Frequency premiere recap: Season 1, Episode 1
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.
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
Frank’s not too thrilled to find out he was murdered and that the world thinks he was a dirty cop. Raimy explains that he was shot at Berth 34 and then found in a car at the bottom of the East River. The murder happens “tomorrow,” and it doesn’t occur to either of them that they should maybe not stop it… changing the timeline, stepping on butterflies, whatever you want to call it — none of it works out well.
But, they do try to stop it. Frank thinks he’s going into a sting; when that’s not anywhere in his file, Raimy asks her lieutenant, Satch Reyna (Mekhi Phifer), who just happens to be her dad’s former partner. He gives her a few of the names of people involved in the undercover op, including Chester Lee. While she’s there, Satch also tells her they identified the body from earlier: It’s Susie Cairone, a nurse who worked with Raimy’s mom before she went missing in the ‘90s.
Raimy tracks down Chester. We see him in the present working as a building security guard, and then we see him in the past meeting Frank, someone named “Rain Man,” and Sam Mariano (Anthony Ruivivar) to talk about the sting. Present Chester doesn’t want to talk about Frank’s death, but Raimy pushes him. She thinks he’s scared to talk because Sam Mariano is now Deputy Chief Sam Mariano. Chester was actually a dirty cop but never got prosecuted, so when Raimy blackmails him, he finally relents. He says Frank was told it was a sting, but it was actually a setup.
Listen, I’m not going to try and understand what’s actually going on with this sting/setup ordeal, but long story short: Sam Mariano is a bad dude, but Frank doesn’t die. He stashes a gun at Berth 34 and is able to change history. Or maybe not history because this timeline is running parallel. I don’t know. Timelines are confusing, y’all.
Anyway, Raimy is waiting by her ham radio. The radio dimmed while Frank was shot, but when it roars back up, Raimy is flooded with memories of her father living. “My father wasn’t murdered!” she tells Gordo. He is, obviously, confused and says Frank died in a car accident five years ago. But Raimy realizes she can remember both timelines: when he was murdered and when he lived.
Happy with that good news, she gets dressed up and goes to meet Daniel and his parents. She walks up to the table and introduces herself to his parents, but he pulls her aside. There’s one little problem: He doesn’t know her. (Also, he says he’s never been to Queens, which means this guy’s a liar. You can’t tell me he’s never flown out of LaGuardia or gone to the Astoria Beer Garden.) But he does have the scar on his arm from when he was in a car crash — that’s how they met, when her mom was his nurse.
In the ‘90s, Raimy and her mom, Julie, are visiting Frank at the hospital. They bump into nurse Susie Cairone in the elevator, and Julie offers to take blood samples to the lab for her. Instead of Susie being in the elevator with the man with the rosaries, now it’s Julie.
Just as we’re starting to put the pieces together present-Satch confirms it: When Raimy shows up at the precinct, he tells her the body has been identified as her mom. Raimy has a flood of memories again and remembers her mom going missing 20 years ago. But there’s more: The Nightingale Killer, who had only killed four people, has been killing for the past 20 years. (Sidenote: Either this serial killer is really good, or these police officers are really terrible.)
“This is why you don’t mess with the past,” I scream at my TV. Raimy doesn’t hear me, though. Instead, she goes back to the ham radio and tells her younger self she needs to take the radio to her dad in the hospital. Looks like she’s going to be messing with the past all season.
So what did you think? Are you ready to dive into these timelines every week? Were you so excited to hear “Wonderwall” on a TV show in 2016? Let me know your thoughts on Frequency below, or find me on Twitter @realdalener.