Sunday, March 5, 2017

Time After Time 1x01 Review: "Pilot" (That Show with All the Attractive British People) [Contributor: Maddie]

Original Airdate: March 5, 2017

Occasionally, a trend spreads across the television landscape and all of a sudden it seems like that type of show is everywhere. A little less than a decade ago every network tried their hand at sexy vampires, then came the zombies, and now we have time travel. We have an upcoming time travel comedy on FOX, a well-executed time travel adventure epic on NBC, and now Time After Time on ABC. This one is a time travel thriller with a side dish of philosophical debated, shipper-y goodness, and attractive British people. I first got to see this pilot at San Diego Comic Con last summer and fell in love with it. Seeing the pilot again only confirmed my feelings on the show. I’ve long been a fan of the works of Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries), and once again he has not steered me wrong.

Time After Time begins establishing our two main characters: H.G. Wells, eventual prolific science fiction writer, and John Stevenson, who is (gasp!) Jack the Ripper. Shortly after brutally murdering someone, John waltzes into Wells’ flat for a gentlemen’s gathering. Here we get a first glimpse of Wells’ idealism as well as a line so swoonworthy I could not help but respond by cursing Kevin Williamson’s writing and Freddie’s perfect delivery. Less than five minutes into the episode, they had me. Briefly thereafter, Wells announces that in order to research time travel for his upcoming novel, he has built a time machine.

Some brief science mumbo jumbo irrelevantly explains how it is possible, but the important rule of the machine is that it will immediately go back to its original time unless you possess the key to the machine. While the other gentlemen laugh at Wells, John supports him, and we learn at this point that Wells has not done a test run yet. In discussion of the future, Wells reasserts his belief that humanity will reach Utopia within a few generations. John scoffs and says that it is against human nature, and that violence is not going away anytime soon. It is a good debate and sets a interesting theme to be carried through the series. Furthermore, it establishes that even though John is a sociopathic serial killer, he and Wells are genuinely good friends and able to discuss these deep issues.

When Scotland Yard comes to Wells’ flat, John uses the time machine to make a getaway to March 2017. Upon realizing that his best friend is the Ripper and has escaped to the future, Wells immediately follows in pursuit. The time machine lands in a museum in New York City where it resides in an exhibit, and it is here that we get our first introduction to Jane Walker. As the museum’s assistant curator, she is skeptical of Wells and think he is just an actor trying to perform a publicity stunt at her exhibit. It is not until the security guards escort Wells out of the museum that we see Jane was charmed by him.

While Wells struggles in this strange new land, it appears John is able to fit in almost immediately. He pawns his pocket watch to get $15,000 in cash, charms a front desk clerk to get a room at an upscale hotel, and changes his look to blend in. Wells is able to track John down to the hotel and is horrified upon seeing the condition of the world plastered across various news screens. Wells imagined society would reach Utopia by this point, but instead finds school shootings, ISIS, and Donald Trump soundbytes dominating the news. The moment he cannot help but shed tears at the troubling sight before him is poignant. Shortly thereafter, we see the first real clash between John and Wells — Wells gets the first glimpse of the darkness within his best friend who is now holding him at knife point to get the key to the time machine. Wells escapes, but is hit by a cab in the process.

Since Jane’s business card is the only thing in Wells’ pocket, she is called by the hospital. Jane takes Wells in and it is the first gesture of kindness he has received this century. At her apartment, we learned that Jane’s current position at the museum isn’t her dream but it pays the bills and she feels her life is pretty average. To translate into a Disney metaphor: basically, she wants much more than this provincial life. Jane is witty, self-aware, and empathetic, and Wells is fascinated by her. Shippers, start your engines — the plan A couple for the show has been officially established.

I appreciate that this show did not waste time of having multiple episodes where Jane was skeptical, and, instead, brought her into the fold of the main conflict right away. It is why, in my opinion, The Vampire Diaries did not really kick off until Elena was aware that vampires were real. Upon seeing that John has killed a girl at a club called Utopia, Wells informs Jane of his friend’s identity. When she still does not believe him, Wells and Jane take a short trip to three days into the future to prove his machine works and that he is who he says he is.

As Jane is processing the reality of time travel, Wells explains his wonder and disappointment in this century. Lastly, he asserts that there is nothing mediocre or average about Jane. It is a wonderful moment and shows how — in spectacular circumstances — such bonds can be made quickly. Just before leaving the future, they see via a newspaper headline that there has been a third victim: Jane. Intent on stopping John when they return to the present, Jane and Wells notice that they can still save the second victim, and — at her prompting — bring Jane’s gun with them.

On the roof of the club, John holds the second victim at knife point as he recognizes Jane. Wells pulls the gun on John, who then lets the girl go. John is goading Wells to shoot him, trying to prove that humans are violent by nature. When it is clear that Wells will not shoot him, they fight but Jane comes back with help before John can kill Wells.

Upon returning to the apartment, Wells tries to do the whole brooding hero thing and tell Jane that she can no longer be involved in this pursuit because it is so dangerous. Jane declares that she can take care of herself, and that they are doing this together. She goes to grab a first aid kit for Wells’ stab wound... at the same time that John breaks into her apartment. Wells hears Jane scream but by the time the he reaches the bathroom, she is gone. John did, however, write on the mirror with lipstick demanding the key.

After Wells races to the street to pursue John and Jane, he is stopped by Vanessa Anders, the owner of the museum exhibit where the time machine is. Vanessa reveals that she will help Wells find Jane. Oh, and that she is his great-granddaughter.

Overall, Time After Time has everything I love about a Kevin Williamson show. It is filled with suspenseful twists and turns, the plot moves at a thrilling pace, has layered conflicts, and the characters are immediately enthralling. Joshua Bowman is having the time of his life playing John and Freddie Stroma is once again as charming as can be as Wells. The surprise was relative newcomer Genesis Rodriguez as Jane Walker. She has a warmth in her performance that make it clear to see why two drastically different men from a different time would be fascinated with her. I am excited to see how the story unfolds.

Stray Thoughts:
  • The comedy of Wells adjusting to this century was delightfully done by Stroma. In particular, I enjoyed him figuring out a Capri-Sun.
  • I’m pretty sure that, “When Scotland Yard comes to Wells’ flat...” is the most British thing I have ever written.
  • Anyone have suggestions for a H.G. Wells and Jane Walker ship name? 
  • Thank goodness we got rid of that old-timey mustache, Wells.
  • I can’t decide whether I’m offended or impressed by how on-the-nose this show’s social media marketing is. 


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