Travelers: Season Two Review

Travelers is about people from a far flung and terrible future who have chosen to have their consciousness transferred into the bodies of 21st century individuals who are about to die. Working in teams of five, each with a specialty, their Grand Plan is to use their knowledge and skills to actively change the future into something better. Travelers stars (in photo order) Nesta Cooper as tactician Carly Shannon; Eric McCormack as team leader Grant MacLaren; Jared Abrahamson as engineer Trevor Holden; MacKenzie Porter as medic Marcy Warton; and Reilly Dolman as historian Philip Pearson.

This series is my cup of television tea. It effectively combines time travel shenanigans with the extreme difficulties involved in masquerading as another person. I particularly like how the lead characters must balance using their own judgment when carrying out their assigned missions while also making every day decisions about how to carry out the lives of their hosts. When done well, this sort of thing can make for intriguing and enjoyable drama, and Travelers does it well.

Season one was good. Season two is even better. And here is where I will insert the standard spoiler warning in the form of a spoiler kitten: if you haven't seen season two yet and you plan to get around to it, may I suggest that you bookmark this review and come back later?


Arguably, the biggest unanswered mysteries of season one were (1) who kidnapped and tortured our team in season one, and (2) what is happening with the Faction, who were trying to overthrow the Director (the AI who runs the Travelers project).

Although everything wasn't revealed immediately, the first question was answered with the introduction of Traveler 001, the very first Traveler, who overwrote one of the Twin Tower victims on September 11 and then refused to die as scheduled. They made me happy by casting Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars) as Traveler 001, and then doubled my happiness by casting Amanda Tapping as his confused psychologist.

While season one explored the personal lives of our Travelers and the difficulties they encountered integrating themselves into the already existing lives of their hosts, season two focused on it even more strongly – particularly on Grant's marriage to Kat, Marcy's romance with David, and Carly's custody battle for her baby with his father, Jeff. These personal issues culminated in the season finale with the multiple kidnappings and Traveler 001 blackmailing the team to reveal their true selves on video.

While Eric McCormack does a consistently good job as the show's lead and I liked Grant's story dealing with his wife Kat's unexpected, difficult pregnancy, the most compelling personal relationship on the show is by far and away Marcy's with David Mailer (Patrick Gilmore), her former social worker.


When Marcy, a doctor, initially arrived in her host's damaged body, she had to use her advanced medical knowledge to stay alive, knowing that her efforts were futile and she would eventually die. The ultimate cure for her condition, overwriting different parts of her brain, left her a semi-emotionless amnesiac. I really liked that Marcy couldn't leave the situation as it was, that she found a way to retrieve her interim memories and some of her host's in order to repair her relationship with David, an exceptionally good human being who also kept making me laugh out loud throughout the season. My favorite bit was when David copied Marcy's lottery numbers and won $31,000, and spent the best day of his life giving every dime away to his homeless clients. What a guy. Seriously.

Another consistently enjoyable continuing character is Grace Day (Jennifer Spence), an outspoken programmer from the future who overwrote Trevor's high school guidance counselor. Although I think Trevor got a bit shortchanged in the personal story arena this season; his initial paralysis situation and discovering that his football coach had abused his host were stories that just came and went. I like all five of our leads, but for some reason, Trevor is my favorite. Maybe it's the idea of a quiet, wise and observant elderly man living in the body of someone so young.

I also liked Philip's continuing efforts to battle his addiction. Philip is the only traveler with no family to juggle, and it was fun that he decided to assuage his loneliness by adopting a turtle. I was also interested in his struggle to keep up with the changes in the timeline. I connected less with Carly's storyline, though. I felt frustrated with her decision to live with her abusive boyfriend in order to regain custody of her baby. Although the way she beat the crap out of Jeff when he finally got drunk and tried to hurt her was satisfying.

Clearly, the team cannot reveal who they are to anyone, but I kept wanting Marcy in particular to tell David the truth. Be careful what you wish for, because now David, Kat and Jeff (and the confused Ray) do know the truth. If we get a third season, and I certainly hope that we do, that's a major problem for our team. Well, that, along with Travelers being tracked as a terrorist group by worldwide law enforcement, whatever was going on with the unfortunate Simon, and the ongoing efforts of Traveler 001 who is now played by Amanda Tapping.

This series probably won't turn out to be a classic, but it definitely improves upon acquaintance and it's quite binge-able. I rewatched season one before diving into season two, and enjoyed it even more the second time. I've been trying to think of another series like Travelers, and I can't; it's not like anything else. It's nothing like the big recent network effort, Timeless, which did things like recreate the Lincoln assassination. Travelers is more focused on complex characters dealing with unique situations, making it more closely resemble, say, Continuum.

Bits:

-- Only seven months have passed since our team "arrived."

-- I'm not sure I could pick a favorite episode this season, although I particularly enjoyed "001," the exciting and often amusing season finale, Grace's trial in "Traveler 0027," and the Groundhog Day episode with the skydivers, "17 Minutes."


-- I always enjoy the complications when our team interacts with other teams, particularly Louis Ferreira as team leader Rick Hall.

-- Speaking of Continuum, Travelers now includes three Continuum cast members: Jennifer Spence as Grace, Stephen Lobo as Wakefield, and Ian Tracey as Ray.

-- I keep wanting them to clean up their garage ops. Especially that filthy bathroom.

-- I couldn't remember what the Protocols were, gave up and checked the internet:

1. The mission comes first.
2. Leave the future in the past.
3. Don't take a life, don't save a life, unless otherwise directed.
4. Do not reproduce.
5. In the absence of direction, maintain your host's life.
6. No inter-team/deep web communication, except in extreme emergencies.

Josie Kafka's review of season one is here.
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

6 comments:

milostanfield said...

Love this show too. I think of Travelers and Continuum as peas in a pod. So many similarities. About the only thing different is we don't ever see the future in Travelers (so far) like we did in Continuum. The ambiguity over whether the Corporate future was the side to pick or the rebels was a great part of Continuum. Travelers has our team, Traveler 001, and another Traveler faction in the same vein. I think the big ? here is how far does one trust an AI to run things. The AI is almost like a god to MacLaren.

I think Travelers will eventually be the better show because the travelers inhabit the bodies of existing people instead of just showing up.

Patrick Gilmore as David steals every scene he is in. Love the character, especially his awful phone messages.

What do you think of 12 Monkeys? Also, check out Milennium (1989), the movie version of a John Varley story.

PS - Spoiler Kitten is a major heart melter.

Billie Doux said...

milostanfield, I so agree that Patrick Gilmore as David is a scene stealer. He's wonderful. I hope that he forgives Marcy because I don't want to see season three without him.

I guess I need to try 12 Monkeys again. :)

John Varley is my favorite science fiction author. Couldn't handle the movie. I did review all of his books, though and Millennium is one of my favorites.

magritte said...

Thanks for reviewing this season, Billie. I too am really enjoying Travelers. Though the "people going back from a terrible future to change the past" is a crowded genre, I think it may be the best show of the kind. Perhaps it's because instead of focusing on complex gyrations of plots involving multiple timelines, it centers on the struggles of characters trying to fit themselves into the lives of other people in an unfamiliar world.

The character relationships are exceptionally well-written. As I was binging my way through DS9 these past few months, I couldn't help but think that while DS9 has many good qualities its romances were comparatively weak. I think part of what makes David so appealing is he's the kind of guy who usually doesn't get the girl in Hollywood. And he's so cuddly.

It's funny, Twelve Monkeys is one of my favorite films, but I haven't really been able to get into the show.

TJ said...

Oh Billie, how I have waited for this review. And what a wonderful review it was! You were spot on on all accounts. Agree that Trevor was underused this season, but what a great season it was. I also loved the finale and the groundhog ep.

I am a bit scared though - is this show now cancelled?? Eric McCormack is doing Will & Grace again - does he have time for two shows?? We NEED another season, preferably with Amanda Tapping now as a series regular...

Mark C said...

I agree season 2 really kicked it up a notch from season 1. I appreciate that in each character’s story line there’s some tragedy or angst that is not there to be resolved for a happy Hollywood ending. Everyone has to live with the problems they found themselves in. I especially liked the episode where Philip was given the update to future “history” but he can’t tell anyone what he now knows.
I read elsewhere that a fan theory going around is that Simon overwrote Grace in the final episode just as traveler 001 did with his therapist. If you watch her befuddlement at the end of the episode she doesn’t seem herself. That would be a sad turn of events. I liked Grace.

JohnR said...

The title sounds like a Knausgaard reference. Knowing how these TV writers are, probably so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Struggle_(Knausg%C3%A5rd_novels)