Another day, another life saved, and another lie exposed. Quantum Leap Episode 2 gave us a deliciously confounding villain in Georgina Reilly’s Janice, who is none other than Al Calavicci’s daughter and a space crisis to solve. Ben thinks he wants to leap home, but his actions before the leap say otherwise. This continuation of the story seems more concerned with the whys than the hows, and right now, hat makes things feel a little superficial but could pay huge dividends in the future.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t an undercurrent of sentimentality. Just that, so far, the episodes are about figuring out how to survive each event instead of righting wrongs. Ben leaped into an astronaut in 1998 who was slated to die after being hit by space debris while doing an emergency space walk. While Addison navigates the complexities of helping a man she is intensely angry and confused by, Magic and Jenn are looking for Janice.
The decision to show us the aftermath of Addison finding Ben’s message to her was wise. It shows she is more than a stone-faced contributor. This situation has to be unbearable for her. She is worried about her fiance, missing him, deeply hurt by his actions, and confused about why he would leave her in the dark. Of course, she will lash out, but by not showing her rage, she isn’t reduced to a stereotypical hysterical woman. Instead, it allows Basset to play her with more nuance.
Not only has Addison lost her love, but this project is like their child. They met on it. What should have been a bonding agent is instead the thing that tore them apart. It doesn’t help that she has to actively keep Ben from remembering too much for fear that whatever caused him to do this insane thing will corrupt the compliant person they are currently working with. So for most of Quantum Leap Episode 2, Addison has to lie to both Ben and part of her team.
That’s a lot to handle for a person who is still reeling. When Ben asks her why she is trying to keep him from remembering and about the ring on her finger, it is a heartbreaker. This Ben is sweet and understanding but doesn’t know her. The Ben that left her behind gave the appearance of loving her, but what if he wasn’t the good guy he appeared? It might be even more interesting for the old Ben to have murky motivations and the new Ben to be innocent and pure. Similar to how Angel was used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later the spin-off Angel.
Allowing a character to have two opposing sides that are largely unaware of each other makes for emotionally resonate television. There was not a dry eye in the house when Angel shifted back from the brooding hero we came to love and the monster he was before his soul. Ben could be cut from a similar mold, and maybe the new wiped-clean version is the better one. There has already been a lot of talk about Ben’s ability to hold the group together. Looked at another way, he could be shrewdly manipulative. If this is the case, Addison should be careful what she wishes for.
A rather blunt parallel between Ben’s newest leap and his real-life reminds us that the past should help us grow but not stifle our freedom. At this point, we don’t know which is the case for Ben. Janice seems rooted in the past, but why Ben took this bonkers chance, we don’t know yet. Quantum Leap Episode 2 continued the trend of quick save of the week, making space(pun intended) for the more significant questions. A space shuttle with compromised heat shields and low oxygen was less important than the group dynamic back in 2022. A handful of pretty CGI set pieces, a laughable feat of strength, and a sleepy Russian cosmonaut later, Ben and David are safe. In typical Quantum Leap fashion, Addison and Ben worked the problem, saved the day, and lived to leap again.
The group needs to trust each other and work together. Thankfully by the end of Quantum Leap Episode 2, they all realize that and share information. Whatever happened with Sam, Al, and the rest of his family has left a mark. Al’s wife Bev, who was fun to see, and Janice don’t trust the government. Why? Are they right to keep their secrets? Is Janice delusional and troubled and got Ben in way over his head? The unlocked hard drive, courtesy of Addison’s found flash drive encryption key, indicates that Ben and Janice were looking for a specific place in time.
Messing with the past has consequences, though. Ben has to save the life of the person he leaps into and, by proxy, his own, but sometimes those good deeds make messes. This new angle is interesting. We have seen it done a thousand times in everything from The Butterfly Effect to Primer. But, just because we have seen it many times does not mean it isn’t compelling storytelling. Something about messing with the ripples of fate drives a story. How that factors into Janice and Ben’s decisions, we don’t know yet, but I can’t help but think this will be important. Perhaps one of those consequences of Sam’s leaps affected Ben profoundly. Maybe Ben has regrets or trauma that he is trying to erase. If Janice can be believed, whichs is a huge if, Ben came to her and not the other way around. What did he find?
Quantum Leap 2.0 is less concerned with the moral dilemmas of the people being leaped into. Ben’s leaps are more concerned with simply surviving to the next leap. It’s a departure from the original Quantum Leap that frequently showed Sam and Al wrestling with heavy questions surrounding racism, sexism, and family. I’m not sure how I feel yet. This continuation of the story is admittedly intriguing. I want to know why Ben leaped without telling his friends, colleagues, or fiance. What was his end game? He had to know they would see what he did immediately. I’m also torn by Janice. On the one hand, she has all the markers of a truly great villain. She is driven, erratic, enigmatic, and dangerous. On the other, this is Al’s daughter, and I don’t like having his name sullied so much.
Al could not do wrong in my eyes. Partly, my nostalgia has colored the series, and the character and the late Dean Stockwell recently passed. In any case, I’m in for the mystery, and Quantum Leap Episode 2 gave us tantalizing nuggets to chew on while not really telling us anything like every good puzzle box series should. If this updated version of the story can keep the mystery but sprinkle in some of the original’s heartfelt sentimentality and life lessons, it could shape up to be one of the best of the year. It could also have room to rack up plenty of seasons.
That heart needs to be present, though, and the cast needs help. It can’t do it all by itself. The writers need to find that balance fast. Otherwise, it will become just one more exploitive ploy looking to cash in on Gen X’s childhood but ultimately leaving us cold. There was a reason we loved Sam and Al. I find moments where I could love these new characters too.
Raymond Lee(Dr. Ben Song) emotes sweetness despite knowing he took a serious risk and lied to all his friends. Ian(Mason Alexander Park) is charming and funny, Magic(Ernie Hudson) is a strict government man with a wealth of depth to him, and Jenn(Nanrisa Lee) is much more than she appears. She isn’t just a rigid security mind. She is a brilliant caretaker of the program and has a sympathetic ear if someone would talk to her. Caitlin Bassett’s Addison has the heaviest lifting. She is deeply conflicted by what she thought she knew about the man she loved and what she is presented with each week. Yet, I’m most fascinated by her.
Quantum Leap ground the knife into her back a little deeper when she discovered who Ben had been working with and was faced with Ben’s lack of memory concerning her. Shouldn’t the person you love remember you? If they can remember and accept all the other crazy scientific principles of their time-traveling life, shouldn’t they at least have a tingle of memory about the person they were set to marry? Bassett does an admirable job allowing Addison to maintain her stone-faced professionalism while showing the viewer how painful this is for her.
Quantum Leap Episode 2 solidified that this series’ version will lean heavily into the emotional wreckage of Ben’s decision. Maybe things will change when the series settles in, but until then, the leaps aren’t as significant as what is happening in 2022. While everyone back home is trying to piece together what he and Janice are doing, Ben has lept again. This time into a fighter. I sure hope he knows how to take a punch. Find all our Quantum Leap coverage here.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.