Time After Time: Picture Fades
Time After Time returns with episode five and seemingly the question is asked once again...
Is it possible to appeal to the humanity of "Jack the Ripper"?
I'm not saying this is the central theme of this show. But it certainly plays a large part of it.
So, this was a pretty entertaining episode of "TAT". This time we weren't too embroiled in the larger myth building of the franchise. Instead, the focus was narrowed and we got to look in on our main characters.
There has been some criticism that we haven't gotten to know our these people that well. To an extent that is true. Basic motivations have been outlined to service the story but who are these people really?
Oddly enough it is Dr. John Stevenson that has gotten most of the attention followed closely by Jane. Odder still, these two seem to be drawn to each other. Where does that leave poor HG? Second fiddle so far.
In the last episode we learned that Stevenson had a son that even he thought was impossible. (A rare moment of joy?)
To the surprise of probably no one, John has left the 21st century and spirited off to Paris of 1918. TAT did some quick exposition (as voiced by Jane) that anything was available via the internet and that would explain John's knowledge of when and where to meet his son.
The question would be why? Surely a heartless murderer such as he wouldn't give a wit about such things.
Unless, of course, having a son might be to John, "The one good thing I might ever do."
So he does have a conscience!
Not only that, John violently railed he's really not happy being known as Jack the Ripper. Curious. Earlier in the season he professed he was not happy with the anonymity of being "Jack". Now he seems to hate the image altogether.
Perhaps this had to do with that one moment of joy with Pauline.
John's instincts prove correct when he finally meets his son and Henry tells him, "We either reject the darkness or we let it destroy us". Wise words from someone in the formative stage of his career. If only John heeded the advice of his better angels. Instead, he murdered someone for their clothes in order to meet Henry.
John is successful in saving his son's life, even though he had to employ his usual harsh methods. Word gets to Henry that everyone in the convoy has been wiped out and he is deeply distressed.
Here is where Time After Time takes an interesting turn and it has to do with it's basic mythology.
Unbeknownst to John, Jane is following events in the 21st century. She becomes alarmed that the earlier reports of Henry's demise in the convoy were wrong. Furthermore, it looks as though HG has died in the same mortar attack that has now claimed Henry.
So, hold on a second. These people have proven to be quite adept at the intricacies of time travel. How come they didn't realize once John had changed the time stream, then the media of the day would have changed too! A writing mistake or Jane not being up to speed?
(Plus, It's one of the oldest tropes in time travel TV or movies. See the movie "Looper" for a grisly account of the past changing the present.)
Jane travels to Paris of 1918 and confronts John. She's worried for HG and tells John he is making a terrible mistake.
John is astonished that his effort to save Henry wasn't successful. (Jane needs to hide her printouts better.) They both hurry off to the Cafe.
The mortar rounds land and everything is torn asunder. John once again tries to stop his son from a certain doom but Henry's better angels compel him to enter the cafe to rescue the others. He never makes it out.
So, no matter what John did his son died that day. Even Jane told him that there was nothing he could have done to escape this fate.
So hold on a second. Fate?
If fate is so strong, as evidenced by Henry's demise, why is HG and the rest so worried about changing the timeline? Time will take care of itself right? There's nothing you could do to change things!
Seems like a narrative conflict to me. Either you mustn't mess with the stream of time or fate is intractable. Which one is it?
Don't tell me we are going to get caught up in the subtleties of each. That smacks of artifice.
Jack and Jill, er, Jane
At the devastation of the Cafe site, HG lies gravely wounded. John looks devastated himself. Jane beseeches John to help HG. He gives him a quick look and diagnoses his bleak condition.
Jane gets right in John's face and reminds him how he is not happy who he is. And if he is a doctor then it is time to act like one.
It worked. John comes to the aid of his friend and whisks him back to the 21st century.
First of all, Jane is the only one that can challenge John like that. She's done it repeatedly and without fear. For his part, John has proven he'd just as soon as cut someone's throat than to let anyone cross him. (Even those who don't)
What is it with these two?
For one thing there is Jane's courage. Secondly, John respects that courage. He wants to be challenged. If someone had challenged him long ago he might have moved to "reject the darkness".
John also seems to have a measure of humanity when it comes to being a doctor. He's arrogant yes and has a god complex but that doesn't mean he isn't brilliant.
Jane may have sense for this. She seems to know what buttons to push for him. This is definitely a tightrope act for Jane. How far can she really push him without going too far?
Did you see that leer John gave to Vanessa as he was marched off near the end? He doesn't do that to Jane. He does it to most others, especially the ladies.
So what is it? It could be the HG factor. John may hate his past but he recognizes HG as the lone link to it. Maybe HG is the lone "better angel" that John has left.
Or better yet, maybe Jane is that better angel. She's fearless and I think somewhere deep down John loves that HG and Jane love each other. Even he wouldn't come between that. Especially considering what he had with Pauline Ayers.
Here's a prediction, John and Jane will get an episode together. They'll be trapped in time or some other dire situation. Their respect for each other will be tested but they will come out of it for the better. Even if they won't admit it.
Oh, and they'll have a secret that only the two of them can share. (Prediction alert!)
The Conspiracy Deepens
At the top of this post, I spoke of how it was a relief we didn't get too mired in the "mythology" of the show this time around. But we did get some!
Immediately above is a document unearthed by the now deceased Dr. Myers. Vanessa had gone to see Dr. Myers, an associate of her father, to find out more about "Project Utopia".
She found something all right.
By the look of it, the work her father "pioneered" involved John Stevenson as it's primary subject. John Stevenson being Jack the Ripper.
So, this should tear everything to shreds what she thought of her happy little home as she grew up.
I think it's understood Vanessa pretty much revered her father. Now, she is to understand he was experimenting on human subjects and the lead subject was history's foremost killer.
Someone she has locked away in her basement!
She'll have to deduce he will somehow escape her prison only to be transported to the past or he's already been there and been victimized by experimentation. The latter isn't too likely as he hasn't thrown that knowledge in her face.
Brooke has often shared her fears with Griffin that this information cannot come to light as it will expose them to the world and Vanessa. I don't think Vanessa is aware of the link that ties Griffin to Project utopia yet but I guess that information is within the project itself. (Why David Anders would include that information is beyond me at the moment. Blackmail potential?)
Will Vanessa lash out at HG? It was his machine that made all of this happen. Plus, the family "fortune" was built on a bed of lies and she may become so embittered that she may threaten to destroy the machine.
If that should happen it should have instant repercussions.
Here's a thought, will Vanessa insist on going to past to right the wrongs of her family? We still haven't gotten to the point where HG formally introduces himself to young Vanessa and reveals their common lineage. I bet that is coming sooner rather than later now.
Odds and Ends
As Brooke tends to her bother, Griffin, we learn Griffin served in the Iraqi war. That explains the hand to hand combat skills he flashed during his fight with John last week.
Brooke also demonstrates the fruit of her father's research and Project Utopia. She patches Griffin's knife wound and the fix is practically self healing.
Griffin marvels how useful it will be to soldiers in combat. Brooke agrees but is somewhat dismissive. She also scoffed at Griffin's "affection" for Vanessa.
It looks like Griffin is the one with the conscience between the two. Will he have to make a choice between Brooke and Vanessa someday? (Of course he will.)
Dr. Frankenstein with her monster.
According to IMDB he goes by the name of Nick. (Actor Jonathan Mielec.) He's the one that rag dolled John and now's killed Dr. Meyers. Brooke's thug for hire?
I have a theory Brooke through her genetic research wants to study and infuse John's intellect and "passion" into beings like Nick.
An army of genius brutes. I wonder what Griffin will think of that.
Jane and HG had a nice moment near the end.
Jane was a bit broken hearted to learn her and HG may have to go their separate ways some day. Then HG said pretty much the same thing as he lay in bed.
What will this mean for Jane? Will her commitment to HG and the cause suffer because someday it will all come to an end?
If she holds HG at arms length how will it affect his efforts to thwart John, Brooke and Project Utopia?
Will Jane insist on following HG to the past? (Or wherever?)
HG has already said he does not want to endanger Jane. Will a split between the two happen sooner or later?
In closing, this was a good episode. Tighter, smaller in scope. We got to learn more about our characters and the focus wasn't on the "conspiracy". Not that I think the conspiracy is a bad thing. In fact it is pretty clever. But, if there is one thing they need to focus on, it is HG himself.
Maybe next week?