Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"I've really stepped in it now, haven't I?": Two weeks of Journeyman

The inevitable has occurred. According to Zap2It, NBC gave Journeyman two weeks to get its Nielsen act together before it gets the ax for good. Seeing as the ratings have shown no improvement since this announcement was made, it's likely that Monday's strong episode might have been the last to ever air on NBC*, even though there are several produced episodes sitting on the shelf. To which I ask...NBC, what are you smoking? Aren't you going through something called a "writer's strike" right now? Aren't you running out of original programming? Wouldn't this show be a suitable plug-in option to fill holes until this thing is over? Oh, never mind. I forgot who your network president is. Carry on.

It's a darn shame that Journeyman is seemingly done for good, because it's improved each week and become a solidly good show. The writers finally have a handle on what works within the time travel conceit and what doesn't, and watching this show go from a muddled mess to an exciting, well-paced, character-driven sci fi romp each week has been a delight to witness. The final two-parter ("Emily" and "Blowback") was a great example of what a fun ride this show has become.

Inevitably, they had to deal with the fact that Dan's sojourns back in time would somehow negatively affect his future life. Each time he steps back into one of his missions he changes something and the powers that be (whoever they may be) seem to have very specific goals for his missions, and when he strays something always goes wrong. In this two-parter, Dan goes beyond his mission of simply helping a kidnapped girl and goes after the kidnapper full-throttle. This causes the ripple effect (or BLOWBACK...see what they did there?) of angering the psychotic kidnapper and causing him to come after Dan and his family once he is released from prison. The kidnapper was sufficiently crazy and compelling, but the real meat of this story was when Dan escaped by jumping back in time, and just happened to jump right into the life of the kidnapper as a young boy. He then uses what he learns then of the kidnapper's tortured childhood to get him to agree to not harm him or his family.

The best result of this story was the development of Jack and Dan's relationship. Now that Jack has seen Livia and knows Dan is telling the truth about his time travels, it opens up a whole new angle for the show to play. Also, it was just plain cool when Jack saw Livia through the glass doors of the newspaper office. Reed Diamond played that moment and his subsequent conversation with her perfectly. A time traveling team with a cop in the future to help them out sounds like a pretty fun endeavor, and it is too bad they never got a chance to play that up a bit.

One great reveal was the discovery that the FBI agent investigating the Dylan McCleen money wasn't exactly who he seemed, and was really some sort of rogue agent who had been tracking time travelers for quite a while. That revelation was also very slyly underplayed, and when it became clear he wasn't exactly who he seemed my brain did a little happy dance of joy. Stories of this nature live and die by their reveals, and this one was subtle and yet still quite chilling. In the end, the agent was gunned down by the kidnapper but I have a feeling his presence was only the very surface of what danger lies for Dan in the future. Remember Elliot Langley's "men with guns always want to control men with ideas"? It takes on a much more tangible meaning now.

Also interesting was the idea Livia held that long mission to the future and engagement to Dan was all about eventually getting Dan and Katie together. Dan and Katie as destiny rings a bit hollow as a reason for a 15 year mission to me, but to the romantic out there I'm sure it adds some nice gravity to the Dan/Katie relationship. If there was more time in the series, it would be interesting to explore exactly why Livia was there for so long, why she left, and why Dan all of a sudden developed time traveling abilities several years after her departure. What is their underlying connection? They've dialed back the chemistry between the two since the pilot to strengthen the Dan/Katie bond, but there is still something really intriguing there.

If these were the last two episodes to air for this series it is quite a shame, but at least the show went out on a high note. There are at least two more episodes in the can and the creators promise the final one does give some sort of small closure to the show, so keep an eye out for them in the future on Hulu or I know I will be on the lookout.

*Update, 11/29: Ain't it Cool News is reporting that NBC will, in fact, be airing the final three episodes. Regular Monday night episodes will resume on December 10th for two weeks, and the 12th (and probably final) episode will air on Wednesday, December 19th at 10pm. I suppose I should feel bad for laying Ben Silverman out like that in my opening paragraph, but...I don't.


page said...

I thought these were great episodes, Carrie. I agree with you, this has turned into a really fun, interesting show with some cool stuff to try to figure out. I didn't know it was in danger of being axed, that blows. At least we'll see the remaining episodes. Dang, I was just starting to really enjoy the ride.

RikerDonegal said...

"exciting, well-paced, character-driven sci fi romp"

Nice way of putting it. I love this show, and these past two episodes have been the best yet. It sucks that nobody is watching.

Your musings about Katie/Livia are very interesting. I wonder how much of it we will ever know...