[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the series premiere of Frequency. Read at your own risk!]
Another time-travel show is upon us, which means there's a new set of rules to understand in order to dig in. Luckily, the CW's Frequency keeps its time-travel on a micro level, meaning the events of the show only affect a small group of people.
"It's not a show where every week you're going to end up with a different foreign power running the United States," executive producer Jeremy Carver explained at the Television Critics Association fall previews. "The butterfly effect is meant to be very, very personalized. And we often describe it as, if history is a rope, we're changing, maybe, fibers on that rope from episode to episode, and mainly seeing how it's affecting our main characters or our guest cast."
Who are those main characters? Let's break it down. Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List, The Flash) discovers on her 28th birthday in 2016 that she can communicate via HAM radio with her dead father, Frank (Riley Smith, Motocrossed), who is still alive in 1996. Along with bonding over both being cops and baseball, Raimy uses her knowledge of the past to save Frank from being killed during an undercover sting operation gone wrong. The trouble starts after Frank survives the shooting, completely rewriting Raimy's present.
In the revised timeline, Frank still dies, but in a car accident 15 years after his original death. Raimy has never met her boyfriend Daniel (Daniel Bonjour) and her mother Julie (Devin Kelley,Resurrection) was kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer known as the Nightingale. Raimy is the only one who knows things have changed and remembers both the original and the new timeline.
Obviously, Rami is not okay with letting her mother being murdered by a serial killer, so she'll need to work with Frank to restore the original timeline, which will make things messier before they get better. And how many timelines can Rami contain in her head if every change they make sets up a whole new life of memories to keep track of? List says its all about compartmentalizing.
"[Raimi] remembers things happening when she remembers them," List said. "She recalls a memory the way we recall a memory. Like, 'Oh, yeah.' It's not like on your mind all the time. It's just for some reason, it's triggered. But in my mind, the original storyline, the original present, is the most vivid to her, even though she has all these other timelines that she remembers, because she didn't actually walk through it, if that makes any sense."
It kind of does, and it explains why Raimy wasn't able to remember that she and Daniel had never met in the new timeline. The original timeline remains in the forefront of her mind and the events she's experiencing will trigger memories from the new timeline -- like Gordo (Lenny Jacobson,Nurse Jackie) reminding Raimy of Frank's car crash.
Now, what are the next steps? Frequency is based off a movie of the same name released in 2000 that wrapped up all its loose ends in two hours. The series has to be more complicated than that.
"We have a three‑year plan, which branches us off into more years, if that's where we're going," Carver explained. "So I think one of the things about the pilot is you see a lot of different things introduced...a lot of different conflicts, a lot of different family conflicts, work conflicts beyond this central mystery. So, basically, the show is built to have pretty strong legs."
So each week will be Frank and Raimy helping each other to untangle these mysteries -- who set up Frank? who is the Nightingale killer? -- while also trying to get Raimy back to her original timeline, making the show a mix of police procedural, sci-fi and family drama. We still recommend you keep a notebook nearby to keep everything straight, though.
Frequency airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on the CW.