Thirteen episodes and six weeks to the day of starting the Journeyman Long Haul, I finished it. So, how did it hold up in the years since I last saw it? What were the plans had it not been canceled, and were those plans a good idea? The final wrap-up is here, but first, a gag reel:
I was a little worried when I first started rewatching this, because once I’ve seen something and fallen in love with it (and maybe watched it a few more times) I start to watch it with an eye for how other people might see it, and that just opens the door for wide open for criticism.
That’s not to say critical thinking is bad — because it’s not — but nobody wants to start tearing down the walls of things they love. Fortunately, while I did make note of a few exceptions I hadn’t before, overall Journeyman was just as good this year as it was in years past.
My fear this time around, came mainly from Dan’s missions in the early episodes. I touched on it a little in 1.02 “Friendly Skies,” but it started out seeming like they all had a whole lot to do with helping women be better people. In the pilot, Dan didn’t actively *convince* Nicole Gaines to keep her baby, but after talking to him, she did, and he went on to be a genius doctor. In “Friendly Skies” he delivered a woman’s baby, later convinced her to tell the daughter who the father was and when that didn’t go well, helped the daughter deal with her problems.
Fortunately, at that point, it was mostly the present-day stuff that was hooking me. The missions then were really just stand alone plots to set up the premise of Dan’s time traveling. It also helped that in 1.03 “Game Three,” Dan’s mission was Alan Pratt. And in 1.04 “Year of the Rabbit,” his mission may have been about Melissa Waters, but she still pretty much saved herself from an attack, even if she was kind of simpering after it. To be fair, if I had just shot my (hypothetical) husband in the chest, I might not be all cool and collected either, even if he was about to beat me over the head with a piece of modern art.
But this got me thinking about the gender makeup of Dan’s missions. I counted, so you don’t have to. Over 13 episodes, seven missions centered on helping male characters (one, being himself), five on women and one — Home By Another Way, where he saves the newspaper from layoffs — is kind of miscellaneous.
So it actually was pretty even on the gender side of things, and as episodes progressed, the missions got far more integrated into the present-day plots and how Dan’s life was affected, which made it seem less like a show where the sole purpose is to have one guy righting the lives of other people.
I do see a fair bit of room for complaints about the lack of diversity regarding race and sexuality. It’s a little better with regard to race – Livia being the big example – but it’s not lost on me that there are a lot of white people on this show and a lot of the people whose lives Dan affects are not white.
Well, actually, I just counted that, too, and it’s more encouraging than I thought at 8:4 white/nonwhite. But that it *seemed* like it was more still says something about nonwhite representation, namely that if “here’s someone who’s not white!” stands out as a thing, then maybe there aren’t enough people of color wandering around. (But I have to say, it was really nice to see Don Franklin, aka Cmdr. Ford on SeaQuest, pop up for a couple episodes as Eddie, Katie’s one-time cameraman turned assistant news director who ends up playing a pretty enormous role in the Dan/Katie relationship that is so central to the show.)
But don’t go looking for any gay folk on Journeyman. There are none (explicitly stated to be so, at any rate), which does seem a little inexcusable for a show that spans nearly 40 years in San Francisco starting in the 70s.
That said, I don’t generally base my enjoyment of a show solely on its diversity tally. I base it on the story, on the well-roundedness of the characters that are there, and on the general aesthetic of the filming/writing/acting — and Journeyman has that in spades.
One of my big regrets about this Long Haul was that I didn’t talk more about Livia. In retrospect, I kind of feel like I talked about her so little that I wouldn’t be surprised if people unfamiliar with the show thought she was little more than Dan’s Jiminy Cricket who pops in for 10 minutes an episode and then pops out.
But she’s not. Despite her missions mainly seeming to be about keeping Dan on his missions, she still felt like a very real, three-dimensional character. I came out of this series with a feel for her life not only as Dan’s former fiance who now has to deal with the fact that he’s moved on after her “death,” but also — as I mentioned in “Emily” — as an orphaned woman of Asian descent dropped from the 1940s into the 1980s for years who went on to get a law degree, AND as a someone who, when returned to her home time, went on again to have her own life (sometimes amusingly disrupted as her own time traveling continues).
GENERAL LOOK and FEEL
I don’t really have a whole lot to say here that I haven’t already said. I love the way music is used. I thought the show generally did a good job of making the different time periods seem like the periods they were supposed to be.
Because I was trying to get screen grabs of episodes this time around, I did notice that a lot of the scenes in the past have a yellow overcast to them. It wasn’t always there, and sometimes it was a nice visual cue that seemed appropriate for the time period (for some reason it worked really well for me in the 70s) but after a while it did start to seem a little over the top. But maybe that was because of all the color-correcting I ended up doing for the images I grabbed. Because for some reason, it didn’t work nearly as well for me on still images as moving ones.
I think something else that helps hold the show together is a commonality in directors and writers. Alex Graves directed five episodes, and a lot of the other directors seem to have a history of working together on shows like The West Wing. With Graves also being a producer, that just really sets things up for a familiarity within the ranks that shows onscreen. And even directors who aren’t necessarily coming from the same stable, still list quality shows on their reseumes, from Mad Men to The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Same deal with the writers.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
I mentioned in “Perfidia” that this show is how you end a series. When it got to be pretty clear Journeyman wouldn’t come back for a second season, they tied up a lot of loose ends, teased to a little more and created an ending that felt like a natural act break. There’s no massive explosion going on, no mystery baby left on a doorstep, and no separating the main characters for 95 percent of the episode only to throw up a title screen at the end saying everything was pretty much horrible for the lead character for the rest of forever (a virtual cookie for you if you get all these references). Just a satisfying sense of closure and the feeling that, for these characters, life goes on.
I like that.
But I have to wonder what was meant to come next. I found an interview that Aint It Cool News did with Kevin Falls about plans for the future…and I think I’m mostly glad things stopped where they did. Highlights of the interview (follow the link for the whole thing) include:
* And initial idea — thankfully scrapped — to have Zack be really important and have some sort of near-future traveling power. That just reeks of Chosen One/worst-part-of-Star-Wars prequel crap, and I’m glad they moved away from it.
* The idea for the back nine had Dan and Katie splitting up for a while (an idea I hate) and Dan living with Jack (an idea I kind of love in theory). They wanted some enormous event (but not a plague, because Heroes was doing that, the network said) that would bring back all the people Dan had helped, Dan and Katie would get back together, Livia would die in episode 21, but Dan would bring her back in episode 22 and then somehow his whole life with Katie and Zack disappears. And we might meet really old Livia (so far the only idea I kind of like beyond seeing Jack and Dan as roommates). And Garrity might be back, and there would be people trying to find and exploit the travelers and blah blah blah.
That’s just…that makes my brain hurt, and I don’t terribly like it, so I’m just going sit back, take a deep breath and go back to loving the 13 episodes we got.
Because I do. Kind of a lot. So, for the last time, if you haven’t seen it, watch it free (in the US) at hulu.com/journeyman.
Last little bit: