Travelers

4 out of 5

Created by: Brad Wright

If possible, in our wild world of overly descriptive summaries and forgot -a-spoiler-tag posts, you should go into Travelers blind.  Which doesn’t really give you much to latch on to in the way of a recommendation, but just try to dig on the notion that it’s a present day, planet Earth-based sci-fi series, and mayhaps that will be enough to at least get you to tune in.

To that I will add one caveat: If you’ve managed the blindness as prescribed, the first episode does not hold your hand with explanations.  Though it’s not overly complicated and will dawn on you soon enough – ticking clocks recording people’s times of death which are then passed, the individual of focus surviving past that point though apparently severely mentally affected in the process – coming to understand the premise organically is, I think, one of the charms of the show, and also exposes the generally above average writing that balances what to tell and what to let us piece together.

As the episodes tick on, and we get to know the survivors we saw and understand how they relate, the show’s writers and directors also don’t pull any rugs out too hastily, or force twists through withheld information: there are certainly things to be learned, but Travelers doesn’t abuse this as a distraction: Our main plot – why these people need to come together – ticks on, as the dialogue conveys the how, bit by bit.

Some of this can get overwrought.  Some characters’ decisions are questioningly dunderheaded.  But the more the characters extend past their sketches (e.g. The quiet one, the funny one, etc.), the more we understand the motivations behind their thought processes, all leading up to some killer moments of tension in the season’s latter half.

The actors are all perfectly cast, and I did not mind spending time with any of them, or their subplots.  Because this is more about character and story over effects, the budget can be well applied to set design, which is generally convincing as we hop between suburbs and offices and cities and farms.  Again, the writing definitely edges toward dour, which is carried over into our tone, but it’s consistent, so you get a feel for the show.  The only thing that outright bugged me was a computer interface they frequently focus on.  It’s intended to be “different,” but it comes across a tad 90s Hackers.

This aside, Travelers was one of the most consistently rewarding shows of the past season, and if I’ve noticed a personal trend with the sci-fi/fantasy shows I tend to dig on, they tend to play it straight with the viewer and not hide behind cliffhangers or ploys.  Travelers does this, and muscles its way through some dramaturgy with a well realized cast and themes.

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