Quantum Leap, Queen’s Gambit and a show that doesn’t begin with Q

I’m curious if making QUANTUM LEAP and the new Night Court sequels to the originals rather than reboots is a sign of a new trend or just a fluke. Either way, I enjoyed the first season.

Raymond Lee plays Ben Song, a scientist on the Quantum Leap project which has been revived after several decades. The project ramrod, Herbert “Magic” Williams (Ernie Hudson) has a reason: he’s one of Sam Beckett’s former swaps (from the S3 opening episode) who learned why he has a gap in his memory from one day in Vietnam; figuring he owes Sam (he saved Williams’ platoon) he’s determined to bring him home. The rest of the key team includes Ben’s ex-military fiancee Addison (Caitlin Bassett), nonbinary tech whiz Ian (Mason Alexander Park) and hacker-turned-security chief Jenn (Nanrisa Lee).

Everyone knows what happened to Sam Beckett so Addison is shocked when Ben, without telling her, leaps by himself: why would he do that, given the risks? Along with keeping Ben safe as his hologram guide, Addison and the crew have to figure out the reason Ben leapt, and the reason he kept it secret. And who is the “Leaper X” following him through time?

The show reworks the original’s premise: now the leaper’s mind occupies someone’s body in the past, rather than physically trading places. That makes more sense (even though it’s a retcon) but it makes the emphasis that Ben will be stuck permanently in that body if he fails not at all sensible: sure it jacks up the stakes but it punishes his host by taking away his life forever (and blocks any future good Ben could do). Despite which, I found the conspiracy arc worked better than expected, though having Ben travel to such now-historical periods as the 1980s and 1990s makes me feel old. “I was hurled across time and space, forgot who you were — yet our love survived.”

QUEEN’S GAMBIT was the 2020 Netflix adaptation of Walter Tevis’ novel about a young orphan in the 1950s who finds salvation from her bleak orphanage home in playing chess with the janitor. She’s good and we get to watch as Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) begins winning at the amateur level, then turns pro, with her adoptive mother (Marielle Heller) finding prize money a way to support the family after Dad walks out. We watch as Beth’s life moves into the 1980s and she fixes her sights on the big prize, world championship.

Taylor-Joy gives a terrific performance (everyone in this show does) and the period detail is great (though as others have noted, the spinner rack in one early-1960s drugstore scene does not have the right comics in it). It also does a lot that I didn’t expect, such as the way Beth and her mom’s relationship develops. I’m glad I finally got around to watching this. “Let’s pretend you didn’t just compare yourself to Michelangelo.”

I’m much less impressed with GOTHAM KNIGHTS, the new CW series that is yet another Bat- TV show without Batman, as Warner Brothers saves him for the big screen. In the opening episode someone kills Batman and frames a gang of punks headed by Duela (Olivia Rose Keegan) — Harvey Dent’s daughter in comics, the Joker’s daughter here (something she claimed in the comics at one point) — for the crime. Worse, Batman’s true identity is out and that makes his adopted son Turner Hayes (Oscar Morgan) the perfect patsy (Bruce was allegedly changing his will to cut Turner out). Can Turner, Duela, her gang and Carrie Kelly (Navia Robinson) — the Robin from Dark Knight Returns — find the truth when they’re wanted by the cops and the Court of Owls has painted a target on their backs?

This didn’t work for me at all. It feels like the creators thought staying away from costumes and super-types would make it more real or fresh or something; even Carrie wears a dark burglar outfit than anything that looks too comic-book. A much bigger problem is that rather than an alt.Dick Grayson or Damien Wayne, they made up Turner. He’s not Robin (he didn’t even know his dad was Batman), he has no particular skills (the action falls to Duela and Carrie the first episode) and he comes across like a generic rich kid. He ain’t interesting. One final problem is that while I can buy Batman vanishing (the premise for Batwoman and the 2002 Birds of Prey) I don’t believe for a minute he’s really dead. In short, this isn’t something I’ll waste further time on. “How are you going to catch Bruce Wayne’s murder when Batman is dead?”

#SFWApro. Cover by Frank Miller, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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