It’s a very, very busy episode. Even though nothing really fulfills its potential, director (and former series regular—who doesn’t cameo) Maisie Richardson-Sellers keeps things moving at a satisfactory pace. It’s not until the end of the episode you realize how little the main team has been in it. Instead, in addition to resolving evil Matt Ryan’s team-up with season villain Raffi Barsoumian (sort of), the episode does a deep, and thorough reveal on Lisseth Chavez’s origin.
Ryan and Barsoumian steal the time machine spaceship to go get Ryan his magic back—also, the special effects on the magical “Fountain of Imperium” are outstanding—with Chavez and Olivia Swann tagging along. They just happened to be on the ship at the time while everyone else isn’t. Once they get to the past—1920s Texas—Chavez is pretty sure local healer Alexandra Castillo is her mom and doesn’t want bad oil guy Steve Bacic messing with her.
So while Barsoumian is boring Ryan with all the science behind how they’re going to get his magic back, Swann’s trying to convince Chavez they need to concentrate on stopping the team-up, not trying to figure out what’s so familiar with Castillo. Everything turns out to be intricately connected, which is a reasonably neat trick for the episode—Ray Utarnachitt and Marcelena Campos Mayhorn—until the third act when they rush the dramatics to get to the cliffhangers. Next episode’s the season finale, and there’s a lot left to resolve, including three potentially dying regulars (who may or may not be time anachronisms now). There’s actually so much I’m wondering if the show’s just going to hurry through it instead of trying to logic it out.
Unfortunately, Ryan’s still bad as the evil version of himself. Especially when he’s mean to his friends. Everyone’s forcing it: Ryan, his costars, Richardson-Sellers, the writers. It feels very undercooked, which is a bit of a fail as they’ve been working on the subplot since the first or second episode of the season. Maybe they’ll sort it out next episode; hopefully, they’ll sort it out next episode.
Chavez, Swann, and Castillo all have a lot of decent material in the episode. The script fails them towards the end, but the journey itself is solid. Chavez takes the biggest hit in terms of acting. It might be Swann’s best episode if only the material were a little stronger. The writing’s too pat on the showdowns with evil Ryan, and her character arc with Chavez is flimsy, likable, but flimsy.
Barsoumian’s fine. He brings some energy to the villain plot, even as Ryan sops up said energy. Meanwhile, the action with the stranded cast—Tala Ashe, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell—is bridging filler, very tense cliffhanger or not.
It’ll be fine as long as they end the season well, but it’s a disappointing episode. The first two-thirds is a lot better than the finish.