Quantum Leap’s Second Season Shows That Love Can Transcend — And Perhaps Even Change Time

David B Morris
8 min readFeb 22, 2024

And Shows That It Is Far More Than Just A Reboot

I hope there’s a third season in its future.

A perhaps inevitable result of the era of Peak TV has been that, in the age of the antihero and dark cynicism, love, that purest of emotions, has become too cliched for most TV series. We still find it on almost every comedy in some form, to be sure, but these days even few of the network dramas are willing to embrace it as something transcendent.

Part of this I blame on Shonda Rhimes who believes with every fiber of her being that love is a temporary condition for her characters, something always interchangeable with sex. But it is a trend that most network dramas have also followed — mainly because the chase is always considering more exciting than the resolution.

The sole exception — not only in broadcast dramas, but almost all of them — was Lost. The series believed in deep philosophical ideas to be sure, but no one who spent six seasons watching the series can pretend that by far the best moments in the series had to do with love stories. The saga of Desmond and Penny is by far one of the greatest stories in all of television history and it led by far to some of the show’s — and indeed TV’s greatest moments. The series also used time travel as a theme starting in Season 3, but it had a famous approach that changing the future was impossible — ‘whatever happened, happened’ is one of the most quotable lines in the series.

That concept is anathema to Quantum Leap, of course, both in its original version and the reimagining whose second season just concluded last night. But what makes this season special — and may very well lead to the pinnacle of Peak TV itself — was that throughout Season 2 it argued that the power of love was not only something that might save us, but that it too could change the future.

For most of Season 2 we have watched Ben and Addison have dealt with the repercussions of three years passing between Ben being lost in time, presumed dead and the team finding him again. Addison had moved on to another man and she and Ben spent the first half of the season trying to figure out their relationship. Ben spent much of that time saying it was too painful to be around Addison, leading the rest of the team to spend time as his hologram. But while this was going on the series tried something that the original had only tried once before in what would be its last season.

At the start of the season Ben encountered Hannah Carson (The 100’s Eliza Taylor), a waitress in 1947. He helped influence her to move forward and it was clear there was a spark. Two leaps later he encountered her in Princeton in 1955, where she was working as a scientist. Ben broke protocol and told her who he was — something Hannah, who had a brilliant scientific mind, accepted easily. Just before he leapt again, they kissed.

Two episodes later Ben encountered her in 1961 Cairo and Addison realized that the two of them kept finding each other because they were in love. Addison had been dealing with her own grief and she decided to accept a proposal from Tom — only to learn that they had found hidden in the files an equation from DARPA (an intelligence program) that might bring Ben home.

Ben ran into Hannah again, but now she was married and had a young son named Jeffrey. Just before he leapt he learned that her husband had a heart condition. Before he could tell her, he leapt again but in his next leap wrote a letter to her trying to tell him what would happen to her husband. It only put off the inevitable — two years later, Hannah’s husband died in a car accident.

While this was going on, a parallel story was unfolding involving the project. We had learned early in the season that Quantum Leap had been shut down but Ian had kept it going by using technology from a tech billionaire named Gideon Rich. Rich was a shadow hanging over the season much of the way, a billionaire whose reputation was that of a monster. Late in the season, we finally met him (James Frain) and it became clear that he wanted to take over.

In last night’s brilliant two part finale, all of these lines came together. Ben leapt into 1974 New York as a firefighter, who found himself in the same building as Hannah. Her husband had died and her son Jeffrey clearly had her brilliance. Throughout the episode he did everything in his power to save them both from an inferno, but Hannah, who had spent her life studying physics, was now convinced this was the last time they would meet. That seemed nearly inevitable when she got trapped under rubble and Ben made the choice to save Jeffrey.

Addison stood guard over Hannah, and even though she couldn’t see her, she began to write down an equation. This equation was the same one they had discovered half a century later — and it offered the idea of ‘a swap’. In order to bring Ben home, someone would have to take his place.

Ben did save Hannah at the end, but Jeffrey watched it happen. One of the things he had saved was the letter Ben had written Hannah — and when Ben leaped it was clear that he knew something had changed. In the present Gideon had taken over Quantum Leap and forced everyone out of the project at gunpoint.

In the second part, everything came together. Gideon entered the chamber and revealed who he actually was — Jeffrey Carson. It is a credit to the writers that this revelation, which should have been obvious given the physical appearance of the young Jeffrey, came as a shock: the writer’s had hidden in plain sight. Jeffrey had figured out during the last two of Ben’s leaps what was happening and had used the random information he had made — and his own intelligence — to become Gideon Rich. Furthermore, we learned that when Hannah’s husband found the letter, he got into a fight with her, drove off angrily — and died in the crash that killed him. Jeffrey has held that grudge for half a century and it seems he has spent his entire life determined, not only to travel through time but to get revenge on the man he believes he destroyed his family.

The finale featured a wonderful mix of the old and the new. Magic (Ernie Hudson) had called on Jennifer Calavicci (Al’s daughter who had been the initial villain of Season 1) for assistance along with her mother. When everyone asked why they were doing all of this for a project that had destroyed their father’s life, Jennifer reminded everyone of what happened in the series finale. Sam had leapt to see Al’s wife, who believed her husband had died in action, and told her Al was alive. Because of that they were reunited — and Jennifer was born. The show also had a wonderful Easter egg in which Jennifer handed Addison ‘Ziggy’.

Ben spent the season racing to get to Hannah and Jeffrey in order to try and change the future. During that race to their house, Addison had to witness the death of Jen over the hand link — something that shook Ben more than Addison. For the first time, he had begun to doubt his mission. When he reached their house, he was about to destroy the computer that might start Jeffrey’s rise — but hesitated because it felt morally wrong. Instead, he decided to show the compassion that we’ve seen him use in every leap and try to convince Jeffrey there was something to be gained in saving a life and how much loss than destroy you.

The final act was brilliant: Ben and Jeffrey drove back to the racetrack, where the subject of the original leap was suffering a heart attack. He talked Jeffrey through building what amounted to a portable defibrillator which helped save this man’s life. The moment this happened, ‘the butterfly effect’ took place — and the future changed. As we later found out, Gideon Rich was now secretly funding the project to help save Ben.

Ben said goodbye to Hannah, and she thanked him for everything he had done for her in the time they had met. He also told her that despite everything, Addison was his soul mate and he would find her again. In the present, Addison — who was the only one who knew of the alternate timeline — decided to show her love for Ben and leap to take his place.

The final scene showed Addison completing her original destiny and going into the accelerator. Addison was in the past and so was Ben. The two of them watched to each other — and for the first time in years, held each other and kissed. Their love had brought them back together.

It remains unclear what direction the third season of Quantum Leap will take. (It’s own future is murky; though it’s ratings have gone up nearly five percent this season, its hard for any network series to survive these days.) Could this series continue with Addison and Ben leaping together, now forever linked? Could Ben end up going home and Addison being left behind? And is there still a chance that Sam Beckett is out there and that their goal is to help him come home? Will they meet the power that Sam thought was causing him to leap in the first place? (Bruce McGill is still alive, after all.)

What I do know is that the new version of Quantum Leap is, in two seasons, far superior to the original in five. Raymond Lee (nominated for Best Actor by the Astras) continues to illustrate just how fine an actor he is time and again. The series still has the humor, but it has infinitely more heart and it is more willing to take risks than the original ever dared too. Some of this is because of the willingness to beyond one’s lifetime that the original didn’t even hint at, but most of it is because the show is willing to tell stories that the original series could even hint at, and more importantly, was willing to expand the universe far beyond what we got in the first series.

And by making this show about kindness and compassion being the key to putting right what went wrong, Quantum Leap shows a generosity of spirit that is sorely lacking in most dramas anywhere these days. That alone should be a reason for this to keep on going until everything is resolved, something the original never could. I’m hoping for the show’s future, and to quote a phrase that Desmond on Lost was found of, I really hope to see all of them in another life.

--

--

David B Morris

After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.