Thursday, May 19, 2016

Quantum Leap Rewatch (Episodes 31-36)

Episodes (25-30)  Episodes (37-42)

Early on in season 2 it becomes a given that God is the one controlling Sam’s leaps around his timeline. But the other side of the spiritual conflict has not been mentioned. Here at the end of the season, Sam says that he does not believe in the devil. The show, however, is going to differ with his view. By the end of these six episodes, it is clear that there is a power working against Sam’s missions in time.

This stretch of episodes is one of the stronger ones of the show. It could always be overly earnest and preachy, but when things begin to impact the lives of Sam and Al the upping of the stakes helps a lot.

Episode 31: “M.I.A.”

This is the episode where we discover why Al is the way he is. Imagine having to live through being captured during wartime, and having the love of your life—thinking you dead—move on and begin a new life. It doesn’t justify Al’s handling of women, but it begins to explain it. This is the story where Al declares to Sam that there is a devil, and just how insidious he is:

“I don't believe in the devil, Al.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you would if you were locked up in a tiger cage that was too small for you to stand up in and too narrow for you to sit down in, where you had to exist on-on weevil-infested rice and any rainwater you could catch in your mouth. And the only thing that kept you alive was the memory of the woman you love. And if you survive that, when you come home you find out that your wife has run off with some other guy! There's a devil, Sam, and he's trying to destroy Beth's life.”

Still rather abstract at this point, but it establishes the idea of a conflict. Sam isn’t just setting things right, he is in a fight to ensure God’s plans for the world against an opponent trying to mess things up.

Christian theology would be in agreement with such a conflict, but it would also be quick to point out that humanity doesn’t really need a big, bad devil to mess things up. It is our rebellion and bad choices that have caused things to go wrong in this world. And that is what the show has embraced to this point.

And, while we’re at it, God doesn’t need course corrections applied to history. His power and control are such that things work out in spite of sin and the bad choices we make. He is in control.

Episode 32: “The Leap Home (Part 1)”

After all the insistence last time that they aren’t allowed to change their own lives, Sam does what he always does when given the chance and tries to change his. But can you really blame him when he is sent into his own body as a sixteen year old? Why else would God send him back there?

Apparently to win a basketball game. That’s right folks, a whole bunch of people’s lives were forever damaged by a missed basket! But it is also, of course, an opportunity for Sam to see some people he loved who have died. Sam has to learn to stop trying to fix everything and simply relish the opportunity. It is a bitter sweet story. Especially when he goes fo broke and has some of his family wondering if he really does see the future. As he prepares to leap, he learns that he did not manage to save his dad or brother form dying…

Episode 33: “The Leap Home (Part 2)”

…But Sam promptly leaps into his brother’s troop the day before he is to die in Vietnam. His mission is not to save Tom, though, but to ensure the success of a military action—the one that gets Tom killed. Sam decides to do both. In the end he trades another’s life for his brothers—unintentionally of course. But he also fails to turn the military mission into a success. And the revelation of what that missed opportunity was is heart breaking.

Episode 34: “Leap of Faith”

When Sam is sent into a Catholic priest to stop a murder, Al becomes stand-offish. We learn that Al is holding a grudge against God for not healing his father of cancer. We already knew that Al believed in God, but now we see that they aren’t on speaking terms. Later on when Sam is nearly killed, however, Al quickly turns to God for help and this time his prayers are answered.

This all parallels the struggles within the priest Sam has sent to save. He suffers from the common weakness of ministers. They often have a stronger faith in their own ability or need to do good than a trust in the Big Man. Once things don’t go according to plan, rather than just doubt themselves or come to their senses they question God. The real challenge of faith is to surrender and trust. It would be a scary sense of powerlessness if it weren’t for the knowledge that God is trustworthy.

Episode 35: “One Strobe over the Line”

A cliché of a drug episode, made all the worse by the stupidity of the characters. If their only job is to keep a model from overdosing, and they know who it is that is giving her the drugs, they do nothing concrete to prevent the disaster.

Episode 36: “The Boogieman”

In what is surely the most messed up leap of the series, Sam is intercepted by an evil force and submitted to one of those horrific mysteries where people are being picked off one by one and things aren’t adding up. There is a mysterious goat that only Sam can see, a pet black mamba(!) on the loose in the house that everyone quickly forgets about, and supernatural events happening.

What at first feels like an inconsistency in the special effects surrounding Al, turns out to be an important clue and we now have a devil in Quantum Leap. This devil claims to be the yang to God’s ying—the equal and opposite force against God. But we all know the devil is the father of lies and this devil ends up having very little power to resist God’s plans. But we also suspect we will see more of this conflict at some point in the future.

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