Oh, I am a serious sucker for good plot architecture, and Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 18 is a shining capstone on this inaugural pyramid of adventure.
And while the practical application of the law of entanglement may leave us feeling a little more metaphysical than we’re used to, top marks for historically time-stamping 2018 Ian’s solitary spiral with his immersion in the remastered version of Bandai Namco’s Dark Souls.
Hands down, the most delightful twist is taking the classic fight montage trope and turning it into a montage of fights that span all the contexts in which Martinez and Ben’s leaps intersected. Brilliant stuff.
The show’s writers have had fun since Day One, playing with various pop culture references.
They’ve tipped their hat to The A-Team, Back to the Future, and Crimson Tide.
Here, we glimpse a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles in 2051, where Ben receives his final mission instructions from an aged, hermit-like Ian, only to be thrown back into 2018 to play out an homage to The Terminator in his own body.
There’s a lot to accept at face value in the 2051 scenes.
There’s no time to explain (and probably no real explanation) how Ian knew Ben would leap into the future ruins of the Quantum Leap headquarters.
Furthermore — and perhaps more troubling — who did Ian “find” for Ben to leap into? Assuming the future is as terrifying as it seems and Ian is truly the last surviving member of the QL team, how did they convince a clueless outsider to hang out in the imaging chamber, waiting to be possessed by a time-traveling physicist?
Then there’s the crazy code Ian has scrawled onto the board over the ten years since they leaped into Dottie and warned Ben about the danger to Addison.
How convenient that Ben has a photographic memory and that his photographic memory works exactly like a camera.
Ian: Why can’t I figure this out? Future Me is just casually writing this thing in some Bladerunner apartment probably wearing a very cool trenchcoat and I still can’t put one and one together.
Janis: Should we get you a trenchcoat?
Ian: Couldn’t hurt.
2023 Ian continues to pull at my heartstrings. It’s refreshing to have a tech genius team member who doesn’t choose to isolate from human connection.
Ian is open about his need for the team’s support. They are forthright about their guilt and insecurity about whether they’ve done the right thing.
However, it’s their determination to make every effort to ensure success that wins the day.
I’ve said it before in my reviews, but it bears repeating: Finales are held to a higher standard than other scripts.
Good ones offer a conclusion to long-arc conflicts, while great ones respect the established canon AND set up something new for us to look forward to.
Check, check, and CHECK.
For Martinez to leap into 2018 Magic just when Ben is acting crazy sets up an incredibly plausible confrontation between 2018 Addison and the team and Ben.
Poor Magic. He’s been taken over by leapers twice in a lifetime, and all he gets as souvenirs are memory blanks and some baseline survivors’ guilt.
Magic: In past leaps, we felt any changes to the original history instantly. Why not now?
Janis: Because we’ve never directly messed with our own timelines before. Until Ben finishes the leap, everything is in flux. The phenomenon is called a …
Magic: Don’t tell me. Nano-wave nullifier? Space-time suppressor?
Janis: Quantum Bubble.
Magic: Of course.
2051 Ian’s message to remember they need each other may have been specific to the Dark Souls-esque coding, but it ends up applying to the whole mission.
See what I mean about plot architecture? It’s freakin’ amazing how these pieces fit together.
2023 Magic drops in to talk to Ben and passes on 2023 Jenn’s message about “Turtle Time,” along with the information about where he always keeps his pen.
“Turtle Time” brings 2018 Jenn and Ian running to the cell. 2018 Ian asks Ben about the code that looks like a cheat code, and 2023 Ian picks up on that, triggering the light bulb moment.
Leaper Ben tries to talk 2018 Addison down using the Law of Entanglement metaphor he used in his speech at their 2022 engagement party on Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 1. (This is crucial because he hasn’t made that speech yet in 2018.)
Ben: Some people assume that because I’m a physicist, I can’t be romantic. What they don’t realize is science is romance.
Jenn: Yeah, I’m sorry I asked for that speech now.
Ben: I’m serious. Take the law of entanglement. Once two particles experience a shared state, they’re no longer separate entities. They exist as one, even when separated by great distances.
2018 Addison remembers this and advises Ian that all of the Ians exist as one so that 2018 Ian and 2023 Ian and 2051 Ian can all pull together (???) to enter the code together and reset Ben’s leap.
Meanwhile, this finale doesn’t only respect the established canon; it writes a love letter to it.
Ben draws on things he’s learned from his leaps — the naval chain of command on Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 14, boxing tips from Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 3 — to combat Martinez.
And ultimately, it’s the friendship he formed with Miss Frankie as Diego de la Cruz on Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 5 that saves his life.
Everyone that goes to war thinks the universe, God, is on their side. We can’t all be right.
Martinez exits not as a villain but as a believer. He dies doing precisely what he was sent to do — ensuring the mission’s success.
He knew he would never return home but believed his mission would prevent the demise of humanity he’d seen in the future.
All that being said, I wonder if 2023 Martinez might be tapped to join the Quantum Leap project when Season 2 launches.
It might be kind of awkward at first. Still, if Ben and Addison’s relationship can survive a couple of do-overs, you’d hope the team might see the benefits of adopting Martinez before he’s indoctrinated into a future government anti-QL mission mindset.
Addison: So you’re a time traveler?
Ben: Yes, I’m Ben from the future. I leaped in 2022 to come back here and save your life.
Addison: From what?
Ben: A man sent back in time to kill you.
Addison: [laughs] Okay, okay, that’s really good. I mean, it’s literally the plot of The Terminator, but it’s good. Okay, can we please go back and have dinner?
There’s a wonderment of delight in how the 2018 QL team members vary from their 2023 selves.
Magic’s nights out with Al speaks to the closeness of that relationship and emphasizes Magic’s need to bring Sam home.
Ian’s compulsion to keep the trivia team together ensures one night a week where they aren’t left to their Dark Souls addiction.
But the wrong that needs to be set right is how Ben opens himself up to Addison.
His leap home is triggered when he overcomes his fear of taking a probable misstep and trusting his heart.
Ben: How’d you know she’d shoot?
Addison: Because I would shoot.
Ben: She missed on purpose.
Addison: How do you know that?
Ben: Because you wouldn’t miss.
When you watch Quantum Leap online, what do you foresee for the team when the Quantum Bubble pops?
Are Ben and Addison already married? Their 2018 kiss may speed up their relationship considerably.
Will there be other knock-on effects of Ian’s trans-time one-ness with their other selves?
The word is that Season 2 production is already underway.
We may not have long to wait to find out how what happens when (or is it if?) Dr. Ben Song comes home.
Hit our comments with your craziest thoughts and theories!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond ’til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.