Elijah Wood, Samuel Barnett / Bettina Strauss, BBCA

Time travel is one of those particularly wonky plot devices. If the characters go back in time solely for entertainment purposes, it’s pretty easy to just crack jokes about funny old-fashioned hairdos. But once they start affecting their own stories, things get a lot more complicated.

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The parts of Dirk and Todd’s time travel that work best demonstrate the inevitability of the universe. We see Todd’s desperate attempts to try and affect change, and a lot of the larger mystery slots into place as we see why Gordon has been acting the way he does. The main problem with the time travel is that it retrofits a lot of the reasons for Dirk’s behavior.

The addition of the information that Dirk met himself at the hotel changes the entirety of his character’s motivation, and at this late point in the season, it’s a tough change to accept. Suddenly, our main character is not who we thought he was. Moreover, some of his decision-making is a little baffling. He’s known this whole time that time travel was probably involved in this case, and yet he never really acted like it. His knowledge does provide some explanation for his cheerful positivity throughout all the craziness that he and Todd went through, but it doesn’t clarify why he didn’t search from the beginning for a time machine. He also never tried telling Todd what was going on. Early season Todd wouldn’t have believed him, but the one who has seen some really weird stuff happening might have.

There’s a way of explaining this by saying it’s just part of Dirk’s overall faith in the universe pulling itself together, but even if that is the case, he needed to say that immediately in response to Todd’s understandable concerns. It’s also not a lot to rest the momentum of a show on. Passivity is not a compelling characteristic, or one that makes a great deal of sense when people’s lives are on the line. The Dirk/Todd conflict could also have gone better. Todd is possibly reacting that way out of grief that he’s stuck with his life as is after the tantalizing lifeline of time travel was offered, but there’s no real sense of that during their fight, and Todd has yelled at Dirk enough times over the course of the show as is.

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The episode also suffers from an intense degree of exposition. After six episodes of pieces coming together, it turns out that it was never possible to solve the mystery, and that Dirk was going to have to solve it himself. A mystery that can’t be solved using the given clues is not really as satisfying as one that can be. And because Dirk magically figures the whole thing out himself, it means he has to monologue the entire description of the solution, which also means we get limited character work on Zackariah Webb. We just get Dirk’s explanation of who Zackariah is, without the benefit of him showing us. It’s an intense, weird backstory for a character who has lurked on the fringes of the story all along, and it’s a shame to see it all rushed out in a five minute monologue from Dirk. There’s a lot of epic tragedy going on in Zackariah’s life, but we don’t get much of it.

And Todd’s insistence on comparing his own problems to Zackariah’s just feels shoehorned in. There is certainly a parallel there, given that both of them have spent years of their lives trying to fix one mistake, even if Todd deserves a lot more blame for his circumstances. But it’s all a lot to pile into one episode, and one that’s already pretty overstuffed with developments. If Zackariah’s story had been split across more episodes, it would have fit together better.

That said, Farah is a badass, and despite the episode overstuffing, more Farah is always welcome. The scene where she finally takes out the body-swapped federal agent could have been twice as long.

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Also, because we got the whole time travel/body swap mystery solved (kind of?), we’re now going to have to get the entire Black Wing situation resolved in one episode. Plus Bart. Plus Amanda. Maybe some of them can join forces? Bart seems like she’d get along with the Rowdy Three.

Stray observations

  • I’m still kind of confused about why Zackariah gave up on his fight against the body swappers for long periods of time. As he points out, they’re idiots.
  • Why did we get an explanation of Rainey’s place within the group, but not Gordon’s? He wasn’t even in the flashback.
  • It is mildly frustrating that the plot requires Todd to have no understanding of how time travel works. If he knows that Gordon is responding to things they’ve already done, why doesn’t he realize there’s no way to change the past?
  • The pre-Todd Dirk wore hoodies instead of sharp jackets. He must have wanted to look his best when meeting his new best friend.
  • That was some very interesting and totally real-seeming hair that Julian McMahon was rocking during this episode.
  • How many Eds/Neds/etc does Gordon have left at this point? Also, imagine living forever and only those guys know what’s going on with you. Seems kind of rough.
  • Shoutout to Alison Thornton (Lydia Spring), who has had to spend the entirety of her time on this show acting like a corgi. Imagine the audition for that one.

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