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Hello, Freqs! This week on Radio Static, we discuss the Frequency Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot, which originally aired on October 5, 2016. With a flash of lightning, Raimy Sullivan (Peyton E. List) and her father, Frank (Riley Smith) cross a twenty year span via their shared ham radio and change past and present events in ways they never imaged.
In present time, Raimy is a police detective who has an “almost” fiancé (Daniel Lawrence, played by Daniel Bonjour), a mother in the nursing profession (Julie Sullivan, played by Devin Kelly), her best childhood friend, Gordo (Lenny Jacobson), and her father’s former partner and now her mentor, Satch Rayna (Mekhi Phifer).
Strange things happen after Daniel and Gordo attempt to fix the Sullivan’s old ham radio as a surprise on her 28th birthday. The real surprise comes later when lightning strikes and the radio lights up, with
someone talking about the 1996 Baseball World Series on their shared frequency. Two conversations later, and Raimy poignantly says, “Dad,” and father and daughter are reunited across time and space.
Raimy shocks her father, telling him that he will die two days after her 8th birthday, and then angers Frank by telling him what she was told as a child and has always believed – he was a dirty cop who got himself killed. Raimy sets out to find the truth, first asking Satch and then questioning an old associate of Stan Mariano (Anthony Ruiviar). She realizes that the “sting” was a “set up” and rushes to warn her father. In the past timeline, Frank goes into the “sting” operation knowing that it could mean his death. However, he has taken his 2016 daughter’s revelation to be the truth, and has prepared himself by hiding a gun at what could be the spot of his death. As Raimy frantically tries to raise Frank on the ham radio, time ticks off the clock, and the radio’s light slowly fades and goes out.
This is the point at which this pilot episode draws us in to stay. We watch Raimy’s emotion and grief as she believes she has lost the father she just found – the father that she realizes was not a “dirty cop” – the father that taught her to use this very ham radio to try to talk to astronauts. These scenes of Raimy were cut with the scenes of Frank struggling to survive this “hit” with the knowledge that his daughter has imparted to him. Watching his fight to live and her incredulous joy as the ham radio suddenly lit up again – these were “knock it out of the ballpark” scenes that made us believe in and care for these characters. The storylines may be great, but the characters will bring us back every time.
Raimy’s relief quickly turns to shock when she meets Daniel at the restaurant and he doesn’t know who she is. It becomes far worse when Satch calls her and asks her to come to the station. They’ve identified the bones found a few days ago. They belong to her mother who disappeared 20 years ago… a victim of the Nightingale Killer. Desperate to talk to Frank, Raimy goes back to the ham radio where she is shocked again when she realizes she is talking to her younger self. When young Raimy and her mother take the radio to Frank, who is recuperating in the hospital, The Butterfly Effect occurs when Julie offers to deliver medical supplies to another floor rather than the nurse who did it in the past. And in the elevator we see someone in scrubs, with rosary beads – the very beads that will be found binding the bones identified as Julie’s in the future.
For those of you not familiar with the Butterfly Effect, it is the concept that small changes or causes can have large effects on outcomes. This concept was originally used with weather prediction and is now used in science. The name was coined by Edward Lorenz about 1961 while running weather prediction models for hurricanes. He believed that things such the flapping of the wings of a flock of sea gulls or butterflies could be a “cause” that could possibly influence the winds and course of a hurricane. The butterfly effect can also be shown in the randomness of throwing dice – the speed, hand movements, etc., so that the outcome changes each time with small changes. Lorenz originally used the analogy of seagull wings when he published his findings in 1963 and later changed it to a more poetic butterfly wings as he gave talks and speeches about his findings.
Will Frank and Raimy be able to save Julie? Will Raimy be able to get Daniel back? Why is Raimy the only apparent person in the present who has two sets of memories of the past? What was special in the lightning strike that enabled Frank and Raimy to connect – and how are they remaining connected?
Frequency will give us lots of character and family, in addition to the consequences of changing events in the past and a solid mystery that personally impacts our characters. If you are reading this and have NOT seen the pilot, head on over to the CW and watch it NOW! This is one show that you need to be watching this fall!
Fire up your ham radios, and transmit your feedback to us, Freqs! Our deadline is 7:30pm Eastern, on Thursday! Use our Feedback page to type an email, record a voicemail, or upload an audio file, or call 304-837-2278. We’d love to hear from you! We will also give you a question each week about the episode – ask for your theories and thoughts – and you can reply on Twitter using #RadioStaticGSM. So watch for that the morning after Frequency airs! And while you’re at it, why not take a few minutes to leave a rating and review in iTunes?