A Superb Quantum Leap Finale Breaks All the Rules

TV

This Quantum Leap review contains spoilers.

Quantum Leap Episode 18

If it’s answers we’ve been waiting for, then the Quantum Leap season finale delivers exactly what we wanted and then some.

Dr. Ben Song’s (Raymond Lee) “Judgment Day” leap begins in the distant future. An elderly Dr. Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park) has been waiting a “very long time” for Ben and even had trouble finding another person for Ben to leap into. At the end of the previous episode, it wasn’t clear that Ben leaped into another person because Ian recognizes Ben right away, so there was speculation that Ben leaped into the future as himself. How could Ian be so certain it’s Ben they’re talking to? This is our first clue that future Ian has figured out ways to control the leaps that were heretofore unknown. Ian expects Ben to arrive at that moment, at that location and into the body of a rando from the wasteland. Ian’s future self is Gandalfian.

The Quantum Accelerator is not pleased about Ben’s leap into the future. While Ian tries to explain everything as fast as they can, the Accelerator is working hard to pull Ben back to the past. And we see Ben resist the leap over and over again. He fights off his exit as he listens to Ian’s State of the Nuclear Union—the government blames Quantum Leap for the collapse of society, which apparently happens in Ian’s lifetime, before any bombs target Quantum Leap’s HQ. The government claims that time travel changes things…for the worse. Quantum Leap became the scapegoat and the government nuked HQ just after sending a Marine on one last mission to the past to undo Quantum Leap by killing the person who leaps in 2022—Captain Addison Augustine (Caitlin Bassett).

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In the original timeline of this contemporary Quantum Leap project, Addison is the leaper. According to Ian and Leaper X/Marine Richard Martinez (Walter Perez), society collapses after Addison starts leaping through spacetime and Quantum Leap is blamed for everything bad. Martinez then leaps to go back in time to kill Addison but not before coming up with the idea to nuke HQ. Ian leaps after Martinez to advise Ben and HQ is nuked after Ian leaps back home from their forewarning mission. Ben is not the first leaper since Dr. Sam Beckett went ca-ca in the Quantum Accelerator. By my count, he’s the fourth person to leap in the sequel series. And Ian is the first known person to leap and return home, which means it’s possible that Ben (and Sam?) can do the same.

Back to Ian and Ben in the future wasteland. Ian has spent decades devising a new code, a cheat code, that Ben has to memorize before the Accelerator sucks him out of the future. Ian’s final instruction is for Ben to give past-Ian the code and to remember that “we need each other…it takes 2” but Ian is cut-off as the Accelerator becomes too powerful for Ben to resist its pull—and Ben disappears before Ian can finish the instruction. It’s a credit to the expert storytelling that all of this happens in the first 5 and a half minutes of “Judgment Day.”

Ben’s next leap takes him into his own past body on the day of his first date with Addison in 2018. This blessed day is also targeted by Martinez as his destination point for disposing of Addison. Leaping into one’s own body is a big risk. If Ben changes anything in the 2018 timeline it could create a paradox that may erase someone from existence, cause Ben and Addison to never fall in love or rip a hole in the fabric of spacetime killing everything that ever was, according to Janis Calavicci’s (Georgina Reilly) risk assessment of Ben’s leap.

Ben doesn’t stick to the original timeline at all, at least not beyond making sure they order egg rolls instead of scallion pancakes on their dinner date. He even tells Addison that he’s a time traveler…himself from 2022. Addison doesn’t believe him, so when Ben tells her to take his car home, lock the doors, arm herself and tell no one where she is, Addison calls Magic (Ernie Hudson). Who wouldn’t? Magic is the boss/friend everyone turns to in times of trouble. The problem is that Martinez uses Magic’s body for his leap to 2018. Addison didn’t just call Magic, she calls her own assassin.

When Martinez leaps from the future, his aim is ending Addison, but he has since run probabilities through Ziggy and learns that the whole Quantum Leap team must die to truly put a stop to the project once and for all. Martinez initiates the Accelerator to implode and wipe out all life within a three-mile radius just before he shoots Addison in the arm. Future/past Ben and future Martinez/past Magic brawl it out as the Accelerator spins out of control. When they charge at each other, the Accelerator transports them both backwards through all of Ben’s and Martinez’s crossing-points. Until they finally land where they met, in the Old West ca. 1879, and Martinez is gunned down and falls through a rooftop fence to the dirt road below in perfect Western fashion.

We see Martinez die, but what about Magic? It’s his body that leaps as Martinez’s host, which means that when Martinez dies, so does Magic. And how will the fabric of the universe handle the leaps of two leapers double-leaping, not just in the sense that two people leap, but two people leaping simultaneously as the body-hosts of two leapers? The only hope is that when future-Ian says “it takes two” and perhaps they weren’t just talking about two people entering the cheat code at the same time. 

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Once Martinez is gone and Ben begins to leap out of 1879, the Quantum Leap project team waits anxiously in 2023 as the Accelerator lights up to beam Ben back home again. The final shot of season 1 is a close-up of Addison’s face. Whoever she sees there, we are left to ponder: what happens when the Quantum Bubble bursts? Janis said that the effects of the past changes won’t become apparent until the leap ends, causing the bubble to pop and the changes to become apparent.

Will Magic still be standing there for the premiere of season 2? Will Addison and Ben still fall in love if Ben’s 2018 body never returns to 2018? And did Martinez’s initiation of the Accelerator’s implosion get stopped or did it actually implode in 2018? If Quantum Leap is destroyed in 2018, then nothing will be the same when the show returns for its second installment.

We got all the answers to questions raised in season 1, but the new questions created by this finale are even more interesting than I could’ve imagined. It’ll be a long wait until season 1 is fully resolved by what comes next, but the clever storytelling and the strong foothold the revival embodies leaves me with a new mantra: Long Live Quantum Leap!

Quantum Leap airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. The sequel’s episodes, as well as all five seasons of the original show, are available to stream on Peacock.

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