We’ve made it to the final episode of the bloodbath that is season 3 of Travelers. This has been the most exciting season yet, and the finale is no different. It’s full of surprises and fresh overwrites, plus a twist ending that no one saw coming.
The finale begins with a family meal at the big table in ops. Philip sees an alternate timeline version in which David survived the radiation exposure and is regaling everyone with a funny story. Everyone is doubled over in uproarious laughter at his story. Jeff is there, too. Boyd is not.
Probably because in that version, Boyd wasn’t needed to help with his care. Maybe the Director had the clean up crew from the archive send some military grade nanites over for David at the same time as they arrived at the archive. If he’d gotten the nanites within an hour or two of exposure, maybe he would have improved before much permanent damage was done.
Philip’s vision fades into this timeline, in which Boyd and Jeff are there, and Marcy is missing from the table. David fades into the background lights. Everyone is silent and desolate. Philip brings Marcy her plate of food, but she’s still sitting vigil over David’s body. It’s unlikely she’ll touch it.
He stops to look at the news report playing on the computer monitor. They call the three Faction bombings in London, Shanghai and Moscow the worst nuclear attack in history, but say they still have no leads on who’s responsible.
Trevor and Jeff clear the dishes from the table and chat about the implications of Protocol Omega, the message the Director used David’s last words to send.
Jeff: “Always figured Omega was the one protocol we’d never have to worry about.”
Trevor: “When you consider the amount of potential revisions and possible outcomes, the Director’s probably abandoned millions of timelines. Good chance there’s a version of us in most of them.”
Jeff: “Yeah, but I live in this one, so… What’s that thing stuck to your head?”
Trevor: “Brain implant.”
Jeff: “Cool. For?”
Trevor: “Temporal aphasia. Early onset… Yeah, I still get locked in once in a while. There’s no cure, even in the future. Switch hosts enough times, it becomes inevitable.”
Jeff: “So you’ve switched hosts that many times?”
Trevor: “Yeah. I was an early test subject for consciousness transfer.”
Jeff: “So, you’re like really old, then.”
Trevor: “Yeah, yeah, I’m pretty f–king old.”
Trevor defines the dreaded Protocol Omega for us in this conversation: It’s when the Director gives up on a timeline and no longer interferes with events. The Travelers are cut loose and free to live out the rest of their lives as they choose.
The Director moves on to a new timeline to experiment with and the old timeline is left to fend for itself, for better or worse. Trevor hypothesizes that the Director could have done this many times already. One question I have is: What constitutes a different timeline in the Director’s and Trevor’s minds? Is every branch that Philip sees different enough to count as a timeline? Is that what Trevor means by millions? Or does he think it could take the Director millions of tries after spending decades on each timeline?
Trevor accepts Protocol Omega just as he accepts his upcoming death from temporal aphasia. He’s lived multiple long lives and has nothing left undone. The youngsters in the group, even Mac, feel differently. They’ve still got a lot of living to do. Jeff is certainly surprised at how blasé Trevor is.
This cruel world has broken Trevor. And now it’s broken Marcy, too. 😳
The Traveler EMTs are at ops picking up David’s body and giving Mac instructions for how Marcy should officially handle the death. They’ll file a missing persons report in Marcy’s name 24 hours from now, saying that David didn’t come home from work. That’s all she needs to know.
Boyd tells Mac that the 21sters will blame the Travelers for the Faction bombs. She asks if he can tell the FBI that it was Faction, but he already did. They agree that there’s no reason for the 21sters to believe the Travelers are trustworthy after this.
Boyd isn’t sure what to do with herself, now that they’re in the Protocol Omega zone. Being a cop was fine as a Protocol 5, but in reality, she’s a doctor. Just being a cop won’t be enough.
Mac has a short-term solution to the problem. He wants them to complete their mission.
Mac: “Maybe the Director abandoned this timeline, but that doesn’t mean we have to.”
Boyd: “That doesn’t mean we can go around making up our own missions.”
Mac: “Why not?”
Boyd: “Because that would make us no different than the Faction.”
Mac: “Then we still have a mission to complete. Find 001.”
Boyd: “And how are we supposed to do that. He could have jumped into anyone by now. Without the Director’s help…”
Mac: “I don’t know. I just know we have to try.”
Jeff walks by them and goes into the little room where Marcy and Carly are resting, so that he can say goodbye.
Later, we will realize how ironic this was.
He makes a point of drawing attention to his bleeding face, probably hoping Marcy will offer to bandage it. She does. He sits down on the bed next to her and stares at her intently. Marcy asks what he’s looking at, and he says that he’s so sorry he got David killed.
This might actually be true, but it’s not why he’s staring at her. While he did get David killed, he also wants something from her.
Marcy asks Jeff if the future has gotten any better. Jeff tries to invoke Protocol 2, but she calls Protocol Omega on him. He backs down and says that “Nothing the Director’s done has made one bit of difference. But I still think that we can change that.”
Boyd takes over with Jeff, and Marcy decides to go home. Mac offers her a ride, but she’d rather take the bus so that she can be alone with her thoughts. She doesn’t want Mac to say the comforting words they were both been trained to say, because it won’t help her.
Marcy: “David was the kind of man who made humanity worth saving. He literally represented that. And he’s a better human being than every f–king person in this room. And the Director did nothing to save him. So I’m done.”
Jeff: “You want me to go after her, make sure she gets home okay?”
Mac: “No, let her go.”
Jeff Conniker knew what it was like to lose people. Does 5416? He leaves ops to make his own way home.
Jo races into the Seattle FBI office to inform FBI Director Stevenson that the exploded nukes came from an evil offshoot of the Travelers called the Faction. Stevenson already knows all about the Faction, but he doesn’t care. As far as he’s concerned, a Traveler is a Traveler. The uranium from all 3 bombs came from the same mine in the US.
Jo tells him that she was with Mac and his team while they disarmed the bomb the day before, but he says that it doesn’t matter if the good Travelers saved the US from the bad Travelers. What matters is how it looks to Russia and China that the one bomb that they were able to stop just happened to be in the US.
Stevenson tells Jo that their surveillance of the Travelers is buzzing with the phrase Protocol Omega. He needs her to find out what it is, without asking Mac directly, since Stevenson doesn’t trust him.
I would like to be able to say that Stevenson is being silly, that of course he should trust the “good” Travelers, but part of the point of this season has been to show us that there really isn’t much of a line between the good and the bad Travelers. Either side will turn on the 21sters if that’s what their leader decides is necessary for the cause. They’ll even cross some pretty big lines against their loved ones. So, no, Director Stevenson isn’t wrong.
Carly and Mac are driving in the car, and she’s thinking about what she’d do differently, if she had a do-over with her life. She asks Mac if he ever thinks about what he might have done instead of volunteering to become a Traveler. Mac, the true believer, has never thought about doing anything else. Carly’s never thought about it before either, but knowing what she knows now, she might make different choices.
Grant asks what other option there was? Carly tells him that they could have lived normal lives, like her mother and sisters. Instead of devoting themselves solely to combat training and being barred from having children, they could have fallen in love and had babies and found reasons to laugh everyday. Mac still doesn’t like the idea of being, “Stuck in domes, heated by a failing reactor, on a diet of yeast and recycled water… Barely clinging to life, not living it.” Carly says that at least he still has Kat to go home to. Mac doesn’t answer.
We saw this image of the future in season 1, of a place where life was hard but the people had each other. One of the strongest images came from Mac, in S1 Ep7, Protocol 5, when he was hallucinating due to the antitoxin vaccine. In season 2, 004/Simon’s drawings in episodes 10 (21C0 and 11 (Simon) reminded us again that they might not have much material wealth, but in the future people care deeply for each other. In season 3, Trevor’s love for his wife over three lifetimes has been the reminder, and now we have Carly’s memories of her loving family.
Carly can still remember the good parts of that life, the human connections that no one can take away, while Mac only remembers the physical hardships. That’s consistent with how each of them reacted to the 21st century, with Carly valuing Jeff jr as family and wanting to protect him, while Mac valued his connection to the power and lifestyle that Kat represents.
A girl walks out in front of the car, stands and looks at them a moment, then thinks better of it and comes around the side of the car to Carly’s window. She tells them to report to a set of coordinates, then bounces off. She’s clearly a fake messenger, especially since Protocol Omega means the Director won’t be sending any more messengers.
Watching a normal kid pretend to be a messenger highlights the danger that the Director normally puts the child messengers in. They walk out into traffic or strange neighborhoods with no control over their bodies, and when the Director’s done with them, it drops out of them, wherever they are, leaving them disoriented and possibly endangered. It’s really not a benign practice.
No, I will never get over this. Strangers using children for their own purposes and taking their minds and bodies hostage isn’t something good people do.
Carly and Mac argue over whether to go to the coordinates. Mac can’t resist, because he desperately needs to still be a Traveler. Carly thinks it could be a trap. She can’t talk Mac out of going, so she calls Trevor for backup.
Philip checks the news again. It’s 48 hours since the explosions and the cities that were nuked look pretty grim. He sees Marcy sleeping on the couch, and tries to cover her with a blanket, but finds that the couch is empty in this timeline. Now Philip gets nervous. He asks Trevor where Marcy is. Trevor says she went home, and suggests they meditate for 20 minutes, to clear their heads. He turns to grab the chicken timer, but Philip has already run out the door.
Marcy takes the bus home in the rain and listens to David’s outgoing phone message. Then she lets herself into her empty apartment, and puts a kettle on the stove for tea. As she moves around the kitchen, she knocks David’s symbolic teapot to the floor and breaks it.
First, this should have been a montage with a sad song playing over it. I know, Travelers doesn’t do montages, but it was still the perfect moment for one. Second, thank you writers. I wouldn’t have felt complete unless the d-mn teapot had broken for the 3rd time. Third, not to worry. I think David had a secret warehouse of replacement teapots stashed somewhere. Fourth, when the teapot breaks, it means it’s time for a symbolic death/reset.
Which brings us to our next annual event, Marcy in the bathroom wearing the White Slip of Near Death, considering performing a pseudo-medical procedure on her brain to make it better. This year’s potential procedure is the most drastic, the procedure to end all procedures. In S1 Ep7, she self-inserted a something or other nerve stimulator while she was hallucinating from the antitoxin. In S2 Ep10, she took a killer ice bath to get back her memories. In this episode, she can’t handle the memories anymore, so she wants to end it all by putting a gun to her head.
Philip races into the apartment, and sees her gun on the bathroom floor and blood dripping from the shower curtain. She must have done it in the tub. He sinks to the bathroom floor, hardly able to breathe. Then he realizes that he hears the hair dryer in the bedroom.
Marcy comes out and finds him. She sends him to the living room to wait for her. Philip was seeing an alternate timeline in which he didn’t get to her in time. But even in this timeline, Marcy has the gun next to the tub, waiting.
Usually it’s David who finds Marcy after her bathroom medical procedures and yells at her. He had Carly’s help in season 2. This season, David is gone, so the job falls to Philip, as the team’s mother hen.
The coordinates that the not-messenger gave to Mac and Carly lead them to a marina. Carly is acting as look out and sniper, while Mac and Trevor do the talking.
An older man, who’s doing his best Bond villain impression, meets them on one of the docks and pretends to be 001. He tells them that he’ll turn himself in to the Director if they’ll explain Protocol Omega, since it wasn’t a protocol when he came to the 21st.
They practically laugh at him as they call his bluff, and call Yates out of her hiding place. It’s decided that Mac will go back to the FBI office with Yates to talk to Stevenson, while Carly and Trevor go back to ops.
As Philip waits for Marcy, he turns to look at the open living/dining/kitchen area of the apartment, and sees what might have been. The alternate timelines show David and Marcy cooking together and playing strip gin rummy together. David carries Marcy in the front door. They are all dressed up, and already kissing. Marcy is wearing a red dress. It could be their wedding, or it could be the night they get engaged. The last image is of Marcy showing David a positive pregnancy test and them celebrating.
There were timelines where they could have had it all, but ours wasn’t one of them. In this timeline, they’re heroes who tried to save the world.
Marcy comes out of the bathroom and asks if Philip saw something when he was in there. She says that she would never do that, and asks if he knows that? He says that he doesn’t, not really. Marcy tells him that he should start taking the yellow pills again if they were helping him, even if it means relying on drugs. Philip can’t go back to taking them, though, since he threw them away, and he can only get more from an archivist.
The archivist is dead. It’s likely that all of the archivists are dead, and soon all of the historians will be in the same state as Philip.
But Philip is fine for now, and he’ll be going. He’s glad she’s okay, and David was a really good guy. Marcy tells him to please take care of himself.
Oops, keep out the tissues. 001’s goons swarm into Teslia’s lab, where he and Grace have continued collaborating. They unceremoniously shoot Teslia in the head. Just when Grace made a friend and found a place for herself in the 21st, that slime 001 took it away from her. Now he really needs to die.
To make this worse, Ben Ratner, the actor who plays Teslia, is the real life husband of Jen Spence, the actress who plays Grace. They shot her husband in the head right in front of her.
Okay, now we finish crying. 😭
Carly is at home listening to music, but she sees her neighbors outside in their car. Abusive husband Brant Moore hits Jessica, so Carly rushes outside and punches him in the face until he’s unconscious. She stops herself before he’s dead this time (as opposed to when Philip had to stop her from killing Jeff in S2 Ep9), then strolls away down the street.
This was a strange storyline. They didn’t have time to cover it meaningfully, and having Carly continue the cycle of violence doesn’t help anyone. Jessica has to be ready to leave, or nothing will change. Beating up Jeff didn’t reduce his violence in the long run and it won’t reduce Brant’s either. Maybe she was going to become an advocate for battered women in the two episodes that were cut to make the season 10 episodes instead of twelve, and this is what was left after they cut most of the story.
Plus there’s the matter of having 3 black men as featured characters over the first three seasons, and two of the three were violently abusing their partners. If Travelers gets a season 4, they should consider evening that out with some more decent 21st century black men, like original Forbes, who is missed. (And who I didn’t even recognize as Hemingway in Altered Carbon, OMG!)
Yates’ office at FBI headquarters has been turned into an anti-Director and anti-Traveler/Faction zone, with agents monitoring the communications of whichever Traveler groups they know about. A Space-Time Attenuation field generator is under guard on the floor below so that they can hide what they’re doing from the Director.
Stevenson doesn’t say how they learned to make an STA. They must have flipped a Traveler or Faction member, I would think. No one is randomly posting that information on internet anywhere but on the Travelers’ back channel, where it’s deeply encoded. In order to break the code, they’d also need to flip someone. It’s possible that someone who’s in prison and abandoned by the Director flipped, or that 001 told a Faction member to help the FBI. There are probably still some Faction FBI agents still embedded and undiscovered from early in 2 (Ep1), when they used the quantum frame.
Mac tells Stevenson that they didn’t need to bother blocking the Director. He formally introduces himself to Stevenson and holds out his hand for the FBI Director to shake. Stevenson ignores him.
Ooh. That was a major snub.
Stevenson orders Mac to turn off his com. Mac acts like it’s a ridiculous request and barely touches his neck, then says it’s off. Stevenson turns on a version whatever the Faction device is that makes coms light up and become painful. Mac screams in pain and turns his com off for real.
The arrogance of this guy. He tells Stevenson to trust him, despite the nukes, then lies to him first thing.
Stevenson asks what Protocol Omega means. I think Mac gives him a straight answer:
Mac: “It means the Director will no longer be intervening in this timeline… No more messengers, no more missions. Those who are part of the Traveler program are free to live out their days, such as they are, as they see fit… It could mean we’ve succeeded and we’re now on the optimal path to a better future.”
Jo: “It could also mean there’s no possible way of saving the future no matter what you do.”
Mac agrees. Stevenson still doesn’t want to trust Mac, but Mac assures him that he’s ready to cooperate fully now. No more secrets.
There’s no way that’s true. Mac knows that secrets are power. He loves using them as weapons and for leverage too much to just hand everything over when he’s in a vulnerable position like this. He’d definitely continue to give them whatever was necessary to keep himself useful and save the timeline, but he’d dole it out slowly and strategically, with definite trade-offs in mind.
He’d go to his grave with at least one big reveal he was saving as a Get Out of Jail Free card.
Marcy scrubs at the blood spot on the floor left by the archivist, which is coincidentally in the same spot where the Faction assassin bled in S1 Ep12. David was obsessed with cleaning it in S2 Ep1. Jeff knocks on the door. In a minute, we’ll understand the irony/foreshadowing of his well-timed appearances in this episode.
He says that he just wanted to check on Marcy and has brought her a box of tea, which he’s developed quite a taste for, now that he’s in the 21st. Marcy asks him in for a cup. Jeff notices that she’s been doing some cleaning. He looks around the apartment like he’s never been there before, even though both Jeff Conniker and 5416 have been there multiple times.
This isn’t either one of them.
Marcy says that she’s trying to keep busy. She’ll be okay, she just needs some time. Jeff says, “Time, yes. Don’t we all.” He puts a strange emphasis on the word time. Then he tells her that he knows what she’s been through, including her reset and the loss of her memories.
He says the Director took his wife from him, too. “Death by messenger. Just like David. Precious life, snuffed out right before my eyes. But we have no right to complain. We forfeited that right when we made the decision to put our fate in the hands of a machine.”
Marcy figures out what’s going on. 001 has jumped into Jeff’s body. He’s been in Jeff’s body since Carly and Mac rescued him from behind the brick wall in the old mall. He was in ops when David died and went messenger; he was the one who had the conversation with Trevor about temporal aphasia; he walked by and heard Mac vow to find 001 as his continuing mission; he told Marcy that nothing the Director has done has improved the future; and he offered to follow Marcy home from ops. 001 shook Mac’s hand and thanked him for the rescue from himself. His entire time at ops was a mindf–k.
001 continues, wondering if it would be possible to reset Marcy again, and if Ellis’ backdoor code is still in her brain. But, he’s really just happy to see that she’s okay. Really. The tea kettle whistles, so Marcy gets up to take it off the stove. 001 insists on “helping” her. He’s toying with her, but Marcy knows what he’s about, now, and throws boiling water in his face. She runs to the bathroom for her gun, comming the rest of the team at the same time to tell them what’s going on.
Carly’s the only one who catches the message, and she only gets enough of it to know Marcy’s in trouble. She tells Trevor to meet at Marcy’s place.
001 chases Marcy through the apartment. She gets her gun, but he disarms her. They fight and he tackles her. She grabs a piece of glass from a broken picture frame and scratches his face.
Why didn’t she go for the vein in his neck??
He lets go of her and she makes it a few feet before he stops her again. They fight over a gun, but it turns out it’s not loaded. 001 couldn’t risk losing the back door code and access to the Director. Three of his goons come into the apartment. 001 tells them to take her away.
Philip is out on the street, seeing multiple timelines. He can’t tell which is real, making simple actions like crossing the street dangerous. A homeless old man tells him it’s the end of the world. He sees a ballistic missile in the sky.
Stevenson asks Mac to tell him about the future. Mac tells him that humans are nearly extinct, and the Traveler program hasn’t improved their chances.
Mac: “The decline took years, but this decade was the turning point. Once climate change became unstoppable, it led to mass migration, severe overpopulation in urban centers, famine. Ancient diseases became unlocked as polar ice melted, which exposed humanity to viruses for which we had no immunity. That led to mass death, collapse of governments, resources, war over what was left. Eventually, nuclear winter.”
Stevenson already knows about Helios, since the Director’s solution was hard to miss. Mac doesn’t know why Helios didn’t stop humanity’s dark future. But the Director kept trying to fix it, until today. Stevenson explains that today, the US has been accused by Russia, China and our allies of detonating nuclear devices on foreign soil. Mac thinks he can still convince the leaders of the world that it was the Faction, if Stevenson will let him talk to them directly. Stevenson says he’ll have to arrange translators, but Mac doesn’t need them. He’s good with languages.
Trevor gets to Marcy’s apartment first. 001 and friends have already taken her and gone. They removed Marcy’s com and left it in the sink. Carly tells Trevor that Marcy said they were after Ellis’ backdoor code. Trevor figures out that they’ll need access to the Director in order to use the code, which means they’ve gone to Filmore Lab. Trevor tries to com Mac, but his com is still off. Philip will go to Mac’s house to look for him.
Philip lets himself into Kat’s place, because Mac hasn’t told anyone that they’re separated. He sees their alternative futures, just as he did with Marcy and David. In one room, Mac and Kat are giving their infant a bath. There must have been a way for the baby to survive, or else they adopted. They also enjoy a quiet, intimate meal at the kitchen counter. And they are hot and heavy on the living room couch, which embarrasses Philip. He tells the visions that he’ll let himself out.
The real Mac/3468 is still at the FBI office, teleconferencing with Russian and Chinese leaders. He answers their questions and tries to clarify their understanding of how the Travelers program, the Grand Plan and the Director work.
Meanwhile, Marcy is dragged into the lab by 001’s goons. Grace is still there, bloody and beaten, hooked up to an IV and tied into a wheelchair. As soon as she sees Marcy, she starts apologizing. “Marcy, I’m sorry. I thought the Director would stop them. They drugged me.” Marcy asks what she told them.
It’s important to note here that Grace didn’t have a choice about answering 001’s questions. She didn’t voluntarily give up the code and doom Marcy. 001 has very effective drugs that remove all resistance to questioning, which he used on the archivist as well. That’s why everyone gets hooked up to an IV. To administer his favorite drug cocktail.
Grace told 001 that Ellis’ code is still in Marcy’s head and how to use it. Marcy asks what happens if Grace is wrong. 001 says that he’ll be disappointed. But if Grace is right, “the Director becomes permanently disabled and the future belongs to humanity.”
Marcy corrects him, saying that he really means the Faction, led by him. He agrees. 001 tells her that the reset will take away all of her painful memories, including the memories of the Director allowing the man she loved to die horribly. He says that by doing this, they both get what they want.
Marcy gives her head a slight nod, and says she wants to get it over with, as if she’s going to willingly go into the consciousness transfer device, which is set up next to Ilsa. Instead, she turns around and hits one goon in the face, while stealing the other’s gun and shooting him in the head.
If only David could have seen that move. He’d be so proud.
The first goon pulls his gun on her, but 001 yells not to shoot Marcy. Marcy points her gun at 001 and backs away from everyone, saying they can’t have what’s in her head. When she’s gotten a little distance, she shoots herself in the head.
001 screams, “No!” Grace is horrified. 001 tells Grace, “The other way is going to take so much longer.”
Mac is making progress with the Russian and Chinese leaders, working out a deal to share future technology, when other consciousnesses suddenly transfer into them. The US President, the Cabinet, and Congressional leaders are also taken over. Mac insists it’s not the Director, because it can’t take life in that way, but he doesn’t mention the Faction.
Stevenson leaves to arrest the “Travelers” in the US leadership, since they’re attempting to stage a coup. Jo pulls her gun on Mac and tells him to put his hands on his head.
While he’s in the elevator, Stevenson is overwritten by the Faction. He goes back up to find Jo and Mac, and comes out of the elevator aiming his gun at Mac. Jo turns and shoots Stevenson in the chest. Mac turns off the com inhibitor and asks the team what’s going on. They tell him that 001 has taken over Jeff’s body and kidnapped Marcy. They agree to rendezvous at Filmore Lab.
Jo is in the process of telling Mac that she won’t let him leave when the entire population gets a phone alert, which reads: “Ballistic Missile Alert. This is not a drill. Seek Immediate Shelter.” Philip asks if he’s the only one seeing it. The others tell him it’s real.
Carly stops the car and tells Trevor to walk the rest of the way to the lab, since it’s close by. She needs to go see Jeff jr one last time. Since they’re under Protocol Omega and have no obligation to each other any more, Trevor doesn’t argue with her. He lets Mac know.
Jo gets a call telling her that NORAD has detected massive missile strikes on their way from both Russia and China. She’s supposed to get the FBI Director to safety, but that’s no longer a concern. Jo, who still has Mac at gunpoint, asks why this is happening. Mac tells her that 001 has taken over in the future. The missile strike was probably launched by generals following standing orders to launch their missiles in the event their leaders were overwritten, but 001 is still the cause.
Mac tells Jo that she can come with him, or shoot him in the back, then turns and heads for the elevator. She swings around to follow him with her gun, but then realizes it’s pointless.
Trevor finds the lab devoid of living people, but in chaos. Jeff’s body is an empty husk, sitting in the consciousness transfer device. Marcy is dead, Grace appears to also be dead. Trevor stands near Marcy’s body and says goodbye. He finds a piece of pipe that he intends to smash Ilsa apart with, since he thinks that’s where 001 is. Mac, Jo and Philip get there just in time to stop him.
Grace wakes up and tells them that 001 isn’t in Ilsa. Trevor is happy to discover that she’s alive. He runs over to untie her.😢 She says that Marcy stopped 001 from getting the backdoor code. Philip and Mac notice Marcy’s body of the floor. Philip asks where 001 went to.
Grace says that 001 is everywhere. “00l transferred his consciousness first into Ilsa and then out into the internet. By now he’s parsed himself into computers and servers all over the world, just waiting for the future to arrive, and then he can take over. I didn’t think it would matter if I said anything. I just thought the Director would stop him. I just was waiting.”
Mac thinks that 001 won. But Philip thinks that they still have an option left, and the Director expects them to see it. Trevor asks how many timelines he’s seeing at that moment. Philip says that he’s only seeing one, the only one left. And that one will end, unless one of the people in that room goes back in time.
Trevor: “Whoa. Guys, even if one of us was able to upload their consciousness into Ilsa, and even if Ilsa had the electrical and processing power…”
Grace: “Which it does. The Director’s made sure of that by downloading the program in the middle of the night.”
Trevor: “Even then, we could only send someone to a point in time after the most recent Traveler.”
Grace: “No, from 431 years in the future, that’s true, absolutely, but not from now. The amplitude of space-time distortion is directly proportional to distance.”
Mac: “How far back could one safely go from this point in time?”
Grace:” Twenty years, easy.”
Philip: “All we need to do is go back before 001 arrived.”
Grace: “That’s why the Director’s been silent. Because it knew we would think of this, and it sent us what we would need to do it.”
Trevor: “I’m sorry, I do love this idea, but we’d still need a TELL. [Jo gives him a confused look.] It’s a time, elevation, latitude and longitude to send a consciousness into a specific host. You can’t just guess. It has to be exact.”
Mac: “August 18th, 2001, Whytecliff Park, exactly 3:00 PM. When and where my host met Kat.”
Trevor: “Okay. Then I have one last objection, but it’s a big one.”
Mac: “If this works, I’ll be ending Grant MacLaren’s life 17 years before his historical death. I know. But maybe I can give those years back to someone else. So… Until we meet again.”
Trevor: “That’s a very interesting possibility.”
Jo encourages the team to hurry up already and Grace asks Trevor to help her load the program. Philip goes to find the coordinates for the TELL. Mac tells Jo that there’s still hope.
Jo: “Hope? Mac, you did this. You people didn’t stop the collapse of civilization. If anything, you sped it up.”
Jo leaves to look at the sky, which fades into the sky at Whytecliff Park, where 3468, having taken over MacLaren’s body 17 years early, meets Kat on the rocky shoreline where they’ve met before. They chat and she tells him that her fiance is an hour late. John is an artist who gets caught up in his work. Mac commiserates with her. She shouldn’t be left alone on her birthday like this. He suggests that she set her fiance straight by reminding him of how lucky he is to have her. Kat can’t tell if Mac is flirting or telling her to give John another chance. Mac says that if he was John, he’d want another chance, but he’s not. He wishes her a happy birthday and walks away, leaving Kat intrigued.
In early September of 2001, Mac passes an envelope marked HELIOS to Samantha Burns, the scientist who invented the singularity engine in the other timeline, which would have released a gamma ray burst that killed everyone in Europe. Presumably he wants her to get a team of scientists together to discover and stop Helios in this timeline, which would also keep her busy so that she doesn’t invent the singularity engine.
At 8:33 AM on September 11, 2001, Mac goes to Anthony Corrigan’s office in the World Trade Center, the office that 001 transferred into several minutes later for the Traveler program proof of concept test in S2 Ep1. Mac sits at Corrigan’s desk and types out an email to the Director: “TRAVELER PROGRAM WILL FAIL. DO NOT SEND 001.” He hits send, and the message seems to go through without an issue. Whatever was wrong with the computer by the time 001 tried to send his message in S2 Ep1 hasn’t happened yet.
Mac gets up and looks out the window. Corrigan pounds on the door, demanding that Mac let him in. Mac checks his watch. He has a little less than 15 minutes before the plane hits the tower, more than enough time to get out. He gets a sense of urgency about him and turns toward the office door.
Original Marcy gets on a city bus and sits in the back seat, next to David. David checks to make sure she’s on the right bus, since they’re going to a rough part of town. This is a bit of a callback to Ep 7, when Jim told the social workers that David didn’t belong in the rough part of town.
Marcy tells him that she already knows. She didn’t like the way the patients were being treated at her old hospital, so she’s moving to a new job at the one on Main. The old hospital would be the one she worked in during the flashbacks in S2, Ep 7, 21C, where 001/Vincent did experiments on her and Simon.
David tells her that he’s a social worker and takes some of his clients to that hospital. He asks if she’s a doctor or a nurse. She tells him she’s a nurse. They chat a little more, and end up agreeing they just want to help the people who really need it. David tells Marcy his name.
A screen appears which looks like one of the Travelers back channel message screens:
TRAV PROGRAM VER ONE
VER TWO… BEGIN
Travelers version one has ended. Travelers version 2 is beginning.
The Director’s IP/email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
We finally find out what year the Travelers are from, thanks to Grace: 2449, or 431 years in the future from 2018.
With Protocol Omega, the Director is moving from an Old Testament God, who interferes directly and frequently in the lives of humans, to a modern God, who watches but doesn’t act. Prayers will no longer be answered.
With his great age, Trevor is practically an entire timeline all by himself. It gives him a perspective and acceptance no one else has. Grace, who must be quite old herself, is drawn to the two beings who are most outside of time, Trevor and the Director. Even though she’s not as old as Trevor, she sees the big picture in a way that few can. Trevor’s age has given him the ability to look at the world without putting himself at the center of every picture and the Director was programmed that way.
Of course the FBI doesn’t think there’s a difference between the Faction and the Travelers. For them, there isn’t. The Director’s mandate is to secure the future, not to protect the people of the 21st century. Even the Travelers forget that sometimes.
If the Director told Mac to assemble and detonate a bomb instead of disarming it, he’d do some soul-searching, but he’d still set it off. In the end, from the perspective of the people native to the 21st century, the only difference is whether it’s a person or a machine making the difficult decisions about who lives and dies. The Travelers kill through neglect more than intent, but people still die.
The Director knew that 001 was kidnapping Travelers and torturing them, then leaving thm to die. It could have stopped it, because the bodies were eventually found, so the Director knew where and an approximate when to protect those teams and to have someone watch those buildings. But instead, for reasons of its own, it let hundreds or thousands of Travelers, its own agents, be kidnapped and tortured by 001, just to let him think it couldn’t find him, as far as I can tell. It let his confidence grow until he started making bigger mistakes and built the consciousness transfer machine, because that’s what the Director wanted him to do as part of its plan.
In Protocol Omega, for the third time in as many episodes, we watch a character run around a lab making life or death decisions about the future of the human race with blood all over their face. Both Archivist A-18 and David had bloody faces as they tried to protect what they could. Now Jeff is bloody from his fight with Marcy, especially from the cut she gave him with the broken glass. War and fighting are bloody and damaging, no matter your intentions, no matter how smart or how good or how cultured the people doing the fighting. Of the three people with bloody faces, two are dead, killed by the third, who says he’s making life better for people. Maybe 001 should have started by ending his murder spree?
Or, since the fights all took place in science labs, over technology, maybe the message is that technology is killing us rather than saving us. I could see the Faction deciding that the answer is to bomb humans back into the stone age.
What was the Faction Thinking?
001 is uniquely placed to judge the changes in the future. As the first person to come to the past, he’s the only living human who remembers what the future’s past was before the Traveler program started. The memories of everyone else will have been subject to whatever timeline changes other Travelers have caused. Even though 001 hasn’t been back to the future (!) himself, he can get detailed accounts from recently arrived Faction members and make the comparison.
But he can’t be counted on to tell the truth or the whole story, so his usefulness as a witness and leader is limited. His mind is clouded by his grief for his wife, Irene, and his need for vengeance. It skews the way he views anything that has to do with the Director or Travelers. It’s skews his goals for what the future should become. It’s not clear what his goals for the future even are, other than to get rid of his mortal enemy, The Director.
In this episode, 001 uploaded himself into Ilsa, and through her, into the internet. He can store his own consciousness on servers all over the world and wait for the Director to be built, then corrupt and destroy it. In this timeline, there is a direct line of people from the present Faction to the Faction 431 years from now. They can help make sure 001’s consciousness is preserved, with multiple backups, if necessary. That’s the “long way” to destroy the Director that 001 referred to when he told Grace that the other way was going to take so much longer after Marcy died. With the backdoor code he could have gotten into the Director’s code now and corrupted it immediately, instead of waiting hundreds of years.
But why did the Faction choose nuclear bombs, which are so catastrophically destructive, to destroy the archives, and then choose to take over the world leaders, triggering nuclear war, which will lead to the future they’re ostensibly trying to avoid? It’s possible that the archives were mini, lead-lined, bomb shelters inside of bigger bomb shelters, and were so well protected that the only sure way to destroy the information inside was to put a truly devastating bomb inside. They might have had to do it now, before some vital piece of information that they wanted to keep from the Director was disseminated out to the known ancestors and they lost track of it.
They may also have been unaware of the failsafe protocols that required firing the missiles if a Traveler coup occurred. That seems unlikely, but we’ve seen the Faction and 001 have incomplete information before. The Faction didn’t know there was a past in which Shelter 41 collapsed, and Dawn had to tell 001 that it survived in the recent versions of the future. The Faction is made up of hotheads and fanatics, while 001 is a bloodthirsty psychopath who mainly devotes his energy to indulging his sadism. Sometimes, they make stupid decisions.
Or, once 001 became part of the machine, some of the more nihilistic members may have decided to perform the culling that the Travelers aborted when they stopped the plague. Dawn was certainly still interested in a culling. Nuclear war is fast and efficient. Once it’s in motion, it can’t be stopped by the Travelers, or anyone else. They must have taken control of the consciousness transfer device in the future when the Director abandoned the timeline, and sent Faction members from the future to take over the world leaders, instead of using the device at Filmore Lab.
The Faction doesn’t seem to actually be working toward a better future, as measured by an earth with a livable environment, just a future where they are in control and have gotten revenge.
Travelers and Time Travel
Grace was waiting for the Director to solve the 001 problem, and it did. It created a solution that would solve the issue once and for all. We’ve seen the Director use the strategy that it used in this situation many times: It doesn’t give instructions or send a messenger. It puts all of the pieces of the puzzle in front of the team, and expects them to figure out what to do with them. In hindsight, all of those missions could have been training for this one. Grace told Trevor in S3 Ep7 that the Director was in awe of the team’s creative problem solving abilities. This episode was when they became vital. The Director had to leave the timeline before 001 could corrupt it, so it needed a team that could function independently. Grace is a key part of that plan, because she understands the way the Director “thinks” and how to help it best.
The program that the Director downloaded overnight, which was so big that it threatened Ilsa’s cognitive functions, was the time travel/consciousness transfer program. It must take an enormous amount of processing power to calculate a distant TELL, separate a consciousness, then precisely send it to a farway spot.
Grace explains why they can send Mac back 20 years, seemingly breaking their own rule about not sending anyone back before the last Traveler, because of the ripples it would cause in Space-Time. She says, “The amplitude of space-time distortion is directly proportional to distance.” What she means is, when they time travel hundreds of years, they create large distortions in the Space-Time Continuum which need to be carefully managed so that they don’t create chaos in the time stream. Amplitude means size, so the size of the distortion (or disruption), in Space-Time (or reality), is proportional (or directly related to), the distance of the time travel. But a short hop will only create a tiny distortion, so they don’t need to be as careful about it.
Think of it as waves in a pond. Each time traveler creates a wave that heads toward shore. To be able to send multiple time travelers hundreds of years back in time, you want all of the waves to flow in the same direction, you don’t want them to overlap or overtake each other, and you don’t want any that are too large. You want them to gently lap on the 21st century shore, one at a time, instead of combining into a tsunami or cancelling each other out midstream. But if all of the waves are one foot tall and caused by a boat that’s 400 feet from shore, a brief 1 inch wave, in between the big waves, caused by a toy boat that’s 1 foot from shore, won’t hurt anything.
I doubt that after this, they’ll start sending thousands of Travelers back twenty years. They might even destroy the device, though it’s so useful I have a hard time imagining that. They’d probably be more likely to disassemble it and store the pieces thousands of miles apart so that it couldn’t be used recklessly. But we may never know.
What’s more interesting to me is Grace’s use of the term “space-time distortion”. One of the biggest unsolved problems in theoretical physics is the reconciliation between Quantum Mechanics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Something about the way Grace phrased that sentence, makes me wonder if, in this universe, time travel became possible when physicists solved the mystery of quantum gravity.
Leave the Future in the Past
We now know at least a little about each Traveler team member’s past in the future,
except for Marcy. (Thanks to Christina Ellkay for reminding me in the comments about Luca. 🙃) We know that Carly comes from a big, happy, loving family with more than one sister, but she always saw herself becoming a Traveler and a soldier. She had an affair with Mac in the future during training, which they briefly continued in the 21st, until he cut it off in favor of his host’s wife.
We know that Philip, like all historians, was chosen in infancy and molded by the Director for his entire life, with every decision made for him.
Trevor was one of the first volunteers in the consciousness transfer program, along with his wife, and they both took part in a longevity experiment, giving them another three lifetimes and three families together, before she died of temporal aphasia and he became a Traveler. He’s hundreds of years old and the oldest living human.
Mac had people he was close to and he cared about in the future, but he never considered doing anything other than volunteering for the Traveler program. It was his lifelong dream. He hated life in the dome so much that he didn’t consider it living at all. He had an affair with Carly during training in the future, which they briefly continued in the 21st.
Marcy had a brother who had night terrors. They were separated as children and never saw each other again. They didn’t even know the names/numbers the other was raised with, so they had no way to identify each other later. When Marcy discovered that Hall’s teammate Luca also has night terrors, they both took it as a sign that they might be siblings, since both are orphans.
According to Carly, Marcy trained to be a doctor and took combat training until she was chosen from amongst many other volunteers for this mission to the 21st.
One of the things I want the most from a potential season 4 is to get to know the backgrounds of the Travelers more. We’ve seen what the dome looks like now, and the sets really wouldn’t be expensive to build. This time around, I’d like to spend a bit of time with each Traveler in the future, before they transfer to the 21st, instead of spending time with each host.
Agents Of SHIELD got away with spending an entire season using spare, shadowy, industrial looking spaces for a dystopian future in an underground bunker on the edge of space. There’s no reason Travelers can’t do the same for an underground dome.
Mac and Kat Speculation
Maybe Mac/3468 and Kat will meet again someday, after Kat is divorced from John, maybe at the Gala where they met 001 in the other timeline. They’ll both be ready to compromise more and to adopt a baby. The ghost of original Mac won’t come between them. Maybe Kat will already be more established in her career as a designer, so she’ll have more confidence that she’s an equal partner in the relationship, and be able to be more assertive. Maybe Mac will have gotten some therapy by the time they meet again and will have learned to listen to his partner more and control her less.
My current theory for Mac is that he comes from an abusive home in the future. Whether his mother was the victim or the abuser, he blames her for letting it happen (some people blame the victimized spouse for staying rather than blaming the abuser). His father was cold and buried himself in his work rather than dealing with the family’s issues. So Mac has issues with women, has intimacy issues, has trust issues, is a control freak and has based his entire identity on his work.
But he was also the oldest child or the 2nd oldest, and grew up responsible and resilient, dreaming of a better place and changing things for the better. He couldn’t wait to leave home. He feels that he saved himself from his bad situation. That’s part of why he felt that Carly should be able to save herself. He didn’t think about the ways her situation was different from his. And he didn’t want to look too closely at her situation because it reminded him too much of the place he’d escaped.
Kat not only represented a perfect 21st century woman, she also seemed like nothing truly bad had ever happened to her, like she was a strong but delicate flower who he could protect from the real world. With her upper middle class lifestyle, clean, white house and her part time, artsy career, to him she seemed like she was still nearly a child. He gradually slid down a slippery slope of telling himself that everything he was doing was for her own good and that he was more experienced and knew what she needed better than she did. Eventually they got to the point where she was frightened, stifled and knew he was gaslighting her. He finally let her go, but he was never honest with her. He maintained control of their relationship, all the through pushing her back toward her original fiance.
Part of me hopes that Kat walked away from Mac and John, then found a decent guy, who knows how to set the alarm on his phone.
Protocol 1: The mission comes first.
Protocol 2: Leave the future in the past. Don’t jeopardize your cover.
Protocol 2H: Historian updates are not to be discussed with anyone. Ever.
Protocol 3: Don’t take a life. Don’t save a life. Unless otherwise directed.
Protocol 4: Do not reproduce.
Protocol 5: In the absence of direction, resume your host’s life.
Protocol 6: Traveler teams should stay apart unless instructed otherwise.
Protocol Omega: The Director will no longer intervene in this timeline. There won’t be anymore messengers or missions. Those who are part of the Traveler program are free to live out their days as they see fit. It could mean the Travelers have succeeded and the timeline is now on the optimal path to a better future. It could also mean there’s no possible way to save the future.
T.E.L.L.: The Time, Elevation, Latitude, and Longitude of what would have been the historical death of a Traveler’s host body.
001 5692 Katrina Perrow-001
Images courtesy of Netflix.