When last we left Doctor Helen Magnus (“Into the Black”, Season 3 finale), she had followed old nemesis, Adam Worth, into Victorian London in hopes of thwarting his plans to go back in time to save his daughter, Imogene, who originally died of “a rare blood disease” (Leukemia).
NOTE: The first section of this review contains casting spoilers only. However, the reader is warned that following the double lines, the text includes content spoilers for the season premiere.
Martin Wood directs “Tempus” with his customary deft hand. As one who enjoys the “split screen” shots less than others do, I appreciated the limited use of it this time. “Tempus” has the rich, sumptuous look of Victorian England, aided by Christina McQuarrie’s elegant Magnus and Watson costuming. Lee Wilson and his group at Anthem have done themselves proud yet again. The special effects of this episode meet and exceed the standards set in previous seasons with seamless doppelganger shots involving both characters who’ve traveled back in time.
Guest appearances by Peter Wingfield as James Watson and Ian Tracey as Adam Worth, do not disappoint; Margot Berner plays Adam’s daughter, Imogene, with the sweetness and innocence of youth and makes us feel for the doomed girl. Christopher Heyerdahl returns as John Druitt (with hair!), the only other series regular cast member in the episode besides Amanda Tapping.
Before I knew it the closing credits rolled and left me wanting to know more. As with all good storytelling, this “chapter” offers new questions while answering some, leaving us to ponder the possible consequences and eagerly anticipate the rest of the once-again-13-episode season.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = SPOILER ALERT = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
While I had noticed pre-season, along with others, the absence of Agam Darshi and her character, Kate Freelander, in the promotional photographs for Sanctuary, her conspicuous absence from the opening credits and end-of-opening group shot begs the question, “Where’s Kate?” Agam herself stated on Twitter/Facebook (9/28/11) that,
“Kate IS still kicking ass, and has an interesting storyline in Season 4. Unfortunately, due to scheduling this year, she’s not on it as much as previous seasons.”
Without further explanation from the show-runners for her nonappearance in the show’s opening sequences, one is left to wonder exactly how much of Kate we will see this season. Perhaps fans at the Armageddon Con in Melbourne, Australia (Oct. 22-23) will learn more. Regardless, due to the nature of the time travel plot, none of the regular Sanctuarians – other than Helen Magnus – appear in “Tempus”.
Action takes a front seat in “Tempus”, with chase scenes between Helen and Adam and a backstreet brawl between Magnus and Druitt. The latter presents one of the finest, best-choreographed bouts of fisticuffs on Sanctuary to date. Helen’s poorly aimed – and ammunition wasting – gunshots at Adam in the opening pursuit sequence left this viewer wondering if she had left some of her expertise back in the twenty-first century. To be fair, I understood even less Adam intentionally aiming at the walls instead of Helen. Both fed into the plot later, but I found this a weak point in the story. Helen redeemed herself (post concussion, no less) with Druitt. Nineteenth century John Druitt proves no match for twenty-first century Helen Magnus, with over one hundred and some odd years of fighting practice – great fun!
Amanda Tapping has said herself that she “doesn’t get” Helen sometimes, and I agree that twenty-first century Helen often acts unfathomably. In this outing, Wingfield’s James Watson questions her actions and speech on our behalf. Their sublime interactions – from his “detecting” the difference in this Helen and reasoning she comes from another era, to his chastisement over her treatment of nineteenth-century distraught father Adam, and over her intentions toward his twenty-first century counterpart – provide a balance to the action. With his, “You can ALWAYS go home,” rebuttal of Thomas Wolfe, James gently redirects Helen’s thinking. Throughout the episode he proves the gentleman in every way and serves as counterpoint to a jaded, much-older Helen.
The introduction of a new abnormal caught me totally by surprise, prompting my earlier statement about posing more questions than it answered. The show-runners – including Amanda herself – have previously led us to believe John Druitt *was* “Jack the Ripper”. To have this twist thrown at us in Season 4 seems almost deceitful. I think it shows that we can take nothing at face value and make no concrete assumptions. I believe we can expect further surprises and delights from the rest of this new, supposedly darker season, and I look forward to them all.