This Show is Fixed (Dead Man Sliding).

Television is a strange beast. A different world in a tiny box. A thousand different worlds in a tiny cube. An infinite number of tiny impossible worlds, all trapped in a box. Television, then, is Sliding. It’s just up to us to choose to believe in what we’re seeing, to believe in the space around the screen. In truth, it’s the job of the Television Program to convince us, however briefly, that what we’re seeing is true. Those brief successes are what define the medium. Those moments when we turn away from the screen, eyes full of tears— sublime escapism. And I don’t mean escapism in the pejorative sense. We’re merely becoming our doubles on another Earth, where the people we watch on screen are our friends and enemies. We suffer as they suffer. We delight in their joy. This is, or should be, the point of all works of art. And while it may seem blasphemous for a BFA Recipient to say, when an episode of Television works as it’s supposed to, it’s nothing short of a work of art.

Somewhere along the line, television started to realize its power. It became sentient. And as a result of this sentience, it decided to get cheeky. It started to wink at us. And this winking, this knowing smile, a darted glance out the corner of the eye, became another kind of world for us to visit. Where we were let in on the joke, or got a peek behind the curtain. Or, postmodernism found its way into our homes. “Meta” was the new black. I’m not going to spend the thousand words necessary explaining the ideas behind things being “meta” and Television’s use of “postmodernism” over the decades. What I’m here to do is talk about “Dead Man Sliding,” a Television Episode of the Programme entitled “Sliders.”

Yes, drawing a bunch of dominos falling into the sun will absolutely explain Sliding.

This episode is one of the tried and semi-true plot forms of “someone gets confused for a double, and hijinks ensue.” Here, it’s Quinn who is confused for his double, who is caught on camera murdering an innocent man out of greed. Quinn is put on trial, which would be one thing, were it not for the fact that a ‘trial’ on this Earth consists of a primetime television show entitled “The Judgement Game,” in which ‘contestants’ stand trial in front of a live studio audience, who in turn becomes Judge, Jury, and Executioner via Touchpad. It’s loud, it’s gaudy, it’s a little irritating, it’s oddly thrilling, but somehow familiar, as if it was out of a movie.

I mean, no jokes, I would totally watch this show.

Our-Quinn, as we know, is innocent. But in an interesting turn of events by way of a double case of mistaken identity, it turns out Alt-Quinn is innocent as well— his face was posted onto another man’s. Quinn is on trial for an invented crime.

THE HORRORS OF PHOTOSHOP (also the way Wade is editing that photo makes it looks like she’s trying to frame the Producer, not get Quinn off the hook).

Now, for anyone who watched the first two seasons of Sliders, we’ve been putting the show on trial. It’s become loud and abrasive, full of “crowd-pleasing” gaudiness. Every episode is familiar to us, since we’ve seen the Hollywood blockbuster it was based on not two months before airtime. The show has started to strive for “thrilling,” but the only thrills we receive are the ones we get watching something that had so much potential fall so totally down the tubes.

But then, this isn’t really our show, is it? Our show was sensitive and aware of the world around it. This show, this new, different, other show is mean and apathetic. It has no care for the real world. We aren’t watching Sliders, we’re watching an evil twin. A double.

You eat that shit real good Alt-Quinn.

So do you see what’s going on here? “Dead Man Sliding” is the culmination of this first third of a season that so far has gone completely off the rails. Last week was a first taste of how the ‘new regime’ could tell a story right. Now this week’s episode is the conclusion, brought to screen. We aren’t watching the Trial of Quinn Mallory made false by mistaken identity. We’re watching the the Trial of Our Sliders where it should be the Evil Sliders we’ve been putting up with.

And it isn’t an easy trial, either. The episode begins by setting up the cult of celebrity as it stands on Judgement World. Here, even the no-name D-Listers on our world have a Star on the Walk of Fame here (aggravatingly transplanted to Universal City Walk GEE I WONDER WHY). What else are we doing while watching this show than elevating a bunch of has/could have/never-been Actors onto a pedestal of amusement? John Rhys-Davies’ line in “The Guardian” about Indiana Jones wasn’t just cringe-worthy because it was an unnecessary poke at the fourth wall— it was a little sad. At that point in time, if anyone watching the show even remembered John Rhys-Davies, it was because of that. Same goes for the stupid handshake between Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman in “Electric Twister Acid Test.” Jerry O’Connell’s entire career has been spent running from the colossal shadow of “being the fat kid in ‘Stand By Me’.” Bringing it up is irritating and desperate. But we’re watching a show because we enjoy these actors on the screen, and if we want them to keep working, we have to keep watching. The teaser of “Dead Man Sliding” is using us as Exhibit A in the Trial of a Slider.

The most thrilling game of Simon ever played.

Then we have the Professor’s appointing as Quinn’s attorney. The Judgment Game’s Host makes Arturo swear he’s never so much as glanced at a book of Law, making sure that he’s entirely out of his league when it comes to legal defense. Arturo is saddled with a role that has nothing to do with his character. Just like Wade suddenly becoming an adept computer hacker. Just like Quinn knowing how to sword fight. Just like Rembrandt’s sudden Naval Past.

Don’t you be talking about my faux-Naval past when I’m wearing this sharp a suit!

And of course, there’s Quinn— or more precisely, there’s Quinn’s double. We’re presented with a smarmy man of action: a leather jacket wearing, uncaring individual who beds whoever he sees and punches anytime it would make less sense to run away. Or— he’s just the Quinn Mallory as we’ve come to know him over the last few episodes. But the show isn’t putting either Quinn on trial for a crime he committed himself— the crimes he’s accused of are all at the hands of the TV executives that control his very existence.

TO THE GULAG WITH YOU

“Dead Man Sliding” is a mirror to a show we once loved showing it for the ugly beast it has become. The end of the episode has the team jumping off a cliff and into the Vortex. Is this a warning to the show to reverse course before it jumps off its own proverbial cliff and jumps too far over the shark between its legs? Or is this show escaping the clutches of what’s come before, in order to land at its roots?

And people think the slide in “Revelations” is lame…

I’ll tell you: it’s neither. Because while this episode aired after “The Prince of Slides,” it was supposed to air third. Who knows why FOX decided to delay it so. Was it too good for them? That unknowable kind of ‘better than you think’ kind of good? Or did it not have enough explosions for them to be able to promote? Probably a mix of  both, leaning on the latter. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this episode is about more than it pretends to be, precognitive knowledge of “Paradise Lost” or no. Unlike “The Trial of a Time Lord,” the season of Doctor Who that also strove to put itself on trial, it’s a coherent tale that brings up enough points intelligently enough to invite the audience to make their own judgement. Does this show deserve to be on the air as it is? In the case of Doctor Who, the answer was no, and the show quickly realigned itself. In the case of Sliders, it’s “yes,” but only if the show turns out episodes like this one. “Dead Man Sliding” is just too good to be an episode that’s only about making fun of Judge Judy or the Pre-Millennial fear of Photoshop. It’s an indictment not only of Sliders Season Three, but of the very Being of Television, using the medium against itself.

Next Week: A Dismaying Tale of A Man Who Sure Did Love His Acronyms (State of the A.R.T.).

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Full of British Bull (The Prince of Slides).

If you’re going to invent the idea for a TV show, you’re going to write your ideas for a parallel world on a napkin. And on said napkin, you’re going to have some gimmes. Some easy, first thing that comes to mind kind of ideas. Like, say, “The Russians Rule America,” or “Women are in Charge,” or “The English Rule America.” Sliders burned through those within two months of being on the air. So it’s a surprise to see an episode that seems so obviously napkin-based this late in the game. It’s no surprise why you’d want to use an idea like this as a lead-in ad for a premiere:

So yeah, “Dudes Get Pregnant.” To quote Sam Beckett, “Ho Boy.” After the last two episodes, and their apparent mission to destroy my faith in not only good television, but also humanity itself, seeing the show revert to its “roots” and have a low-key episode without any sort of B-Movie insanity is somewhat jarring. It’s almost uncomfortable to watch an episode where the only thing separating it from last season is the haircuts and the sun. It’s painful, almost. It’s like a twist of the knife— we’ve been wasting our time with living flames when we could have had this? But hey— I don’t mean to complain. This episode is great, and you can tell it’ll be from the opening minutes.

Gee, Wade’s diary, who knew you were full of NONSENSE? “The Music on this world is coming from the sliders of another world?” YEEESH.

OH HEY WADE’S DIARY LONG TIME NO SEE. Rembrandt remarks on it, cueing in a viewing audience who probably never saw “Luck of the Draw,” and also winking at us fans who are excited to see the diary again. So let’s talk about the diary for a minute. Wade, as a character, has always been defined by her lack of definition. She basically never gets an episode devoted to her. She only exists, at this point, to either give quips because Rembrandt already gave too many in a scene, or to hack a computer because why shouldn’t she hack a computer? It’s clear no one knows what to do with her, and it’s increasingly clear no one cares enough to write an episode that could serves to flesh her out. I know I’ve already answered my own question, but why not just keep her Diary a recurring part of the show? I don’t mean that every week we cut to Wade talking about how she’s got indigestion and is so bummed that she can’t eat a giraffe burger with the dudes or whatever. But every now and then you get a little V.O., and we get to see a little more through Wade’s eyes.

In this episodes teaser, she’s serving as a surrogate almanac— we hear about the alternate history from her instead of Quinn and Arturo, which is sort of unprecedented on this show. And sure, you could argue “yeah but it’s so regressive for her to be like ‘aw it’s so romantic,'” but if that’s your argument for proving that Sliders doesn’t know what to do with its female characters, then JUST YOU WAIT. Honestly, it’s sweet— another moment where we can relax and watch these four characters interact with the familial love they’ve earned. So when a woman busts in on a stretcher and Rembrandt goes to business as instant caretaker, we aren’t really angry at them for neglecting to remind him that “hey, buddy, remember ‘Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome?'” They know Remmy too well to bother intervening. And they know that something’s going to go wrong, that there’ll be some sort of price to be paid, but they know better than to work against that. So when they find out what exactly is the price— that Rembrandt is now fated to give birth to a child who also happens to be next in line for some Royal Action— the look of shock on their faces is maybe the best DUH DUH DUH teaser moment we’ve had in Two Seasons.

Rembrandt’s pregnant? But I haven’t even had time to comb my hair!

You could make up a nitpick on that moment. You could say “gee whiz wouldn’t they have known about that already?” But why bother? You could also say “ugh what a dumb idea a virus destroyed the ability for women to carry a child past the second trimester?” but you’d be wrong. First, it’s extremely more plausible than “Love Gods”‘ magic “ALL DEM DUDES BE DEAD” virus, and second— and this is getting ahead of the game— but this episode is pretty much all dedicated to expanding character. And we should be more than willing to allow for a little bit of plot wishy-washiness to spend more worthwhile time with our characters.

If by “crisis” you mean “Lacking in Photoshop Skills.”

Since this is Season Three, it’s not perfect. But y’know, it’s no more imperfect than any other early episode. There’s a conspiracy in the royal family. Rembrandt falls in love with the double of a past lover. A virus damages a half of the population. The strange thing that’s happening with this show the further I get into Season Three is that my eye is being trained to pick apart every single thing that’s ever bad with an episode. But more and more, there are good points of the episode that don’t escape the critical eye. Something that I would have praised in Season Two I end up pulling apart in Season Three. It’s easy to look at a shitty CG Dragon and tell you what’s wrong with it. But when the formerly exciting adventures through parallel worlds turns sour and drab, it’s hard not to start to question what you’re here in the first place for. And yes, the fact that this episode is sort of a mishmash rehash of a lot of over-used Sliders plot moments is a mark against the episode, but what I’m trying to say is that it sort of calls out how those plot moments were kind of boring to begin with.

It takes a real man to wear a sweater vest whilst dueling.

That’s a really strange direction to take with this episode. It’s a superb episode in a sea of darkness, but it’s flaws, even as few and far between as they may be, are jarring enough to start bringing the whole building down. But let’s stop burning down the house, let’s focus on some really good things this episode chose to do:

“You’re not my husband… and you just farted.”

1. Not have the second half of the episode be about Rembrandt avoiding the guillotine. Which technically, it is, but that action is all on the back burner. Cleavant Derricks gets a scene where he lays down why his Danielle is so important to him, and it’s so incredibly moving, and well acted, and amazing that we’re given these minutes of screen time watching Derricks work. Danielle’s reply could seem like psychic magic, but it doesn’t— because we’ve just discovered that Cleavant Derricks is the best actor on the show.

2. Not have there be a surprise CG Magic Element. We didn’t need one. There could have been a dragon, or a unicorn, or some other kind of bullshit, but the producers (I’m guessing, maybe Tracy Tormé came out of the rock he was hiding under and said “guys, no”) realized there was a strong enough non-CG A-plot to carry an entire episode.

3. No British Jokes. Rembrandt makes a joke about pence (which is vaguely nonsensical), but the episode is nothing like “Prince of Wails,” which was actually written with “making fun of England” in mind. Don’t be mean if you don’t have to, Sliders.

“(I Can’t Believe I) Gotta Go (Again),” follow up single to “Tears in my Fro,” total flop, 1985.

Two things to end this with. One, the idea that we have to forever accept the fact that Arturo either cut Rembrandt’s stomach open and pulled a fucking child out (which is terrifying and also totally awesome), or the British World Doctors put a fake vagina into Rembrandt that maybe he still has because I doubt they had time to run to the hospital and say “hey so like, minor mix up can you remove the fake vagina you put in this dude?”

The other thing is the bookend world. And I don’t mean “bookend” in the way that, say, “lawyer world” from “Greatfellas” or the Spiderwasp world from “Summer of Love” weren’t really integral to the plot but were still satisfying ways to show the ways the sliders’ adventures exist outside of the 45 minute bursts we see it in. The “bookend” world that we end this episode with is wayy too obviously a time-padding device. It’s not like there wasn’t more to wring out from this episode’s plot.

But of course, that argument is kind of pointless when you take into account the fact that the bookend world involves a mother throwing her daughter out of a window. Which, if the episode ended there, I would be amazed and delighted because that’s awesome. I don’t know. I feel like Sliders should have the balls to straight up kill a kid. But they don’t have the balls to do that. They do, however, have the balls for that kid to sprout some fucking ANGEL WINGS AND FLY AWAY.

To be honest, I would have rather had a scene set in the Cave.

So I guess we can’t have our cake and eat it, too. We have to have some bullshit CG Angel Wings on top of a delightful episode. UUUUUGGGHHH THIS SHOWWWW.

ITS A PARALLEL WORLD WHO CARES

Next Week: BUSTADO on NATIONAL TELEVISION (Dead Man Sliding).

Oil Slick, With Noodles (The Fire Within).

In 2012, there’s something romantic about “The Union.” People look back on the 70s and 80s and think, “Arthur Scargill, wasn’t he a nice man?” Nowadays, there’s riots, and London’s on fire. Here in the US, that banding-together against The Man spirit has taken the form of the Occupy movement. But the Occupy movement is toothless, a group of trust-funded aimless children who never bathe and latch on to any sort of micro-movement that appeals to them. That’s a generalization, of course— and I should point out that I firmly and wholly agree with the basic principles of Occupy and of Unionizing in general— I just disagree with the way Occupy’s chosen to make their claims.

But back to The Union. Science Fiction, in the 70s/80s, was often occupied (har har) with the idea of The Union. There are great examples of classic Doctor Who taking the issue head on (What’s up, Green Death?). The idea of “the common man is crushed by the system” is one of the oldest tenets of story-telling, sci-fi or otherwise. Sliders has tackled it from the side— “Prince of Wails” and “Fever” (and yes, I guess you can count “Time Again & World,” but I’m not going to) were both examples of small groups of citizens being tossed around in a torrent of a Government outside of their control.

But those groups/stories were never organized under a Union. Sliders never based a story off of the Coal Miners of England in 1972. So when, in this episode, the team lands on a world where the entire city of Los Angeles is a glorified Oil Foundry, and the Company works the workers into the ground, denying them anything and everything, even Health Insurance, we’ve got ourselves the makings of a real cracker of an episode.

Apparently the only thing The Union does get are dope-ass sunglasses.

Somewhat surprisingly, the team at first doesn’t want anything to do with the Union and the Machinations of the Planet. They’re more concerned with just finding work and laying low until the slide. Naturally, Wade gets involved when she discovers how far the Corporation is actually going in their quest to remove their workers’ rights. And this where the episode takes a slight downturn. The episode didn’t need a subplot where there’s a murder mystery and a secret arsonist working within the Corporation. The threat that the Union faces is greater than any silly murder/revenge story. But really, the episode should get credit for giving The Union a face, not just some faceless mass of humanity that we’re supposed to care about because of course we are. Wade’s journey through the episode is brilliant in this way. She carries almost all of the story revelations by herself— the meat of the character moments in the episode are all on her shoulders.

Or at least they would be, if this episode weren’t actually about A LIVING OMNIPOTENT FLAME THAT CAN TALK AND FORM INTO A SHITTY CGI “HUMAN.”

BBBBBBBAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRFFFFFFFFFFFF

I semi-apologize for the alternate-dimension entry above. But do you see what I’m getting at? There could have been a wonderful episode here. A call-back to the more human-centric episodes of the first season. Instead, we have a sketchy framework background of a world that just serves as an excuse to shoot in the Universal Studios Backlot again (more on that later). The only thing that this episode does to redeem itself is the fact that they don’t shoot in that fucking cave set that we’ve seen every week for no fucking reason.

LOOK AT THIS FUCKING STOCK FOOTAGE

But even then, this episode commits maybe the laziest of production sins that the show, and maybe any show ever of all time, will commit. As much as it’s a pain and obvious and distracting, I understand the need to continue to shoot on the backlot. It’s a part of the compromise of the show’s move to Los Angeles. It’s a great money saving resource. Fine. Save that money. But get creative with how you choose to shoot the backlot. And I’ll admit, the episode’s choice to make a lot of the cars from the 50s is one step to making the backlot creative. The next step would be having an actual reason for making a lot of the cars from the 50s.

OH MY GOD ARTURO LIKES CARS NOW THEY MUST HAVE TAKEN THE WRONG ONE 😛

But I’m digressing from my point. Let’s watch a scene from the episode, in which Wade and Rembrandt are trapped in a burning building, unable to escape (I guess the door is locked and they were tired).

Oh, wait, I’m sorry. That’s actually just BACKDRAFT THE RIDE. THEY DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO STAGE THEIR OWN FIRE. THEY JUST FILMED FUCKING BACKDRAFT THE FUCKING RIDE AND STITCHED IT TOGETHER, REPEATING THOSE DOORS BLOWING OPEN LIKE TWENTY TIMES, AND THEN CUT IN SOME SHOTS OF WADE LOOKING CONCERNED.

I ATE A BABY

I’m sorry, but that’s unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. I’m willing to forgive the episode for its foray into fantasy with the stupid fire being. I’m willing to forgive the waste of story with The Union. I’m willing to forgive Rembrandt’s weird sunglasses. I’m willing to forgive almost every stupid ridiculous bullshit part of this shitty episode. But to insult me so completely by just filming Backdraft The Ride and not even make any amount of effort to hide that fact? Unacceptable. They might as well just show this the next time they jump through the fucking vortex:

That’s more or less a joke. But look how well that’s aged over time. Then watch “The Fire Within” and tell me how much fun you had. And I’ll ask you to wipe the drool off your face because Yes, I’m Sorry, You Fell Asleep. Arturo, in one of the only charming moments of the episode, geeks out to Quinn about the Fire Beast being basically the coolest thing that has ever happened ever of all time (other than, y’know, SLIDING). But his excitement doesn’t translate to us. We don’t share in it. We’re bored and waiting for him to shut up so we can watch Ally McBeal.

This is the last time these two characters look like they have any sort of affection for each other.

So I guess, before I put this crap to bed, that I should talk about Wade’s little admission that she, like, really wants to squeeze one out. This comes in the middle of Backdraft The Ride, which is a pretty awkward time to tell anyone that fact. I mean, sure, she thinks she’s about to “die.” I don’t know. I’m torn. I don’t think it’s out of character, per se, though we’ve certainly never heard any sort of indication that she’s wanted a baby before. I think what rankles me about it is the fact that it’s impossible to take it seriously when I’m watching fire burst out of a door for the fourth time in as many minutes. It’s a potentially powerful character moment squandered in a lousy excuse for a TV show.

Also WTF was with all the Strip Clubbin’?

That’s the epitaph for this episode. And if we keep on this trajectory, it’s going to be the epitaph for the entire show.

Next Week: I’m going to be taking a holiday week, because I’ll be at CAKE, the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo! If you’re in Chicago, please come out! I’ll be selling some new comics, and some old favorites, and every cartoonist you’ve ever loved/should love will be there!

Next Next Week: Rembrandt One-Ups Wade and Squeezes One Out Himself (The Prince of Slides).

No More a Wizard (Dragonslide).

You can hang almost every problem with Dragonslide and Season Three as a whole on the last ten minutes of this episode. Rembrandt and Wade have literally the best interaction between two characters the show has ever had basically ever. Rembrandt lays his love of Wade’s soul out on the table. He tells her he wants to go home. He doesn’t want this life, he wants his friends, his loved ones. He tells her that at least he can have half of his dream. They embrace, and we’re more in love with them then we’ve ever been. The core foundation of the team is laid, as I’ve always said, with friendship at the feet. I’ve read people say that there’s no reason at this point for any of these people to continue sliding. But Rembrandt gives us every reason in the world. It’s love.

But then, as they draw apart, Professor Arturo busts in and tells them that “actually we have ten more minutes to fill, so let’s actually just look at this HUGE FUCKING DUMBASS DRAGON BECAUSE WHY NOT.”

Perhaps the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life.

I mean, really. The episode was over. The plot was basically resolved. The moral of the story was learned, Quinn was safe, the Evil Wizard was defeated. So why do we have the Dragon-Coda? Without it, the episode would be a silly but lovable farce. Instead we have the absolutely painful “dragon’s claw” sequence, and the even more ridiculous “Mallory’s sword can block fire because of course it can” sequence. Now, the fight with the Dragon is certainly in the realm of “so bad it’s good,” but the fact that it comes after such a brilliant scene of affection nulls the joke. After Wade & Rembrandt’s scene— and I’m willing to wager that this would hold true if this was the first episode of Sliders you’ve seen (which I have the feeling is going to be the litmus that I hold much of this season to)— we don’t want a Dragon. The Dragon is forced down our throats, and really the only reason is probably because the Producers thought the word “Dragonslide” sounded cool, but read the script and said “guys, where’s the dragon?” But c’mon— the threat of a Dragon is way more interesting than the CGI Bullshit that we got.

Oh no, I’m sorry. THIS is the funniest thing I have ever seen, ever.

But the strangest thing about “Dragonslide” isn’t that it’s a bad episode—which, despite all that I’ve written above, isn’t true. The strangest thing about the episode is that it feels like it was ripped right out of Season Two. It’s everything— the pacing, the plot, the fact that we even bother talking about the characters. Hell, the first minute or so, I would forgive you for thinking you put in the wrong VHS and were watching your rerun copy of “Obsession.” Part of that is in the writing: the tried and true team of Tony Blake & Paul Jackson, who penned a host of memorable episodes from Season Two (though not Obsession, so that’s weird.) Blake & Jackson are clearly still operating with the values of the second season: there’s discussion of parallel Earth history, an actual attempt to figure out how in the hell a dude could turn into a hawk— we need this kind of stuff. Otherwise, when Arutro finally throws up his hands and says “actually I have no fucking idea I guess that was a real Dragon,” it wouldn’t be earned. His throwing in the towel of science is a character moment. If we hadn’t had the episode’s attempt of world-building, it would just be a lazy writing moment.

You know there’s a problem when a lamé cloak is the classiest outfit we’ve seen Arturo in this season.

It’s a little funny, then, that the same team who wrote “Love Gods” would deliver another episode that puts us in a similar position. I mean, if you can’t tell, I’m not being overly critical of this episode. And it has a fucking Dragon in it. But ultimately, this episode is fun and enjoyable. Every character has a moment to shine, and Wade is treated like an actual human being who has thoughts, feelings, and emotions, not to mention an entire life. 

Not even “Young and the Relentless” was this inextricably 90s. Ugh that top. Ugh that shade of lipstick.

The acknowledgement of life is one of the deal-sealers of this episode. Rembrandt reveals that he was going to ask a woman to move in with him on the day he began sliding. Now, it’s difficult to believe Rembrandt as we knew him in Season One would be able to handle an actual relationship with a normal human being. At first, this ‘revelation’ seems like it’s as last-minute a revelation as “Oh, yeah, in the Navy” was, but it’s actually a very clever bit of storytelling. It’s made obvious in the dialogue, but the fact remains: we don’t know anything about Rembrandt’s personal life because no one has bothered to ask him about it before. This tiny moment actually does the job that Navy-Remmy was actually supposed to, deepening Rembrandt’s humanity. All of his past ranting and raving about his Caddy and his Anthem and the This Is Your Fault, Quinn is just covering up the fact that he actual had a full life before sliding.

Friends! Nobles! Countrymen! Druids! Dragons! Hideously Deformed She-Witches!

I mean, think about it. We know what Wade’s like was more or less like: she worked at a computer store, seemed to be a part-time student of poetry, had a crush on Quinn. She wasn’t really going anywhere, but she was what, 22? She’s allowed not to know what she wants. Sliding filled the emptiness that anyone in their early 20s fills. Quinn was a lonely nerd, with everything to prove. But he was still stuck at the same computer store Wade was. He was too much of a rebel to fit in to the Academic circle, and it wasn’t like he was going to start a ‘zine on Cosmology (thought that would be totally awesome). Arturo had the position he desired, but aside from the occasional shining star of a student like Quinn, it didn’t seem like he was truly happy. He was still haunted by his lost love, and the lack of respect all around him surely didn’t help.

So when we learn that Rembrandt had an actual life outside of his non-existant recording career, it’s kind of hard to deal with. His life might not have been much, but it was important to him in a way that it wasn’t for any of the other sliders. And none of those other sliders ever thought to ask him about it. I mean, it’s both reassuring and disarming that it takes maybe the last pair of Season Two veterans to flesh out Rembrandt Brown more satisfyingly than any other episode thus far. But it’s a start.

LOOK AT THIS FUCKING CAVE (also look at that fucking old laptop)

But, before you forget, this episode is about Magic. I’m sure it was a fight to keep any of the interesting “Rembrandt” stuff in the episode. Quinn had to go and be a huge dick and risk everyone’s life over some illusionist ‘babe.’ Rom the Ferengi has to pretend to be menacing, but also Max Grodenchik apparently forgot that real humans don’t hunch like the Ferengi do, and comes off as some sort of Hunchback Mercenary.

I mean, I’m only half-kidding. It only took a three seconds between the “that guy looks familiar” to “why is he hunching so much he looks like a Ferengi” to “oh shit that’s Rom.”

And then there’s Gareth, and his nonsensical excuse for a “plan to achieve immortality.” I mean, it’s so glazed over. There’s something about bodysnatching, and at one point he has to impregnate Melinda with Demon Semen, but at that point I was just sort of like “Oh, yeah? Demon Semen? Totally, dude.” And really, that’s all the reaction we’re asked of in this episode. And, yeah, that’s disappointing. We know this show can do better. It’s done so way too many times to be able to get a free pass for this. But the fact of the matter is that after “Desert Storm,” this episode just tries just such a tiny amount more that it earns that free pass.

“GARETH CAN SUMMON A DEMON FROM THE UNDERWORLD TO IMPREGNATE ME” // “GARETH CAN MAKE A RAINBOW TORSO IMPREGNATE JERRY O’CONNELL WITH A SHITTY FAKE ACCENT”

That’s not a good place for a television show to be in. But “Dragonslide” seems like it could be on its way to a mixture of silly-goofy and emotional. It’s a long shot, but there’s no reason to give up, yet. Right?

Next week: Putting out fire with Gasoline (The Fire Within).