Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Journeyman: Fellow traveler

Spoilers for the final episode of "Journeyman" coming up just as soon as I figure out where Livia hides her cell phone in 1948...

Damn. Just about the only good to come from the writers strike was NBC's willingness to air all 13 episodes of this ratings catastrophe. "Journeyman" got markedly better as it moved along, the producers saw the writing on the wall early enough to make something resembling a proper series finale, and the thing actually aired all the way through. In a normal season, cancellation comes somewhere around the Dylan McCleen episode (right before the writers started to figure things out).

"Perfidia" had the same strike-induced raggedness as Monday's episode -- there were a lot of jarring narrative jumps, notably the revelation that Evan had been shot by Vogel's bodyguards -- but once again, the emotions were right on. The missions always worked best when there was a personal stake for Dan, so having him help another time traveler -- and, as it turns out, the man whose death led to Dan's own time-hopping -- was a good call. And because we'd just seen the danger of monkeying too much with the past with the Zach/Caroline switcheroo on Monday, it was much easier to get into the pathos of Evan's story. The dance scene was the first time in the whole series where I cared as much about Dan's target as I did about Dan and his family. (There was almost a "Cupid" vibe to that sequence, I thought.)

Between Evan's chatter and Dr. Langley's elevator conversation with Dan (which confirmed, as I suspected, that he was just lying to protect Dan the other night), we got about as much explanation of Dan's predicament as was possible -- and, for that matter, necessary. I don't know that I ever needed to know exactly who or what was controlling the trips, because the show wasn't about that. It was about the time traveler himself, and his wife, and the last two scenes (Katie giving Dan permission to keep traveling, and Dan waking Katie so she could finally see him disappear) beautifully brought that point home.

(My one and only disappointment is that Langley didn't explain how he was able to call Dan in the past, but it was such a cool moment at the time that I'll forgive the non-explanation.)

Godspeed, Dan Vasser, whenever you are.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

what was that quote -
I'll always come home" ?

Somehow the ending of Quantum Leap doesn't hurt so much anymore.
I guess it's best to know you are cancelled, so you can write such things - my guess, is, however, that Don Bellisario would never have done so, even if he had the chance. (then again, this is the man who wrote the line, for the wife of his character who had been sleeping with other women, saying "I never once felt you betrayed our love." Written just like a man who couldn't stay married!)

I loved Dan and Katie, and Kevin apparently loved them enough to make Dan keep his promise.
I can live with that.
(but I sure wish that that wasn't all he wrote)

(and i didn't realize that he woke her, or that he did it for that reason. thanks)

afoglia said...

Absolutely amazing episode. Good ending, but still very open. It's a damn shame this is the last episode. It's a tragedy NBC couldn't transfer this show to SciFi or USA. It was probably the second best new show, and now it's over.

Nicole said...

It's frustrating that a show like this gets cancelled for so much reality garbage out there (and the ad nauseum CSIs / Law & Order). If networks wonder why they are increasingly losing their share, they should quit with the knee jerk reactions and give decent shows a chance. At least they were able to end it with some poetic flair.

Toby O'B said...

I realize the whole concept of time travel is out there, but even so, it still struck me as too coincidental that there would be three travelers in San Francisco.

Must be the sourdough.

But that's just a minor quibble in such a good episode. I actually felt better about it signing off if it could go out like that. Shows with pre-planned exits have hardly done such a good job at it!

In the TV Universe, Dan will still be out there making those leaps; we just don't get to watch him do it anymore. Oh well....

Thanks for the journey!

Sal Costello said...

Journeyman is a great show that hit the ground running with the first episode...I'm depressed there will be no more. That ain't right man.

Anonymous said...

It is too bad Journeyman never found its audience. I can understand the decision to put it after Heroes, but in the end that decision probably worked against the show. Like it or hate it, it is hard to watch Heroes and then have energy for anything else afterwards. Journeyman needed a "sleeper" slot where expectations were a little lower and it could have built its audience slowly but surely.

What's funny is that Journeyman has much in common with the show that's going to take over the Monday at 10:00 slot -- Medium. Both are supernatural mystery shows that nonetheless like to pay attention to family (and marriage) dynamics, and both spent their first (or only) seasons trying to strike the right balance between the two elements -- and if I recall correctly Medium was a sleeper hit itself. I think the Medium audience might have responded well to Journeyman, had the shows aired in some sort of mixed rotation for a while.


Cassie said...

That was lovely episode to end on, and I'll definitely miss the show. I hope to see Kevin McKidd in something else soon.

Thanks for blogging it, Alan

Anonymous said...

I agree that this was a satisfying ending to the season. Given that so many people think he's crazy, it would have been interesting to see Dan get stuck in the insane asylum for a while... but there was no time for that to happen.

It was a little convenient that Evan just suddenly expired when he did. (And no explanation as to how it happened.) On the other hand, if he had lived, Dan would never have become a time-traveler himself, which means he never could have gone to the past to save Evan, which means Dan would have become a time traveler, and so on in an infinite loop. Or else this would have just ended up as a show about a normal urban newspaper reporter, and it would have been canceled a month ago.

Anonymous said...

... to the season and the series, that is.

K J Gillenwater said...

I am glad we got as many episodes as we did, but I can't believe this gem of a show is over forever! (No-o-o-o-o-o!)

If it were to continue, my first comment would be about the Dr. Langley moment in the elevator. He was shocked that there was another time traveler and wanted to know who she was. I think this would have turned into something evil...Langley was not helping as much as we thought he was.

I loved the idea that the other time traveler had to die in order for Dan to gain the ability. That was a complete surprise to me! And it also explains why not everyone born on the day of the comet is a time traveler. Sort of.

Another poignant episode. Lovely. Just lovely.

Ah, NBC, come on! Bring it back! Isn't the Rice-a-roni stacking up yet?

Bobman said...

I realize the whole concept of time travel is out there, but even so, it still struck me as too coincidental that there would be three travelers in San Francisco.

Unless you assume someone really WAS pulling the strings, and that someone was located in San Fransisco and wanted his or her subjects close by.

Not much more to be said that hasn't been said above. I'll definitely miss this show; definitely my number 2 freshman show behind Chuck.

Also, how many non-premium channel shows really catch on in a 10PM timeslot? If they could have found a nine o'clock spot for this somewhere I think they could have done a lot better.

Anonymous said...


I know NBC hasn't ordered any more episodes of the show, but with the strike on, does that automatically mean it won't be back? Ordering a back 9 wouldn't matter if there was no one to actually write it. Couldn't NBC renew it after the strike?

I miss Dan's timeless black sweater.

Anonymous said...

I really like the way this ended. That last scene was beautiful. I almost can't believe I didn't like this after the pilot.

My one comment - Monday the episode suggested the astrological thing was why Dan could time travel. Tonight it suggested someone else was actually pulling the strings, and that there ware others (Evan), presumably not born on that day. But I kinda like the idea that there are a number of possibilities and Dan is just going to keep searching for answers as he travels.

clanmurphy said...

Hi Alan,

Long time lurker from the Bay Area here. Wanted to chime in and thank you for blogging about Journeyman. It was a show that started off OK and got better as it went along. It also was able to stay remarkably true to the region that it was set in.

Am I correct in assuming that, since NBC failed to pick up the contract by a certain date, that the cast has been released, similar to the Deadwood situation? If so, I would think it would be difficult to reassemble everyone should NBC or another network change their minds.

It is a bummer that this show went out so quick, but I do want to thank NBC for at least giving all of us some closure. It was a perfect emotional note to end on and watch Dan travel one last time.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Am I correct in assuming that, since NBC failed to pick up the contract by a certain date, that the cast has been released, similar to the Deadwood situation? If so, I would think it would be difficult to reassemble everyone should NBC or another network change their minds.

That's exactly right. The back nine order is important in a strike situation like this because it means the actors, producers, etc. are all still under contract whenever the strike ends. NBC is done with the show.

As for the "USA or Sci Fi should pick it up" option, that's not going to happen, because a broadcast network show has a budget vastly higher than anything made for basic cable. All the actors would need to take drastic pay cuts to make that happen, the show would have to relocate to Vancouver, etc.

Anonymous said...

Given the stronger Canadian dollar, is it still cheaper to film in Vancouver?

Kenrick said...

*sigh* I'm glad it ended on such a wonderful episode and with such a sweet scene.

I don't like shows that drag on forever long after the well has run dry, but this was much too short.

Anonymous said...

Funny you mention Cupid in your post, as that's the show I've been thinking about a lot lately. Maybe it's because Paula Marshall's the only thing worth watching on the odious Nip/Tuck. Anyway, I said to my wife last night that I haven't felt this disappointed about a show's end since Cupid in '99. Both shows had a nice mysterious element, along with a genuine (not cornpone) goodness about them.

I was happy there was some genuine feeling of "the end" last night, and will miss the show, especially as the strike continues and decent new tv becomes rarer and rarer.

And now I can also only hope that Rob Thomas resists the urge to remake Cupid next year and does something completely different, and that Sony finally wakes up and does a full series dvd release so that I can finally see that unaired 15th episode (watching on You Tube just doesn't interest me).

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for blogging it, after a rough start. I have liked it since Katie justified her selling the charger for Dan's old cell phone. :)

So sad it had to die.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember a show, around the time of Wonder Years, where a man in his old age told his grandson, or whatever, about his life? I have the feeling it was set in San Francisco as well.
Help! (it only lasted .. well.. less than 5 eps)

Brian Parsons said...

pamelajaye: the show you're thinking of is "My Life and Times", about an old man in a retirement home circa 2030. In each episode, and you're right that there weren't many, he'd recount a significant moment in his life. Many of these were in our future (show was on in 1991), but his past. has more information on the show.

Back on topic, I've enjoyed Alan's blogs and have come to really enjoy "Journeyman" after an uneven start. It left too soon!

Anonymous said...

I loved this show and am sad it's over (although I'm VERY happy that "Medium" is finally returning). I'm glad I kept watching after the first episode (which was slightly boring to me) because that was a very satisfying half-season.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kevin Falls. That ending (as Alan said) provided just the right mix of satisfying wrap-up and tantalizing mystery. I'm terribly saddened that this show ended so soon, but it leaves in such a thoughtful - in both senses - manner that I'm glad I can carry the memory of those last scenes in my head.

The danger, puzzle-posing, and murky motivation in the Langley conversation leave a nice taste in my brain. The realistically complicated love in the last two scenes makes my parent/husband heart swell. I'm glad they decided to show-not-tell Dan's fulfillment of his promise to let Katie see him disappear. What a fine way to tie together the time travel and emotional angles as a capstone. Filling that in ourselves, and musing on how the game will play out for everyone, nudges us into mentally writing our own fanfic in ways formal or fleeting.

Anonymous said...

Brian - thanks so much for that answer! Now I can look it up in my Brooks and Marsh as well (I need to get the new one, but this one will do for that - while the book is still liftable)

Stef said...

I'm a year late to this party, but I want to thank you Alan. I finally watched this show (via Hulu) based solely on your strong recommendations here on the blog, and I've gone back and read all your posts. You were right -- even though it started out slow, this grew to be a really fantastic drama with both strong, believable emotional performances and just enough scifi/mystery to keep us guessing. Let me add my voice to those sorry it wasn't able to continue.