I understand it was going to be hard, no matter what, to follow something like “World Killer.” I stand by my wild assessment of last week— it’s simply the best. Here’s the good news: this episode isn’t the worst. The bad news is, it’s not… I don’t know, good?
I mean, we’re not even really playing to the cheap seats here. I’m not even sure we’re bothering to play at all. It’s just so easy. The thing is, I’ve always enjoyed when the show goes down the path of “New Slider Learns The Ropes.” And sure, the good ol’ comedy trope of Country Bumpkin Hits The Big City can sometimes work (read: sometimes).
But the problem is that this isn’t just any old New Slider. This is Quinn’s Brother. This is one of the big hinges of the new season. This should be the defining episodes of the show. But instead we’re treated to a parody of a parody of a rube bumbling his way through city life. It just seems like a waste of a new character.
Actually, that’s not even the big problem with the episode. The problem is that this stupid way to introduce a character is grafted (all puns intended) onto an already decent idea about bone grafts and DNA banking and a pretty clever idea for criminal behavior. Both of these ideas are totally decent— they’re good enough for their own episodes, even! But it’s just… off here.
As we know, this show is in total love with elephants. It loves to just throw them in the room. And yet again, here we are— elephant time. Because look, guys— we need to talk about Canada. One thing I don’t think I mentioned in “World Killer” is the subtle joke where Maggie keeps getting her gun taken away. This is a joke that we’ve been having since the character was introduced. It doesn’t impact the stories, it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It’s just a semi-meta joke about how Maggie really loves guns.
But Canada jokes? Holy shit, guys. This is bad. It’s kind of offensive— and not really just to Canada (though I can’t imagine any self-respecting Canadian would appreciate this shit). It’s lazy. It’s boring. It was barely funny the first time they make the joke, let alone the SIX BILLION times it’s made over the course of the episode. Seriously, a drinking game to this shit would fucking kill you.
And it’s not enough for it just to be told over and over. They have to hinge the plot on it. Like, characters take it at face value. “I’m from Canada.” “Oh, that explains it.” What? No it doesn’t. That doesn’t explain anything! And that exchange is probably repeated at least three (thousand) times in the episode. It’s a pain. And the fact that the Detective at the end calls out how ridiculous it is that he’s just going to let them go without requiring a deposition or testimony or anything that would make the episode fit into reality as we understand it is not funny. It’s meta, but it’s calling out an egregious plot hole and then not doing anything about it. The episode just ends.
I really like the two parts of this episode. But I also feel that at the end of the day, both the stories being told, and by extension Colin, are done a disservice by their plotting. You know what would make it more impressive? Have them miss the slide. Or have them leave and come back again and try again to convince Colin.
Since the timer has had the ability to return to past worlds, they’ve used it exactly once (“Dinoslide” doesn’t count— they followed Rickman backwards through the interdimension to the New World). I know I’m stretching into fanfiction here, but I’m just so concerned (already!) for the show. Colin is almost an afterthought in his own debut, even if he plays a ‘key’ role in the bonegraft-y theft-y proceedings.
It’s one thing to pull of the “bumpkin” route in a story like this. But I’m pretty sure this episode goes a little too far with it. Even Rembrandt descends into plain cruelty by the end (unless we’re supposed to believe he thinks the ridiculous get-up he dresses Colin in at the end of the episode actually looks super cool). And despite one redeeming moment, and I do think the ‘butterball reveal’ is honestly very funny, we’re introduced to a new main character— basically the biggest deal a show can pull— and he’s an idiot. Such an idiot that I’m not actually offended by Maggie’s under-her-breath sass. Part of this is built into the character. But the greater problem is something that we can’t really tip toe around, and that we’re going to have to keep dealing with—
Charlie O’Connell is kind of bad, you guys.
He’s wooden, and clearly new to ‘acting.’ Say what you want about Mel Tormé in “Greatfellas,” but you can’t deny he was absolutely electric. Charlie is as dead-eyed as lead, and it’s clearly not an acting choice. It’s troubling, for certain. But I’m going to wait and see what happens— after all, this is pretty much day one for his career (nope, sorry “As Time Goes By” and “Dragonslide.” Seriously, bro did a better job face-down in “The Young & The Relentless).
The thing is, though, that Charlie’s deficiencies make Jerry O’Connell try harder. There’s no “Quinn-Face” in this episode, and that’s largely due to Jerry’s excitement to hang out with his bro. Jerry’s good when he tries. We can only hope that Charlie gets the picture, and picks up on his bro’s skill. Which he does, for the most part, when they have scenes together. It’s when Colin’s solo that problems present themselves.
But look, as much as the faults of this are glaring, I can’t really condemn it. Like I said earlier, the ‘butterball’ joke is really funny. And there’s honest thought being put into the worlds here. The DNA Dollaz world is compelling enough that it really could have had it’s own hour.
“O Brother” is a better episode than “Genesis,” which sort of shows a lack of trust in the show on the production end of things. “Genesis” shows us Earth Prime, ostensibly still our world, but it’s not fleshed out at all— it’s nothing more than the backlot. DNA world is filled with people who convincingly sell the world they live in— they erase the backlot. It’s a subtle, but effective difference.
On Philip Sandifer’s masterful TARDIS Eruditorum, which this blog is wholly indebted to, there’s an idea that he posits in his review of the classic serial “The Ark In Space.” In the serial, a man is overtaken by a beast growing on him that looks like nothing more than the green-painted bubble wrap it is. But the actor sells the horror of his transformation so convincingly that the scene is absolutely horrifying. This idea of “believing your bubble wrap” applies just the same to Sliders— it’s best when the actors believe the backlot. If we must be stuck with it, then so be it— as long as we aren’t constantly reminded that we’re there.
So, now we’re four again. I’m not sure how exactly to feel about that. Sliders hasn’t really proved itself able to handle four characters over the years. The trio we’ve spent this bit of the season with not only made it easier on the stories, it also solidified a bond between these characters that hand’t been present since the original group’s heyday.
Colin disrupts this, and while I’m not wholly in favor of hating the show for trying something new, it does give me some pause. But hey, if the show scales back the bumpkin jokes, and forgets aboot Canada, I bet we can handle it. I mean, we all hated Maggie when we first met her, and now look— she’s the most sympathetic character in the episode.
So, onward towards the future. Let’s see if this momentum of new ideas persists.
Next Week: Narcotica 2: the druggening.
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