Well, that didn’t go the way I was expecting. And I don’t mean that the timeline changed so dramatically even the writers over at Doctor Who are taking notes on how to really screw with time. No, what I mean is that Frequency‘s second episode “Signal and Noise,” didn’t capitalize on its promising start from last week, but instead just kind of meandered through the motions.
Since we’re dealing with multiple timelines here, it’s bound to get confusing. I’ll get confused, you’ll get confused, we’ll all just be confused. So for now, 1996 is still 1996, since it doesn’t change. The first 2016 timeline will be 2016A and the second one (when Julie has been killed) will be 2016B, and so on and so forth. Things are constantly changing, so I imagine we’ll get even more variations.
The episode starts where the last left off — Raimy and her father Frank (in 1996, of course) are discussing what they need to do in order to save her mother after the switch in timelines results in Julie Sullivan’s death by the Nightingale Murderer in 1996. Raimy is working off very cold leads in 2016B, but Frank has more of an advantage because of the immediacy of the kills in 1996. He gets himself assigned to the Nightingale Task Force, an easy feat considering he’s now a local hero because of the botched sting. His decision to start tracking another killer doesn’t sit well with Julie, who kicks him out of the house after his welcome home party. Frank’s ejection from the house doesn’t work with Raimy’s plan to get her father to tell Julie how and when she dies, hoping that if she’s aware, she can avoid it happening. much in the same way it worked for Frank.
But as we learned in the first episode, messing with the past is going to change something in the future. Raimy’s investigation leads her to a man named Thomas Goff, who had a sexual assault charge dropped in 1994, which was committed in the same marsh the other bodies were found. This is part of the episode that seems weird to me. I don’t doubt Raimy is a good cop, but finding Thomas Goff and him being the Nightingale Murderer, seemed too easy to me. And just as quickly as Raimy finds Goff, he’s gone because Frank’s interference in 1996 allows for one of Goff’s victims to escape, with Goff and his mother to move out of the house, once again changing the timeline. This change is really subtle, so I haven’t decided yet if this should now be 2016C. Since it happened at the end of the episode, the impact of this change will probably become more clear next week, so for now I’ll still refer to it as 2016B.
For most of this episode, Raimy feels like a robot. You can easily dismiss her behavior with “people deal with grief in different ways,” but it’s a stark contrast to how she was in the pilot episode. Peyton List was great in that first episode. Her anger at her father was tangible, but her love for him was clear as well. The scene when she’s talking to Daniel about her first conversation with him on the ham radio is wonderful. Her conflicting emotions all come together at the end when Frank survives and she has new memories. But in the wake of her mother’s death, Raimy turns to an awkward stoicism and an anger that often feels entirely misplaced. She yells at Frank quite a few times, her neighbor and best friend Gordo (a relationship we’re mostly told about and not really shown due to Gordo’s lack of screen time) a couple of times, and argues with Rayna for the rest of the episode about how best to conduct the investigation.
I think part of the issue here is the constantly changing timelines. I’m not saying I have a problem with this premise — like I said last week, anything time travel is a win for me. But everything is moving so fast in 2016 that I can’t yet really grasp the scale and implications of each change. That first change was big, and impacted our main character so personally that I understood the ramifications there. But we don’t spend enough time in this 2016B timeline before it changes again for me to really feel that impact. I was more invested in Frank’s story in this episode, most likely because nothing is changing for him. He doesn’t have the memories of a different timeline like Raimy does, so all he’s dealing with is the present. His hesitation to work the case made sense to me because to him, he’s just gotten back home and whatever is happening in 2016 is a long way off for him. 1996 is tangible, it’s concrete, at least from Frank’s perspective, and I’m much more invested in that than the constantly changing 2016.
If Raimy had taken the time to slow down, rediscover this new 2016, then maybe I would feel better about it. There was hardly anything about Daniel in this, except for some 2016A flashbacks about Raimy and Daniel’s first meeting, but those were more about Julie than Daniel. I really liked that Raimy had someone to confide in with Daniel last week about the ham radio, but since he no longer knows her, Raimy needs a new confident in 2016B. Seems to me like it should be Gordo, if only he gets more screen time. Who’s to say that if she does eventually confide in him, he won’t suddenly become a stranger with the next change? There needs to be another personal connection in 2016 besides the ghostly voice of her father via a ham radio.
Dealing with multiple timelines seems cool and complicated and opens up room for commentary on letting things go in the past and moving forward, which can be done really well. We don’t need a change in every episode to remind us what kind of show we’re watching. I realize this is only the second episode, so maybe I’m being premature with this worry. But with the speed in which the timeline changed this episode, I can’t help but think this going to happen every episode, and to me, that sounds entirely too exhausting. Maybe with Raimy’s realization that she’s changing too much is what will force the story to slow down a bit, but we’ll see how that plays out next week.
“Signal and Noise” wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. Hopefully, things get back on track next week. See ya then.