It is now an irrefutable fact that our once-beloved show is in total freefall. I’m not even going to get into the actual reasons for this absolute dud of an episode— they’re so infuriatingly asinine I’d probably just give up this blog right at this moment. Oh no, I’m going to pull this apart at the seams before I even mention the name “J. Lo.”
I’ve been thinking recently about all that’s been different with the show (other than the fact that it used to be really pretty good and now it, y’know, isn’t). I think part of it is that the earliest episodes were content to take their time with a plot. You’d never see something like the beginning of “Summer of Love” on the show these days. A sizable chunk of Act I was devoted to following through with the “Spiderwasp” teaser. Same goes for the “Courtroom” teaser in “The King is Back.” Those kinds of episodes expanded the multiverse, and gave us short, but substancial looks into more worlds than just the main-plot-world.
Now we’ve got things like “Angel Baby World” and “Grinch People World” and “Baseball World” and “Toaster Oven World.” Total shit worlds that we see for all of a minute before the episode ends. It’s lazy padding (and funnily enough, doesn’t even show up in episodes that could use a little extra padding). Intelligently plotted episodes is just one more of the casualties of this season. But it’s kind of the one that I mourn the most.
I don’t know why I bring this up before digging into “Slither.” I guess there is a “lot” that happens, plot-beat wise. And there is at least a couple of things that the episode tries that I guess you could argue harks back to the complexities of the earlier seasons. I guess we can blame that on the episode being written by Tony Blake & Paul Jackson, the only real veteran writers left at this point.
Let’s start with the framing of this episode. We begin with some inanity about some hussy trying to bribe some snakes onto a plane. Sure, fine, whatever. Then we get to Quinn & Rembrandt, who are stranded in Mexico (or whatever), because their flight got canceled. Wait, whut? Where are Wade & Maggie? Oh, they’re in San Francisco (at least that city gets mentioned anymore), because everyone is taking a vacation.
They are sliding through the multiverse, and the team decides to not only split up, but split up by an insane distance, relying on a form of travel that isn’t even that reliable on our world. Not to mention that it’s Quinn & Rembrandt who are on this ‘vacation.’ Not, I don’t know. Rembrandt & Wade— the only two Sliders that don’t hate each other profusely. Why not just let Quinn & Maggie go bonk for a week or whatever? I mean, I really don’t want to watch that episode (and, in about a year when I do have to watch that episode, we’ll all see why), but the idea is absolutely preposterous.
So when Quinn bemoans that they have to nab a charter flight (or whatever), am I supposed to feel sorry for him? Because I don’t— he’s an idiot. This whole idea is fucking stupid. You know who else is stupid? This bimbo:
Look, I know. “Bimbo” is an offensive word. But give me a more accurate word! I dare you! You can’t! UGH THIS LADY. So she gets her snakes on a plane, and also gets Rembrandt and Quinn on the plane (post shootout, of course). That Lady really wants to have sexual intercourse with Quinn! Rembrandt just REALLY WANTS SOME CRACKERS.
You’ve noticed I’ve been avoiding an easy joke to make. But I’ll just leave it to the snakes themselves to make that joke. Cue a snake sliding out of its box (can these snakes breathe? is that why they’re so pissed? because they’re suffocating? are there airholes in the snakeboxes? should I bother asking these kinds of questions [no]). Cue a snake choking the pilot to death:
Cue also the moment where Rembrandt more or less says this:
Except that he can’t really say it that easily because there’s a bunch of crackers in his mouth. Rembrandt is so serious about his crackers!
Anyways, the plane crashes and Quinn & Rembrandt & Bimbo & Snakes all die. The show’s over, go home. Meanwhile, Wade and Maggie are having SUCH A GOOD TIME:
Yeah, this vacation is really working out for everyone involved. Also, remember when Maggies dear, dearly departed husband Steven? Remember when he was callously slaughtered by Colonel Rickman in a Church? Remember all of the tears Maggie shed?
APPARENTLY MAGGIE DOES NOT REMEMBER ANY OF THIS. “I think Carlos is very attractive” is something that no human ever would say. Except for Maggie, who is apparently a sex-robot.
Yeah, so Maggie’s goal (aside from being a huge bitch to Wade, again) is to ‘learn’ a deep ‘lesson’ about ‘maybe don’t try to have sex with everyone you see,’ or ‘maybe having sex with the first hawt dood that seems into isn’t the best way to get over your dead husband.’ I’m just kidding about the latter. Nowhere in the 45 minutes of this episode does Maggie even whisper the name ‘Steven.’ It’s up to us to remember him. She’s shirked her responsibility to his memory.
And Responsibility is one of the Big Themes that this episode has bewilderingly decided to saddle itself with. Maggie might be running from the grief of her bereavement, but Quinn is running from his entire life.
Why is Quinn running from his responsibilities (as ‘leader,’ as ‘friend,’ as ‘fellow slider’)? The group referred to him anyways— but now it’s an actual mantel of “leader.” When there’s a strong group dynamic,Quinn can effectively hide behind his friends, and pretend he’s not in charge. But the fact of the matter is that Quinn has always been in charge because this whole journey is his fault. Post-Arturo, Quinn can’t choose to forget that anymore.
Which isn’t to excuse his abhorrent behavior in this episode. Rembrandt comes off like a total jerk (I mean, everyone is kind of a huge dick in this episode), but he’s always right. Why the fuck do they take that snake with them? Why is Quinn so whipped that all it takes is Kira to make some “fuck me” pout and he’s instantly the Number One Snake Fan in America? Again, since the conversation is brought up at least 4,000 times over the course of the episode, why the fuck do they take the snake with them? They’re running through a hot-ass jungle (WITH PINE TREES UGH), people are shooting them, and snakes are literally and impossibly chasing them.
In a way, it’s charming. Rembrandt could (/should) easily just say “fuck you” and refuse to carry the snakebox. If that happened, I would cheer! But no, Remmy’s too loyal to ‘betray’ Quinn like that, even when Quinn effectively betrays Rembrandt himself. And for what? Easy pussy? Jesus, Quinn! Even though we get a shitty apology, it doesn’t excuse the desire. Quinn came close to abandoning it all for nothing. He doesn’t do it this time. But he could again. It isn’t hard to imagine. We don’t see a real lesson being learned here, other than maybe “don’t think with your dick.”
Which is a weird thing that pops up in this episode. It isn’t something that’s come up before, but it’s an entirely believable topic. Because these are four adults— they gotta eat, they gotta sleep, and they gotta nut (this is officially the most crass entry ever). But it’s ever-so-slight proof that there’s still a willingness to at least try to mine this show’s concept for something more. With the introduction of Maggie, we’ve begun to get stories about how people adapt to life in the multiverse. Now we’re getting a story that’s touching on the place of sexuality in the multiverse.
These people can’t have relationships— they’ve already decided that an inter-team relationship can’t fly. But other than a fling, they can’t realistically have anything meaningful. This is the first episode to seriously delve into that idea. Sure, Rembrandt has made love to everyone— but the majority of those women were spectres of Home. They’ve been sliding so long, they’re sure to get a little stir-crazy. Cabin Fever’s settling in, and it’s frustrating to the team that they’re so hemmed in by the ‘mission.’
It’s just a huge shame that it’s Maggie & Quinn who are the foci of this idea. Wade would be the perfect character for it, since ‘sexuality’ would undoubtedly be seen through a more emotional light. Instead, we have Quinn being a callous prick to Rembrandt and Maggie being even more of a delusional bitch to Wade. If the goal for the show is now to make us actively despise every single person we see on screen, then Bravo! We’re almost there.
But look. I’ve left out the most egregious sin this episode commits. And watching it now, in 2012, casually on Netflix or Hulu or wherever, it’s easy to forget the context this episode was born from.
Because the only reason this episode exists is because of this:
FOX decreed that it would be a ‘wonderful opportunity’ to cross-promote Kari Wurher in both Anaconda and Sliders, and forced this schlock into rush-production. We, as an audience, should praise all of the Gods that they gave that task to Tony Blake & Paul Jackson. Because while they freely admit the episode is bad, they at least tried to sneak some kind of thought into it. Otherwise we wouldn’t have even have the ‘alt-history’ with illegal-tobacco, or any of the character moments I mentioned above. Mostly, we dodged the bullet of having Josef Anderson write this episode. Could you imagine the horror of that?
But then again, wouldn’t that maybe have been better? Anaconda, as a movie, is more or less a simple thriller with a simple horror movie concept. Strange adventure into the unknown, frightening force kills off one character at a time, unknown force is (maybe) defeated. And to be honest, it probably would have been a better episode of Sliders! I don’t know if we’ve tried a straight up ‘thriller’ before here. Like, an X-Files “monster-of-the-week” episode. On Sliders. It would have been terrible, sure. But I’d prefer that to the “vacation from hell.” (About that line: yes, it’s an easy one-line review of the episode. But even funnier is the SMASH CUT TO COMMERCIAL that follows it.)
Look, we’ve only got two more episodes left of this season. This season has been a terrifying whirlwind of brutal change. At the start of it, I decided that I would try to review the season as if I’d never seen it before. I probably gave up in the middle somewhere. But even if I hadn’t, I would still say this: I have zero faith that the show can reorient itself to something remotely resembling ‘good television’ before the end of the season.
I’ve lost the luxury of believing in miracles.
Next Week: Life finds a way …again (Dinoslide).