I may be one of the only people who liked the Ashton Kutcher movie The Butterfly Effect, and it’s for the same reason that I’m finding Frequency so intriguing. On last night’s The Flash, Barry unnecessarily demonstrated different timelines on a whiteboard to his science-expert friends to explain why his moves back in time jarred the future. Unfortunately they did so, not in a dramatic way, but as the inimitable Scott Von Doviak pointed out, an extremely mopey way. Frequency, for all its possible future confusion (and to be sure, there is a lot of that), offers real-time changes as its ably juggles 1996 and 2016, so that when Raimy goes up to a New Jersey house she visited only the day before, we know that a different owner will answer.
That’s the stuff that Frequency does well, and in such a satisfying way. It’s completely gratifying to see the girl that went missing for years, instead fight back against her captor. (Although it could be that I watched way too much of The Family last year, but I was so, so happy to see that girl run away and have Goff caught in the act by his mother.) Also in the plus column is the amazing casting of the Sullivan family. Peyton List and Devin Kelley, who plays her mother Julie, look so alike, it’s hard to believe they’re not actually related. They were also born in the same year, so there continues to be a trickiness related to aging the actors in 2016. The scene with Julie talking in the shadows was apparently crafted to highlight that resemblance, because it just as easily could have been Raimy accusing Frank. This makes Julie’s decision to kick Frank out even more disappointing: She married a cop, does she not get what “deep cover” means? And why doesn’t Frank point out that his silence was obviously for the protection of her and Raimy? Still, the chemistry between the family is palpable, especially at the one happy family dinner we get to see.
As fun as that evening is, the second episode of Frequency ran into some logic problems that we were able to skate past in the pilot, to the point of coming to the conclusion, “Oh, I can see why this might have worked better as a movie.” If I’m following Flash’s timeline graph correctly (and I think I am), since Frank was not supposed to be alive past October 1996, virtually everything he does could butterfly effect up the future somehow. Like, where he decides to go for lunch, or if he has a flat tire. Or, for that matter, the shooting of Little J (worst name for a criminal ever, even ironically). This could either be really fun or really confusing/annoying, depending on how well Frequency manages these time-travel conundrums (I imagine the Frequency writers’ room is filled with whiteboard diagrams much, much more complicated than The Flash’s). Still, we have to give some credit to Frank and his desire to still flush out the dirty cops in his department, especially when he could just go straight to the Nightingale task force. And, y’know, stay alive. Since his police detail is now gone and no one believes him, where can he go from here?
Speaking of confusing/annoying: Have a heart, Frequency. We are so far doing a good job navigating over 20 years, and then the show throws us a curveball (already!) by inserting Raimy and Daniel’s first meeting in a flashback. To make matters worse, Raimy is wearing the exact same kind of nondescript color shirt she’s wearing at the precinct earlier, so there is very little to suggest that this is a different day. Except for the fact that her mother is still alive. Sometimes Frequency makes us want to take a nap.
Or thunk a ham radio. If Raimy is so hell-bent on saving her mother, why did she clam up when Frank asked her to talk? Yes, she is probably freaked out by the Goff thing, but that’s another thing: Wouldn’t the very first thing that Raimy would do next would be to look up on the internet what happened to that particular case? Y’know, instead of going straight to bed after not talking to the ham radio? Granted, I’m addicted to the internet (it’s my job!), but she’s a professional investigator, how can she not want to know what happened? I’m guessing that this lapse was just to keep us in more delightful suspense until next week. After all, a lot was going on this episode.
Maybe too much. Just having Raimy and Frank focusing on the Nightingale case, and trying to save Julie, appears to contain a ton of fodder for one time-travel series. Especially since the Frank-Raimy relationship is, as it’s meant to be, the series’ most compelling. The episode’s most affecting moment is Frank being torn between 1996 Raimy and 2016 Raimy, between a kiss good night at bedtime and continued serial investigation over the ham radio. Again, Riley Smith so effectively conveys the anguish of a father desperately trying to get back what he’s lost.
In their rush to move things forward, the Frequency writers would do well to take a moment to consider whether all of these other flashback decisions add up. Because they’re undoubtedly just going to get more complicated from here on in.
- This week in poignant ’90s music: Weezer’s “Say It An’t So,” Collective Soul’s “The World That I Know,” some Sheryl Crow after getting roofied at the bar.
- The robots on Westworld sound more lifelike than that deposition interviewer: “Were you not?”
- Sometimes the Frequency dialogue is clunky: Raimy saying “Copy that” to poor Gordo’s condolences, or asking Goff’s first victim if she knew what a youthful indiscretion was.
- Any guesses what Raimy is possibly short for? Rameson? I got nothin’.
- That mom was so adamant about getting the cops out of there, I had a horrible thought that she was in on it.