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Journeyman episode reviews

PhotobucketEpisode 1. "A Love of a Lifetime" introduces us to a time-travelling hero who - in this story - is drawn repeatedly into the life of a man who is attempting suicide because of a broken heart. Over the course of this first adventure, our hero learns a lot about his jaunts in time, as well as trying to piece together the life story of the man he keeps popping up beside. It comes off as a more serious, more dark, version of Quantum Leap and I'll certainly watch a second episode.

I didn't mention it in my original review, but I love the ending to this episode. It's very romantic and easily the best ending of any pilot of 2007.

Episode 2. "Friendly Skies" With Pushing Daisies and Terminator still ahead of us, my next favourite of the 2007 pilots has turned into The Best New Show On TV. Hands down. There is no competition. Journeyman presents a new twist on the idea of time travel, it (so far) has presented us with stories that have a nice little twist at the end, and (so far) it has done the novel thing of giving the hero a wife who supports him, even though she does not understand him. That's a twist for TV shows. The opening scenes where he disapeared while on a plane, leaving her to deal with the security people, was a high-point for me in the cementing of what this show will be about. Really about. The marrige.

Episode 3. "Game Three" Gretchen Egolf is the best thing about this show. She and her character: the supportive wife of a time-traveller. He went back to the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake in this installment and the story that followed was tedious and a by-the-numbers take on time-travel that we've seen in loads of these shows before. His wife, meanwhile, had to cover for him back in 2007, and do some journalism to help save his job, something that used to be her job. And she was good at it. And I was far more interested in her and what she did than him. And I was hoping he'd run her story unaltered and tell her she was a better writer than him, or something. But that didn't happen. The episode cliffhanger, however, was all about her, so I can't wait to see what happens next. And Egolf was simply fantastic in that final scene. I used to watch her in Martial Law without really noticing her, now I'm smitten. It's a wonder what the right character can do for the right actor.

Episode 4. "The Year of the Rabbit" This time out we get a hint about the backstory/mythology of the show when Dan, while time-travelling in the mid-90s, gets a phone call from a tachyon expert... in 2007! And while we don't know any more about Dan's time-travelling powers as a consequence of this, we - at least - do know that the writers are planning to tell us something in a future episode. Maybe it's like Tru Calling, which was well into it's run before we were told the backstory to her powers.

Episode 5. "The Legend of Dylan McCleen" So far Journeyman has been a show with a strong concept and weak individual stories, but this time out, they case-of-the-week is very interesting. A hijacker who stole money to help a man/family who saved his life. Good stuff. I also liked seeing Dan and his son in 2007. Even better... the son saw Dan vanish on a time travel jaunt.

Episode 6. "Keepers" Is it just me, or is Moon Bloodgood kinda rubbish in this? Seems like her scenes in this episode, and the last one, were dubbed. Badly. And performed badly, too. Plus, her character is utterly useless within the format of the show. She accomplishes nothing. Aside from that, I'm enjoying Journeyman. As time-travel shows go, it rates below Time Tunnel, Quantum Leap, Tru Calling and all the others, but it's getting better as it goes on.

Episode 7. "Double Down" Another hard-to-like character in a new show, is Livia on Journeyman, the ex-girlfriend that Dan works with whenever he travels in time.  That said, this was her best episode.  Dan was stuck in 1999, trying to save his own life (the 1999 version of him, that is).  Usually Livia contributes nothing except snide remarks and things are are glaringly obvious about the situation they are in.  This time, at least, we get to see the time travelling experience from her perspective.  And, even better, she gets to travel to 2007, and Dan's house, to save Dan.  Both the 1999 and the 2007 version.

But Livia is only a small part of this episode.  The main story is typically run-of-the-mill and filled with lazy co-incidences.  Much better is the side story of Dan's wife as she prepares to go back to work, against Dan's wishes.  The pilot of Journeyman had the best ending of any pilot of 2007.  And, the closing minutes of this episode, with the events taking place, and the music used, is the first time the show has equalled the spine-tingling wonder of that opener's conclusion.  Katie (the real star of the show) comes to Dan's rescue when he needs/needed her most and I'm reminded why I love this show so much.

Oh, and the cliff-hanger's awesome, too.

Episode 8. "Winterland" Not as strong as last week's episode, but -then - that would be very hard. The case-of-the-week is as boring as ever, but the unfolding of events in 2007 is much more entertaining. Katie makes a very important discovery about Livia and the time-expert scientist guy makes another appearence. In fact, lots of elements from earlier episodes come back and you get the feeling that all of this is going somewhere. Fast.

Episode 9. "Emily" is a curious mixture of things that work very well, and things that really don't work at all. This week's case-of-the-week is much better than average, Livia finally contributes something valuable to Dan's mission, Katie gets some great scenes, so do Dan's son, brother and boss. Heck, even the brother's gorgeous girlfriend is well written. Plus, the show is using it's own continuity to fantastic effect and has, by the end of this episode, established two very different recurring bad-guys. Hurrah!!

Sounds fantastic, right? Well, it is. Up to a point. As engaged as I am by all of that, I am disheartened by the show's playing fast and loose with the idea of changing history. And by Dan's seeming inability to see what effect his actions are going to take. In the pilot, I was impressed by the way he acted like a real person who was time-travelling. Sadly, in this episode, he is behaving just like every other clueless character we have seen undertaking time-travel adventures.

Dan decides to do some stuff that Livia feels is not part of his mission. She warns him of the consequences of changing history. Now, this is all happening in the same episode where, in 2007, Dan has finally convinced his brother that he is a time-traveller. It's obvious to any viewer that by the end of the episode Dan will have undone the events that convinced his brother that he was telling the truth. It should be obvious to Dan, too. In fact, had he twigged to the fact we would have had a truly unique time-travel story: should he let the bad guy kill at girl in 2001 so that his brother might arrest him in 2007? Time/God/Whatever didn't even want him to save the girl. Yet, Dan continued on his off-the-book missin. Without realising that, by saving the girl, he was undoing all the conversations he had with his brother. And, then, at episode's end when he met his brother he seeminly realised for the first time what must have happened. How stupid is Dan, anyway? Stupider than the people watching at home, that's for sure.

Even worse: the writer's cheated anyway with the so-called twist ending. The actual event that changed his brother's mind about him happened in a completely different episode. A completely different episode!! All Dan had to say to Jack at the end of this episode was: "A cappie set a cop on me after I passed a 2003 $20 in 1996!" And - Pow! - Jack would have had the same realisation that he had ten minutes into the episode. By the writers didn't do that. How stupid are the writers, anyway? Stupider than the people watching at home, that's for sure.

But despite that nonsense, the rest of the episode was awesome. Livia did loads of stuff on the mission, her every conversation was valuable and she totally kicked ass when a guy tried to get tough with Dan. Katie, meanwhile, had to deal with her son causing trouble at school and pretending to be just like his father (saving victims from bullies and disappearing from sight around the house). Even better, in a clever piece of writing, Katie's conversation with her son - trying to help him understand what his father does, and how to cope with it - went a long way towards her understand what Dan does, and how to cope with it. Brilliant.

In short, there's was lots and lots and lots to savour in this newest episode of Journeyman. But the dumb bits were really dumb and caused me to beat my head repeatedly against a brick wall. Sure, I enjoyed the show, but now I have a bad headache!

Episode 10. "Blowback" is maybe the most perfect episode of the show yet. Less than a minute into the story and the Bad Guy from last week has broken into Dan's house and shot him in the shoulder. Pow! Now that is the way to open an episode. Next thing, Dan has vanished back to 1980 to (a) get medical aid and (b) help a ten-year old boy who is regularly locked in his house by his agressive father. The episode unfolds with parallel views of 2007 and 1980 as the Bad Guy searches the house for Dan (clever writing) before phoning Dan's wife and luring her back to the house to take her hostage.

Back in 1980, Dan realises that the ten-year old kid is going to grow up to be... the Bad Guy that shoots him in 2007 (amongst other dreadful deeds). Dan (and this is what I love about the show) reacts to this as anyone would. He loses his temper with the kid and contemplates doing something drastic. These are fleeting moments, but they serve to lift the show up and above many mundane series on the air.

Eventually (and I love this, too) Dan just tells the kid that he will grow up and do some terrible things. Thus making this particular case-of-the-week the best the show has done since the Hijacker who stole all the money. I like it because it ties so wonderfully into the 2007 storyline and because it represents a small victory of the type this show does so well. All told, Dan's visit to 1980 accomplishes very little. It manages to defuse the situation in 2007, yes, but the events that led to the hostage siege are still in place (history-wise) at the end of the episode. Maybe the days of Quantum Leap are gone. Maybe the heroes of today can't hope for big victories every time. Maybe Journeyman is a show of our times.

While all this is going on, Olivia travels to 2007 and meets Dan's brother and he finally believes that Dan is a time-traveller. While I applaud the decision to bring him into the fold I am disappointed with the way it was done. There's nothing clever about this method. I much prefer the way things went down in the alternative timeline of the previous episode. In that version of things: the brothers worked it out together and Jack put it all together cleverly based on things that happened in the past. In this version of things, a previously dead character pops up and tells him that his brother is a time-traveller. He has no choice but to believe. So, by doing it this way, they have taken some of the character's power away.

A minor quibble. This is still a fantastic episode.

Episode 11. "Home by Another Way" Once again, the storytelling strikes a superb balance between what is happening to Dan in the past (Christmas, 1979) and what is happening to his wife and brother in the present (Christmas, 2007). The heart to heart conversations between Dan's wife and Dan's mother is the standout moment for me, in an episode of excellent moments.

Episode 12. "The Hanged Man" had some clumsy elements (the leaving behind of the camera, for one, and the initial attempt to get it back - where Livia just handed it over!) but - on the whole - it was still a superb episode of a superb series. Dan returns to 2007 (2008?) to discover that he has changed history in several major ways. And one of those major ways had a big impact on him: his son is gone, replaced by a daughter he has never seen before. As always with this wonderful show the impact this has on his wife is well written and well played. She, of course, has only ever known them to have a daughter and is horrified by his talk of "changing things back". Wonderful stuff. Great revelations, too, about why Dan can travel in time and a nice cliffhanger.

Episode 13. "Perfidia" Dan meets another time-traveller in this final story from the Journeyman series. You can never be happy with the last episode of any show cancelled too soon, but Journeyman does a damn fine job to giving us resolution before it fades away forever. As well as giving us a very strong case-of-the-week for Dan to work on, the show presents Katie with solid temptation to leave Dan (or, at least, make plans for eventually leaving Dan and making a life on her own). It also allows Dan and The Scientist to talk - finally - about time-travel and if we accept Langley's ideas about it all then we have some idea what the show was about, and what the next stage in the series would have been.

All in all, Journeyman was a wonderful, fresh take on the idea of time-travel and it presented the Best Marriage on TV (outside of Friday Night Lights). Despite it's flaws, which were fading away as it stayed on the air, it still ranks as one of the year's best shows. This makes Adam Schubak's attack on the show all the more disheartening. Schubak seems to have missed the point of the show, and sees it only as two love-triangle's. Elements which, while certainly present, have little or nothing to do with the appeal/depth of the show.

From "A Briefing With Michael".

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