Raymond Lee has hinted in interviews that there’d be a lot of huge changes in Quantum Leap‘s second season, which isn’t surprising given that season one ended its arc pretty tidily… except for one thing: Ben was supposed to leap home, and the show cut out on Addison eagerly waiting for him to show up.
Well, given that this is season two, it’s no spoiler to say that didn’t happen. Ben will continue leaping through time and changing history for the better, in Quantum Leap tradition. The great change, then, must occur with what’s going on back home in the 2020s. As for what these changes are? Well, in the season premiere, your guesses are as good as Ben’s.
The episode, “This Took Too Long!”, kicks off with an upset and discombobulated Ben realizing that instead of leaping home, he has wound up in the body of an airman, escorting some top-secret crate on an ostensibly commercial flight. The other airmen in the crew are full of conspiracy theories, but their commanding officer, Lt. Ellen Grier, has no patience for any of it. The mission is to escort the crate to its destination, no questions asked.
It quickly becomes clear that the four men under her command, including the one Ben leaped into, are not considered the Air Force’s best and brightest. They’ve all got something to atone for and are hoping the mission will redeem their past indiscretions. All they have to do is not screw it up…
… which of course becomes impossible when the plane is shot down over enemy territory. Because it wouldn’t be a leap if things didn’t go wrong, right?
For Ben, there’s an added layer of stress as, despite his desperate calls, Addison fails to show up in holographic form. So he’s got no idea what his mission is, or any hints that might help him see it through. For the first time, he’s completely on his own.
That lack of knowledge and assistance ups the tension in an already tense episode, one full of war movie-style action and sudden twists. After last season’s dual focus between the leaps and the question of why Ben leaped in the first place, it was nice to have a more classic-Quantum Leap episode focused pretty much solely on the adventure at hand.
By the way, it seems we have completely done away with the “within Ben’s lifetime” limitation of the show… this episode takes place in the 1970s, before the 30-something Ben was born. The in-universe reason has something to do with whatever formula Ben was following to leap to a specific moment in time, but what this means for the show is that it has a much larger sandbox to play in. I, for one, am here for it.
Though the Quantum Leap team — Addison, Magic, Ian, Jenn — are absent, they do make on-screen appearance through Ben’s flashbacks as he recalls the times before he leaped… simpler, more optimistic times. These memories add a layer of tragedy to Ben’s plight. As fun as the show is, its central character is trapped away from a home he yearns to return to. Which is what makes this Quantum Leap fundamentally different from the original… Sam Beckett, for the first several seasons, didn’t seem to have a past of his own, and despite the narration’s claim that he wanted to leap home, didn’t show any sign of wanting to stop leaping. He was much more of a “super man” type of character — not only was he good at everything thanks to his gazillion PhDs and random assorted skills, but he only cared about his quest.
Ben, on the other hand, comes across as achingly human, both because of the backstory he’s been given and Raymond Lee’s wonderful acting. And it seems Season Two will be a lot darker, emotionally, than season one. Whereas last season, he threw himself into the accelerator with a specific, expertly calculated mission, this time he seems to be lost, with no idea why he’s still leaping after he should have gone home, or what that means for the people he left behind.
Despite Ben’s personal problems, though, he steps up as he always does, and the episode breaks up its heavier elements with moments of levity and the show’s signature heart. All in all, “This Took Too Long!” is a thoroughly enjoyable season two opener.