Time After Time 1×05 Review: Picture Fades

Welcome back to my weekly Time After Time recaps! Go here to read all of my previous recaps for the show!

The darkness within

“We either reject the darkness or we let it destroy us.”

When John goes back to 1918 Paris in order to try and save his son, Henry, there are a lot of questions that this act poses. “Picture Fades” gives John more of a purpose in that, for the first time since the show began, he didn’t use the time machine to try and kill anyone. He went back in an attempt to rescue someone from death and then subsequently saved H.G. at the request of Jane, bringing out more of his doctor side. By doing so, it’s like John is now questioning who he really is. H.G. asks him why he’s trying to save the life of a son he never even knew about. Why does he care? John’s response is that he’s trying to find out if he does.

The quote at the top is what Henry says to John and it’s fittingly jarring that it pertains to him so well. Do these two acts (the first one an attempt because his son does end up dying) of goodness atone for all of the murders he’s committed? Does it make everything ok? No, it doesn’t, but John’s confusion as to the kind of person he really is has never before been questioned and I appreciate that the show isn’t simply making him to be this one-dimensional character. His journey has been an intriguing one so far. Will John reject the darkness? Will he let it destroy or will he overcome this part of him and seek to be more of the doctor and less of a murderer. Clearly, no one should overlook what John has done, but at least he’s questioning himself and this brings about a moral conundrum that the show hopefully continues exploring.

The episode also brings about the general issues with time travel? John asks what the point of having a powerful machine if they’re not able to do anything with it that’s beneficial. In a way, he’s right. Sure, going back and meddling with the past is bad, but being selfish is a human characteristic and wanting to save someone may sound awful if it changes everybody else’s lives, but what if H.G. needed to save Jane’s life? Would he be facing the same questions? It’s also a bit of a double-edged sword since H.G. and John being in 2017 is technically altering the past for everyone living in, say 2020, or 2030. Their presence in a time not their own is already an issue, but it’s always fascinating to explore time in a way that asks: Does meddling with time matter, or does everything play out the way it should?


Jane and being protected

I know H.G. is old-fashioned and all, but the whole “you can’t come along because it’s too dangerous and I’m trying to protect you” is still a line that’s too often said by men when speaking to women and it agitated me to no end when H.G. told Jane that she couldn’t come to 1918 with him. Later, he tells her that he can’t stand to lose her, and she also apologizes… for being pushy? Let me make it clear that no woman should ever apologize to a man when being asked to be treated equally. If H.G. can go back to 1918 (putting at risk his own lineage and possibly erasing Vanessa from existence), then so can Jane. And wanting to come along because Jane knew that she could help is not being “pushy” and she had every right to be angry for the double standard treatment.

The episode redeems itself a bit in between by allowing Jane to figure out that Henry was going to die at the cafe and not on a truck, and then she ends up in 1918 anyway, but the episode still largely leaves her out of the action in a way that diminished the quality of the episode. She and H.G. remain cute, but the show has also been stalling any further romantic development between them and now they’re already contemplating how hard it will be to leave each other once H.G. goes back to 1893. The show needs to re-center its focus on them so that if they were to ever be separated, the investment in them is there. As of now, their interactions need to be more meaningful as they, along with John, are the strongest characters in the series.

There was some more plot development as Vanessa investigates what this Project Utopia is (some of the experiments include magical super-healing and super strength). She’s able to get some information from her father’s old research partner, but he is killed by someone working for Griffin and Brooke. Overall, not a bad episode and I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions in 1918, but if Jane had been more integrated into the plot, the episode may have been all the more stronger for it.


Time After Time airs on Sundays at 9/8c on ABC and stars Freddie Stroma, Genesis Rodriguez, Josh Bowman, and Nicole Ari Parker.


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