Same as Me: You Go On Without Her (Obsession).

Tracy Tormé, creator of Sliders (y’know, in case you forgot), thought this episode was “middle of the road.” And while I admit that the alt-history of “erryone is psychic” is more or less bullshit, calling “Obsession” a decent-at-best episode constitutes a problem for the show. It brings us back to the show’s biggest problem: the unanswerable question of “What is Sliders supposed to be?”

At this point, we’ve settled in to a sort of willy-nilly approach to story telling, an “anything goes’ miasma of interdimensional proportion. Taken in the most negative of ways, this means that “alternate history” doesn’t matter— if a writer has a kooky idea for anything, all he has to do is shoehorn Quinn, Arturo, Wade, or (yes, or) Rembrandt into it, and BAM! Instant Sliders episode.

But in the most positive of outlooks, this means the show is a huuuge potential sandbox. More Twilight Zone than Party of Five (or whatever). If there aren’t any boundaries to what you can do on this show, then you can truly do anything (right? Isn’t that how that logic would work?)This week and last weeks’ episodes not only prove that the ‘sandbdox’ approach can work, they also prove that this show only works when you anchor it around the characters.

In fact, this episode might even be as close as we can get to knowing what this show is actually about. At it’s core, it’s about the bond between these four people— what happens when you’re separated from all you know— how these people rely on each other. Sliders, in it’s kooky mid-90s way, it sort of a precursor to Lost (and if I was writing this blog a year and a half ago, damn would my hits go through the roof).

In the interest of actually talking about “Obsession,” I’ll return to the point I’m trying to make later. Like I said, this episode is about a world full of psychics. But (thank Christ) it’s much more than that. It’s an honest-to-goodness “Wade-centric” episode. The first and best since “Luck of the Draw” (oh, and hey, they’re written by the same dude [Jon Povill for president]).

So here’s the shorthand skinny: Isaac “Psychic” Hayes hits Remmy in the foot with a car, which causes two things to occur:

•Rembrandt gets laid.

• Wade (who is imprisoned is a glitzy psychic mansion, later freed by Arturo and Remmy because Arturo pays attention to what Wade reads; gets a “Romeo and Juliet” idea to ‘poison’ her— then they steal an ambulance and drive it to a lake) has a rough couple of days.

BULLSEYE

I mean, I know. But it’s really well plotted, with twists and turns that do a better job of misleading you than they have the right to. The whole endgame, where the Sliders leave Quinn in the dark in order to fool Wade’s psychic fianceé (I mean, I know), is brilliant for two reasons. Not just because “not knowing the plan” is the only way to fool a psychic (so y’know, kudos) but because Quinn is left actually believing that Wade is dying. From Quinn, we get no playacting: we get the real deal.

It hasn’t been since (again) “Luck of the Draw” that we’ve seen Quinn so raw over Wade. Even in “Gillian of the Spirits,” where it was entirely possible that he’d never see her again, he didn’t seem too worked up over it. He just seemed… resigned. But why? What’s the difference? It’s fair to assume that the reason Quinn is ragged because, to him, Wade’s death is undoubtedly his fault. Which is preposterous: if she actually took real sleeping pills, that’s her decision. But everyday, Quinn is forced to remember that his little experiment is the reason for every little thing that happens to these people. So even if it’s Wade’s decision to kill herself, she’s killing herself because of Quinn’s actions.

But still, it’s not as if Wade would ever angry at Quinn for bringing her along. Rembrandt, having had his broad comedic strokes toned down this season, hasn’t been egging Quinn on about how everything is his fault/ everything is shitty because of his / I WANT MY CADILLAC BACK/ etc. But you just know Quinn still feels it. He’s been much more despondent this season, less the plucky go-getter college student he was in the first season. Slidings seems like less fun to him (and since he’s been shot, I can’t really blame him). We’re starting to notice the beginnings of the ‘downward spiral of guilt’ that defines Quinn Mallory’s character arc.

Or maybe he's just jealous that everyone else gets to make out all the time.

Now, with pretty much everyone’s arc (except Rembrandt’s, but that’s for later), we (yes, we, you’re included) have to start this tangent by admitting that most of this is projection. I doubt seriously that the writers sat down and decided that “over the course of the series, these characters will change and grow in these ways.” I mean, maybe they did (and that’s what they’re supposed to do), but they were also probably far too busy trying to keep the show out of FOX’s jaws— trying to craft shows that appeased the “make this an action show” suits while still adhering to their own goals.

So when I say “Quinn has a lot of guilt and it’s starting to show,” I’m not speaking to any decision on Jerry O’Connell’s part. I’m speaking to mixture of facial coincidence— Jerry looks bored, we read it as Quinn looking despondent. But I’m also speaking to what we know of the character of Quinn Mallory. We’ve been watching this show for, what, a season and a half? We’ve gotten to know these people, and (barring weird ‘prayer candle’ shit) we know how they tick. And we can chart difference in these characters. Rembrandt’s certainly maturing, for one. But Quinn has really changed the most, and not for the better (that’s a clunky sentence, but also WHATEVER THIS IS THE INTERNET 2012 [yikes i will regret that later {but I don’t care enough to remove it}])

Every time they fail to get home, it hurts Quinn a little more. Remember how excited he was in “Eggheads” to auto-set the dope-ass cell phone? And then how excited he was at the ‘chance’ to go home in “Into The Mystic?” Now remember the last time they even bothered to look up a double of Quinn’s. It’s entirely possible that Quinn’s just given up on the whole “getting home” thing. The best he can do is keep everyone alive as long as possible. He’s taken it upon himself to be the group’s caretaker.

ACTING

So when it really looks like Wade is going to die, it’s too much for him. Not only is he about to lose a friend (or more, who even knows anymore), he’s also losing the stability of the team. He’s also gaining more guilt: if Wade really dies, he’s failed the only mission that’s still feasible— the only thing he has in the world is keeping these people alive. Wade doesn’t die, of course. But she could have as far as Quinn knows, and that’s enough to break down Quinn just a little more.

And y’know, it was this episode that reminded me why I loved/love this show. It truly is these four happy wanderers: their bond, their relationship, their quirks. It’s them I love, and it’s for them I watch this occasionally brain dead show. If (and, spoilers, when) they leave the journey, the shadow they cast will be impenetrable.

But hey, look, I just spent a billion words in a Wade-centric episode talking mostly about Quinn. Next week, I promise she’ll get a little more time. Because, y’know, that Prime Oracle sure doesn’t like the look of the next world they’re headed to:

I see... mutated... earthworms... shitting... magical life elixirs?

Next Week: Life finds a way (In Dino Veritas).

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