Time After Time Recap: Pilot/I Will Catch You
By Racheal Courtney (@rachealsparty)
The premise of Time After Time, based on the book by Karl Alexander, is pretty cool. H.G. Wells (Freddie Stroma) builds a time machine in the basement of his 1893 Victorian house that will later inspire his famous novel, The Time Machine. He invites a group of spiffy English mates over for a dinner party, one of them being the devilishly handsome Dr. John Stevenson (Josh Bowman), to show them his creation. All but John seem passive to the invention. But when Scotland Yard comes knocking on Wells’s door looking for “Jack the Ripper”, H.G. is first to put the pieces together, realizing his good friend Dr. Stevenson is the murderer that has been tearing through the streets of London.
A lot happens in the first ten minutes of the show. A prostitute gets murdered, a time machine is introduced (and used twice), and we get an immediate sense of who H.G. is going to be. He is an idealist with views on the world stem towards the future. He dreams of Utopia in the next five generations, where man lives in peace and equality. John, however, remains a mystery until the second part of the two hour premiere but we learn quickly that he is a charmer and a cunning one at that. He is also a cold-blooded killer, but the reasons why are not made immediately clear. This is one thing the show does completely right. It contrasts these two characters brilliantly. Both are handsome and debonair, but John is mysterious and rogue, while H.G. is cute and brainy.
H.G. realizes all too quickly that John has stolen the time machine. But not completely. Without the key to the machine, it can travel in time, but it won’t remain with the traveler. With very little hesitation, H.G. follows John to March 3, 2017 and lands in his own museum exhibit and is taken to the museum curator by security. H.G. is introduced to Jane Walker (Genesis Rodriguez) who is convinced that H.G. is an actor portraying Wells in a play. She lets him go with little fight, not wanting to draw attention to the stunt she thinks he’s pulled for publicity.
H.G. tracks down John at the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square but their conversation turns into a fight as John realizes that H.G. only followed him to return him to 1893 and Scotland Yard. John runs and H.G. tries to catch him. Instead, H.G. is hit by a taxi and taken to a hospital. Since the only thing he has in his pockets is Jane’s business card, that’s who the hospital calls. She shows up and offers him a place to stay for the night. Here, the relationship between H.G. and Jane begins and it is made oh so painfully obvious that the two will become romantically entangled. This schtick between them is consistent throughout the two episodes to the point where I needed to scream “Okay, we get it!” at the TV. Their chemistry is not awful, however, even if it does need some work.
The next morning, H.G. sees a news report of the murder of a young woman at a nightclub called “Utopia”. Immediately, he knows John must be the murderer and comes clean to Jane, telling her the truth about his identity and the time machine. To prove it to her, the two return to the machine and jump forward three days. But things aren’t so splendid. They discover that in the future, Jane is John’s third victim. They gain the identity of the second and race back to March 3 to save her but in their attempts, Jane is kidnapped by John and she and H.G. are separated.
Que part two. H.G. meets Vanessa Anders (Nicole Ari Parker), the woman who runs the museum his time machine rests and tells him that she met him in her past (his future) where H.G. told her he was her great-great grandfather. She tells him she has a plan to get Jane back and capture John, who wants the key to the time machine in return. To convince him she’s on his side, she provides a letter to H.G., written to himself adorned with a mysterious symbol. This moment was great. It set up what will happen later in the series perfectly, showing that, while it seems like it’s a fish-out-of-water tale, soon, H.G. will be time traveling to solve the plot points, which is the best part of any time travel story. We also meet Vanessa’s husband Griffon Monroe (Will Chase), who, while not really having much to do in this episode, will hopefully grow a bit in the future
H.G. gets a phone call from John, telling him to meet in Central Park to exchange Jane for the key to the time machine, but only if H.G. comes alone. Jane, who is hostage with another woman that John uses to keep her in line, makes an escape attempt by bludgeoning John over the head with a ceramic bowl, finds she can do little to escape his clutches and instead, distracts him with his own story, showing him Jack the Ripper’s Wikipedia article and conversing deeply about his morals and choices. This scene, while a little flustered in the script, was done so well by the actors. While Rodriguez and Stroma will surely build their chemistry throughout the run, she and Bowman are excellent together. I hope that we get to see more of them one-on-one in the future, otherwise, I will be sorely disappointed.
H.G. goes to meet John in the park and encounters a rather large and scary man in a baseball cap on the way. He finds John but Vanessa’s men interfere before H.G. can even attempt to make the switch. John is pretty pissed and takes Jane to the museum where H.G is waiting for them, this time without Vanessa’s men. Through a brilliantly choreographed scuffle, John and H.G. make the switch and Jane is freed. John makes for the time machine and H.G. manages to destroy some of the wire components before John can leave. The Ripper, even more pissed off than before, attacks but has to escape to avoid getting caught by the police. But not before stabbing one on his way out.
Vanessa shows up and clears the damages, bringing Jane and H.G. back to her house for protection where she reveals that she had traced her family line and there was no proof of H.G. being her great-great grandpa. But she did have their DNA tested and they are, in fact, related somehow. John vows to kill one person every day until the time machine is repaired and the key is in his hands. He then picks up a girl at bar, probably to kill her. The show ends with scenes of the rather large man in the baseball cap taking pictures of John on his phone and returning to an apartment where pictures of John and H.G. are plastered all over his walls.
This show is violent, cute, sometimes funny, and a little cliche, but ultimately, it successfully pulls off the time travel element of a sci-fi series without drowning in it. I’m excited to see where the mythology and logic the future will take us and I hope ABC gives it a chance to find its footing. I have to give my hat to Josh Bowman, who is an excellent Jack the Ripper, struggling with the morals of his lifestyle by refusing to acknowledge them beyond “it feels good to kill”. Freddie Stroma is also pretty excellent, and I hope the writers find their footing with him.
I highly doubt in Victorian England these dudes would listen to H.G. and take him even remotely seriously. Didn’t they lock people up in Bedlam for that kind of stuff?
I hope that sassy secretary stays around.
There is no way Jane can go from hating H.G. to inviting him to stay at her apartment. This is New York. There are killers on the loose. John is Exhibit A! A glock from Texas is not enough for this to be okay!
How are both of these dudes so hot? Are there bench presses and dietary guidelines in the nineteenth century to help maintain those abs?
This show does an excellent job of pulling out a giant, flashing arrow and going “Look! Right there! That’s a significant plot point for the future!!!”
We better get an explanation of how this machine works. No power source, no logic behind it. How do you work?!?!
That whole time Jane was trying to escape and John was knocked unconscious, I literally couldn’t handle it. His hand was gonna fly up at any minute and grab those ankles and kill something.