Did we need this? Who was asking for a Christmas episode? Sliders at this point is so much at the whim of its Network that it’ll do whatever they wish it to. So here we are, a miracle of coincidence, we’re airing an episode in December, and it’s so full of the Christmas spirit you could choke a reindeer.
But, once again out of nowhere, and much like “The Prince of Slides,” we have the show pull another semi-gem out of its ass. “Season’s Greedings” is as obvious as you’d expect it to be— the plot basically amounts to nothing more than “slavery is bad/honesty is great/Christmas is even better.” It’s the tried-and-true “message” episode. But it’s what’s in between these easy plot points that make for a much better-than-what-the-average-has-become episode.
And naturally, it’s because Wade takes center stage in this episode. I mean, sure, the episode takes every opportunity to throw her back to the sidelines, but Sabrina Lloyd (as sort of usual) steals back every scene she gets.
Like I said, there’s a lot going on in between the preaching. Last week I brought up the fact that there are cracks starting to grow between the characters. The journey is starting to lose its wonder. I know I always refer to Wade as the only true “Happy Wanderer” left of the four, but over the course of the season (though really just the last two weeks), the spark’s left her. I mean, just imagine the Wade from “Summer of Love,” and look at Wade now. It’s night and day.
Just take this scene. It’s the age-old argument between Quinn and Wade. Wade expresses disbelief that they’ll ever get home. Quinn is offended and declares harsher than his usual chill self that they will get home. Usually the argument/scene is stopped right there. But this time Wade holds her ground— “are we, Quinn? When? Tomorrow? Next week?” It’s harsh, it’s surprising, it almost seems out of character. But this is coming from a character who just last week was expressing her extreme loneliness. It’s not much of a stretch to go from loneliness to despair.
But Wade’s not quite at Despair yet, is she? She’s been in “Denial” for the last two years. The idea that “They’ll Never Get Home” has only been brought up when she’s at her most cynical, and it never really seemed like she meant it. Here, it’s barbed and full of anger. The bile in her voice betrays the wry way she says it: this time, she believes it. She’s admonishing Quinn for his optimism. We’re never getting home, and it’s childish to think so. That’s such a far cry from the old Wade. It’s distressing.
Extra distressing is the fact that she’s saying it to Quinn. These people are around each other all the time. The know each other better than any two people can really know each other. So Wade knows exactly what button to push with Quinn. She’s going to push his Guilt button. She’s going to imply that “we’re never getting home, and it’s your fault.” That’s brutal. But at the end of the day, it’s true.
It would already be rough for that exchange to occur while the happy time of Christmas is shoved in your face. But that’s not enough. Wade has to deal with running face to face with the double of her Father and Sister.
Wait. I mean,
Before I get into how kind of fucked up this situation is, I need to pull back and gripe about Wade’s Dad. I don’t know what the director was thinking here. Something like “no no no, let’s step back from familiar, and start treading into more ‘creepy Frankenstein Pedophile’ territory.” Seriously, throughout the episode this dude pontificates so slowly I would have forgiven you if you thought he was a Wizard.
I don’t know. Maybe he’s reacting to the extremely heavy-handed dialogue he’s got to meter out. “The Spirit of Christmas is as Dead as My Wife and Unborn Child,” he drawls every five minutes, just to make Wade even more fucked up. See, here’s the alternate history here:
•Gravity is maybe totally weird.
•Capitalism is like, totally revered, I guess?
•Someone decided that Council Tower Housing could be combined with Strip Malls.
•Wade’s Mom got Pregnant Again, as usual.
•Unusually, she bought the farm before the crib.
It’s a totally distressing scene. The amount of disparate emotions running across Wade’s face are heartbreaking. First, it’s denial— she doesn’t want to deal with this, not here, not now. But then she realizes that it’s a tiny slice of Home— the abstract concept she doesn’t believe in anymore. She decides to embrace this tiny Christmas gift… and they have no idea who she is. She never existed on this world. It crushes her.
And sure, she gets her “actually I’m your daughter from a parallel world” speech, and a touching reunion with her sister, and everyone smiles and it’s great, and won’t you stay for dessert. But come on. You know that as soon as Wade gets through the other side of the Vortex that brief taste of familial love will turn to ashes in her mouth, and she’ll be as sullen as she was at the start. But pyrrhic as it may be, at least they overthrew a government, right?
Now, just because it’s a cliché and I’m choosing to focus on the minor parts of the episode, doesn’t mean that the A-Plot isn’t totally without merit. The idea of the “supermall of slavery” is not a bad one, if not totally original (by which I mean it seems really familiar— if there’s a specific example of one in some classic SF novel, let me know). But obvious as it is, and the episode is really, really trying to beat you over the head with it’s GREED IS EVIL mantras, it doesn’t really come off as patronizing to the audience. Rembrandt’s susceptibility to the SECRET EVIL SUBLIMINAL ADVERTISING OF GREED is well handled, given time over the episode to develop into a problem that starts funny and ends up a little disarming. It’s frustrating to the Sliders to watch Remmy descend into something they don’t understand. This frustration mirrors their anger at the people of the Mall for allowing themselves to get embroiled in the endless debt, but the more they learn about the vagaries that are going on behind the curtain, the more their frustration comes off as frustration at the fact they couldn’t have gotten their earlier.
And Arturo’s subtle rebellion, of using his job as Professional Santa Creeper as a soapbox of Good Will, is actually really cute. When that brat kid comes back asking for forgiveness, it’s a more powerful ‘win’ for Arturo and the Team than Quinn’s needless punch-out of Bernsen at the end.
Speaking of this Aggressive Male Posturing/Total Horn-Dog (yikes), what is it with Quinn? Wade is hurting. Arturo is dying. Rembrandt is becoming more sullen by the minute. So what does he do? He tries to fuck Wade’s sister. OH YEAH GOOD MOVE DUDE. He switches on the charm like, two seconds after Wade is at the verge of tears. It’s horribly inappropriate, but he never even stops to consider his actions.
The more horrifying part of this is that it doesn’t even read as jarring for Quinn to do this. This post isn’t the place for the discussion, but it’ll come soon: Quinn has changed, and it really isn’t for the better.
Looking over this post, I keep seeing the word “actually,” as if I’m downright stunned that the show can be good. That may read as a cynical drag, but it’s actually just honest. This episode is pretty good. It’s probably Season Two kind of good. If you changed the haircuts a little bit, toned down the garish colors, it’d probably be Season One good. But at this point in the show, any bit of “goodness” is a surprise. Quality is a shock, and can’t be believed. I’m getting to the point where I can’t trust the show the way I used to.
But still, the undercurrents are intriguing. The threats to this friendship are bubbling up, and each time they pop out, it’s the best part of the episode. So whatever’s coming, I’m still excited for it. It’s about to be 1997— it’s time for a change in this dynamic.
Next Week: Elementary, My Dear Whatever (Murder Most Foul).