Angry Peyton List in Frequency (Photo: CW)

Between the Cubs-Dodgers game and the final presidential debate, I’m probably the only person in America who watched Frequency tonight outside of Peyton List’s mom. Still, let’s plow ahead, maybe you guys will catch up on Tivo or something later?

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As Raimy’s butterfly effects kick in, the cool part of Frequency is how the present changes right as she’s watching. Sure, it’s awfully convenient that she’s staring at the computer screen just as Maya’s status changes to “rescued,” or that Goff disappears just as she’s about to do him in. It’s also dramatically satisfying.

Unfortunately, despite Raimy’s veracity to catch Goff, it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to turn out to be the Nightingale murderer. (So why was his DNA on all of those samples? He was another very prolific serial killer?) That undercuts the dramatic importance of Frank and Satch’s efforts to nab him, but only slightly. It’s still a bit fascinating to see how the present can affect the past, instead of the other way around: how Raimy’s future knowledge can make Frank seem like the ultimate super-sleuth, as he now knows exactly where to keep looking. So the Sullivans’ efforts have resonance, as exemplified by Maya’s happy Facebook video at the end. Raimy hasn’t saved her mother yet, but she has at least made sure that one person is having a happy life.

Frequency not only appears to be saying a lot about consequences, but the show’s insistence on laboring along the Raimy and Daniel subplot indicates that the show is trying to say something about fate as well. Even if the two didn’t meet through Raimy’s mother, are they such soulmates that they would find each other eventually anyway? Obviously, the attraction is still going to be there, and apparently, similar interests in Coltrane and Loverboy. The show appears to have learned from last week’s misstep by offering the Daniel-Raimy flashback in almost a blue tinge this week to help set it apart. It’s still mildly jarring, but I think I get it: It’s not also showing us a different effect of this new timeline, it’s also a blessed lighter break from hunting people who lock women up in pens in the ground.

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Riley Smith continues to compel as Frank, as he tries to connect with his daughter in two different years. His scenes with the wife he’s attempting to not only win back over, but save, always seem to land. His patience as a father may be his greatest virtue, though: Not even rising his voice at Raimy when she confoundingly refused to speak to her mother through the radio last week, and this week for not blowing his top at her for basically blaming him for the fact that she almost killed Goff herself: “You didn’t stop me… you should have tried harder.” It’s tricky to watch these two somehow navigate a relationship over the ham radio wires: People also become real friends on the internet, so I suppose Raimy and Frank’s airwave conversations can help lead to that kind of closeness.

There are four time-travel series on network TV right now (with a cable runner returning shortly: 12 Monkeys), and Frequency is the only one where the time travel doesn’t outright bug me. Flash’s continued return trips to the past just got increasingly annoying and convoluted, and Timeless and Legends Of Tomorrow seem to be more committed to various period piece detail (the Legends’ ship even has a helpful machine on board that creates era-appropriate clothing!) than the ramifications of various actions, as they too go after a particular Big Bad in the past. If Back To The Future has taught us anything (and it has, so much), it’s that any way we muck about in the past will have unseen consequences on the ensuing years. Frequency’s immediacy allows us to see those results straightaway.

Because it’s obviously such a tantalizing proposition: What if we could go back in time and tweak something that would make our present life perfect? And if we could, what would that be? For Raimy, preventing her father’s death eliminated the dark cloud that had been hanging over her whole life, with Frank’s apparent corruption. Which leads us to her current desperate race to save her mother, which is still intriguing to watch unfold, even though we know it’s bound to last over those 11 weeks Frank mentioned last episode to keep with our broadcast schedule, But it’s a bit like whack-a-mole, isn’t it: If the show survives until next season (which frankly seems unlikely, given the current ratings), and Julie’s alive, what will Raimy and Frank have to go back and fix next?

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Stray observations

  • Gordo is probably my favorite character, selflessly taking on Julie’s memorial service, but we could use a bit more backstory on him other than “Raimy’s childhood friend.” He has a baby? Oh wait, the baby is 7 years old?
  • Not that this is likely to happen, but seeing how committed Marilyn Goff was to saving her psychotic son, it would be interesting to see what happened to her life in the new reality where her son stepped into traffic.
  • That was Melinda Page Hamilton as Mrs. Goff, who always does good work. Gotta admit part of me squeed to see Don Draper’s first wife and Roger Sterling’s second one sitting across from each other at an interrogation table.
  • This week’s Frequency time-travel conundrum that makes me want to have a lie-down: Raimy is familiar with the bar on Sundays. So is Daniel. So isn’t it possible that they would have met there earlier? Or is Raimy’s familiarity with the place only through her previous relationship with him?

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