Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quantum Leap Rewatch (Episodes 61-65)

Episodes 55-60 -- Episodes 66-72

The more I delve into this series, the more I realize that it is just an less religious and (slightly) less preachy successor to “Highway to Heaven.” That is a step down from where my memory had this series.

Episode 61: “Dreams”

This episode starts out with one of the most promising lead-ins. (Actually, it is the end of the last episode that does this. In one of the longest teasers for the next week, we see Sam work his way through a dark house as a cop, and ultimately find a brutally murdered woman.) We think we are in for a creepy murder mystery. It does try to deliver a “Silence of the Lambs” level, creepy, murder mystery. It fails miserably.

Episode 62: “A Single Drop of Rain”

Sam jumps into a swindler who cons people into giving him money to make it rain. As it happens, that swindler has just arrived back in his home town where a terrible drought is underway. With the benefit of future insight, he knows that it is not going to rain for months, but he also thinks he might be able to use future knowledge to produce a real cloud seeding method. That never really works out. So Sam, a child of farmers truly feeling the community’s pain, prays to God for help. However, the real reason he is there is to get the guy’s brother to let his wife knows he really loves her. And then, it rains too.

Episode 63: “Unchained”

As a man on a chain gang, Sam has to help an innocent man go free. And since the system is completely corrupt, he has to do so going around official, legal channels. This could be an interesting exploration of the sticky issue of dealing with corrupt authority, but it is not much more than a weak suspense story.

Episode 64: “The Play’s the Thing”

In this jumble of storylines, Sam is a young actor who has hooked up with an older woman who wants to be a singer. As per usual for Quantum Leap lately, Al thinks Sam is there to do one thing, but Sam manages to accomplish both that mission and the one his heart is telling him is the real reason for the leap.

Episode 65: “Running for Honor”

This episode is a letdown even though it finally tackles a tough subject. The problem is that it sets up straw men to knock down and fails to give all sides of the issue a fair representation. Sam lands in a naval academy where a student has been kicked out for being gay.

Al starts out as the rational voice of people concerned that open homosexual identity in the military will cause problems. His pivot on the issue never addresses his concerns; he just changes his mind because the story needs him too.

The main antagonist is the worst sort of homophobe, and it is hinted that he may be acting out of an overcompensation. He is so homophobic he must be closeted. That is an interesting point, but it is never really dealt with. The man is pure hatred, cartoonishly so.

One of the worst failings of the show is the typical way that Hollywood stereotypes the issues. We are never told if Sam’s character is gay or not. However, we discover that the only reasons to suspect he might be is that he is a 21-year-old virgin (!), he was friends with a gay student who was his roommate, (In this case the show falls prey to an argument espoused by the villain—that being roommates with a homosexual person could make someone gay!) and because he was standing against discrimination. That, and Al suspects an inclination due to things like: the way Sam sits and the fact that he drinks tea instead of coffee!

The most redeeming aspect of the whole episode comes at the end when Sam is about to leap. Al mentions that they never found out if Sam’s character was gay. Sam asks, “Does that matter?” That gets to the heart of the issue for this episode. This is more of a story about suspicion as judgement. In that sense it almost works, but as already mentioned, the antagonist is a cardboard character. And somehow, even then, the show undercuts itself by making the gay victim not a victim at all. Instead it has him frame the homophobic gang for murder.

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