There are really two things to discuss about “into The Mystic,” and sadly, those two things only refer to about a total of 7, maybe 8 minutes of the episode.
Let’s start with some real world discussion. As I’m sure you remember, season one of Sliders ended with Quinn face up in a pool of blood, with Wade’s screaming face as the last image aired. That came very, very close to being the last shot of the entire series.
FOX never loved Sliders. It did well, but not that well (in 1995 terms. In 2011 terms, that shit would be on for years). It wasn’t big enough, wasn’t flashy enough. In fact, in reality, this isn’t even season two, this is just the back end of season one. (And, since I can’t figure out how to get my links page to show up, this is where I tell you that any factual/historical facts I glean about the show I get from either Earth Prime or Dimension Of Continuity, which are, if you’re interested, the two best sites about the show on the internet). FOX, having watched the first few episodes, saw such TERRIFYING things as “continuity” and “character development,” and, god forbid, “IDEAS.” So they took the show off the roster for a ‘retooling,’ so they could throw some more action/adventure in there. The cliffhanger at the end of “Luck of the Draw” was a last-ditch attempt by the production team to make sure that FOX didn’t forget about the show. Which was smart, because the ‘re-tooling’ was basically the network’s excuse for canceling the show if they had to. Sliders was juuuust popular enough that if they’d just pulled the plug, there’d be actual people who would be cheesed by it.
But Sliders, even ‘retooled’ as it was (and we’ll see how this ‘retooling’ ends up rearing it’s ugly head throughout the season), still was a pretty weird show, and FOX had no idea where they wanted to put it, so they sat on the show for an entire year.
But there was still the tricky problem of that pool of blood Quinn was left in. It had been an entire year since “Luck of the Draw” aired, would anyone remember what happened?
FOX’s standpoint was “no, no one will remember.” Which is really dumb, of course. It’s insulting to the letter-writing fans of the show, and it’s damaging to any chance of the show gaining anything close to ‘critical respect.’ Obviously, this deserve a slight tangent-TV in 1996 is totally different from TV in 2011. Serialized television is still generally left to soap operas or mini-series at this point. Even on something like The X-Files, a ‘big-deal’ event like Scully getting abducted by aliens only lasts, like, (spoilers!) three episodes. So it’s a different time— less (or at least just different) chances are being taken.
But still, you don’t just shoot your main character and pretend it didn’t happen. Tracy Torme also felt this way, and went to war with FOX. For the longest time, the best ‘compromise’ that FOX would make was this: “just have someone say ‘good things that bullet didn’t hit your heart,’ and leave it at that.” Which, of course, is ridiculous. Torme wouldn’t have it, and thus his reputation as “difficult to work with” was set in stone.
Eventually, Tormé strong-armed FOX somehow into a better, but still ridiculous, compromise. The network told him “if you can deal with it in a pre-credits teaser, you can deal with it.” Which, of course, is also ridiculous. Though probably not as ridiculous as the ‘solution’ we got, a dream sequence that includes this:
And, because part of the ‘re-tooling’ means less continuity, Alex Krychek, who if we recall also slid with the team last season, simply disappears (taking Henry the Sliding Dog with him, presumably). So here we have the first notably instance of “sliders stories that never came to be,” as the production team actually had a multi-episode story-arc planned out for Krychek— one that would climax with something ‘dramatic and terrible’ happening to him. I can only imagine that he would die, sacrificing himself valiantly for Wade or some bullshit. I can’t imagine that the show (at this point, in this season) would stick the landing of something like that, but in a perfect world (ha), I can see how they could work it out to be about the true perils of sliding, a ‘nothing is safe’ kind of lesson, much like the end of “Luck of the Draw,” but, y’know, more serious.
But, hey, that’s an alternate dimension version of this blog! Wah-wah.
Before I talk about the other important part of the episode, I’ll just briefly run through some of the parts of the episode I do enjoy. I’m not, and couldn’t even pretend, to say it’s a great episode, but has some merit. I don’t much care for this ‘occult world,’ as much as I might chuckle at the “golden gargoyle gate” bridge joke. I admire things like the Witch Doctor, or the Grim Reaper Subpoena— the elements of the world that show how the brass tacks would operate. It’s nice to see both Pavel the Cab Driver and Lawyer Ross J. Kelley, even if they don’t get to do very much.
I also admire the fact that they at first want nothing to do with any of the “Sorcerer” products and services in the paper (those zany antidisestablishmentarianists!), especially because of who this wicked “sorcerer” turns out to be:
And Quinn’s response to this revelation is perfect: “Of course.” It’s an incredibly egotistical thing to say (right, there’s a megalomaniac entrepreneur who hides behind smoke and mirrors and lives in a castle and hires scary midgets— OF COURSE it would be ME!), but somehow Jerry O’Connell sells it with a form of youthful bravado that it comes off as if we’re watching Quinn get a boost of confidence more than anything. It ends up being endearing, rather than annoying.
There’s also the matter of Arturo’s ‘secret son,’ which Arturo takes grumpily (as he sort of takes everything in the episode). It’s an interesting ‘revelation,’ but at this point, even in the ‘season two’ ‘premier’ (god this show), we already have the feeling that this is something that probably won’t ever be mentioned again ever for all time. With things like this, it almost seems like Tracy Tormé is saying “yeah, think about what we could be doing if this show had it’s shit together. Which is fine, but until this show actually does get its shit together, it’s at best distracting, and at worse, depressing (spoiler alert: the show never gets its shit together).
But all this pales in comparison to the ending. I don’t really want to beat around the bush, so I’ll just say it: they get home. Like, they actually get home. The journey is over.
And then they leave.
They do Quinn’s patented “Gate-Squeak” test, and it fails because the Mallory’s gardener just oiled it.
Read it again: they get home, and leave.
In the last episode, we left with Wade screaming bloody murder. Now it’s us as an audience screaming at the television. I have to ask, why end the episode like this? It’s bleak and ridiculously disheartening.
Let’s go through all that this is, one at a time. First, it’s sad, depressing, and cruel. Let’s face it, as an audience who watches the show, we aren’t exactly rooting for them to get home— if they did, the show would be over. But the fact remains that we’re the audience, and we will always remember this moment— that they’ve made it home. Every time from now on that they say “is this home?” we’ll know that it isn’t, it can’t be, they’ve already been home. Their hope, for us, becomes hollow, becomes false. Every slide now is sad, and the more terrible things that happen to them, the more cruel it becomes.
But if we think about it, we can understand that it really couldn’t have happened any other way. Rembrandt picking up a paper and reading about OJ Simpson’s trial is spot-on: a lot of seemingly ‘crazy’ things have happened since they left. Any number of things could have happened, and they wouldn’t know anything about it. As sad as it is to admit, that dimension, ‘our’ dimension, ‘their’ dimension, just isn’t their Home anymore. They’ve been detached from it for too long— there’d be a disconnect, something missing. In a way, this is hopeful— it proves that they’re their only home— Friendship is their House.
But this endearing revelation is lost to them, because we the audience are the only ones who know it. This is really the worst part of this because it denies the Sliders a realization that would only further strengthen their bond. Basically, they’re denied character growth, which is the worst slap in the face to serialization ever.
So, due to a mix of network interference, inhospitable TV trends, and a lack of creative balls, our heroes end up— at the end of this episode, following up on the powerhouse of “Luck of the Draw”— exactly where they started.
And it’s really nothing else than a damn shame.
Next week: something happens, then it happens again (with skirts).