Life Here is Cheap (The Good, The Bad, and The Wealthy).

YEE-HAW.

Okay, remember when I was talking about a show needing to stretch it’s genre-legs? In the first minute, I was going to say “this isn’t what I meant.” They slide into a western-themed world: San Francisco, Texas. They find themselves in The Wall Street Saloon. The amount of Season Two episode tropes we’re going through is crazy. Bar fight. Quinn tries to intervene. Of course he does! He’s so headstrong. He’s a golden (nerd) boy!

But then the episode takes a swivel that we can’t really see coming at this point in the show. Quinn is forced to defend himself in an old-fashioned gun duel. Sliders by numbers all around. But then he actually fires the gun. And the man falls to the ground. Quinn’s jaw goes slack as it sinks in: he’s just killed a man.

Now, that’s a teaser!

"Oh my God," pt. i

We’ll be wistfully remembering this episode in the later seasons, so let’s just revel in Quinn’s guilt and mortification over killing someone. Let us also revel in the fact that said guilt is the motivation for everything Quinn does in the episode.

Usually, there’ll be either a damsel in distress or an oppressed people that guide the sliders on a quest for revolution. And while we do have a damsel here, she doesn’t do much egging on (she’s more just a walking and talking example of how all-too-often plot points on this show seem like they probably looked a lot cooler on the page). It’s more Quinn’s quest for absolution that drives the action.

Yet another Personality Vacuum.

The afore-mentioned damsel does somehow manage to strong-arm Rembrandt into a situation where he trades stocks via a poker game:

CRYIN' MAN SLIM FOR PRESIDENT

So more about this West-World (just kidding, robots come later). On this Earth, business negotiation and any sort of lawyering is done with a gun As in, a deal is a duel. As in, erryone be killin’ each other. Since San Fran is a part of Texas, and this gunslingin’ is ostensibly “the code of the west,” everyone is wearing Cowboy Hats and Spurs. Because of course they are!

Cowboyz.

Now, me being me, I found myself wondering how much of this Earth is actually Western-Themed. I understand that their view of the world is skewed since their first-most concern is for Quinn. he’s got problems in the lawyer/gunslinger side of things, so do they by proxy. Still, it would’ve been nice to see how the rest of the world operates. Also, why are there Old-West looking structures so close to San Fran proper? Is this a class thing? What do the poor look like on this world? Still, if you want a tagline, you got it: this is Western World. But to the credit of the show, it’s more than that. This episode is more of a morality piece, it’s more about consequence than genre-orgy.

It’s also the first time in forever where I can sort of agree with the decision to ‘fight the evils’ of the dimension. Generally when they decide to go all ‘revolutionary,’ it isn’t for much of a cause. Like, in “Prince of Wails,” what evidence did they have of that world really being worse off? The fact that that one guy almost hit Wade with his car? Likewise, there wasn’t actually anyone being actively oppressed by the government in “Time Again and World,” but Wade decided that everyone NEEDED A CONSTITUTION (seriously, why are they so into the constitution?)

I’m exaggerating, yes, but the idea of “corporate murder” is heinous enough that I can get behind Quinn making a couple of preachy speeches.

WHINE WHINE WHINE REVOLUTION

Plus, it’s not like those speeches actually change the world. There’s no “Time Again & World”-style infographic showing the whole world dropping their guns. Quinn’s pacifist showing at the climax only serves to take down one corrupt lawyer. There’s no indication that everyone who witnessed it is going to go out and Occupy Old West Wall Street (though that would be pretty funny [looking]). It’s food for thought to them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve had the thought before.

Rembrandt, of course, is not paying attention.

Also, even if they were going to turn around shun the workings of their society, I’m pretty sure they forgot all about it after watching four strangers open a portal through space and time and jump through it. Seriously they couldn’t have timed Quinn’s duel a little better?

So irresponsible, goys.

C’mon guys this is so irresponsible. I feel like this is a good time to talk about what I feel is the most ignored problem on the show. For all their talk about “non-interference,” isn’t the simple act of opening a huge whole in space “interference?” And I’m not even talking about something like the ‘structural integrity’ of a universe (yet). I’m just talking about the fact that any person who watches them slide has been forever altered.

Slightly, of course, but just imagine how that would butterfly effect out.

•Person witnesses the slide. They tell their friends, who worry about their sanity and have them committed. But what if insanity wasn’t a part of their destiny, pre-slide? What if they were supposed to be President? Or an inventor? Or if they were going to cure AIDS or something?

•Also, wouldn’t the scientific communities on all these worlds freak the fuck out??? Wouldn’t they devote their energies to making their own hole in space-time, instead of devoting their energies to matters at hand?

I could go on, but don’t you see? This is just a small piece of the ramifications of Sliding. Remember “Fever?” “Different Worlds, Different Immunities?” What sort of diseases do the Sliders spread throughout the Multiverse?

Also, fuck this kid.

Okay, enough on that tangent. “The Good, The Bad, & The Wealthy” isn’t solid gold (whiny kid actors will make sure of that every time), but it has it’s heart in the right place. If this is the kind of adventure we’re being forced to have, I’d much prefer this to “Time Again & World” (forever the butt of every joke about bad episodes [until Season 3])

Still, for an episode that probably started from a memo from FOX saying “guys, try a Western,” it’s not half-bad. It may even be half-good.

Rascals.

Next Week: I’m looking through you, you’re not the same! (Gillian of the Spirits).

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This is the Absolute Rock Bottom (Love Gods).

I had a blast watching this episode.

But that’s kind of a problem, isn’t it? Isn’t this episode the kind that we, as intelligent science fiction television program fans, supposed to hate? It’s flashy and action-packed. The alternate history is really lacking. Wade drives a van through the vortex. But I still had a good time. Why?

This episode begs the question, more than any other before it, “what do we want out of this show?” We know what we don’t want— basically, we just don’t want “Time Again & World.” By which I mean: a ‘political espionage thriller’ genre just doesn’t graft well onto the bones of this show (until Season 5, when somehow it does graft well).

Here’s the thing: a show’s longevity sometimes is dictated by how well it can subvert it’s status quo. Take The X-Files: ostensibly a paranormal cop show. But tune in on a different week, and it could be a comedy, or a baseball show, or a near musical. And, give or take, that shimmying genre was always welcome. And it was always still the same show.

So far in Sliders season two, we’re starting to see the same approach. Throw some shit at a wall, see what sticks. You want a prison break episode? Cool. You want a political espionage thriller? Cool. You want a western? You want a 50s throwback? You want a gangster film? You want DINOSAURS?

Cool.

But there’s a problem with that. Sliders still doesn’t know what kind of show it wants to be. There’s no status quo to upset. There’s no ground to shake. There’s a strong concept, but since we don’t really know how we want to apply that concept, we have mishmash, we have soup. We have no ‘show’ to look forward to, really. Just a ‘good idea,’ applied haphazardly.

“Love Gods” is no less haphazard. As I said, the alt-history is more or less ridiculous. A virus in the gulf war launched from Iraq designed to destroy the Male Population? Okay, sure. That virus wiped out most of the world’s Dudes, except for Australia? Okay, sure. Just kidding— WHAT? That doesn’t make any sort of geographical sense.

And then the plotting of the episode? Ridiculous. Let’s recap—

Slide in: Dudes captured. Dudes conspire to break out. Dudes break out. Dudes hide. Dudes recaptured (but separately). Dudes conspire to reunite. Dudes recaptured (but on purpose). Quinn bonks a MILF. Dudes reunite (but wait, how?) Wade drives a van into the Vortex. Preggers MILF stares at Framed Polaroid of Quinn.

My Father, the Polaroid.

Right, so this episode is (on paper) ridiculous. And sure, if you think about it for more than a second, every bit of plotting falls apart. I’m not even going to say that it held my attention for the entire 44 minutes. In fact, and this is a drag, but it was more or less any scene with Wade that dragged the episode down. The scenes with Quinn and his MILF (and again, sorry, but that’s basically all we’re given here [albeit semi-tastefully]) were engaging— they had an emotional undercurrent. But Wade’s scenes all smacked of a forced attempt to make Wade seem more independent and resourceful. Which is fine, but if you’re going to do that, make sure that her ‘plan’ makes sense. It was full of twists and turns and deception and counter-deception. Maybe I blinked and missed the one line that made it make sense. But I doubt it.

And then she drives a van into the vortex.

Huh.

Okay, okay. I know. I’m really focusing on that part. But it’s exceedingly ridiculous. After all the times that Arturo whines about “the vortex not being able to contain more than four people,” she fucking drives a huge-ass VAN through it? That’s not only filled with three out of the four sliders, but also TWO EXTRA PEOPLE? And then Quinn FOLLOWS THE VAN ON FOOT?

That’s fucking stupid.

And of course, what about those two extra passengers in the van? The lovers who risked everything to be together?

Are you really curious? Because they’re never mentioned again.

So, once again, an episode is tied up extremely lazily, using the implied ‘reset button’ as an excuse to leave any and all loose ends dangling like Jim Morrison’s dick in Florida. And especially coming after “El Sid,” it’s just insult to injury. PLEASE STOP BRINGING PEOPLE THROUGH THE VORTEX IF YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO TALK ABOUT THEM EVER AGAIN. You’re making me never want to watch this show again.

Still— contrary to all that (hyperbole) above, I enjoyed this episode. Why? Three reasons.

One: Rembrandt’s “it’s like a Buffet of Love” line, and Rembrandt’s “the moustache stays” line (he is in drag at this point- don’t ask why).

Lovely little paisley getup you've got there.

Two: Quinn’s sub-sub-sub plot with the MILF, actually dealing honestly with the implications that Quinn would sire a child he would never know, despite the fact that morally it’s kind of the right thing to do.

Soften dat focus, boiz.

Three: When the team is hiding from the Bureau of Repopulation in the attic at one point, they are found out in the most clever and hilarious way. I still can’t believe that they had the gall to use this joke, and that this joke actually worked. See, they’re a bunch of escaped men hiding in a world with no men, right? So how are they found out?

BUSTADO

GENIUS! That’s so genius! That’s fucking incredible! I thought that was incredible the first time I saw it (when I was like, 11 or 12), and I still think it’s incredible. That gag is enough for this episode to get a free pass.

Dude is SO deep in that vortex. (Also WTF is that statue?)

Okay, almost a free pass.

Returning to the original question of this entry: what do we want out of this show? This episode isn’t the answer at all. But it’s a part of it. If this episode does anything, it shows that there is a place for humor on the show. We just aren’t yet clear on where that humor is supposed to go, or how it’s really supposed to be used. But I think we can all agree that we want, like, one more hour of attention paid to the alternate-history.

And also, no more vans being driven into the Vortex.

Next Week: Yee-haw! It’s “The Good, The Bad, & The Wealthy.”

[I’m going to start actually advertising the next episode I’ll be watching, in case you want to watch along with me!]

In Case of Trouble, Lie Prone on the Ground (El Sid).

A brief scheduling note, first. Season One had a pretty set-in-stone running order. That running order was thrown out the window by FOX, but I chose to do these posts in the original, intended order.

Part of the ‘re-tooling’ the show’s gone through at this point is a pretty solid “NO STRONG CONTINUITY LINKING ONE EPISODE TO ANOTHER” rule. Which is something I’m going to discuss later (actually at the end of this episode). There’s still an general intention of airing order on the creative team’s side, but it doesn’t really matter, and they know that any of their input would be ignored anyways.

So that leaves me in a bit of a tricky situation: what order do I choose to cover the show in? Do I go with the order they were aired? Or do I go with the Production order, the order they were filmed in?

I’m going to do a little bit of both. Season Two is a scattershot season, safe to say. Part of my decision comes from the fact that “The Young And The Relentless” (Production Order), isn’t as strong as “Invasion” (Production Suggestion) or “As Time Goes By’ (Air Date) in terms of ‘satisfying season finale.’ I won’t tell you exactly which episode I’m saving for last, but I will give you a hint: “wow.”

Anyways, on to “El Sid.” I must say that so far through Season Two, my memory has not served either I or the episodes well. I mean, I knew that “Time Again And World” wasn’t going to be great, but I didn’t remember being the god-awful dreck it turned out to be.

Sadly, so it also goes with “El Sid.” This episode is nowhere near as bad as last week’s, safe to say. It gives us a more realized Alternate Dimension Hook Populated By Realistic Characters than “Time Again And World,” for sure.

But then again, “Time Again” was a crock of shit— total nonsense at best, deeply insulting at worst. So comparing “El Sid” to it is like comparing a rotten apple in a landfill to a rotten orange in a dumpster.

Let’s give this an insult sandwich, how about. Let’s look at the titular Sid:

You wouldn't like him when he's... oh right.

Look he is throwing that door so far! He is so angry and strong! Got that? Angry? Strong? Good. That’s as far as you’ll get with character development. He’s got a girlfriend, Michelle, who he is mean to and regularly beats up (I guess— we don’t actually see that happen, we just have his anger and Wade’s intuition that it’ll happen). Michelle counters that life isn’t so bad with Sid— on the world they come from, he’s strong, he protects her. Protection on a rough world is hard to come by, making Sid indispensable to her.

Yes, sometimes I do purposefully pick out the least flattering screencaps.

Wait, let’s parse it out. We’ll start at where they come from. I think this is important, because this (I think!) is the first “War-Torn World For No Reason” that we’ve had on the show so far. I mention this because it eventually, for whatever reason, becomes a staple of the show.

If ammunition was scarce (as I assume t'would be on a war-torn world), why would you waste it shooting at the sky?

Here, though, it’s used to give us the only bit of information we have about our guest stars: it’s rough here, they have to be rough, too. That’s about it.

So rough. Hard-edged. Oh, who am I kidding this dude is bullshit.

Quinn, being an idiot, tries to “save” Michelle from an “angry” Sid. But again, being an idiot, he announces to Sid “hey Dude I’m standing behind you with a metal pipe,” to which Sid replies “cool, thanks for the warning I’m going to beat you up.” Then Rembrandt, being less of an idiot, just goes ahead and hits Sid with a pipe without letting him know first. Then they slide out of the war-torn world (the WTW, as it will now forever be known), taking Michelle with them. Sid, not really being an idiot but taking advantage of how idiotic the Sliders are, slides with them. WOW!

But let’s return to Michelle’s ‘abusive’ relationship to Sid. The show would have us instantly side with the Sliders when they say “no, Sid is bad, you should leave him.” But Michelle’s argument of “but he protects me,” when applied to what life must be like on a ravaged world of asshole dudes with guns, becomes more than just a stammered protest. She’s actually in the right here. And of course, that’s not me condoning spousal abuse, but it is the show accidentally hitting on a tricky subject.

The sliders, once again, don’t know anything about the world they were on, and blindly apply their own world’s rules to any situation they run in to. By this time, they should know better. Really, they should. But already at this point in the series, we aren’t going to have any sort of meaningful discussion of morally grey areas. The Sliders must always be right. Everyone else must be wrong. It’s like the laziest approach that Star Trek would take: us Utopian Humans are SO AWESOME and everyone else can SUCK IT, here is our CULTURE so ADAPT to it.

But that doesn’t make sense without a giant spaceship to back it up. The sliders are supposed to make do with the world they inhabit. And if they can’t do that, then they shouldn’t be travelling in the first place. Also a big problem: the fact that the ‘Freeing’ Michelle from Sid culminates in her murdering him. So, yeah! That’s great…

The problem is that so much of their inability to adapt in this episode also stems from their increased snippiness. Again, they’re at each other’s throats. Again, Wade snaps at Arturo. Quinn stands there and says nothing. Rembrandt gets at least one sassy line in. I understand the need for like, conflict, but why are we supposed to care about these people if they don’t care about each other? Especially when they used to have such an endearing and close relationship.

And the hair! What is WITH his hair? Like, "oh, I am sliding and also a pariah of science now, so I'mma let this shit grow frumpy."

And that’s before I even talk about the fake-out “betrayal” that Arturo uses near the end of the episode. That was such a contrived bit of forced tension. Or actually, it should have been a contrived bit of forced tension, were it not for the fact that since the sliders act like they all hate each other, why the hell wouldn’t Arturo betray them? Ugh so lazy.

Also WTF has Remmy been doing all season? It's like they said "no more 'funny black dude' jokes" but couldn't think of anything else for him to do so now he just reacts to the dumb shit going on around him.

And that’s before I even talk about the world they spend most of their time in. Remember the credits sequence’s “a world where San Francisco is a high-security prison?” Well, here we are, folks!

I am making a joke about Pink Floyd right now.

So… okay, fine, whatever. I honestly don’t think that it’s really a bad idea for an ‘alternate history,’ such as it is. And I almost admire the fact that the sliders don’t know it’s a prison until two-thirds through their stay there. That’s an interesting plot decision— but the way it plays out in the episode (especially on a second [or 10th or whatever] viewing) makes it seem more like the cast are a bunch of total morons for not picking up on it. It’s like the show is BEGGING for us to HATE these people! But hey, a geodesic dome (it’s at this point that the location scouts in Vancouver just. gave. up.):

COPPIN' SOME DOME

So at the end of the episode, the Sliders slide off into the crumbling sunset. Before that happens, though, we have Wade teaching Michelle to be independent, which results in her shooting Sid to death. Good lessons in feminism abound! (Though I must say that Sid’s “give me the gun, bitch” line comes off as oddly over-harsh and inappropriate to the show). Then, since she’s “Free,” she follows the sliders into the vortex. And the episode ends.

But not without blowing off some excess budget first!

Which is awesome! Now, next week, we’ll have to deal with how someone who really has no idea what this shit is about adapts to sliding!

Except, no, we won’t, because this is Sliders, and we are strictly forbidden to ever mention this happening again.

So Michelle joins the team, and is never heard from again.

WHAT A FUCKING WASTE.

I’m now going to play one of my nerd cards and tell you about one of my ideas for Sliders fan fiction (and here is where I also tell you that there is a HUGE WORLD of Sliders fanfic, and at some point, I will be sharing a list of my favorites).

One of my ‘episodes’ (and by ‘episode,’ I mean ‘a comic series that fills in the gaps between episodes’) would begin as “El Sid” ends, with the sliders taking Michelle with them.

They slide into an unforgiving desert world. Michelle is totally excited to be on a really different kind of world, runs around without paying attention to her surroundings, gets bitten by a poisonous snake, and is dead before the end of the teaser.

The rest of the episode is about how the sliders deal with her death and what it means and how irresponsible it was of them to bring her in the first place.

So there, I’m a cynic. But then, this episode also kind of blew. So I’m entitled.

And the less said about fake LL Cool J here, the better.

Next week: Again, ladies choice.

Same Planet, Different Dimension (Season Two Intro).


Another season, another credits sequence. It’s a little weird to me that every season has at least a slightly different intro. Every theme is different, until season 4-5 settle on the ‘variation of season 3 theme’ they had.

It all smacks of a directionlessness, a huge floating question mark of “what kind of show is this?” Which is a question darkly echoed by “how can we get people to watch this show?”

I suppose season one’s “TECHNO BEAT SHOTS SHOTS YEAH” method didn’t work? I’m not sure, not being able to relive 1995, what exactly wasn’t working. Was Sliders supposed to be an X-Files like cult success? Was that the intention? I can’t say for sure— but I guess the show wasn’t up to snuff.

One thing that I suppose is an improvement (in theme song) is that the tone of Season Two gels better than Season One’s did. Throbbing Techno doesn’t really mix well with, say, quiet character moments and wondering if you’re home or not. Season Two is supposed to be more action-oriented and exciting (!!!) and so it has a snappy (but not too snappy) theme to go with it.

It’s got ladies singing! Dark Side-style! “YeAAAaaaaHhHHAHAHAHHHHH” That sort of thing. It’s got guitar chords! Poundin’! It’s exciting. I’ll be frank, it’s my favorite theme (yes, I’ve picked one). It’s probably the guitar solo.

But more important than the guitar solo, and the real reason why we’re looking at the credit sequences, is what shots they use from the series. And, of course, watching the intro sequence and the rest of any episode is like watching two different shows. This season is more or less a laundry list of every “use of the budget that probably got us in trouble,” with the vortex showing up in every shot, all two explosions we’ve seen on the show so far, and Wade looking like she’s DTF.

It’s not fair to the show, really. Even post “re-tooling,” Season Two is still better at small moments, exchanges of thoughtful character moments rather than BIG EXPLOSIONS ALL THE TIME. The show just doesn’t have a good enough writing team to pull off an action show. Plus, the characters weren’t cast in that regard. So it will always be weird to have Arturo running so much. He’s a scientist, not Indiana Jones (har har).

So throughout the series, we’ll find that the credit sequence is basically the network’s dream of what they want the show to be, regardless of what it actually is.

Next week, though, we’ll have an episode that gets closer to the ‘action’ promise of the credits (not that close). Thankfully, it is better than Last Week’s attempt.