Strap in, folks, because I’ve got a lot to say about Quantum Leap 1×18 “Judgment Day.” It may not be the season finale I expected, but it turned out to be exactly the season finale I didn’t know I wanted. And not just because we get to see Ben (Raymond Lee) and Addison’s (Caitlin Bassett) first date/kiss. (Shut up! You can’t prove anything!) I’m a mature adult who can focus on more than one thing at a time, and I also love everything else the episode accomplishes. It wraps up the key mystery of the season while bringing the right mixture of drama, humor, and shoutouts to earlier episodes of the series. More than anything, it shows how far our favorite characters have come as a team.
And, okay, yes, we get to see Ben and Addison’s first date and kiss. I’m a sucker for a happy boy-am-I-glad-this-isn’t-the-ending.
Wronging Some Rights
Although the episode begins in the post-apocalyptic “the government is trying to destroy the Quantum Leap project to avoid accountability for their mistakes” future, the majority of it takes place in the past. Honestly, that’s for the best, and I’m glad the series established that future travel isn’t going to be a regular (or long-lasting) thing. As fun as it is that Ben has figured out a way to “slingshot” his way into the future, the heart of the series has always been righting wrongs from the past. Opening the door for the team to do too much into the future would also open the door for Quantum Leap to become a different show. And I rather like the show that it is.
As difficult and messy as Ben’s job is in general, it’s even worse when the people he’s trying to save are the people he loves. And I say “people” because it turns out that it’s not just Addison’s life on the line. Martinez (Walter Perez) is after all his friends.
The problem with Ben going into his own past is that he’s too emotionally invested in the problem he’s trying to solve. Of course, he’s always invested to an extent. He can’t leap until he does whatever he’s there to do. But the problem he has to solve in the finale involves the people he calls “home,” to quote the opening voiceover. With stakes that high, he isn’t as willing to take necessary risks – like sitting back and seeing how things play out. Also, unlike when he travels further back in the timeline to help strangers, the actions he takes this episode could erase his own personal history. Or, apparently, unravel all of time and space.
No pressure, right?
For an episode that is dramatic, with really high stakes, “Judgment Day” is also one of the funniest episodes of the season. Or maybe I was just on an emotional high, watching my favorite characters interact without the hologram. (And with the hologram, for that matter.) Even if they are all from a different time, from before they were as close as the team we’ve come to know.
Man, time travel doesn’t just mess with the fabric of reality. It makes figuring out the appropriate verb tense to use when writing about it absurdly difficult.
Anyway, watching Ben try to recreate his first date with Addison in absolutely every detail – although his memory of the date is spotty at best? I’d love to say non-amnesiac Ben wouldn’t be as much of a mess, but let’s be honest. If Ben is anything, it’s messy. In all the best ways. And, yes, of course I’m glad that Addison didn’t shoot him. Because she had feeeeeeeeeelings for him, even before their date. But I’m also a little disappointed to not see the first date redo without the gunfire and murderous time traveler from the future.
For plot reasons. I wanted to see it for plot reasons. Okay???
Anyway, as one could pretty much entirely predict, it doesn’t take long before Ben ignores the voice of his better angels. And throws the whole “don’t change anything” edict in the trash.
Did I expect this? Yes. Was I was about to fly to Vancouver to give some people a piece of my mind anyway when this happened? Also yes. Because when Ben decides honesty is the best policy, he risks erasing my adorable, time-crossed ship. There may be a lot Addison could deal with on her first date with Ben. Including awkward first-date chit-chat. But not “I’m a time traveler from the future and someone is here to kill you and by the way did I mention we’re totally in love and I want to make smoochy faces with you all the time?” (I read between the lines.) Yes, Addison and Ben are working for a time-travel project. But that’s still a lot to take in on a first date.
Did I say Addison could deal with a lot? I meant me. I could deal with a lot. But not erasing my adorable, time-crossed ship!
In the end, of course, Ben and Addison are solid. But I was very close to being very angry. Very close.
We Need Each Other
Oh, right. There’s more going on in this episode than Ben and Addison. Like…the rest of the team being in danger, too. “Judgment Day” gives the audience a chance to see the team before we were first introduced to them. Which really only drives home how close they’ve become, not just from those early days in the project, but over the course of the season.
If I’m being super nitpicky, maybe Ian (Mason Alexander Park) is a little too quick to believe Ben based off his “turtle time” message. (Am I the only one who thought it was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference? I am? Okay.) On the other hand, I choose to believe my precious cinnamon roll really wanted to believe Ben all along and was just looking for an excuse. The episode is full of reminders of the journey our favorite characters have taken over the course of eighteen episodes. From Ben’s cheesy love particle engagement speech to some of the skills he picked up over the course of his various leaps. And it’s obvious that the Jenn (Nanrisa Lee) in the finale isn’t the same person we saw bonding with Addison over Desperate Housewives.
Were any of my theories correct over the course of the season? I don’t remember everything I said, but I’m guessing no. But who cares? (Okay, I do a little. I thought some of my theories were quite clever and would have gotten a kick out of being right. However, like Ben, I can have a short-term memory and forget those erroneous predictions ever happened. It’s not like the Internet is forever or anything.) This episode got me all in my feels anyway.
I know not everyone will agree, but I love episodes like this. The team is so tight-knit now, it’s easy to forget that they wouldn’t always have been this way. Heck, they weren’t entirely this way at the beginning of the season. After Ben first jumped, Magic (Ernie Hudson) doubted Addison at first. They probably all did. Save Ian, of course. (I tolerate no Ian slander!) It took everything they wen’t through as a team this season to become as close as they are now. But even before they became the friends that they are, there was still…something underneath. The potential to be those people, perhaps.
Of course, it’s a little bit of a bummer to see a group of tight-knit friends at a stage in their lives when they were neither as close nor as trusting. Part of me wanted to see them fast-forward to closer to where they are now. Ready to be ride-or-die for each other, and a little more willing to take things on faith. On the other hand, maybe the level of trust between the team members now would hit differently if it was that much easier to come by. It isn’t just that Jenn would die for the team now. It’s that she’s not the type of person who would give so much of herself to just anyone. So the fact she is that way now? That means something.
Alas, Poor Martinez
If there’s one area of the episode that…I won’t say I disliked, but that made me sad, it was in Martinez’s ending. I know, I know. He was the season’s “bad guy.” And at this point in the story, there probably was no going back. Also, Quantum Leap is a drama, and an ending where they all sit down to lunch and see things from each other’s point of view would hardly be the most satisfying – or dramatic – ending.
But I can’t help but feel bad for Martinez. Granted, we never got to know him very well. However, in his first meeting with Magic and Jenn, he didn’t give the impression of being a bad guy. He didn’t come off as selfish and arrogant. If anything, he seemed like a True Believer. Someone who wanted to do what was best for his family and his country. And who was willing to lay down his life for both, no questions asked.
One could argue that blind devotion to the edicts of superior officers isn’t exactly the best character trait. As far as I know, even the military doesn’t entirely think so either, since a soldier isn’t supposed to follow an order that they know to be illegal. On the other hand, consider the future from which Martinez supposedly leaped. The world is stuck in nuclear winter. Maybe the government is wholly responsible for that turn of events, but how would Martinez be expected to know that? If they came to him and said, “Hey, this all happened because of time travel, but time travel can fix it!” I can see why he’d be on-board with whatever they asked him to do. After all, he could hardly make things much worse.
And time travel is dangerous. If Ben wasn’t the person he is – and if he wasn’t backed by a team filled with the people they are – he could do some serious damage. A more selfish, self-serving person could very well cause the future the government would accuse the project of creating. How is…was…will Martinez know different? (Tenses, I’m telling you.) Heck, Ben is the person he, and he still could have caused catastrophic changes to the very fabric of reality in his efforts to save Addison.
I get it. Martinez was the bad guy. Or he will be the bad guy. I certainly didn’t want him to kill the team, so he needed to be stopped. But part of me still feels that the fact he was the bad guy didn’t mean he was necessarily a bad guy. He was doing what he thought needed to be done to stop nuclear winter. Hell, I look at the world today, with global warming and the rise of fascism, and if someone said time travel was to blame but I could fix it if I went into the past and stopped some short-sighted people from setting off the whole chain of events? I’d at least hear them out.
Maybe I’m a sucker. But I feel bad for Martinez. And I get that his story probably had to end the way it did. But part of me still wishes the team could have found another solution. That they could have recruited him on their side in the present, before he could be recruited by the government in the future. Or, heck, anything. That somehow, in some way, they could have found a better way. Isn’t that basically what they do?
So What’s Next?
After all this, where does the team – and the show – go from here? Well, for one thing, we’re going to ignore the cruel, cruel cliffhanger. I’m okay with the fact that Quantum Leap 1×18 “Judgment Day” ends with the team staring at the accelerator like the personifications of the pleading emoji. But only because we already know we’re getting a second season.
I swear, though, if we didn’t know that, I’d already be on a plane or trying to figure out which perfectly nice strangers up in Vancouver deserved a strongly worded Tweet. I can do a lot of well-deserved scolding in 285 characters; do not test me!
Where was I? Oh, right, the cliffhanger. Since the show has already been promised a second season, we’re in a position where either Ben doesn’t make it back or he comes back and has to leap in the premiere again for…reasons. I therefore choose to see it as an act of mercy and not cruelty that the writers chose to let us decide whether Ben made it home during the long, terrible hiatus ahead of us.
Do I know I’m totally deceiving myself in doing so and they intended no such thing? You betcha. But in my mind, Ben is spending the long summer making smoochy faces with Addison. In between catching up on all the trash television he missed with Jenn so he doesn’t reduce Ian to tears in their next trivia night. While Magic pretends to be annoyed but it all but is secretly just glad to have all his kids home safe.
I need to believe it. I need to.
But outside of “Ben is either still stuck a-leaping or he decides to go once more into the breach,” where does the series go from here? Honestly, it could go anywhere. As for my personal wish list? I’m along for the ride, but I do hope, wherever we go from here, we get to see more of the team helping Addison out in her hologram duties. Or even leaping themselves. (Or would that jump the shark? That might jump the shark.) Lee’s chemistry with everyone on the cast is too good not to explore it more.
Outside of that, I’ll leave my theorizing at the door. For now. (I suspect I won’t be able to help myself next year.) I’m clearly terrible at it.
Is it time for the season 2 premiere yet?
I finally found someone who ships Ben and Addison as much as I do! Thank you for your service.
One thing though: they film at Universal Studios in LA. Only the original pilot (the earthquake episode) was filmed in Vancouver.