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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.):
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.
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.
Next week: Again, ladies choice.