This week, NTSF is in full-on “fuck this, just go with it” mode with a plot centered on time-travel, hurtling forward with little bread crumbs of commentary on how ridiculously illogical the whole process becomes. It pairs a lot of one-liners with a concept that heightens to surreal extremes, but it isn’t as tight or funny as other episodes this season.
As Trent, Alphonse, and Piper investigate a missing nuclear warhead, the Time Angels show up. Three beautiful women, all with subtly different complexions, hair colors, and accents, they are modeled after Charlie’s Angels and also travel through time to prevent disasters. Except they can’t really explain what they do, even as each of the Angels in turn tries to put it into terms that NTSF will understand.
Piper wonders why the Angels didn’t go back in time sooner to afford them more time to find the bomb, and one of the Angels offers up that “time is like a rubber band, you can only stretch it so far,” an explanation that sounds clever but actually doesn’t say anything at all—just like a lot of time-travel explanations in other stories. Equally ridiculous is their method of travel, the Time Slide. But the complete lack of logic is the whole point—time-travel is ridiculous, so it’s better to sweep physics under the rug, whip the plot along as quickly as possible, and offer slight jokes as punctuation.
Tonight’s villain isn’t the Zookeeper, the guy with the actual nuclear bomb. He’s never even on screen. The puppet master behind it all is Leonardo da Vinci, who isn’t a master inventor, just a guy who figured out the time machine in order to steal inventions and claim them as his own, all because the subject of the Mona Lisa spurned him. Between this and that Futurama episode that portrays da Vinci as the dumbest alien from planet Vinci, the guy’s not getting a lot of credit from the late-night cable comedy networks.
NTSF gets a lot of mileage out of the repeated screw-ups as the team goes back in time with the Angels, killing the wrong people at random and with impunity (“Damn, the wrong person let us kill them”), despite the sadness it may cause, and they grow impatient at having to explain the situation to Trent and the others multiple times. When Alphonse questions the ethics of killing an innocent parent, he gets sent back to dinosaur times. The eager-to-impress Piper draws venomous hatred from the Angels, who take every opportunity to cut her down. And Sam’s perfectly reasonable questions about constant time-jumping and time signatures reflect exactly what a sane, rational person would think when confronted with such a ludicrous scenario.
I’ll be at a midnight showing of Rian Johnson’s latest film Looper when it comes out, and Primer remains one of the most intriguing independent films I’ve ever seen. But time-travel remains a ridiculous concept ripe for parody and mockery when held up to scrutiny from a physics standpoint, and paired with the action investigation of NTSF, it makes for a satisfying send-up. "Time Angels" may not have as many laughs as the past few weeks, and it misses out by leaving several characters by the wayside—anytime Kove isn't involved is a bit of a disappointment—but as a 10-minute shot of comedy, it's impossible not to recommend.
- The episode starts with Alphonse and Piper bickering over a lunch order. Piper paid for it, but Alphonse is that guy who doesn’t carry cash.
- Nice touch: the first invention in the da Vinci flashback is an iPhone.
- My favorite line of the night is also the one that stings the most: among the times the Time Angels have failed to stop evil da Vinci? The future cancellation of Community.
- “Just like that Cameron Crowe movie, Jerry Maguire.”
- “Perfect, she’s dead!”
- "If they had weekly adventures I could watch or DVR, I'd do it in a heartbeat."
- "Back off Hitler; Bill Gates is coming with us!"