Travelers: Protocol Omega
December 16, 2018 6:58 PM - Season 3, Episode 10 - Subscribe

The Travelers face a bleak future with only one long-shot chance to succeed in their mission. (Season Finale)

*Philip has a vision of an alternate timeline where David is alive and happily having dinner with the team at HQ, then snaps back to real timeline where Marcy is sitting with his body while everyone eats silently.

*Jeff tells Trevor he never thought they'd have to worry about Protocol Omega (the Director abandoning the Traveler program)

*A team takes David's body away, instructing MacLaren to tell Marcy to file a missing person's report in 24 hours saying David never came home.

*Yates reports to Stevens, who doesn't care that Faction is responsible for the bombings, that they're all Travelers, and Yates needs to find out what Protocol Omega is without relying on MacLaren.

*Carly and MacLaren are contacted by a child messenger with coordinates to report to. Carly says it has to be a Faction/001 trick since Protocol Omega is in force, but MacLaren doesn't care since it may be their only chance to catch 001.

*Philip sees Marcy asleep on the HQ couch, but realizes she's just an imaginary alternate when he tries to give her a blanket. He asks Trevor where she is, and runs out in a panic when he says she's gone home. Racing through a city full of alternate people & vehicles, he finds her dead in the bathroom. but it's just another alternate and real-Marcy is still alive.

*MacLaren and Trevor find an old man at the coordinates. He implies that he's 001, and says he'll turn himself in to the Director if MacLaren will explain what Protocol Omega is, as it didn't exist in his timeline. MacLaren realizes this is Yates' trick and calls her out. He sends his team away and goes with her to the FBI.

*In the apartment, Philip sees multiple alternate Davids and Marcys, from a strip poker game to a joyous positive pregnancy test.

*Grace is at the Lab with Teslia when gunmen storm in and kill Teslia.

*Carly sees her neighbor hit his girlfriend, and delivers a beat-down on him.

*At the FBI, Yates takes MacLaren to see Stevens in an STA room they've created to block the Director's surveillance, and makes MacLaren turn off his comm.

*Jeff arrives at Marcy's with some tea, starts acting creepy and asks if Ellis' backdoor code to the Director is still in her head. She realizes that he's 001, and tries to fight him off, and tries to comm out for help, but Trevor is aphasic, Philip is lost in timeline confusion, and Carly can't make out the full message. Marcy almost wins the fight, but 001's henchmen arrive and take her.

*MacLaren tells Stevens all about the future he came from, about Helios and the other disasters they were trying to avert.

*At Marcy's, Trevor finds her comm left in the sink. Philip goes to the condo in search of MacLaren, but sees only alternates of him and Kat.

*MacLaren explains Faction and their responsibility for the bombings to Stevens' Chinese, Russian, and British counterparts.

*Marcy is brought to the Lab. Grace apologizes for revealing Ellis' code to 001, she thought the Director would intervene somehow and prevent 001 from using the code to destroy the Director. Marcy shoots herself to keep 001 from overwriting her and using the code.

*As MacLaren finishes convincing the authorities, they are all overwritten, as are the President and other officials around the world. Stevens tells Yates not to let MacLaren go, then once Stevens is out of the STA in the elevator he gets overwritten too, and comes back to kill MacLaren but is shot by Yates.

*A missile strike approaches, and Carly abandons Trevor to go see Jeff Jr. for the last time.

*Trevor makes it to the Lab and finds Marcy dead on the floor, and 001-Jeff dead in the consciousness transfer chair, and prepares to destroy Ilsa, but Grace comes to and says 001 isn't in Ilsa, that he just used her to transfer his consciousness throughout the internet to parse himself into computers around the world and wait for the future to take over the Director.

*Philip realizes that there's only one path left, they need to go back in time and stop 001. Grace agrees that the science behind the rule that no one can go back earlier than the last Traveler sent doesn't apply here in the 21st, that from 2018 they can send someone 20 years back. Trevor says they can't do anything without a TELL, and MacLaren says gives the TELL of the moment original-Grant MacLaren met Kat, though it's taking years from Grant's life.

*At the TELL, MacLaren meets Kat, but encourages her to give her boyfriend John another chance. Later, he passes on a warning about Helios, and on 9/11 he gets to the computer before 001 arrives and emails out a warning to the Director not to send 001, that the Traveler mission is a failure. Then he goes to the window and looks for the planes.

*On a city bus, David meets original-unTraveled Marcy on her way to her new job, and they hit it off.

Status: FAIL
posted by oh yeah! (28 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Which is satisfying as an ending but isn't it essentially the grandfather paradox? Everything is back to normal, so MacLaren would not have been sent in the first place, so no crazy adventures in the twentyfirst, no 001 to build a local machine, no jump back to 2001. Perfect.
posted by sammyo at 8:00 PM on December 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, pretty much.

Am sad for Marcy, then happy to see them rebooted.

I have no effing idea where they go from here. Clearly the program was just absolutely not working, so...Earth isn't saveable, I think. Humans are shitty no matter what you do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:52 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Why the everloving fuck would the Faction detonate a bunch of nukes? Their whole thing is also to save the world, the collapse of civilization brings about the world controlled by a machine, the exact future that they wish to avoid.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:31 AM on December 18, 2018

Well, but Faction was ok with killing millions via the "mass culling" of the virus, they do seem the 'we had to destroy this village in order to save it' flavor of zealots.

I agree that this was an emotionally satisfying series finale - as a season finale I don't know how they'd start up again with the same cast of characters. Original-Marcy wouldn't have the same TELL anymore, since 001 not having gone back means she won't get her brain scrambled and be working at the library that night. Miss Day might have the same TELL, Traveler-Grace has no excuse to send herself back if she didn't need to use Marcy's malfunctioning host brain to reset the Director. (And, anyway, after watching David's death this season, I want him and original-Marcy to get their new happy lives together, I don't know that I'd enjoy watching them get put in danger again.) Depending on how they deal with the grandfather paradox, theoretically the new 'Traveler Program Version 2' timeline could still send Traveler-MacLaren back, but it would be awfully confusing.

I've really enjoyed this series, I'll be sad if it's over, but a major part of the show's appeal was the cast/characters, and I don't see how they could do a 4th season without some major changes.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:59 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Good point. The show might be expecting cancellation (I don't know if Canadian shows have a "three seasons and you're probably out" in the way that American cable sci-fi shows have a "five seasons and you're out") these days, so it was more series finale than season. If they got renewed they'd have to figure something out, but that might not be an issue.

I'm still pondering this show and it occurred to me overnight that the Travelers are trying to save people from natural disasters and extinction level events--big showy stuff. Which is important and great, mind you, but if the real culprit is climate change, I have no idea if Travelers could be sent back in time and persuade all the Republicans to take reasonable, practical actions on that. Which is probably not as interesting to watch as someone trying to defuse a nuke or an asteroid. And they'd have to take over ALL the Republicans...forcibly, none of this "about to die" ethics. I'd love to see what happens when Travelers takes over all the American leaders, especially you know who.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:26 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Travelers started as a joint Canada broadcast (Showcase) + Netflix production, but moved to Netflix-only for this season. As of September at DragonCon, Leah Cairns (Kat) said that Netflix hadn’t made a decision on whether they’d greenlight a fourth season, it would depend on whatever their algorithms made of S3’s viewership. My guess is that Wright & Co decided to make this a series finale just in case, but will figure out a way to write ‘VER 2’ if Netflix says it’s a go.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:21 AM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I feel like they did address the climate change/humans are the problem issue during David’s death scene, and in MacLaren’s scenes with Stevens & Yates and the teleconference somewhat.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:32 AM on December 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Well, but Faction was ok with killing millions via the "mass culling" of the virus, they do seem the 'we had to destroy this village in order to save it' flavor of zealots.

This. Also: they had a couple other things going on during this last bit of the arc:

1) They wanted to cripple the Director. The Director was explicitly a godlike AI - just blowing up the Archives probably wasn't good enough for the Faction hard-liners, in case someone got away with a bag of blood or something. This had an Aliens 'it's the only way to be sure' kinda vibe to me.

2) Enough meddling had occurred to place 001 in charge of the Faction. I'm pretty sure that was time shenanigans, ratcheting up what they were willing to do. (The Faction were never a bastion of restraint, but 001 was completely off the rails there.)
posted by mordax at 10:54 AM on December 18, 2018

Well, but Faction was ok with killing millions via the "mass culling" of the virus, they do seem the 'we had to destroy this village in order to save it' flavor of zealots.

Sure, but killing 3 billion people wouldn't bring on nuclear winter and irradiate the planet. They specifically were trying to avoid that outcome.

However, the show states that nanites are susceptible to radiation. I assume the plan was to sacrifice 4 cities to ensure the Director was totally blinded. I guess we have to assume that 001 is enough of a batshit insane zealot to make that sacrifice...
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:43 PM on December 18, 2018

Presumably, every instance of time travel creates an alternate timeline. In order for the the Director to maintain any kind of coherent strategy (or be meaningfully considered a single entity, really) is if the version created in each timeline somehow shares the knowledge from the "previous" iteration — or maybe through the "quantum frame" technology it runs in parallel across all the timelines. In either case it can only intervene in the past of a timeline where it comes to exist¹ (it could create a new timeline where it will never be built, but it would no longer be able to intervene in that timeline once the self annihilating intervention occurred).

Assuming the quantum pan-timeline computation model (QPTCM), every time the Director intervenes in a timeline it either abandons intervention in the "old" timeline or it is simultaneously intervening in some vast number (infinite?) of different timelines².

Assuming multiple branching timelines, the Director's v1 methodology could at best result in a vanishingly small number of "successful"³ timelines, and virtually guarantees the creation vastly more "failed" timelines.

Hopefully v2 is significantly better — I'm hoping for a plan that involves relocating the Director and base of operations temporally before the planned interventions (but somehow maintaining a flow of information from the future(s)).


The David and "Marcy" scene at the end at first seemed sweet, but then it just seemed kind of like a cruel joke. Though at least that version of David will almost certainly live longer.

¹ If it is actually capable of intervening in arbitrary timelines where it will never comes to exist, then things get super weird.
² If the latter, how bleak does a timeline have to be to merit Protocol Omega?
³ The goal of the Director is ostensibly to save humanity, but at what time scale? if we're talking long term survival, it really needs to get stable pockets of humanity established off Earth. Will it be satisfied with one best case artisanal timeline, or is it going for mass production of timelines of safe and happy humanity?
posted by thedward at 4:18 PM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

³ The goal of the Director is ostensibly to save humanity, but at what time scale?

In the version of the future our heroes were from, humanity was near extinction. Specially, the reactors were failing and they were all going to freeze to death. They can't go forward in time, so I assume they are going for a time scale of 2-3 centuries, to create a better world in the Director's timeframe.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:33 PM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

¹ If it is actually capable of intervening in arbitrary timelines where it will never comes to exist, then things get super weird.

In season 1, after they divert the Helios asteroid, they all expect to never get another mission. That is, they think that if they succeed in diverting Helios, the fall never occurs, the Director never exists because the world is hunky dory. They all expect to go back to Protocol 5 forever.

So we can presume that the Director is not capable of intervening in timelines where it doesn't come to exist.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:37 PM on December 18, 2018

I just finished and am still processing the temporal mechanics of the whole situation (initial thoughts: they don't work), but I want to comment on a couple other things.

Did everyone else assume that Jeff was 001? The moment they knew that the faction was working with 001, that seemed really obvious. Once he was in Marcy's apartment, I thought the actor did a pretty good job of channelling Enrico Colantoni. But, had we had any other indication that 001 was combat trained like the others? If not, no way he should have been able to come close to holding his own with Marcy. 001 was also too good at playing Jeff prior to that, in my opinion.

I also wasn't clear at the end if Mac stayed to die in the WTC or not. That was probably intentional.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 7:53 PM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

This was/ could be a very satisfying end to the series. Mac does right by Kat, David and Marcy end up together. That was enough for me to feel like I could let their stories be.

I had to double-check the time on Mac's being in the north tower: according to the historical record, he has about ten more minutes before the first plane hits. It took until he looked out the window for me to pull together where he was: I thought he was still on the west coast.

Also, the 'team' was degrading, specifically Trevor and Phillip. Time travel is not real healthy, I'd say. Phillip's mushing around in various time-lines was especially uncomfortable and seemingly incurable. As was Trevor's condition. Another argument for ending the series where they did. A Version 2 would feel... strange after so many narrative arcs have been closed. I can't imagine it would be satisfying - or you could do it again but the story becomes about something else then - like when Jeff goes to Marcy's apartment and suddenly we're somewhere between all these different stories and the connection between this action affecting the future becomes harder and harder to follow. We are Phillip, where all timelines are possible at all times and though that can be compelling intellectually, it is not possible or it's harder to make any kind of emotional attachment with the characters when at any minute they could do any of a number of things and the past could suddenly be re-written. Continuity of intention and needs and wants helps make characters relatable when that changes all the time they seem chaotic.

They could re-do the series with different actors but same 'travelers' inhabiting different 'hosts' and unaware of the past they once shared. They could even start with the initial HELIOS time-line and how things spun out from there...
posted by From Bklyn at 2:29 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

They could even start with the initial HELIOS time-line and how things spun out from there...

They implied that MacLaren took care of averting HELIOS by himself though -- he gave an envelope with the word 'HELIOS' written on it to a woman, the idea being that the 21st could divert/destroy the asteroid themselves with enough advance warning I guess (were we supposed to recognize her? I didn't.)
posted by oh yeah! at 4:41 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wasn’t she the maths genius that was going to invent the super efficient power source?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:10 PM on December 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

re: emotionally satisfying ending, yeah. That was consistent and I'm wondering if it was a thematic piece from the get-go of Marcy meeting David was "meant to be," one way or another but no, this would be more of a "David makes out in the end?" theme since... this is getting dark; David meeting the Marcy body - Marcy isn't traveler Marcy. But it cuts to black before we find out whether Marcy tells David her name and what that name might be. Hook for potential S4, then, whether she introduces herself as Marcy or with a different name?

The time travels, it would only work inside of the T-V framework for linear forward point-constrained reverse time travel of data. [fake]

That being said, it was clever in a "not even wrong" way, when they circumvented the "only able to travel into the past post the last time someone traveled into the past" by traveling into the further past from the current past.

Since info from the future had already arrived, it's mathematically inconsistent for this to work since you're already in-frame where information from the future had already arrived in the past.

It it does work, it could be gamed so you could go further into the past ad-infinitum (although you'd have to get pretty creative the further you got away from modern computing technology and theory).

Another thing about time travel that has always intriuged me is the propagation speed of time.

The speed of gravity is currently consensus agreed to be pretty darned close to the speed of light.

Things occurring in the past could mathematically affect things in the future before the future transfers information into the past if timespeed isn't absolutely instantaneous.
posted by porpoise at 10:36 PM on December 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wasn’t she the maths genius that was going to invent the super efficient power source?

Yes, something like that, but this was also sloppy unless one accepts that a quantum of knowledge is sufficient (for the maths genius to successfully lobby for a funding program to develop the technology required) like the Traveler from the future coming back and warning off the two mathematician/physicists not to get acclaim and recognition and immense potential financial reward for their work a couple of episodes ago.

Something like that would (to any reasonable person) make them make Bezos' net worth look like Trump's, even if they were altruistic about it. Not to mention being the key to humanity's colonization of at least this arm of the galaxy, remembered and revered for as long as humanity endures.

But the math is ultimately flawed and would have damned humanity.

(But knowledge for knowledge's sake is a good thing - as long as you knew the results were in error, you can star to work around that: it would be stupid to stop researching that line of inquiry. Yes, nuclear theory brought about nuclear wea.... I'll stop.

This is... ok? If you accept the breaking of an internal rule is ok because of loophole, this is still problematic. Because obviously it didn't work or successfully avoiding Helios was "sufficient but not necessary" to cause The Director to call Ver1 a Failure.

It's like Travelers were written by arts majors and not math and phys or philosophy majors.
posted by porpoise at 10:50 PM on December 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Well, that went to a dark place there, for a while. Nice resolution with room for a next season or follow-on stories in other formats or something.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:57 PM on January 8, 2019

I don't have a whole lot to add beyond what everyone's said. agree with most points. This was a great ending and gives them room for the next season. I'm glad that in the end, Mac did right by Kat and Prime-Marcy and David still might get together. But I'm a little sad that this means Prime-Carly might still be killed by Prime-Jeff, who would end up in prison instead of staying alive long enough to be overwritten. In a way, they were both dead as we know them since our Carly and Jeff are Travelers. And also that means Prime-Trevor would still die in that fight club, and Prime-Philip might still overdose. I guess Marcy gets the happy ending because she wouldn't have been in that situation in the first place if 001 didn't come back.
posted by numaner at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

this would be more of a "David makes out in the end?" theme since... this is getting dark; David meeting the Marcy body - Marcy isn't traveler Marcy.

I think actually - the Marcy that David loves isn't traveler Marcy, in the same way none of them are actually just their travelers. The Marcy that David fell in love with is the compassionate Marcy, the caring Marcy - and all of that existed inside OG Marcy before she was deliberately damaged. I think that OG Marcy and David can actually still have quite a happy, loving relationship.

What I found really poignant and tears-inducing was actually all the flashes that Phillip has - of things that could still have occurred. Maybe if they'd made different choices - if the travelers themselves had, these were lives they could have led.

I think also you can see the switch here from when they were thinking it would be auto renewed and when they didn't. Like - I can also see an ending where they recruit Marcy into the faction, where Jeff is just the second traveler, and where him and Carly find a peace together, developed over a next season. I think they may have been holding out until the very end.
posted by corb at 9:55 AM on January 24, 2019

It's been canceled. I can't say I'm surprised after that ending. I'm guessing they knew what was coming.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:30 PM on February 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

In light of the cancellation, I like to think that the v2 thing as indicating that the three seasons that we've seen are just the first simulation by the AI of the consequences of sending a particular group of Travelers.

The AI keeping on running iterations so that it forgets about the outside and becomes a strange hermit? Ok. I hope that the resistance humans don't destroy it, if that's the case - especially if they recognize it's strange handicap.
posted by porpoise at 11:17 PM on February 1, 2019

It’s the long-form equivalent of the “If Then Else” episode of “Person of Interest”!
posted by rmd1023 at 12:11 PM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

But wasn't original Marcy developmentally disabled? From birth was my assumption. I see people here positing that original Marcie's disability came from some sort of "damage" while she was apparently an adult nurse? That doesn't make sense to me, given that the actress is only in her mid-20s. I guess we just have to hand-wave some things.

Sorry it was cancelled, but this serves as a good finale, while still leaving room to continue the series in some other way. I don't think that is going to happen, but you can always hope.
posted by seasparrow at 9:49 PM on June 21, 2019

It's been a while since I saw it, but I do remember that Original Marcy wasn't born disabled and it was shown at some point.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:17 PM on June 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

It’s in Season 2, episode 10 21C, when Marcy performs that medical procedure on herself.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:21 PM on June 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ah, oh yeah! Thank you for clearing that up. Now I remember.
posted by seasparrow at 10:38 PM on June 21, 2019

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