Star-Crossed: But is ‘Quantum Leap’ in danger of trading sci-fi for soapsuds?

Ben thinks he's in 2000 to reunite lovers who drifted apart, but is the Leap's remit a little too close to home?

It’s 2000 and despite a seemingly dramatic entrance, it turns out that Ben’s new Leap hasn’t taken him into the middle of a murderous killing spree but on to a Hollywood film-set where he’s become Summer Walsh, the new assistant to fading film star Neal Russell. Addison says that Ziggy calculates that all Ben/Summer has to do is get Neal to the Tonight Show for an interview about his new book, an appearance that will revitalise his career rather than seeing him literally sail off into the sunset and a suspected drowning. But Neal is more interested in stopping the wedding of his ex-wife Laura and setting right what once went wrong on a personal level. Against the Project’s advice, Ben decides to help Neal win Laura back.

But is Ben projecting his own frustrations about the current state of his relationship with Addison, rather than steering Neal to a better decision? Whatever the truth, by the time this Leap is done, Ben is going to have to make some unwelcome, hard decisions about his help in the past and his own immediate future…

 

*spoilers*

Quantum Leap managed to attract several notable guest-stars in both its original seasons and the reboot… and this outing boasts veteran Tim Matheson, here playing a screen-star, Neal Russell, just a little past his prime and having not been able to put past bad decisions behind him. Is it too late to reunite with the love of his life Laura Evans (Erica Gimpel) as she readies to marry someone else?¬† Ben – as his assistant Summer Walsh (played by Marla Robison, just the latest ‘Leapee’ to apparently go uncredited) – thinks he can rekindle that relationship for him.

Quantum Leap isn’t always about saving the world or preventing a disaster, sometimes it’s about simply steering individuals to a better course in smaller, more personal way, but here it’s all a little too on-the-nose and simplistic. While the idea of putting Ben through the emotional wringer has some narrative advantages for the sake of drama, the writing on The Lonely Hearts Club is largely there to facilitate one purpose: a tentative yet strained acceptance that the Ben/Addison relationship has fractured and it does so by having Ben act in a way that’s wholly impulsive and meant to get us to that point where he can admit that he’s jeopardised the entire Leap because of his emotions. It’s all packaged up around a bittersweet if template love story that’s never going to end happily but is needed to provide that mirror to our star-crossed leads. As in the previous episodes, the Ben/Addison moments are well-acted and the scenes where Raymond Lee and Caitlin Bassett confront each other give both actors plenty to sink their teeth into – the characters, both decent people, causing considerable pain for the other because of the difference in the way they’ve experienced time passing. It’s just that the getting there – most of the episode’s previous forty minutes – has been templated in goofball fashion and really not that interesting. As noted in last week’s review, while one can see the attraction to the writers (and actors) of placing obstacles in the hero’s way, it’s difficult to see how – pragmatically – the show is going to play this all out in the longer run without going down obvious routes or, alternatively, turning the show into an unapologetic romantic drama. As much as I (like many) want the Ben/Addison relationship to overcome the new obstacles, there’s a danger of its story-domination making me care less, rather than more, as time goes on. I’m willing to give the show time, but I want to see it push boundaries not embrace them.

There are some new breadcrumbs scattered through the episode that will likely resurface. We get to spend a little bit more time with Tom (Peter Gadiot), Addison’s new beau and, essentially, the man who saved the Project, allowing it to get back up to speed in an effort to get Ben home. But there’s some inevitable misgivings being introduced. Is Tom’s evaluation of the Project’s expenses simply a way to genuinely ensure it is run well and protected from further government interference or is there an ulterior motive? We get the mention of Tom’s wife having died tragically years previously and how much it affected him – is he perhaps planning to use the Project to change that (it’s almost impossible that won’t resurface as a story element somewhere later in the season). We also get an idea of the secret Ian’s been hiding, that their girlfriend (Rachel – played again by The Sinner‘s Alice Kremelberg) has a boss who secretly helped fund the processes that refined getting Ziggy back up to speed, though this benefactor was never supposed to be aware that the Project deals with time-travel… yet secret information is now being re-directed through that device with a power-surge every time they locate Ben… because, hey, that’s not remotely sinister?

By the end, Ben’s requested that other members of the team act as his hologram for the foreseeable and that is, frankly, completely understandable and may actually provide better use of the other members of the cast (including Ernie Hudson and Nanrisa Lee). Next week, proving one of Quantum Leap‘s best qualities – the ability to pivot in tone – takes us to the heart of the LA riots for what looks to be a far darker episode and with Ernie Hudson’s ‘Magic’ being far more prominent.

 

'Quantum Leap S02  EP04 - The Lonely Hearts Club'   (NBC review)
7.3
'Quantum Leap S02 EP04 - The Lonely Hearts Club' (NBC review)
  • Story
    6
  • Acting
    8
  • Direction
    8
  • Production Design / VFX
    7
Categories
TELEVISION REVIEW

RELATED BY