Pulling My Dead Mother Off My Chest (Season’s Greedings).

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.

I don’t know, if I was in the “Home of the Haut Dog,” I’d be pretty thrilled.

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.

This emotional scene is heightened by the use of Elf Costumes.

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.

The thrill of getting her braces off has long since passed.

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.

“Hi, we’re two extras.”

Wait. I mean,

“Hi, I’m Overacting.”

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?

A) What a great shot. B) I would have loved to see them at least TRY to fit all that through the Vortex.

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 he’s STILL dressed with more dignity than usual…

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.

HEY KELLY I REALLY LOVE YOUR HAIR NO REALLY WHY WOULD I BE LYING

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.

But at least he isn’t a living Skull-Beast.

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).

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8 thoughts on “Pulling My Dead Mother Off My Chest (Season’s Greedings).

  1. I agree a nice little episode, that features something that hits most Americans at this time of year and that is the system, go into debt to get little Billie the new red truck that he can’t live without then pay interest on your credit card so that you paid double price to get the said truck and you pay it off 1/2 a year later for a Truck that entertained Billy for 5 minutes…I really didn’t want to see seasonal episodes per say but if you are to make the show believable(something season 3 on they don’t care much about) then most of the reasons that you miss home for people that don’t live with their parents(I guess Quinn excluded) is family birthdays, holidays, and family reunions, outside of the occasional phone call home how much would these people visit their parents/relatives, so every holiday that passes should be a brutal reminder that not only are they never getting home, the people at home are changing and most likely assume the Sliders are dead, missing so family events have changed their after, If Quinn is the only one that puts up the Christmas tree then Mrs. Mallory has had to start a new tradition…

    My biggest problem with the season so far is that outside of Double Cross and I guess the end of The Fire Within, Quinn and Arturo have done nothing to either A improve the timer or B go to an doubles place to find out if they have perfected Sliding, and then Rembrandt is made out as being a jerk for mentioning that he didn’t sign up for this…he didn’t and he doesn’t understand the science enough to do anything to find a way home.

    You are correct though the Sliders are more at each others throats, and Quinn picking up Wade’s sister is way out of line

  2. Wow, great post! I’m not a hardcore fan and I don’t know enough about the show, but I really like it. Although I must say, to see a Christmas special of Sliders made me feel weird.

  3. I “actually” liked this episode a lot, I think for the same reasons you did.

    One thing that stood out to me (and I don’t think you touched on) was that Arturo becoming so invested in making a difference is somewhat new for him. He seemed to spend much of the 1st 2 seasons cautioning his fellow Sliders against being involved in the various worlds.

    I really got the feeling from this episode that he is possibly beginning to view his journey through the vortex less like a minor detour in his life… maybe even yearning to make a difference before his time is up.

    Whatever the reason, JRD pulled it off wonderfully.

    • Yeah, you’re right. I haven’t really noticed that change, either. I think you’re spot on though— it’s almost certain that the change is because he’s about to die and is becoming more and more concerned with leaving a mark on the multiverse. It’s sad, really— even if they get home, it’s Quinn who’ll get all the credit. He’s just the old man along for the ride…

  4. Quinn’s behaviour in this episode isn’t *necessarily* problematic. We don’t see much if any physical contact between him and Kelly. And Quinn has good relationships with women; he loves his mother, was on good terms with his female classmates and coworkers. “Luck of the Draw” is informative about Mr. Mallory’s views towards women; when seeing models try on dresses, he was *bored.* He walked out on a showcase of hot girls to go to the library. Even earlier in the third season, his attraction to Logan was because they were both equals, and he was a little hesitant as she leaned in close to him. Why wouldn’t Quinn want to have dinner with Kelly Welles? She’s interesting, can teach him a lot about how this world works, he’s a bit concerned about Wade and could learn something useful from Kelly.

    Where it doesn’t work is Jerry O’Connell’s performance. When Kelly compliments his look, Jerry (note I say Jerry instead of Quinn) smirks with a distinct self-satisfaction; he is used to being flattered, he enjoys the attention, he expects it and he likes it. That’s Jerry. Not Quinn. When he responds that he thinks Kelly’s pretty too, his delivery is so calculated, like he talks to women like this all the time. This is horrifically out of character. The real Quinn would have shifted uncomfortably and backed away. If he did say Kelly was attractive, he’d be trying to politely return a compliment. It wouldn’t be flirtatious.

    This is why, when people say Quinn’s become a real jerk, I say that there is a distinct division between Quinn Mallory and Jerry O’Connell. (Of course, some people see it differently.)

    Note the later Kelly/Quinn scene: Quinn talks about his family traditions. Again, the scene in itself isn’t offensive; it’s not like this is pillow talk. He and Kelly are just hanging out. But Jerry delivers this backstory infodump with such aplomb, like he expects Kelly to be hanging on every word because he’s attractive and charming and women like the sound of his voice. The real Quinn might have had the same dialogue, but Kelly would have coaxed this out of Quinn, gotten him to talk because she’s affable and warm and can get shy and hesitant young men to open up.

    Something has gone wrong at this point with Jerry’s grasp of the character and he’s no longer playing Quinn Mallory; he’s playing himself.

    You can tell I’ve really thought this through. 😛

    • Well sure, it’s undoubtedly Jerry O’Connell inserting himself into the role much more than he was in the first two seasons. But the fact of the matter is that if that characterization is getting off-base, then it’s up to the producers/directors to reel him back in. Like the character or don’t, no matter what Jerry O’Connell does on the screen, it’s Quinn Mallory. For the 45 minutes he’s on the screen, anything he does is Quinn Mallory. It’s tough to watch the character go off the rails, but if we had the choice to disregard character behavior, then Maggie Beckett would cease to exist.

      My argument above isn’t so much that the actual seduction of Kelly Welles is bad in and of itself— it’s just that the timing couldn’t be worse. Wade was just freaking out about seeing her family not five minutes before Quinn goes in Guns A-Blazin’. I’m willing to admit that he’d learn how to be charming after two years of not living with his Mother anymore. But it’s hard to watch him be so callous about it.

      • I agree that it is callous. But what if Quinn and Kelly’s scenes were played in a more chaste, platonic, aromantic way? What if there was the sense that Quinn was trying to get a better understanding of what Wade was dodging, trying to know Wade’s family since Wade was avoiding their doubles? There’d be something scientific about it; Wade is refusing to learn about her family’s doubles on this world. Quinn wants data. It’s in his nature.

        I don’t agree with the idea that what we see onscreen is what Quinn Mallory is whether it’s in character or not. Too much of Quinn in Seasons 3 – 4 is inexplicable (like in “Slither” where he was ready to abandon sliding and his friends to hook up with an obviously treacherous woman). But many fans have seen it that way.

        They’ve wondered if Quinn’s sanity fractured after sliding for so long. Rob suggested that in Season 4, Quinn deals with losing home and Wade and the Professor by taking the view that they were just doubles, and the real Wade and Professor will be alive on Kromagg Prime, which is why Quinn instantly accepts that an Earth he doesn’t remember is his real home now and has no concern. Some fans have suggested that the Kromagg tracking device in Quinn’s brain altered his personality and behaviour, making him less intelligent and more aggressive. Others wondered if when Quinn came back from the dead in “Slide Like An Egyptian,” he came back without his soul. But the fact that fans have to go to this length to rationalize the irrational makes it pretty hard for me to see Seasons 3 – 4 Quinn as a character who can be examined as a coherent construct. Instead, he’s muddled result of some serious behind-the-scenes shortcomings.

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