There are some really good plot developments as well as some seriously problematic elements in Time After Time Season 1 Episode 4
After Time After Time Season 1 Episode 3 that focused almost completely on fleshing out most of the the relationships, this offering reveals some excellent backstory to explain how so many people knew the time travelers were coming.
Thankfully, less time is spent on the labored romantic relationship between Wells and Jane although we still have to put up with a little sugary morning nonsense.
In my day, passion and desire...they were the true result of yearning for a woman, the longing that fills your head and clouds every thought as you patiently wait for her to walk through the door and say 'Good Morning'H.G. Wells
Instead (and so much more interestingly), their partnership takes them first to the deceased red-haired thug, Chad Holland's apartment and then to 1980's Long Island (via the now-functional time machine) to do some sleuthing in Vanessa's childhood home, even meeting her parents.
The connection between Chad and Vanessa is fascinating as it turns out that they were both small children when their fathers were doing business together, dealing in stolen information from the mysterious Project Utopia.
Tragically, neither David Anders nor Robert Holland have any idea that their corporate espionage will shape their children's entire lives.
One thing that Time After Time has done really well so far is infusing what could be oppressively dark or boring situations with touches of humor and subtle sight gags.
Freddie Stroma is especially good with his verbal comedic timing, but Jane popping his collar to give him the "yuppy" look really sells the 1980's look and made me smile.
Three-year-old Vanessa is also pretty adorable, and chatty Bethany is the perfect delivery mechanism for the information they need on Chad's father and the Anders' financial woes.
My god. Imagine the possibilities if you used your memory for something significant.H.G. Wells
The second bit of truly juicy exposition is discovering that Brooke is not only one of Vanessa's besties, she's practically family, being Griffin's darling sister.
Their private conference at the fundraiser after Stevenson's escape from Brooke's lab is worthy of any suspense thriller. Not only are they siblings but Project Utopia was their father's work? So many pieces falling into place so quickly...
I have to admit I was starting to give up on Jane as an interesting character. Her speeches about fate and destiny were tedious and needlessly long. Genesis Rodriguez was endearingly committed to the lines but earnestness only carries it so far.
Now Jane is redeemed as more of a character of action and effectiveness which I have a lot more time for. She brooks no argument when she joins Wells on his jaunt to 1980 and correctly points out that she knows a lot more about the time period than he does.
Not that I can see Wells having any problem with her sitting on his lap again.
Even better was her encounter with Stevenson where she didn't fall into the television trope of trying to take on an armed serial killer who has already proven he's more ruthless and physically powerful than she is.
Rather, she actually does the smart, realistic thing, taking him by surprise with a swing of her handbag and then taking off running, screaming the alarm the entire way, knowing that the mansion is crawling with security and cameras.
And Stevenson who has dominated the episodes so far with his cocky, suave egoism, gets to experience a little (very tiny) moment of humility while in Brooke's underground laboratory.
It must have been a novel situation for our dear doctor.
Brooke: I was afraid The Ripper would find me boring
Stevenson: Boring? A little romp in the bedroom, syringe to the neck, awaken naked and tied up in a laboratory? Boring is the very least of what you are, my darling.
But it certainly doesn't slow him down for long.
And now for my major beef with the episode. And, granted, I get that time travel shows are always tricky.
The show needs to establish early on whether Time is a river, absorbing disturbances into a greater current; an infinitely splitting stream, branching into a new path with every change or ripple; or some other non-water body metaphor.
Wells and Scott have both referred to time as fabric that can be damaged by too many tears made by the activation of the time machine.
Wells even demonstrated this comparison by poking holes in close proximity to each other in a piece of paper. Okay, so we have our metaphor and some general parameters.
Time travel was meant for research and observation. I wanted to better the world, not destroy it.H.G. Wells
Next, the time travel itself needs rules. What was established in the pilot was that the machine Wells created and Stevenson stole traveled in time but not necessarily in space.
The implied operation of the time machine is that the operator sets the time they want to travel to and he would pop out of the machine WHEREVER THE MACHINE IS PHYSICALLY LOCATED at that point in time.
Otherwise, why did Wells and Stevenson pop out in New York City? It's impossible that either would know there would be an H.G. Wells exhibition in 2017.
Vanessa's foundation had brought the machine to New York for the exhibition after finding it in London. It could be assumed that if Stevenson had set the machine for a week earlier, he would've popped out of the machine in the cargo hold of the plane that brought it there.
And it's not like the machine appeared out of nowhere in the exhibit. It had been sitting there, surrounded by tourists and museum guards when Stevenson arrived and presumably continued to sit there in plain sight until Wells arrived an hour later.
So despite its blinking in and out of existence in Wells' basement (and later in Vanessa's ballroom) from its origin point, its arrival point must be fixed.
So, my issue is that using it to travel to 1980's Glen Cove, Long Island (and don't even get me started on Paris, 1918), is a completely new function and CHANGES THE RULES.
Argh. As viewers, we need to be able to suspend our disbelief when watching sci-fi/fantasy shows so that we can engage with the plot twists and connect with the characters and really invest in the long game a show like this is playing.
When the "science" goes bad, that suspension snaps, and I was left with some real dissatisfaction despite an overall appreciation for the improved pace and exposition of the episode. Grr.
Anyhoo, rant over. Thanks for your patience.
Thoughts? How do you see the Ripper's father-son reunion playing out on Timeless Season 1 Episode 5?
Were you surprised by Griffin and Brooke's connection? And what does Project Utopia mean for Stevenson and Wells?
Will Chad or his father be avenged?
Does anyone else feel Brooke's little berserker buddy in the basement might be foreshadowing for things (and I do mean "things" like H.G. Wells-esque THINGS) to come?
If you've missed any of the series so far, you can watch Time After Time online to catch up and see what I'm talking about here.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.