"My name isn't Jim, it's Quinn." — Quinn, to Heather Hanley.
Review by Matt Hutaff
Now that’s more like it.
“The Guardian” is a fine example of how to showcase the premise of Sliders with an involving, character-driven tale. After Electric Twister Acid Test, I was afraid that meaningful dialogue was going to be replaced with more shots of Jerry O’Connell’s chest. It’s good to see that season three continues to churn out some incredible episodes.
I have a few concerns with this episode, but my overall impression is very positive. The acting is dead-on, the music is very stirring and appropriate, comedy at all the right moments… it’s a shame that a few glaring plot inconsistencies rob this episode of a four-star rating.
First, the basics: after Quinn discovers that Arturo has a undefined terminal illness, the Sliders travel to a world running about twelve years behind. It’s 1984, and Quinn stumbles upon the funeral services for his father, along with his younger self and his grieving mother. While Quinn helps his double learn to cope with a parent’s death, Wade and Rembrandt follow Arturo around as he attempts to seize the day.
Written by Tracy Tormé, “The Guardian” shows that science fiction doesn’t need to have high-concept action to work well. This is a quiet character study, a reflection on the way Quinn has matured by looking at the events in his childhood that formed his zeal for physics and his drive to succeed.
Quinn takes it upon himself to become his younger self’s protector, finding his dog when it runs off, pulling a bully off of him in a schoolyard fight. Arturo couldn’t disagree more with the situation; to him, the past should be remembered, not relived. Wade obviously has problems with it as well, while Rembrandt waffles back and forth on his conviction.
And who is to say what’s right in this situation? Wade and Arturo stress non-involvement, but both have vested interest in past situations they knew even less about (The Weaker Sex, Time Again and World), so for them to elicit concern seems a tad hypocritical. Wade’s speech contrasts her well-timed punch to Arturo’s shoulder in Summer of Love where she actively advocates bringing knowledge from other cultures to new worlds. Which way is it?
The truth is that there is no easy answer in a scenario like this. Whether it’s furthering a revolution, assuming a double’s identity or simply lending a helping hand, involving oneself in the affairs of a parallel world is a dicey business.
So while Quinn helps his double heal, Wade and Rembrandt tag along with Arturo’s regression from responsibility. Bar-hopping, speeding in a luxury car, football games, bungee jumping? Does this sound like Arturo? I guess knowing you’re going to die will make you reassess your life a little. However, regardless of Arturo’s illness, I don’t buy his motivation one bit, which leads to my first major problem with the episode.
Quinn spends an entire week teaching his younger self to box and the other three Sliders don’t make any effort to visit their doubles as well? I think that “The Guardian” would have benefited from this, especially if Arturo were to meet with his double and give him the secret to sliding. Arturo has always been a character that resents standing in the shadow of Quinn’s intellectual prowess, and I believe that, had I been in Arturo’s position, I would have sought out my double and given him the technological advantage. If he can’t create sliding on his own world, why not give the glory to another version of him?
For that matter, why not eliminate the bar scene altogether and let Wade and Rembrandt go do their own thing? Sacrificing their involvement for the strong arc the Professor and Quinn have is a waste of two characters. Give them more to do.
The pacing of the episode is thrown together nicely. As Quinn develops a bond with his double and his mother (returning as Mrs. Mallory is Linda Henning), he also strikes up a rapport with his striking elementary school teacher, Heather Hanley (Leslie Horan). Quinn’s had a crush on her since 1984 and takes it upon himself to live out the ultimate schoolyard fantasy — being hot for teacher. Ms. Hanley is gorgeous and doesn’t seem to mind that Quinn’s involvement with his double almost borders on stalking.
And the ending? Perfect. I don’t want to spoil it, but it sends a little tingle up my spine, just like Wade’s anguished scream at the end of Luck of the Draw. Danny Lux’s music is perfect, accentuating the high moments of this episode with a score that really conveys the emotions of Quinn’s inner angst well. Adam Nimoy’s direction is excellent, too, even though his location scout couldn’t have picked places to film that looked less like San Francisco. As an L.A. resident, it’s easy to spot the roads and bridges from Pasadena and the school, which looks far too nice and has far too many palm trees for 1984 Northern California.
So what sinks this episode? Quinn’s enigmatic refusal to tell his friends just what the hell is going on. I could understand maybe the first or second act with this air of mystery around it, but stretching it to the very end is just bad, bad storytelling. Instead of getting Wade, Rembrandt and Arturo to understand that this emotional healing is good and why, Quinn’s reclusive behavior drives a huge wedge between the rest of the Sliders just so the Reset button can be pushed at the end and the audience can see manufactured conflict. Sorry, guys, I’m not buying it.
One last thing: Arturo says that he’s just been to his first football game, yet during the episode Summer of Love he knows what a wishbone offense is. Both episodes were written by Tracy Tormé, and I’ve talked to both him and Cleavant Derricks, and folks… they took the wrong Arturo with them in Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome.
Overall, “The Guardian,” despite its flaws, manages to become one of my favorite and most endearing episodes. After last week’s ridiculous Electric Twister Acid Test, sometimes the basics are just where you need to be.
|Previously: Review: Electric Twister Acid Test||Next: Review: The Dream Masters|