As my colleague Darren Franich pointed out this week, fall TV is all about the past. In addition to time travel in Timeless and kind of time travel in Frequency, we also have split timelines in Pitch and This Is Us, and I don’t even know what to call what’s happening on The Flash. But as every good TV watcher knows, you should never change the past. In Timeless, they’re very careful not to alter the timeline (spoiler: They fail, and they’ll probably fail every week). But in Frequency, they go out of their way to mess up the timeline.
That’s not to say this pilot isn’t good. With great acting from Peyton List, Mekhi Phifer, and Riley Smith, it’s a thrilling mystery that feels right at home on the slowly growing-up CW. And even though it’s adapted from a film (fingers crossed for Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel cameos!), it feels fresh. Yes, like any new show, it could go off the rails in a couple episodes, but for now, I’m ready to buckle in and see where the showrunners are taking us.
Anyway, I’ll stop blabbing about it, so we can talk about it.
List plays Raimy Sullivan, a NYPD detective who has bad memories of her father. Smith plays her father, Frank Sullivan, who is also a cop and left her and her mother, Julie (Devil Kelley), to go undercover. Raimy and all of New York think he went dirty while he was undercover, and that’s what led to his death on her eighth birthday.
She’s been reflecting on this because it’s her 28th birthday; she’s now a year older than her dad ever was. She’s celebrating with her mom, soon-to-be fiancé Daniel (Daniel Bonjour), and best friend Gordo (Lenny Jacobson). As luck would have it, Daniel found a ham radio in the garage when he was setting up for her party. He and Gordo set up the antenna to get it working, and Raimy is not pleased. It was her father’s, and she doesn’t like thinking of him.
But she’s about to do a lot of thinking about him because as it starts to rain, electricity hits the antenna, and the radio lights up. Raimy trudges out there and hears a man talking. This man is very obsessed with a 1996 baseball game, has an 8-year-old daughter who wants to talk to astronauts, and is named Frank. This all sounds a little too familiar to Raimy. Their conversation cuts out, and Frank doesn’t think too much about it until he sees game 3 of the Yankees/Braves series. It plays out just as the woman on the radio had described to him, so he goes back. He tells her it’s 1996, and his name is Frank Sullivan. She thinks the radio user is trolling her — Frank, adorably, doesn’t know what that means. They both are freaked out, but when he puts his cigar on the box and she sees the smoke, it’s too much. Frank tells her to not come on the frequency again.
The next day Raimy goes to the morgue to check on a body for her most recent case. The ME tells her that the body is a woman in her late 20s or early 30s who has been dead since the ‘90s. But more intriguing: Her hands and ankles were bound by rosaries, which were used by the Nightingale Killer in the ‘90s — a tidbit that was never made public.
In the ‘90s, Frank is thinking a lot about “that Twilight Zone stuff.” He goes to their old house and digs up a coffee can. This was his system for getting gifts to Raimy while he was separated from her mom and undercover: Put something in the coffee can, bury it, and put an American flag in the ground so she’d know to look. So to communicate with his daughter 20 years in the future, he burns an American flag into the ham radio. Raimy sees it in the present and runs out in the rain (it rains a lot in
Vancouver New York) to dig up the coffee can. Inside is a picture of her dad with “today’s” newspaper.
Now that they both agree that time is moving parallel and they really are talking to their future/past family members, they can get the 20-year catch-up out of the way… like Raimy’s a detective and Frank is dead.
NEXT: How to stop your own murder