TV Review: Travelers Season 3
Occassionally Off-Mission, Travelers’ 3rd Season Finishes Strong
The third and possibly final season of Travelers, the cult Canadian import on Netflix, arrived in December of last year. An unabashed favorite here at Strange Harbors, I wrote extensively about the show last year in an Under the Radar feature, extolling the show’s bold storytelling and vivid character work of its first two seasons. The series’ third season continues this trend with a propulsive narrative and a heartwrenchingly bittersweet final act, even if it suffers from some wheel-spinning and a midseason sag. Mild spoilers ahead...
Last year, I wrote about Travelers in my feature Under the Radar, which focuses on underseen gems that deserve a bigger spotlight. Since February, not much has changed for the fledgling Canadian import - the fanbase continues to be small yet loyal, and the show continues to barely elude the pop culture zeitgeist. With that being said, I’ll reiterate what I conveyed in my previous article: “What a shame, because Travelers is fantastic.” The third season continues to utilize its winning formula - all of the moral quandaries, complex loyalties, and high drama that made the first two seasons so enjoyable have made a welcome return. However, it’s not without flaws: the first few episodes feel a little too pat, conveniently undoing some of the great storytelling in the homestretch of the second season, and a midseason lull recycles some well-tread material that never coalesces into any real consequences. But by the final three episodes of the season, none of it matters because the climax is so explosive and jaw-dropping that I’m pretty sure I got whiplash - the final hours are equal parts thrilling, heartbreaking, and moving, culminating in a finale that is as depressing as it is hopeful.
The third season picks up exactly where the second season finale left off, with our team of Travelers and their loved ones free from the clutches of 001, but with their true identities as time-travelers exposed and the combined forces of the U.S. government in pursuit. Now, one of the things I love most about this show is its flagrant disregard for the status quo, a willingness to blow up mythologies and discard complacency so that it can move the story forward in daring and interesting ways. From its first two seasons, I’ve learned that Travelers doesn’t play it safe, so I was a little disappointed when the new status quo established by last season’s cliffhanger was almost immediately walked back with a few hand-waves - within a couple of minutes, all of the team’s significant others have had their memories wiped, and by the end of the episode, the government has backed off from its mission to apprehend the Travelers - it’s a bit of a cop out. The season also hits some snags on the way to its explosive endgame: a revisit of the Aleksander Andrieko storyline from the first season yields diminishing returns; and a plot involving a dying Trevor just peters out without a satisfying conclusion, instead serving as a retread of Marcy’s ordeal from the first season. Also, Grant and Kat’s marital strife oftentimes saps the show’s momentum, as the drama of Mac’s secret can’t possibly live up to the heartwrenching pregnancy storyline of the second season, and it’s now almost comical how many times poor Kat has had her memory tampered with or erased.
The rest of Travelers’ third season, however, works like gangbusters. With 001 in the wind, the focus shifts to The Faction, the terrorist splinter group introduced in the first season. Complicating things are an uneasy alliance with the U.S. government facilitated by Agent Joanna Yates (Kimberley Sustad), and a nascent AI that periodically acts as The Director’s mouthpiece. The old guard cast is as good as ever, and even though Grant and Kat’s storyline is problematic at times, both Eric McCormack and Leah Cairns are as charismatic as ever, with their relationship an ever-changing and ever-entertaining cauldron of tenderness and deceit. Marcy (Mackenzie Porter) and David (Patrick Gilmore) continue to be the heart of the show, and effectively function as the emotional throughline of the season (if not the entire series). Carly (Nesta Cooper), Phillip (Reilly Dolman), and Trevor (Jared Abrahamson) are all given moments to shine as well, but the stealth MVP of Travelers, especially in its third season, is J. Alex Brinson as Jeff Conniker. Jeff is the abusive asshole we all love to hate, but Brinson brings a vulnerability to the role that paints him as a real human being rather than a one-dimensional villain. Alcoholism is rarely depicted as carefully as it is in Travelers; too often, alcoholic characters are one-note and undeserving of our sympathy, but Jeff is consistently shown as having redeeming qualities, as long as he’s not drunk. Coupled with some developments that have J. Alex Brinson playing multiple roles later on, Jeff’s storyline is one of my favorites of the third season and a great showcase for the actor.
Endings are a notoriously difficult thing to get right in pop culture and entertainment, and with no news of renewal for a fourth season yet, Travelers finishes its third with a finale for the ages. In fact, the entire last stretch of episodes, from the eighth to the tenth and final, is a rollercoaster of action and emotion that satisfyingly wraps up the entire arc of the team we’ve come to know and love. Doubling as a possible series finale, “Protocol Omega” and its leadup dish out insane twists and a spate of character deaths, all the while tying off all of the disparate threads that have ever been introduced on the show - 001, The Faction, Helios, and anything else you can think of are dealt with in a thoughtful and satisfying manner. Tragic but hopeful, I believe the word that best describes the finale is “bittersweet”. Creator Brad Wright (Stargate SG-1 , Stargate Atlantis) and company are fantastic storytellers, and Travelers continues to be the whole package in its third season. Inventive narratives, a charismatic cast, and a focus on emotion make this series one of Netflix’s true hidden gems. When’s season four?