has visited the store for some new duds.
Meanwhile, Wells has tracked Jack through the city to the hotel. He gets there where the woman tells him he can wait for his friend in a nearby bar. Jack returns and the two talk about how crazy the future is. Wells has sat at the bar and watched the destruction happening in the world and can't believe that his prediction concerning humanity and technology evolving so much that they would force us into a Utopian society has not yet come to fruition, and reality couldn't be any further from the truth. In fact, the closest that humanity has gotten to utopia is a New York nightclub named Utopia—a den of sin and dancing (NOT a strip club). Jack makes the argument that not only is he returning back to the 1800s but that the future is precisely where he should be. We appreciate the violence, the viciousness the barbarism that lives within his heart. In his “time I was an amateur. Here, I haven't even begun.”
Things get tense when Jack finally calls for Wells to give him the key to the machine so that he can have the machine and travel to any time he wants just to kill. Wells refuses, they tussle and Jack gets a running start on Wells. The would-be author chases him out of the hotel bar where a taxi promptly runs into him. Jack escapes while Wells goes to the hospital. The only thing found on his person, Jane's business card left in his pocket leads the hospital to contact her. She comes because, again, have you ever tried dating as a single woman in New York? Still injured and woozy, Wells thanks her for her kindness and keeps to the story she assumed of him: that he's a member of a new play. They leave the hospital together where she stretches her compassion-for-stray-puppies syndrome to the max and invites him to her place just to clean up because he looks out of sorts and might still be suffering from the hit.
Back at her place, they talk some more about how she got to New York from Texas to become somebody and have great adventures but still hasn't had any. He gets washed and shaved up and she even gives him something to eat. They talk about her single status and he thanks her for letting him stay the night. She then shows him the gift her Texas dad sent her: a gun. Come on, people! Have you ever been to Texas? After a good night's sleep, the news shows that John/Jack has actually committed a murder at the Utopia nightclub and wrote “The Key” on the wall. Wells finally tells Jane that he is the real Wells and that is his real time machine in the center of that display and that the guy who did the murder was actually Jack the Ripper. She doesn't fully believe him but they have this semi-magical trip to the museum during after-hours where they walk by a space exhibit not scheduled to open for three days. They get into his time machine, go three days into the future and walk back to the exhibit which is all built and put together correctly and she suddenly believes. She totally reminds me of Jasmine from the film Aladdin about ten seconds into that first magic carpet ride. Eyes all aglow and crap!
And then the stuff gets placed in front of the fan. Again, the crap hasn't fully hit the fan, but it's in the best position possible to give that fan a really good smack (wait, that is what that saying was always referring to, right? A pile of sentient crap smacking a fan? And it would have to be a Lakers fan, too, right? Because they're the worst). If you haven't guessed it, some idiot carelessly left a newspaper around that showed the headline of the Ripper now known as The Key killer claiming his third victim who just happens to be Jane. And your mind is blown because you're thinking, “Holy crap! In the future we'll all go back to reading newspapers instead of getting our fake news online?”
Now, they have to get back to three days in the past and stop Jack from killing her three days into the future by using even more newspapers. And then you're thinking, “Where the hell did they get all those newspapers from before they went back in time? Because even though there are still NYC newsstands, they zoomed ahead in time and got to the museum three NIGHTS later. Those stands would've had to still be selling one and two-day old papers late enough into the night for the museum to be closed but still early enough in the day for people to want to know what the hell happened yesterday that they missed out on. Then you realize that those are probably the ransom-date newspapers that movie kidnappers have their victim hold up in a picture to the cops to let authorities know the victim is still alive, or they're the newspapers that that crazy bird man that lives in apartment 4 lines all of his 22 birdcages with because those exotic birds gotta piss on somethin', why not it be the New York Post.”
Anyway, they discover that the second victim has yet to be killed, so if they can just catch him in the act where the body was found they can stop him. They find him on the roof of a club somewhere about to kill another woman when they run out and stop him. He then holds the woman hostage. He and Wells tussled and one sliced the other but it was fine. Jack ended up escaping back into the night once again. And grammarians are losing their shiznit realizing that I just changed tenses in a paragraph.
Jane and Wells return to her place for the night where they are already falling into this weird domesticated routine. She says some stuff about how they'll catch him and how she has to go to the bathroom, leaving him in the kitchen to figure out how to feed himself. But of course John tracked them back home and kidnaps her, writing on the bathroom mirror about the key. He takes her to another apartment. Impatient people will immediately jump to asking, “Where the hell did he get this new apartment from?”
Moving farther into the second hour of the two-hour premiere, we find that Jane has awakened in the strange new apartment which belongs to a woman who Jack seduced into letting him come up to her place, and now has tied up in her own bedroom. He plots to kill the woman if H.G. doesn't deliver the key to him in timely fashion. Jane plays his game of stalling and regales him with stories of Jack the Ripper and how he becomes famous, but technically he isn't famous because he is never caught. And because he is never caught, no one ever knows that it was him who committed the murders.
Now knowing that he receives no credit for his invigorating experience, he sets out to rack numbers by killing as many people as he can through all of time. He also wants the exaltation that is due him. While he's about to explain something sinister, Jane bops him over the head with a coffee table bowl that, for some reason, didn't in the slightest look heavy enough to me to knock him unconscious, but that's exactly what happens. He falls to the ground, she goes to untie the other woman and they try making their escape to the front door.
Slow-moving and hardly cunning enough to escape the killer, Jack catches them, Jane tumbles down the stairs but is OK, but looks back up the stairs only to see the other woman back in the ripper's clutches. Being the good-girl she is, she goes back up and waits. Jack then separates the two women and, for some unexplained reason, pretends to stab the other woman before leaving, scaring the crap out of Jane.
Meanwhile, H.G. Wells is having a night all his lonesome. Before he can get halfway down the street to find Jane, he is confronted by a black woman who knows all about him and his quest. How? He's visited her before when she was a young kid in college—his future, her past. Vanessa Anders, played by Nicole Ari Parker (like fine wine, she is), is not only the owner of the H.G. Wells exhibit at the museum (she owns the time machine and everything in the touring exhibit) but she is supposedly his great great granddaughter, though she's seen no proof of this. She even shows him a letter he wrote to himself and gave to her in order to prove this anomaly. Unfortunately, it's very short and says nothing, but because it's in his handwriting, it must be true.
Still, they have to find and save Jane. So, while Vanessa is busy getting the time machine moved from out of the museum to her house, Wells tries piecing together how they can free Jane, and why he traveled in time multiple times in order to warn Vanessa about his coming in the first place. Clearly, something bigger is happening. But right now he has to worry about Jane. And as it so happens Ripper calls, and tries to set up an exchange meeting: Jane for the key.
They try this meeting twice: first in broad daylight, which goes awry because Vanessa's people, the ones Wells swore he didn't need and didn't want following him, interrupted the exchange, causing Jack to get away. The second meeting was in the museum where the time machine still sat, not yet moved to Vanessa's house. This, too, went wrong and could've gone worse because after a security guard tasers the doctor (Jack had a knife to her throat and there was a scuffle that could have easily gotten someone stabbed or sliced) Jack gets up, takes the guard's gun and shoots him. He escapes the museum. Fortunately, Jane is safe again.
But there's another strand. Let's backtrack to just after the failed park meetup. After Jack fled Vanessa's people and Wells, the latter started walking through the streets of NYC alone. At least Wells thought he was alone, until he bumped into this military-looking big dude. He notices that the man seems to take the same turns he's taking, following him block after block. He stops to ask the man if he is following him, but the guy says no, and the trusting Wells thinks nothing of it. Here, you partially get a sense of why he looks so boyish: he's meant to look more innocent than smart. He's like a Richard Castle (of Castle) but less wit and grown-man confidence/swagger. More on that later, but back to the military guy. At the end of the two-hour premiere episode, we see this military man back at his apartment (or it could be a mission house. Not sure) with a stalker's wall with pictures of both Wells and Jack dating back to the first day of their arrival. And the plot thickens more than a Louisiana gumbo.
Episode three, if you can call it that, starts to settle into the backstabbery (no pun—wait a minute... yes, pun very much intended) of the series. While it has yet to become something close to a procedural, which is good, it does seem to head that way, which is fine so long as they continue their jumbling of the genre. On this episode, while Wells, Vanessa, and Jane (who has fully committed herself to her first true NYC adventure) all fuss with trying to make the time machine Ripper-proof and have it snap back to Vanessa's house no matter if Jack has the key or not, the ripper is busying himself with one of those snazzy ultimatum plans. Jack says that if they don't hand over the key and the machine, then he'll kill someone else in a matter of 24 hours. Here, just like with the key, things on the primary level seem reasonable. OK, he's going to kill someone if he doesn't get the key. They should give him the key, or they'll be responsible for someone's death. But when you think about it, he's going to use the key to kill more people anyway. He's already stated as much. So, why then would he, a bona fide smarty-pants, think that this plan would work? Don't know but we all go with it because it continues to keep the show going, and go it does!
Wells and the gang crack the priceless gem at the center of making the time machine work. Without it, he couldn't bend space-time and travel through it. In luck, Jane used to date a gemologist who deals in the rarest stones on earth. They go to him to repair their cracked gem. While there, they run into the military guy. The military guy had a brief visit with his mother earlier in the episode where he told his ailing me-ma that she was right about Wells and Jack the Ripper coming through time. His job is to kill both of them and he goes to doing just that. He shoots at Jane and Wells as they make a daring escape through the gemologist's building and back to Vanessa's place.
Meanwhile, Vanessa is dealing with some drama all her own. See, Vanessa just happens to be extravagantly rich, we're talking Oprah rich. But it wasn't self-made—she inherited it from her parents—and she seems to be rather uncomfortable with her wealth. As power and wealth only marry equals, she is dating and engaged to a past astronaut, future senator (he's still running) who she hadn't told the full truth until this episode. When the team gets the gem back and puts it into the machine, they display it for him and he sees how it disappears and reappears, and is amazed. But once he has some alone time, he calls into some shadowy organization and says that he now has more access to the time machine. Aw snap! Guy totally knew all along, and sounds sinister.
On the other end, Jack/John looks for his next victim. A man that likes to play with his kill before dinner, he strolls through a street market in his fresh new clothes (a suit he stole from one of his victims) and bumps into a woman who happens to claim the profession of psychiatrist... or psychologist, whichever. I know one actually goes to med school. Anyway, it's not that he seduces her, but that she entices him that leads them on this all-day informal date around the city. They sit and talk about how it is to be in the medical profession in their respective fields. She thinks surgeons are all ego and power-of-god-in-my-hands arrogant, and he doesn't argue against that but makes it a more pinpointed philosophy about how he loves the thrill of the life-or-death scenario of surgery. For a while, you think that he might not kill her and instead keep her around while he kills other women. But at the end of the episode, he takes a knife and is committed to filming himself killing her. Completely sweeping aside the question of, “How the hell did he learn to use a smartphone so fast,” we watch as she comes into the kitchen to kiss on him some more after their coital passions only for her to stick him with a needle before he can stick her with the knife. He falls back, she takes the knife and says something about how she thought he might've been going soft for a minute before he passes out and awakes strapped to a table. Apparently, she and whoever she works for, has also been expecting him and Mr. Wells. And the plot goes completely crazy.
What's my grade? I give it a B, leaning toward B+. OK, a few qualifiers here. First off, again if you are too prissy in your viewing habits and will only watch something extremely highly rated or completely historically accurate, then, first off, TV ain't for you. As someone who loves history, there is no show that is ever completely historically accurate. They always get something wrong. But more importantly, the way in which you view a particular time period that you haven't lived through is based solely on the books you've read that originate from and are about that time period. Be as pissed as you want to be, but anger gets to be unfounded when people haven't read the same history that you have.
Also, remember that NO ONE is the end-all, ultimate authority on time travel. I don't care how many books you've read on it or how many movies you've seen about it, until it is real, and one can experience it for themselves, we have no idea how real time travel would ever actually work. Maybe you have to be going super-fast, or maybe you don't have to be moving at all. Maybe you have to go through a black hole or something. Again, we don't know. Hell, we've never even seen an actual black hole, yet fools will sit around and say, “Oh, well this is how a black hole works.” No, you don't know how it works. You have a theory, not a scientific theory, a theory theory, one that is not proven nor highly accepted and can't be tested. Earth was the center of the universe was highly accepted as fact for a while, too, and not just by religious zealots but by scientific minds. So, again, there is no authority on time travel, save for what you are and aren't willing to believe.
With those two qualifiers out of the way, there are still a few things the show totally miffs on. First, the business with the key makes little sense when you sit and think about it long enough. To review, the machine is, essentially, tethered to the time from which the traveler departs. So if Jack left from 1893, then the machine will take him to 2017, before snapping back in time to 1893 when the key isn't used. The first thing here is that we are unsure on whether the key must stay in the machine or not. Does the key just have to be in the keyhole (it'd be wrong to call it the ignition) when you travel? But even then, it's still flawed. Because while this may account for the time jump and the machine staying put, it doesn't account for the spatial jump, nor for the traveler and non-machine jump. Confused? Well, of course you are because it was confusing language, but let me explain.
So, when both Wells and Jack jump, they end up in the machine but during modern times. No, that doesn't mean that the machine is transported to modern times, but that just they are. This is the traveler-non-machine jump. Just the traveler technically goes through time, transporting from one machine in the 1890s to the machine in 2017. We know this because this machine, while it is technically the same one, is on display in New York City. So this would mean that either the machine jumps or the person jumps, but for the past person to end up in the future machine, makes you wonder where the heck is the past machine? This is less akin to Back to the Future and more akin to the films About Time or The Time Traveler's Wife where the person is traveling back in time and not a full machine. This is actually a big dilemma because of the main thrust of the show and the feature of the key.
If the time machine that is displayed in the future is the one that Wells originally built in his time period (again, this is forgetting the fact that apparently no one in all those years thought to see if it worked), then what would Jack need the key for in the first place. In theory, if he can jump through time and always end up in a different time period inside of that time period's machine, then he wouldn't need to worry about procuring the key, you see? For example, the machine must exist in, say... 1980 because it exists in 2017. Even if it wasn't fully restored then, wouldn't he be able to jump back to 1980 and end up in that time period's time machine just as he did when he ended up in the 2017 version? And if not, then there would be technically two time machines out there both in whatever time he jumped back to and in 2017. That, on its own, is enough to make you wonder. However, with the speed at which this show has been moving with the twists and turns, this issue may very well be addressed later in the season when they are slated to go to other time periods.
Moving on, I find the actor who is playing Wells too boyish. I understand the man is 30 or turns that this year, but he doesn't play like that, and I think that's mostly due to the directing. He plays like a nerd and not a good, new-age nerd. This reminds me of a younger Castle as mentioned above, however he doesn't hit the marks that castle does. There is no charm there and what is there doesn't translate into a connection with the character. It's rather funny, because through the first two-hours (two episodes), I thought he was American playing British, because his accent and many of his mannerisms seemed fake. But then when I found out he was British, I cringed, because I also discovered that Josh Bowman (the Ripper) is also UK-born and pulled off a fantastic WASP American on the show Revenge a few years back. And while both gentlemen have good resumes, Bowman's work on Revenge probably helped him more as he seems much more like a fun villain who will become more charming and unhinged as the series continues. His suaveness is also possibly influenced by the fact that the Ripper is such an open canvas on which to paint. He gets to create the character from scratch while Wells is an established historical figure. Still, Wells, as our hero, seems off. Though, I will argue that maybe he has a little chemistry with Jane (Genesis).
Should you be watching? This is a tough one. For once, I believe that ABC has premiered a new series on its proper night. While this could easily slip into the 10pm time slot on Mondays that Castle held for so many years, it also fits perfectly into the 9pm hour on Sundays where it currently airs. I also like its pace, something which I actually took a mark off of Timeless for as the first episode seemed to throw the whole bowl of spaghetti at the wall (but I adjusted and still enjoyed the show to its end). Also, there are other time adventures to look forward to and you can do a lot with this concept and it looks like they will. However, there's so much mystery revolving around the main thrust of the show that it is difficult for me to recommend this to anyone who is looking for anything more than PG-13 escapism. If you'd rather not have the blood and guts of Walking Dead and want something that's just going to be more fun than heavy, then this might be for you. But with so much of our most esteemed entertainment going dark and heavy with themes of tragedy and whatnot, it is difficult to see where this will fit in the crowded TV marketplace. But this is on ABC, the Disney-owned network. I would say that if you enjoy Marvel movies or Agents of Shield (not the darker, more DC-oriented Netflix shows) then you will probably like Time After Time. Catch the first three episodes at ABC.com or on ABC on demand on your cable provider.
What do you think? Have you heard of Time After Time? If not, do you think you'll check it out now? If you have seen it, what did you think? Am I being too hard on the show? Or do you hate it? And what do you think is going on with that military guy or that female doctor who is holding Jack captive? I personally think she might also be a serial killer, an admirer of sorts. Anyway, let me know in the comments below.
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Until next time, “I don't have time to learn how to program this damn clock!”
P.S. I was going to go with more Cyndi Lauper lyrics, but I decided to do something original. Well, that flopped. Now I guess I understand why Generation X is so obsessed with making remakes or sequels of everything they saw as a child. Oh, you didn't know? It's OK, because I didn't know either. Yeah, Time After Time is a remake of a 1970s film of the same name. Originality, we hardly knew ye. I'll think of a better sign-off next time... after time.Amazon
P.P.S. Now that the show has been canceled, I actuallly feel for it. While it had plenty of flaws, I actually thought ABC might have stumbled onto something that could've been good. Oh well.
P.P.S. Now that the show has been canceled, I actuallly feel for it. While it had plenty of flaws, I actually thought ABC might have stumbled onto something that could've been good. Oh well.
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