It is intensely gratifying to do this one last time.
“Eye of the Storm,” to me, is a bonus round. Sure, it might be the second to last episode of Sliders, but as far as this project is concerned, it’s the last “regular” post. The next one is going to be crazy. I promise you that.
So it is not only wonderful to once more tackle Sliders like I have for so long, but it’s also nice to get to pull off one of those posts that are so few and far between— a post where I say “you know what? you’re wrong— this is a good one.”
I’m not lying— I think this episode is great. Not “World Killer” great, but definitely one of the better ones. The first reason is easy— it’s another Chris Black script. This is a guy who’s writing couldn’t even been torpedoed by the poor direction of “Heavy Metal.” You can just tell that it’s one of his. The focus is put in different places. Sure, this script is heavy (really heavy) with the sci-fi jargon, in a way that Sliders rarely is. But they’re put next to things like Geiger’s surprisingly eloquent comparison between “being unstuck” and “being caught in a riptide.”
Or the story Officer Fletcher tells Rembrandt and Maggie in the basement of the bank/shelter. Part of this is down to Elizabeth Rossa’s surprisingly moving delivery, but part of it is down to the sheer humanity of what she’s saying. In a way, it is a return to something like “World Killer,” and the nun’s “two by two” story. She says she’s been a beat cop for years, and never had to fire her gun until she had to use it to put a sick man she’s known for years out of his misery.
Now that is a character moment almost unheard of on Sliders. And, sure, it’s too late, but all the more for it! In fact, this episode is chock full of strange little character moments. Even Rembrandt gets some moments to shine (finally, jeez!).
We should start with the bizarre sci-fi framework of this episode. This is, of course, the episode where Sliders remembers that it has a plot, and that it actually worked really hard in the first month of the season to sell us on this plot. With “New Gods For Old,” it seemed like the writing team threw up their hands and said “fuck it, we can’t get Jerry, so who cares?” This would constitute a problem, were it not for the fact that Robert Floyd is actually a terrific actor who consistently shines with whatever nonsense he’s tossed (this being Sliders, he is tossed bucketloads).
Here’s the thing— they weren’t going to get Jerry O’Connell back. They should have known that. They should have never teased that to begin with. Or, I don’t know, maybe they could have. One of the alternate realities this show would be better in had a little more O’Connell in it. Jerry originally was holding out for an executive producer credit and less screen time. So there’s an alternate Season Five where Our-Quinn is on the show for 9 or so episodes. This sounds just fine— Season Eight of The X-Files worked much the same way with a disappearing Mulder. The drawback to this was that Jerry’s other stipulation was that Charlie would be on the show the entire run. This, along with the whole “give me tons of the money you don’t have” thing, scuppered this plan. I can imagine it working. But that working kind of depends on Charlie not being there.
So yeah, no Quinn. No O’Connells. It is to my endless surprise that the show even bothered to write them out. It is to my boundless shock that this idea actually worked, or made sense within the confines of the show.
Oberon Geiger is a ridiculously good idea. If there’s a problem with this episode, it is that seeing him back on the screen reminds us too strongly of this. This shouldn’t surprise us. Much like Season Three’s Rickman folly, the show surely realized too late that Peter Jurasik would be too expensive to bring back that often. So off he goes, shuffled to the background, only to return in an episode that wasn’t even supposed to have him there in the first place.
Like with “Heavy Metal,” the faults of “Eye of the Storm” can’t really be laid on Chris Black’s feet. This script came from a completely different story called “As Space Time Goes By,” which would be a strange interdimensional hotel chock full of Casablanca references and all the bit parts from the last two seasons. At various times, that episode pokes its stillborn head up and makes for a strange disconnect. Jay Acovone’s asshole bellhop is the most prevalent source of this friction, as Maggie tries repeatedly to punch him back into the episode he died in.
But the slow reveals of just-how-fucked-up-Geiger-really-is is well-handled. The slow burn of the collapsing chunk of dimension is cool in a way most of the sci-fi stuff on this show hasn’t been in years. And Geiger’s ultimate plan is one for the evil genius tomes of lore— having failed in combining Universes, he now plans to combine people. Which is horrific and evil, and yet still comes from a somehow relatable sense of desperation. I don’t mean relatable in the sense that we all know what it’s like to be Unstuck in the Multiverse, but the despair, the loneliness, the feeling that there is nowhere for you? Sure, we can dig that. We’re watching Sliders. We all know about isolation.
But this episode, in the end, is about trust. It’s about the trust between the sliders. The trust between Diana and Geiger. The trust between strangers. In that way, it’s a triumph— things like Diana’s grudging rebuilding of trust in Geiger is built on the trust she’s built between her and the team, which makes it even more tragic when Geiger, once more, betrays her.
The trust between the team informs the decision to let Mallory win. This is the final victory of that new Traversers show that debuted instead of Sliders this year. That this fact feels like a victory shows how far Sliders has truly fell from grace. That Rembrandt’s declaration that Our-Quinn wouldn’t have wanted someone to die for him seems strange— the Quinn we saw in “Revelations” would totally have let a dude die. But Remmy’s declaration ties this fact back to the Quinn of Season One— the original Quinn we fell in love with so long ago.
In this way, it’s tying off another final bit of the show-that-was into the show-that-is. A show where we aren’t tied to endlessly nihilistic continuity foibles like the Dynasty or the Breeding Camps or the Cyberiads or the Combine. We can forge new stories. Mallory represents these new stories. His reprieve from death is a triumph for the future. It is a true pity that it is a future we are not allowed to see.
And, finally, we have an episode in which Rembrandt actually acts like himself. Which is perhaps a silly statement, as my basic description of Rembrandt throughout Season Five is just “whatever.” He doesn’t have a self anymore. But here he acts with compassion instead of suspicion. This is rooted in the teaser, where Maggie finally calls Rembrandt on his detachment. Talk has turned to “goals,” with Diana and Mallory excited about now having everyone’s home coordinates. Maggie, treating Rembrandt as the one true friend they both have, asks what he wants, and his answer is kind of stunning.
“I want to go home.”
That word has been meaningless on this show for so long. Home was a thing of the horizon— the impossible promise of the end of the show. The show fully knew that any episode where the team reaches “Home” would be the last. Something like “Into The Mystic” tried to subvert this, with them actually reaching that destination but not recognizing it. This fact, while cruel, spoke to something true about the journey— the path is through themselves as much as through the multiverse. Rembrandt’s line in “Mystic” about OJ Simpson gets at a true point: they wouldn’t know Home if they saw it.
This was a far more effective trick than “Genesis,” or at least the “Genesis” that we ended up with. Using the Kromaggs as an excuse to remove Home from the table was alienating— it meant that our Sliders weren’t from our Earth. In the original plan, this was not to be— it would have been revealed that Kromagg-Earth (and Season Four in general) was a Kromagg Lie. Laziness and nepotism scuppered this (more interesting) goal.
But it took away any sense of direction for the show, as well. Without “and now they can’t find their way home” as a tagline, what is the goal of this show? If there’s a problem with Season Five (and yes, there are plenty), it’s that there isn’t really a goal— even the idea of “splitting the Quinns” was dropped five episodes in.
So there is something very touching about this episode deciding, however falsely, that “Home” is a goal for the show again. It’s especially touching to pin this on Rembrandt as well, and it’s even more touching to actually have “Home” be something that happens at the end of the episode. “The Way Home,” Diana says, and the team saunters into the backlit(/backlot) sunset.
In a way, this moment is the end of Season Five. All of the dramatic questions have been answered. The team is complete, and they leave together, as friends. So isn’t difficult to imagine the last shot of “Eye of the Storm” as the last shot of Sliders in general. It wouldn’t even really be a cliffhanger— it would be perfect, really. We don’t see them actually “go home,” so we could imagine the adventure continuing if we wanted. But we could also imagine the team making it Home, settling down, winning.
And sure, there are supposed to still be Kromaggs on Earth Prime, but hey, maybe there aren’t. Maybe, in this imagined reality, the Zicree-Arc was real, and it was all a ploy, and Rembrandt actually does make it home. Home.
But this isn’t the end. There’s one more to go. One more “adventure,” meant to “tie up” all this nonsense. That a Series Finale is somewhat superfluous makes complete sense in the fucked-up world of this show. That we would take something nice and tidy and complicate it and muss it up and ruin it is all part and parcel of the Sliders experience.
But hey, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s bask one more time in the wonder of the last shot of “Eye of the Storm,” and wish that there was nothing more than a last gasp of what this show used to represent—
Hope. For a different, better place.
Next week: the end of everything (The Seer)
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