Burying Your Head In The Sand (California Reich).

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“Sliders doesn’t have the benefit of history.

It exists as a time capsule, made in a time of peace and stability. The 90s were great! But if you look at our culture, you’d think we lived in a post-apocalypse. The X-Files is probably the apogee of cultural darkness— paranoia, the feeling that evil is seeping in between the cracks of reality. But it wasn’t true, not then. We put that evil on a pedestal and revered it because it seemed impossible. We couldn’t trust what we had— hence the paranoia— but we still had it great.

But then the bubble burst, the camel’s back cracked, the tub was emptied. Our perfect little soufflé of a country fell flat. The Great Disappointment. Death. Destruction. Recession. Comparing 1998 to 2008 to 2013 is an act of depression. Not only in the sense of economical downturn‚ but one of emotional depression. This country, in its cowboy hubris, took itself down the tubes. You could argue that we’ve pulled ourselves out of the worst of it, but have we?

I’d argue no.

And the simple fact of that makes “California Reich” at times both infuriating and terrifying. The evils that “Reich” posits aren’t really science fiction— in 2013, they’re fact with fiction glaze. That’s not to say that the lead singer for The Germs and some immaculately coiffed thugs march around rounding up black people and throwing them in concentration camps. But we live in a country where a majority of the population doesn’t believe in evolution. A country where a very vocal portion of the population refused to believe that our President was actually a citizen— something that most certainly wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t black. A country where, in so many of our cities, “poor” neighborhoods are just a nicer way to say “non-white.” We don’t live in a fair country.

But it isn’t as if things weren’t like that in 1998. It’s not like immigration wasn’t still a concern. It wasn’t as if there wasn’t racial tension. It wasn’t as if poverty didn’t exist. Today, though, all of our mild concerns of 1998 are magnified to tremendous levels— the tension is all around, not just seeping into the racks, but simply all we know. It’s worse now, because things haven’t gotten better.

So now, in 2013, it’s impossible to watch this episode and not recoil. Because a lot of things that happen in the episode are truly terrifying. But they’re cut with inanity and sci-fi bollocks and bad ideas and over-proselytizing— basically, it’s just an episode of Sliders. “

Read the rest at EARTH PRIME.

Tell Me Your War Story (Asylum).

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Rembrandt’s journey on this show has been the most drastic of all the characters. He started at a personal nadir, really. He was vapid and empty— desperately clinging to a career that didn’t exist. Snapping at Quinn about his car. Shrill. Angry. Dressed in bizarre clothes. I mean, he was a joke. And sure, he was written to be that way. He was a stereotype. “Funny Black Dude” was where he began and ended.

 

And part of his journey into “believable human being” is due to a willingness of the writing staff to allow for more than a one-note character (too bad the same wasn’t allowed for Sabrina Lloyd). But part of it, too, is because Cleavant Derricks is a truly amazing actor who can take the worst material ever and elevate it to the sublime.

 

Season Four may not be perfect, but the decision to make Rembrandt a Wounded Survivor was the absolute best one it could have taken. No one else could have handled it. Kari could have tried— she’d have failed, but she’d have tried. Jerry’s past caring enough to work with that. Charlie doesn’t count. But Cleavant cares. And so Rembrandt grows. Rembrandt grows, and he does so naturally. It’s why Rembrandt awkwardly hitting on Grace isn’t creepy— because it’s a shade of the Remmy we first met.

 

All of this is to say that Rembrandt is a broken man. And if his shaky belief in God is what gets him through the day, then who am I to judge him in that?

 

READ IT AT EARTHPRIME

All My Friends, Nothing But Blood & Meat (Slidecage).

Screen shot 2013-02-08 at 6.55.37 PMThis week on Sliders:

The Slidecage changes you. But it’s changed the Kromaggs for the better. The humans— the people we’re supposed to root for— they’ve devolved. Which would be fine, but I’m not sure that’s really what we’re supposed to take away from this episode.

 

Still, there’s the quiet moment where Rembrandt watched Jules and Kolitar embrace, and he is clearly moved, but also equally ashamed and confused by that swell of emotion. Which sets us up for actual progress in the ‘arc’ of Rembrandt getting over his captivity. Which, frankly, should be the entire arc of the season. Instead, we’re ‘treated’ with another tag in Leisure World, where Rembrandt is sad that he tried to kill Quinn.

Which is a pointless, irritating scene. After all, Rembrandt was brainwashed when he tried to kill Quinn. When the spell wore off, he clearly had no memory of it. So what the tag implies is that the other sliders told him about his ‘betrayal,’ in a way that still allowed him to feel guilty about it. Which is A) cruel. And B) it denies us the opportunity for a killer scene down the road— imagine if Rembrandt’s revelation about Kromagg Love inspired an about face of feeling in him, only to have it undermined by the revelation that he had been brainwashed into murdering his friend?

 

Plus, the Leisure World tag is bizarre because it seems like it’s written by someone who didn’t watch the episode. Sure, the line about Rembrandt’s heart being too strong for Kromagg Influence is cute, but it had nothing to do with Rembrandt’s heart. Jules broke the spell. Jules and Jules alone. Rembrandt was powerless. Which is wayyyyy more interesting than a shitty “power of love” message that the episode tries to force down our throats.

This episode isn’t really about love. It’s kind of about hate.

 

That’s what this entire show has become.

 

READ IT AT EARTHPRIME.

 

Five In The Hand, White Soul Man (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

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This week on Sliders: we meet Colin, Quinn’s brother, who has a vast intellect and an amazing sense of style that’s not dated at all, whatsoever, why do you ask?

I understand it was going to be hard, no matter what, to follow something like “World Killer.” I stand by my wild assessment of last week— it’s simply the best. Here’s the good news: this episode isn’t the worst. The bad news is, it’s not… I don’t know, good? 

 

I mean, we’re not even really playing to the cheap seats here. I’m not even sure we’re bothering to play at all. It’s just so easy. The thing is, I’ve always enjoyed when the show goes down the path of “New Slider Learns The Ropes.” And sure, the good ol’ comedy trope of Country Bumpkin Hits The Big City can sometimes work (read: sometimes).

 

But the problem is that this isn’t just any old New Slider. This is Quinn’s Brother. This is one of the big hinges of the new season. This should be the defining episodes of the show. But instead we’re treated to a parody of a parody of a rube bumbling his way through city life. It just seems like a waste of a new character.

 

Actually, that’s not even the big problem with the episode. The problem is that this stupid way to introduce a character is grafted (all puns intended) onto an already decent idea about bone grafts and DNA banking and a pretty clever idea for criminal behavior. Both of these ideas are totally decent— they’re good enough for their own episodes, even! But it’s just… off here.

READ IT AT EARTHPRIME.

We Could At Least Be Civil (Common Ground.)

The humanization of the Kromaggs, or the De-humanization of Rembrandt Brown?

This episode isn’t about Kromanus. It’s about Rembrandt.

Of course, it’s hard to actually see that without looking very, very hard. There’s subtlety in the script, but once it leaves the page it’s lost in an ugly miasma of overscored and overdirected nonsense. Every shot seems to last too long, like it’s waiting for a voiceover that will never come. It reminds me of that quote from Chapterhouse: Dune that I quoted in my review of “Slide Like an Egyptian”—

Intentional detail in everything although sometimes you had to dig for it. Budget dictated reduced quality in many choices, endurance preferred over luxury or eye appeal. Compromise, and like most compromise, satisfying no one.

In honesty, this is the only way to appreciate Sliders as it’s become. It isn’t a show for everyone. But below all the painfully dated decisions and lack of cohesion, there’s a wonderful show. It’s hours like “Common Ground” that underline this fact so completely. If you want to watch a show that actually has a lot to say about humanity and how we deal with extreme tragedy, then you can find all that in Sliders. But if you want to see emotionless schlock, that’s up to you too.

But I’m choosing the former. And I think you should, too.

 

READ IT ON EARTH PRIME.

I Believe In Myself (Prophets & Loss).

Just when I thought that the show would forever be a slog, we get a pretty damn good episode pulled out of the ass of the Multiverse.

If you’ve ever had a bone to pick with organized religion (and in 2012, who hasn’t?), then this episode is made especially for you. Plus, at least eight people get straight up incinerated!

SSSSSSSMOKIN’!

Read it at EARTHPRIME.

The Greatest Adventurer Of All Time (The Exodus, pt. II).

They were so close.

There we were, at the bottom of the pit.

And lo, we were handed a shovel.

Last week’s episode, “The Exodus, Part One,” was just another episode of Sliders. It is, perhaps obviously, this week’s episode that changes everything. What I’m trying to convey is the fact that it’s hard to separate myself from this entry. It’s hard for all of us, as Sliders fans, to separate ourselves from these two episodes. They remain with us. But god damn it, I’m going to try to withhold feelings— those feelings that are so deeply rooted. If you’re a true fan of Sliders, this is the episode that you never forget seeing, and it’s never a pleasant memory. But some of you haven’t ever seen these two episodes before. Good. I’m glad to be here for you.

Let’s get to it.

But it’s hard, isn’t it? Sliders has never done a two-part episode before. It’s never been allowed this much time to spin out a story. Many shows, especially in the 90s when serialization wasn’t yet the norm for television, had difficulty spreading a story well over two episodes. But the remarkable thing here is that “The Exodus, pt. II” is somehow less boring than most of the stand-alone episodes in Season Three. It isn’t really until the last ten minutes that it loses it’s momentum. It’s a pleasant surprise.

All of which is not to say in the least that this episode is perfect. It’s still a pretty huge mess.

SEE ME!

All of this is centered on Colonel Rickman. This character is a flaming pinball of chaos, destroying everything he comes in contact. And I don’t mean just within the confines of the story. This meteor burns outside the box, singeing the edges of all we know and love. His presences demands our attention, leaving us to stare at his horrifying unblinking face. He asks us to ignore such idiotic turns of events as his big reveal as to why he can’t keep his face on straight.

FEEL ME!

So we have last week’s reveal given cause. Rickman, in the Gulf War, was infected by some radical disease that melts your brain tissue, causing you to require injections of suitable brain tissue to stay alive.

About which: sure, fine, whatever.

About which I cry: the fact that he would keep the evidence that operates as an infodump he would never give himself in a location that is entirely easy to locate and rummage through is infuriating.

TOUCH ME!

About which I barf: the fact that we’re asked to believe that this virus is plausible in any way, shape, or form. Not really the virus itself, I suppose. But the ‘cure’ is ridiculous. It would almost be more satisfying if he just killed people because he felt like it. Or, I don’t know, if he was in love with Maggie. Like, seriously.

I would buy this character if the reason he was killing people is because they found out he had a huge crush on Maggie.

…heal me?

But that’s not the case. Instead we have this atomic bomb-drop of a character who demands all attention. He writes a list of ‘things that crazy military commanders do’ and forces us to watch him check off the list, one by one.

He separates Mother & Son!

Yep, the epitome of thrilling drama, right here.

He murders innocent civilians!

NAPTIME!

He makes Maggie cry!

Okay, so he’s not all bad.

He’s religious!

HEY PETER I CAN SEE MY HOUSE FROM HERE

This points the way to one of the more tolerably batshit crazy elements of the episode. The director, Jefery Levy, is apparently a huge fan of the first 10 minutes of The Hunger (R.I.P. Tony Scott), and decided to go full on Gothic. I mean, LOOK AT THIS:

I mean, I really want to stress how ridiculous(ly awesome) the XTREME ZOOM into Rickman shooting up in a church is. SO XTREME.

Angry mobs of civilians shut off the base’s power, but it really seems like an excuse just to light the entire place with blue lights and occasional strobing.

Sliders’ “blue period.”

Look, I have to admit something to you. This is maybe the hardest post I’ve had to do. There’s a lot of reasons for this. The first is similar to why I chose to do a differing-from-the-norm post for “Paradise Lost”— there’s already been so much said about this episode. What more can I add? Yes, we know it’s bad. Yes, the pulsars and Rickman and the lack of blood on everyone and Malcolm in general and just about everything is preposterous. This episode is really hard to discuss because it changes everything about the show, but it just isn’t very good.

But I did notice something this time through I don’t think I picked up on this time through. I’ll get there. First, the first of two moments we’ve been waiting for.

BOOYAH, MALLORY!

So in the first act, we follow up with Quinn’s visit to Home with the most contentious of scenes in Sliders history. The rest of the team runs up to Quinn, more excited than we’ve seen them since the beginning of “Eggheads.” They can go home. They ask the obvious: when are we leaving?

So here, the choice is presented before them, and Quinn decides it’s ‘not the time for it.’ Not the time for the journey to end. He denies the fairyland himself. But how dare he? Rembrandt hits it on the head when he declares Quinn to be ‘playing God,’ and punches him right in the face. Many people deride this scene and declare Rembrandt’s actions out of character.

To be frank, I find that to be bullshit. I understand it. We’re protective of these people, and we don’t want/like to see them suffer. So we put up shields, deflect their suffering  with our knowledge outside their world. but the fact of the matter is that Rembrandt has every reason in the world to punch Quinn right in the face. Wade has every reason to call him a bastard. He is a bastard. Arturo breaks up the fight, more or less, but Quinn just checked out. In a fit of petulance, he declares that he doesn’t care about the others. So here we are: Quinn has a way out of his guilt. It just depends on Arturo being there to dispense his sagely advice.

But the multiverse has a new goal: to punish Quinn for his shirking.

We’ve been building towards this. A break in the group on two fronts, heralded by something terrible happening—the most terrible of happenings. But we’ve still a third of the season left. The story isn’t over. It is truly a feat of sadism to continue the journey.

They were so close. If Quinn wants to hang himself for guilt, he should do so now. What the hell was the “deal” he made? He honestly believes he has a duty to help these people? Rickman forced him to help them by gunpoint, basically. He knows this system is corrupt. So what is it he wants? Maggie? Is it just that someone entirely out of his league is showing him attention?

Quinn has become a warring mixture between someone trying to be the ‘big man’ and a kid who never really got to grow up normal. He was too busy being smart, too busy grieving his father, too busy smacking a kid in the knee with a baseball bat. All this behavior is a window to the team’s understanding of sliding. Arturo saw it as the infinite possibilities of Science. Rembrandt sees it as the permutations of God’s hand.

Quinn, more and more since “As Time Goes By,” sees sliding through a selfish looking glass. But time and time again the multiverse has proved itself immutable to his whims. Not only that, it has actively punished him again and again for trying to force himself upon it. But again—they came so close. Despite the fact that we know this “Earth Prime” to be false, we can at least allow them their fairyland. After all, home coordinates are meaningless to them— home is where they choose it to be.

MY LOVE IS VENGEANCE THAT’S NEVER FREE

But you could argue that the four of them is all the Home they have. And, in the most frustratingly ridiculous scene ever to be committed to tape, Home is stripped away from them. Time slows down to make sure we can relish every hated moment.

Tommy, can you hear me?

Can you feel me near you?

Tommy, can you see me?

Can I help to cheer you?

Whoa-oh-oh, Tommy…

…Tommy…

…Tommy…

…Tommy…

…Tommy.

Tommy, can you hear me?

Can you feel me near you?

Tommy, can you see me?

Can I help to cheer you?

Whoa-oh-oh…

…Tommy…

…Tommy?

Tommy?

We aren’t given even five more words. We get a charge, a mission, a passing of the torch: “Get them home.” Then we get a final term of endearment, an epitaph: “sliders.”

Then we are left with nothing.

We don’t even get to see him die.

I’m leaving out nothing of the actual death. But since this is a death mediated by abject hate and childish cronies playing God with contracts, we aren’t content to have our beloved Professor just lay down in a bloodless, wordless heap. First we have Rickman half-brain-suck him (because that’s apparently something you can do now why not), and have him go half brain dead, murmuring “help me” like he’s the Elephant Man.

Never go Full-Tard.

Obviously it is humiliating for John Rhys-Davies to have to stumble around and stammer out his dialogue while the rest of the cast pretends that it’s SUPER HARD to understand that he’s saying “needle.” He’s an actor blessed with the most Brian Blessed of Voices, it’s a real joy to hear him speak. Here he is denied that speech. It’s ridiculous.

Despite how preposterous this scene is, this shot is BEAUTIFUL.

But it’s also the most humiliating end for The Professor, as well. And that’s the thing. The episode makes such a joke out of this Death that I forget that what my job on this blog for this episode is to eulogize Maximilian P. Arturo, Professor of Cosmology and Ontology.

But I don’t want to do that! After watching “The Exodus, pt. II,” there’s nothing heartwarming to remember Arturo by. Season Three, post-“The Guardian,” has been an exercise in diminishing the character. We’ve been giving him less to say, less to do. Sure, we gave him a disease, but we’ve only heard about it again twice (sort of). He’s had good bits here and there, most notably in “Season’s Greedings” and “Murder Most Foul.” But he’s receded into the background, assuming his role as gentle wizard-caretaker with a silent dignity.

And sure, we can remember “Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome” and say “hey, there’s a chance we’ll see him again.” But at this point, we know better. This is it.

Sliding is often chaos. It is important for the team, and for us as viewers, to have an anchor through the chaos. Arturo was always the voice of reason here. So to remove that dynamic is devastating to the workings of the show—in-universe and out.

Look, we’ll miss him. The show will never be the same again.

The Shroud of Arturo.

But you can see, in a moment that probably is informed by real life way more than usual, that it’s never going to be the same for these characters either. I mean, obviously that’s true. I’ve said a billion times that this show is little more than a tale of friendship. Now that friendship is broken, bruised, tattered, and destroyed. But there’s a moment where you can tell that for one of these people, the journey is truly over.

Without condition.

Oh sure, she musters up a little bit more of her usual energy, but it fades away by the end. It’s brief and due to adrenaline. But it’s over. Maggie joins the team, and she knows—without a doubt, without condition—that she’ll always be 2nd fiddle. Not only because Maggie’s a military commander, who ostensibly will always try to ‘lead the mission’ to ‘kill Rickman.’ But because she’s seen the way Quinn acts around women. And because she knows that Rembrandt won’t take sides. Arturo is dead. That sagely wisdom is gone from the group. Wade feels this keenly— she’s changed over the journey, but she hasn’t quite grown up yet— she’s been holding that off to keep the adventure fresh, to remain a happy wanderer, to keep from losing herself completely.

More and more over this season, she’s been cracking more, becoming more grim than usual. She’s started to see the ugliness of the multiverse, to treat the journey with pessimism. But here, now, her fears are made flesh, and that flesh is a misting, bloodless corpse, deaf to her sobs.

Now all I see is death.

Look at her face. She’s beyond caring. She just wanly eulogized her friend, now she has to tolerate this—well, this blistering idiot— every day of her life. Sure, she can hold on to the hope that they’ll find Rickman and they’ll get his Timer and they’ll go home and Maggie will fuck off. But look at her face. They were so close. Now, when they get “home,” whatever that is, it won’t even be worth it. If they had a mission, they’ve lost it.  They’ve failed.

But there’s still rags to hold together. They’re a trio with baggage now, but that trio at least has something to do. They’re no longer wanderers, in a sense. As they heap themselves at Arturo’s corpse, Quinn bemoans that Arturo shouldn’t have ‘jumped’ in front of the bullet. Wade, hope in her eyes trying not to give way to horror, says that Arturo did it so Quinn could lead them home.

Which is exactly the last thing that Quinn ever wanted to hear.

Dude just because Arturo’s gone doesn’t mean you have to get chunky in his place.

What are we left with? Wade’s checked out. Rembrandt inhabits the same null-space he always has. Quinn is now so wracked with guilt that it looks fit to consume him— but he can’t let it, because now he’s more than just the de facto leader. He has two (fine, three) lives directly on his shoulders. He can’t let them down. The pressure is too much.

Yikes, Quinn. Yikes.

There, I did it. I can say without condition that this was the most frustrating post I’ve ever had to write. It’s probably the most important episode of the series thus far, but it’s not really good enough to warrant extra attention, and I don’t want to spend thousands of words pointing out each and every lame thing that happens, because there are so many.

But I will say this: “The Exodus, pt. II” is pretty remarkable for TV in 1997. Especially on Science Fiction shows on Primetime. Not because it’s good television, but because it serializes itself in a way that wasn’t really allowed that often then. Could you imagine The X-Files, at the height of its popularity, killing off Mulder? That’s basically what this is. Even larger bit roles there like Walter Skinner don’t die ever, and it’s rare to think that they actually could.

And to think that all of this is because John Rhys-Davies was fired. For being too vocal about wanting the show to be better. It makes you wonder where we can go from here.

Professor Maximilian Arturo. Once a wanderer, an adventurer, a Man of Science. A man devoted to the Cosmos.

did you know we’re all made of stardust?

His death lacked dignity, but his passage to the next life was one of wonder.

you, me, your Father, all of us

Separated at the atomic level, to rejoin the galaxy, to rejoin his ancestors in the sky.

our atoms were formed in the stars

If you dedicate your life to the workings of the universe, there must always be a bit of frustration, a feeling that you can’t ever know everything you’d like.

but not the stars you can see now, the older ones

So to join with that which you hold so dear— there could be no greater reward.

The ones that went Nova.

His friends will mourn him, as he will mourn them, eventually. But his journey has only truly begun.

We will make new stars.

He is truly the Greatest Adventurer of All Time.

Next week: I think I’m going to take a break, these two episodes were entirely exhausting. But the week after that: NOM NOM NOM (Sole Survivors).