Travelers Season Three Review

Season one was good; season two was better. Season three was terrific, definitely the best so far. If you haven't tried Travelers yet, you might want to give it another shot.

Travelers is about people from a far flung, terrible future who have transferred their consciousness into the bodies of people from our time who were about to die. Working in teams of five, Travelers carry out missions given to them by the Director, an AI in their own time, saving lives and changing key events in order to "fix" their own future, even if it leads to their own nonexistence.

Although there was still a lot of action centered on lifesaving events and efforts to fight the lawless anti-Director operatives called "The Faction," season three was a lot more personal, more about the Travelers themselves.

And here is where I'm going to insert an adorable spoiler kitten! If you haven't seen season three and you plan to, I'm going to spoil everything! Come back and read this review later!


The season two finale in which David, Kat and Jeff learned the truth about the Travelers program at first appeared to be a nonevent when the three of them (and the befuddled Ray) received a 24-hour memory inhibitor that Grant had used on Kat once before. The kidnappees were told that they had been taken prisoner and drugged by a psycho serial killer, Vincent Ingram.

But the wipe wasn't entirely effective, since the kidnapping had lasted longer than a day. Jeff, an alcoholic, was able to partially resist its effects, and he remembered that Carly wasn't Carly. While David resisted a similar realization about Marcy because he loves her, he was frightened enough by what he remembered to buy a gun and start taking lessons in self-defense. And Kat kept getting memory flashes of Grant lying to her and planning to hurt her.

Interestingly, the real FBI became involved in Traveler operations when the FBI director (David Cubitt) was cleverly brought onboard. Grant got a new, reluctant partner, non-Traveler Agent Yates (Kimberley Sustad). And a 21st century artificial intelligence called Ilsa began to channel information from the Director, who was finally able to communicate directly with Traveler teams.

Season three got stronger as it went, with increasingly serious episodes and a blow-out shocker of a two-part ending.

3.3 "Protocol 3"

If you don't remember, I'll remind you what Protocol 3 is: "Don't take a life, don't save a life, unless otherwise directed." In this episode, Grant woke up mindwiped and was compelled to backtrack his own actions and find out why, even though there was clearly a very good reason why his own team was keeping the truth from him. Grant discovered that he had received orders from the Director to execute Aleksander, the Romanian child that the team saved back in season one, because Aleksander would grow up to do terrible things. (It wasn't stated outright, but he was already killing animals, suggesting that he would become a serial killer.)


This episode featured a depth of tragedy as well as ambiguity that ended up playing out through the entire season. The team managed to convince Grant that the time he had spent with Aleksander that day had changed the boy's future and that they had placed Aleksander in another, more successful foster home. But there was major subtext implying that Grant did indeed execute the boy and couldn't live with what he had done, so the team had wiped his memory and had come up with a convincing lie that Grant would probably believe. I was impressed.

3.6 "Philip"

Philip and other historians were kidnapped by the Faction, who wanted their knowledge of the timeline. We learned that the updates Philip was enduring would eventually kill him. !!! After the kidnapping, Philip decided to stop taking the yellow pills that kept him from seeing multiple timelines.

While I like Philip and this was a strong episode for actor Reilly Dolman, the real standout in this episode was Louis Ferreira as Rick Hall, who was shot and lying on Marcy's table at the garage as the team tried to retrieve Hall's knowledge about what had happened to Philip. Hall's final moments hallucinating that he was lying in a sunny field of flowers absolutely got to me; I cried for him. Ferreira did such a good job of making Hall a memorable character, considering that he was only in four episodes of the entire series.

In this episode, it was finally stated aloud that the Traveler program didn't appear to be working. Even with all of the lifesaving, positive changes, the horrible future was still basically unchanged.

3.7 "Trevor"

Trevor (Jared Abrahamson) has always been a favorite character of mine. There's something about the contrast of a teenage body housing the mind of an extremely elderly man that I've always found appealing, and the actor really made it work. In this episode, Trevor developed "temporal aphasia," a condition in which he checked out of consciousness for increasingly long periods of time, making him useless as an agent. (Sadly, we learned that the only other person who died of temporal aphasia was Trevor's late and much loved wife.)


Grace, who has a thing for Trevor, decided to save him before the Director overwrote his healthy young body with a new Traveler, and she succeeded in regulating his aphasia with a device that made his body unusable by any other Traveler. I found this denouement bittersweet since Trevor, who is extremely old, was clearly ready to die but resigned to continue doing his duty.

The B plot was actually even more moving than the A plot when David's very first client, played by the wonderful Jim Byrnes from Highlander, died and at his funeral, David gave him a beautiful, heartfelt eulogy that emphasized the worth of every human being. This homeless man's influence was what made David choose social work in the first place, and that choice in turn had a beneficial effect on everyone David has helped. This was another episode that made me cry.

In this episode's coda, Kat decided to test Grant by taking him to the place where they met, seventeen years ago. When he had no idea why they were there, Kat finally knew for certain that Grant was not the man she married.

3.9 "David" and 3.10 "Protocol Omega" (finale)

The Faction set off three nuclear devices in countries around the world, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths. David was dragged into carrying out a critical Traveler mission and had to disarm the fourth nuke alone, absorbing a lethal dose of radiation.

Key government figures all over the world were taken over by Faction travelers, and our team was clearly falling apart. Trevor's aphasia returned; Philip was hallucinating so many timeline variations that he couldn't so much as cross a street; Kat threw Grant out and their marriage was over. David's painful death was the last straw – I found it practically unbearable. His last words came from the Director: "Protocol Omega," meaning the Traveler program was over. Later, Marcy committed suicide in order to keep the Faction from the backdoor-to-the-Director knowledge she had in her head.

I'm sure it won't be a surprise that I cried through these two final episodes, too. I even yelled "Nooooooo!" out loud. Marcy and David falling in love despite the terrible problems they had to overcome was the heart of this series. I can't imagine it continuing without it.

In the end, Grant used Traveler 001's consciousness transfer device to go back to his host's body the moment Grant met Kat, seventeen years ago – and then he let her go to live her life without him. On September 11, Grant was in the Tower before Traveler 001 arrived. Grant was the one to send a different message to the Director, telling It that the Traveler program was a failure.

So many questions!

Did Grant prevent the entire series from happening at all? Or are there multiple timelines where it did? They did give us a lovely alternate moment where David and the original Marcy met on the bus before her mind was destroyed by Traveler 001. And thank you so much for that. (Of course, in this timeline, there would be no Ingram to destroy her mind in the first place.)



After stopping the Traveler program from ever happening, Grant was checking his watch, waiting for the Tower to get hit by the plane – but there was no plane. Did it ever come? And why didn't the original Vincent Ingram arrive in that office to fix the computer? If 9/11 never happened, that would be really, really interesting. What could we infer from that?

The Director abandoned "version 1" of the Traveler program, and started "version 2." Is this the end of the series? Was it all a paradox? Was it the Traveler program that brought about the original future dystopia in the first place?

I should be bummed that the series might end like this, but instead, I find it fascinating. It's an excellent ending for the series, but it's also a surprisingly cool launching point for a fourth season, if they get one. Bravo.

Bits and pieces:

— The first two seasons consisted of twelve episodes each, and there are only ten in season three. But I'm okay with that; they certainly got the job done.

— Although... the introduction of Agent Yates, Ilsa the AI and Dr. Teslia seemed a little pointless. I thought more was going to happen there.

— Carly's ex Jeff had an interesting storyline this season when Carly deliberately set up a situation where Jeff would kill her, knowing that the Director would probably overwrite Jeff first. Which It did. Jeff later being taken over by Traveler 001 didn't work as well for me, although having himself chained to a wheelchair and bricked up behind a wall was gutsy.

— Gold acting stars for Jennifer Spence as Grace, especially in the episode "Trevor." Such a droll character.



— Honorable mention for Christopher Heyerdahl, who played a serial killer for five minutes in "Archive" and then played the Traveler who took over his body and had to face a lifetime in prison or possibly even the death penalty for something he didn't do.

— And a special grossout award for Heyerdahl's character vomiting up an eyeball. Bleeechhh.

— There were many shots throughout the season of only half of each character's face. I'm sure it was this season's Most Obvious Symbolism.

I thought this season was excellent. Four out of four pair of ducks.

(Here are links to Josie Kafka's review of season one and my review of season two.)

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

8 comments:

CoramDeo said...

While by the end I was loving it as much as previous seasons, I felt this season floundered a bit at the start. It seemed to struggle to figure out exactly what it wanted to do early on, but it did eventually find itself. I'd have to rewatch it to see if it has more of a direction on second viewing. I was also a bit taken aback by the sudden, out-of-the-blue anti-religious sentiments in one of the episodes this season. I forget what it was called; it was the one where the girl was taken over by the messenger program. It just felt like the episode's writer wanted to attack religion, and tried to fit it in whether it worked there or not.

Billie Doux said...

I'm rewatching this excellent season with my son and we just watched the episode you're referring to. It's the fifth one, "Naomi." The anti-religious stuff was all spoken by Grace, and I thought it was very much in character.

Anonymous said...

Now that I've watched the final two episodes, I suppose you're right that this could be a good ending to the series...but I can't help feeling cheated/mad about that. This was so good I want more. Just reading all your questions made me think "ya, what ABOUT that?", "and THAT?", "oh, and that?"...

And losing Daredevil too, just when the team was back together...two of my current favorites.

At least I have The Magicians to look forward to.

Sooze

magritte said...

It was a very exciting and enjoyable season...but the ending is shattering. And although they clearly left a door open to continue the series (with Travelers version 2.0), it did feel like they were trying to bring things to a conclusion, perhaps thinking that they would not be renewed. They brought some sort of conclusion to the main character arcs of everybody except Philip: Grant is finally separated from Kat, Carly has lost custody and Jeff has been overwritten, Trevor is no longer living at home and has rejected Grace, and of course our favorite couple is dead. So...it's an ending but what a downer! Marcy and David died just so the Director can start over. I can't think of a show with a darker finale, if it is done.

But if they do continue, it seems like there would have to be a lot of turnover in the cast. Without Traveler 001, original Marcy shouldn't suffer her fatal mugging, so even if the Director retransmit travleler Marcy, she would be going into a different host. Knowing that Trevor's going to develop temporal aphasia, if he's sent on another mission at all,it won't be with a young host. And surely they wouldn't use the Philip host, knowing that he was a heroin addict. MacLaren, Grace, and Carly are the only ones I can imagine being placed in the same hosts again. So maybe they'd start with an entirely new traveler team, at a different point in time? But the hook of the show has always been the characters more than the plot; I'm not sure it would work. I would have rather seen the show continue with our Traveler team fighting to save the world without help from the Director.

Actually--I'm not sure David and Marcy are meeting in the past--in the new timeline original Marcy's mind would not have been destroyed. So they could be meeting in an alternate present.

magritte said...

Just wanted to add: while you're right that Grace's anti-religious diatribe is totally in character, it's also ironic. After all, she exhibits the most blind faith in the director of any of the characters; she's a kind of religious zealot herself. I love Grace, by the way. Along with David she's my favorite character on the show.

CoramDeo said...

Oh, absolutely; it's completely in character for Grace to react in that way to the situation she's been placed in. What I take issue with is that 1. Nothing in the episode refutes or even slightly challenges her reaction. Even her teammates were only reining her in because it was inappropriate to express at the time. 2. The father is portrayed not only as mistaken, which he is, but as wrong - not incorrect wrong, but morally wrong - to turn to a spiritual solution to his daughter's problem. 3. I got a clear sense that the writer introduced the father's religious leanings for the express purpose of having Grace mock him. Given the situation, yes, it was an in-character reaction, but the situation didn't need to happen. Lastly, as Roger Ebert pointed out, the notion that Hollywood movies 'don't glorify violence, they only portray it' is foolish because anything you portray on screen, you do in some small part glorify. It's the same with this. Portraying one of your protagonists as having certain sentiments, especially when you don't have anyone argue against it, does present it favorably in your audience's minds, even if you don't intend it. In the long run, it doesn't affect my general enjoyment of the show, and I still love even Grace, but I noticed it and it was kind of glaring to me, so I thought I'd point it out.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful comments.

I've been trying to see this Grace thing using a different lens, and I see now that having the father turn to exorcism to deal with an AI was essentially ridiculing religious beliefs and the need for spiritual comfort. It would have been more believable, and certainly not open to ridicule, if the father had simply been seeking religious counseling. Honestly, I tend to see organized religion as oppressive and being offended by a scene like that just didn't occur to me. So points to you, CoramDeo, for getting me to see it differently.

And magritte, you're absolutely right that Grace pretty much worships the Director. Excellent point.

Sooze, I haven't been seeing this season finale as a cheat, or depressing, because it was so well done and so thought-provoking! But the characters are indeed the reason I watch and if there is a season four without these actors, I will be very upset. I wonder if there's a way they could do a season four with this sort of massive re-set that would include the same actors and characters?

OREN B said...

A great ending to a great show! They HAVE to make a fourth season!