The first season of the new Quantum Leap has concluded, and, as promised, the show has tied up its dangling plot threads in a neat little bow. Which I personally really appreciated. While there are certain open story lines that could be explored in a second season (which the show has already been renewed for), the questions raised throughout the season—why did Ben leap? Which time/place are his leaps leading him to? Who is “Leaper X”? etc.—come to a logical and largely satisfactory conclusion.
It would be impossible to discuss the finale further without spoiling the season up until this point, so if you haven’t caught up to episode 17 yet, turn away now. The review that follows will attempt to avoid spoilers for episode 18 as much as possible. It will commence after this ominous yet context-less photo of Ben.
The teaser at the end of episode 17 pretty much promised that it would be the last traditional Quantum Leap episode of the season. After meeting a grizzled and haunted Ian in the ruins of Quantum Leap headquarters in a future plagued by nuclear winter, there’s no way the finale (apocalyptically titled “Judgement Day”) could be another one-off adventure about Ben fixing a lovable stranger’s life. But since the quantum accelerator wasn’t built to send people into the future, it starts pulling Ben away moments later, leaving Future Ian to hastily explain what’s going on and rely on Ben’s conveniently photographic memory to convey a vital piece of information to the Quantum Leap family—I mean team—back in 2023 (at some point, the show’s contemporary timeline also crossed the New Year threshold).
The team—Addison, 2023 Ian, Jenn, Magic, and now Janis as well—isn’t able to view what Ben’s up to in the future, but soon, familiar blue lights swirl, and Ben is pulled into the past again. And this time, he has leaped into… himself. In 2018. At the half-built Quantum Leap headquarters, moments before his first date with Addison, who still considers him just a coworker.
This was where he was heading all along, what Janis had helped him sabotage the official project to achieve. It’s also where Martinez, aka Leaper X, was heading… and where, in the timeline Ben was trying to prevent, Addison will die.
After 17 episodes of leaping into strangers to fix the pasts of people he doesn’t know, Ben finally gets to, as himself, attempt to fix his own past. Except now, there’s no Ziggy to guide him or the team back in 2023. However, the team is able to help by giving him information about their past selves. Which turns out to be important as Leaper X catches up.
It was fun getting to see the teams’ past selves, particularly Ian, who really is the breakout character of this whole season. Mason Alexander Park does a brilliant job of portraying three different Ians—the high-strung 2018 version, the more open and mature 2023 version, and the mournful, desperate future version. For someone who started off as just another “nerd in the lab” supporting figure, the convenient genius who feeds the central characters information, they have really stolen the show in the best possible way. Even before the plot started hinting at their vital role in the wider arc, their onscreen charisma had a way of grabbing the camera. Here’s hoping we get to see a lot more of them in season 2.
The episode takes Ben and the audience on a wild ride, doing things with the quantum accelerator that we haven’t seen yet in this iteration of the show. As a conclusion to an 18-episode season, “Judgement Day” is largely satisfying, as plot threads come together and everything finally makes sense. In an entertainment environment that sometimes feels like twists are written for the sake of twists and mystery boxes are presented without anyone having considered where they could lead, it was great to get an ending that makes sense without being entirely predictable. And that is, you know, an actual ending (a rare sight in the age of binge-seeking streamers).
The finale’s one weakness is that Martinez is never really developed as a character, and so isn’t particularly compelling as an antagonist. Despite having popped in and out of the show since halfway through the season, he was never more than a plot device. Which is a shame, because the episodes framed as a showdown between Ben and Martinez, but it’s hard to really become engaged.
All in all, Quantum Leap has done a great job of bringing back the formula we know and love while integrating a new plot and purpose for its leaper. Some of the retconning of the original show’s world-building (the disappearance of the waiting room, the leap host amnesia) will probably continue to annoy some viewers, but the spirit of the show remains. In a sea of dour dystopias, Quantum Leap stands out as a hopeful piece of science fiction, frame technology and science as a way to make the world a better place, and the people behind it as selfless idealists who truly care about doing the right thing. Dare I even call it hopepunk?
While it had its ups and down, like any show, overall the first season was an enjoyable watch, full of likable characters (and a found family!), fun story lines, and a heart the size of a quantum accelerator.
Season Rating: 4.5/5 stars