Wednesday, November 1, 2023

REVIEW: 'Quantum Leap' - Ben and Magic Ease Racial Tension and Mistrust During the L.A. Riots in 'One Night in Koreatown'

NBC's Quantum Leap - Episode 2.05 "One Night in Koreatown"

Ben lands in the body of an 18-year-old working for his father's shoe store in Koreatown in Los Angeles at the start of explosive 1992 riots. Facing an emotional connection in the riots to his past, Magic joins Ben on the leap.

"One Night in Koreatown" was written by Benjamin Raab & Deric A. Hughes and directed by Tamika Miller

The hologram is meant to guide Ben through the leaps. Through the use of Ziggy, they identify what he specifically needs to do to complete the mission. It takes time for Ziggy to find Ben after he arrives in a new time. That results in Ben having to quickly adapt to his surroundings. As such, he gets a quick understanding as to what he is meant to accomplish. When he arrives in a shoe store, he instinctively knows he's meant to mend the growing divide within the Park family. The tension is simply supercharged by the eruption of the L.A. riots. Ben has landed in major historical events before. He's tasked with saving lives that would otherwise be lost during some kind of natural disaster. The outbreak of chaos in this situation comes from systemic injustice. The criminal justice system failed the community. People were outraged. The police response was equally terrifying. Ben knows the history. It's completely different experiencing it.

Magic doesn't need Ziggy to know what will happen to a young Black man being chased by the police. He has the lived experience. Racial tension in this country has defined generations from the very beginning. The rise of technology has made it much more visible. The outreach and outrage spreads far and wide. It's also painful for Magic in the moment. He can't leave his team behind. He has to maintain leadership of Quantum Leap. Everyone worries about him because of how dark things got when the project was shut down. He believed he failed Ben. The leaper was lost once more. He promised not to let history repeat itself. It still did. Drinking consumed his life. He's willing to acknowledge his alcoholism now. It remains an ongoing struggle. One where anything could trigger him to spiral once more. He's confident in his leadership. He's a former Navy SEAL. He doesn't flinch in any situation. He also must surrender power to acknowledge the many corrosive forces in this world.

The leap is completely overwhelming for Magic. The last few episodes have been emotionally grueling for Ben. He exploded at Addison. He could no longer work with her as his hologram. He needed a change. He couldn't afford to get distracted. In this leap, he's completely focused on the task at hand. He trusts his instincts. The mission keeps changing. At first, he's meant to keep Jin from dying. Then, he must also protect Luisa. And finally, he has to get Sonny to the hospital in time to treat his gunshot wound. Ziggy malfunctions for a bit. This is presented as the first time the directive of the mission changes midway through. That reveals the expansive nature of Ben's work. He has the responsibility of changing many people's lives. He must handle that delicately. He experiences all of this viscerally too. He has a team to lean on. He's not completely alienated from them. He aims to support them and listen to whatever they are going through as well. Complete honesty and trust is what allows the team to prevail every week.

The Quantum Leap team is still working under the idea that Ben will one day come home. Tom views the project differently. He is just meant to be a new liaison to the Department of Defense. He's not overseeing the day-to-day operations. That responsibility still falls onto Magic. He's confident he can handle being Ben's new hologram. Instead, that only brings painful memories back. Magic has always been called to service. He helps others when they need it the most. And yet, too many people in positions of authority treated him as a criminal. His patriotism wasn't respected. He loyally serves this country. He has devoted his life to it. He's leading a project that saves lives. Quantum Leap helps fix the mistakes of the past. It allows people to live the lives they always deserved. The team just needs to show everyone the greater connections that bring us all together. Ben is the conduit for that mission. He takes over one person's body in the hopes of enlightening others' minds. The team needs some of that healing from time to time too. They completely support each other. There is nothing they could hide that could disrupt that bond. Of course, that will be tested when Ian shares how they eventually found Ben and started the mission up again. That remains a tease for the future and nothing more.

Moreover, it's still tense as Ben fights to preserve the Park family and the others who find themselves trapped in the shoe store. Jin sacrificed everything to come to America and build his own business. It was meant to be a legacy that could be passed down to his children. Its destruction is a personal attack. He suddenly believes he is worthless. That is far from the truth. He raised his children to have their own aspirations. As a result, they could build on that success and achieve something much greater. They arrive at those realizations when they work together. That's how these possibilities become reality. All of them deserve to be saved. They also deserve to be seen for their full humanity. Jin walls himself off from the world by seeing every other ethnicity as a potential threat that means him and his business harm. He instinctively believes in the police's pledge to serve and protect. Every action they take must be justified in some way. It's not. They are corrupt and abuse their power. Jin has to speak out when he sees it firsthand. He must remind them of what they are called to do. Magic experiences that conversation while Ben is busy keeping Sonny alive. However, two encounters with the police are only alleviated by the officers being called to regroup elsewhere. It's important to change minds. That's more apparent with the people Ben interacts with instead of the system as a whole people are protesting against. It doesn't fix every problem. It leads to greater prosperity and understanding in the future. More work has to be done. It leads to an enriching world designed around seeing and uplifting each other's full complexity.