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.”
“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)”
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)”
Episode 34: “Leap of Faith”
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”
Episode 36: “The Boogieman”
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.