29 March 2014


Early Edition: Bank Holdup

But why does it come with a furry fiend?

Now that Breaking Bad has raised the bar on plotting, it's a little difficult to go back to the way TV shows were twenty years ago. But Early Edition is just so vintage that I can't help myself. So here we go with another TV-based blog series!

If you never watched the show, it's basically a thirteen-episode answer to the question, "What would you do if you got tomorrow's newspaper today?"

Does anything here look interesting?

The Pilot does a good job of covering all the bases. We review the parts of a newspaper and learn who the three main characters are. I guess it makes sense that the former all work in a brokerage firm--or at least it does in the light of my impressions of the stock market. More so than most other professions you could name, brokers seem to need tomorrow's information today. In fact, you could say that they need next minute's information this minute . . . which makes me wonder whether Early Edition could be rebooted for our world full of digital media and real time updates. Future Feed doesn't have quite the same ring to it, though.

Anyway, two of the three friends have a lighthearted romp living through the next day's news . . . until night falls and our hero realises he missed one of the darker articles.

Would you do anything about this?

And then the story basically turns into Spider-man with a magical cat instead of a radioactive spider.

Of course, there are legitimate questions to ask at this point. Where does the newspaper come from? Why does it come at all? And most importantly, does knowledge of unfortunate events in the future obligate a person to prevent them in the present?

(A quick aside now . . . I'm suddenly reminded that my original plan from last February was to make Early Edition, Season 1 my Lent 2014 series, the way The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort is my Lent 2014 book. Back then, they didn't seem to have much in common, but now that PREDESTINATION seems to be my word for Lent 2014, I have to admit that they make an interesting tag team.)

If you had asked me the last question before Lent started, I would have replied in the negative. Our domain is the present: I don't think we should interfere in the future any more than we should interfere in the past. If someone told me that a baby in my neighbourhood would grow up to cause the deaths of ten million people in concentration camps and many more in a terrible world war, not only would I not attempt to harm the child, but I also would try to stop anyone else who did. It's like that Horror story about someone going back in time to kill Adolf Hitler as a infant, only to learn, upon returning to the future, that another child had been raised in the dead one's place and that the replacement grew up to be the Hitler we know. Nice job, buddy.

It's all very neat until Early Edition comes along to tease our ethics a little . . .

Can you "spot the differences"?

The unexpected twist is that the news stories change. This means that last minute's tomorrow is not necessarily the same as next minute's tomorrow, because of things that we do this minute. So how are we to take this?

Well, I don't know about you--because I never know about you--but I'm still sitting pretty in the space-time continuum. Something that changes with the present is part of the present, and therefore, part of our domain. The characters aren't getting a vision of what will be, but a reflection of what is happening now. And whenever they are arguing about what to do, the main thing the text of the moment tells them is what the current consensus is. In this particular case, the death toll goes from nine to ten because one of them, frustrated by the other two's hesitation, independently decides to prevent the bank holdup on her own.

There's clearly a difference between the Chicago Sun-Times and a pack of Tarot cards. I'm glad that I don't get the former (and its cat--shudder!) delivered to my door every morning, but neither would I hinder the actions of someone who did.

The Roving Reporter Wonders: If you could look at only one thing in tomorrow's newspaper, what would it be?


Brandon said...

I loved Early Edition when it came out.

I like this little bit of dialogue from the Pilot:

"Gary, you don't need to be a hero to make the best of what you're given. And you've been given this."

"What am I supposed to do with it?"

"You're supposed to do whatever you can."

Enbrethiliel said...


I'm loving it now, too! =)

Marissa had some great lines in the Pilot. My favourite was, "Look, if God can be a burning bush, He can be any damn thing He likes!" (An unfortunate use of "damn," but the point still stands.)

Sheila said...

It's my opinion that you can't change the future, or the past. Have you ever read any of the Pern books (Anne McCaffrey)? The characters spend quite a lot of time time-traveling to try to "change" things, only to discover their time-traveling *caused* all the problems.

It was the only time-travel fiction that's ever made sense to me. Anything else results in branching timelines, paradoxes, or ridiculousness (Marty McFly has a certain amount of *time* to fix his mistake?).

And yes, of course that fits in nicely with predestination. The trouble is, our viewpoint is within the timeline, so we can never know someone else's (or our own) future.

Belfry Bat said...

Actually, Sheila, Douglas Adams also did a lovely job describing exactly that kind of time travel in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; (yes... I... read many Pern books... too... I... don't usually talk about them.)

Anyways, Adams puts in Ford Prefect's dialogue... er... oh dear, I can't find it. Paraphrase: "there are no paradoxes; it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle".

Back to the Question, Enbrethiliel: of course, I could be glib and say: "the weather". I think this is mostly motivated by: it's the part of the paper I'm always sure is going to be there; but now I think of it, it's usually got very little to say about yesterday's weather. Probably because everyone already knows what it was, I suppose.

But another part seems to be echoing your lovely intuition that this paper, (what with how the news seems to change as we change the present) is a forecast rather than a ... casting. And "seeing is both good and perilous". Hm.

Belfry Bat said...

Goodness, but I sound annoying sometimes. "Actually, Sheila" is an awful way to start a comment. Um... well, anyways, sorry about that, and... halp? someone?

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila -- I have similar issues with Back to the Future. It would have been better if Marty had gone back in time, thought he had ruined the past, and scrambled desperately to fix it . . . only to learn that he had actually always been there and that was the way things had always happened! Ideally, he would also learn that his parents were much better people than he had been giving them credit for: that is, that the problem with his life was not their supposed shortcomings, but the plank in his own eye.

I don't think we can know the future for certain the way we know the present, but I also think that faith functions like a light and that this light can illuminate anything that is currently dark to us. There's a recent post on Darwin Catholic in which Darwin says that he is absolutely sure that Mrs. Darwin will never cheat on him--and he clarifies that what he has isn't foreknowledge, but faith in her and in what the Church teaches Christian marriage is.

Bat -- If we're coming up with other examples of Time Travel That Makes Sense, I also recommend Susan Cooper's Fantasy series The Dark is Rising. There is an especially poignant relationship between two characters, one of whom has been to the future and has learned what horrible things the other will do. But I won't try to explain it further because it has been years since I last read the series. Perhaps I shall give the books another try this Holy Week and then let you know. That will be in keeping with usual Fantasy theme, though diverting from my usual choice of explicitly Catholic authors. (Well, to be accurate, diverting from my usual choice of J.R.R. Tolkien. =P)

That line about Tarot cards was one of the last things I added before I hit "Publish," but now I wish I had explored the idea further. My past experiences with divination are precisely why I see a distinction between occult devices and the Chicago Sun-Times. Maybe I'll be inspired anew in a post about another episode.

As for my own answer to my question . . . these days, I rarely read newspapers, but when I do, I like going straight to the columns--probably because they remind me of blogs. LOL!

Sheila said...

Yes, Bat, you are absolutely right, and I remember that now. Though I never could follow Adams' timelines well enough to be sure it really DID fit together like a puzzle.

Nope, I absolutely do not believe faith can allow you to see the future. Good sense can allow you to make a good guess, but the sort of faith we have in a human being is always subject to disappointment.

I have read so many posts on that debate, and come down firmly on Simcha Fisher's "God is faithful, but you're not marrying God" side. Part of the vow that you make in marriage is for better AND WORSE .... meaning that even if they DO cheat on you, you are promising to be faithful. Isn't that a hefty commitment there? But when you say "I am absolutely certain X won't happen" it's almost as if you're choosing not to commit to their free will and fallibility ... you promise fidelity only on the condition (which you think is a sure thing, and it isn't) that they will be faithful back.

Certainly the comboxes were chock full of people who said they were sure, sure, sure, their spouse would never do X, Y, or Z, but they did. That's why marriage can be a raw deal, compared to religious life. I doubt my husband would cheat on me because he's not that sort, but he has already broken more than one promise he made to me before marriage and .... well .... that's kind of how marriage goes! Think of Hosea; God specifically chose his marriage, and it was what we would call a failure.

God promises us all kinds of wonderful things, but they're mostly of the post-death variety. We like to imagine people whose marriages fell apart are worse than us, weren't as committed as us, weren't as holy as us. That's a nice comforting thing to think, so that you can think it won't happen to you. (Weren't we just talking about this recently, here and elsewhere?) But believing in God doesn't set us free from disappointment or betrayal by humans any more than from any other tragedy. Even St. Paul wasn't sure of his final perseverance, and that's something to consider.

Belfry Bat said...

The trouble with Adams' world is it does seem to have "parallel" timelines; like it was multiversey... but they're built-in, everyone knows them, you can go back and forth between them... the weirdest weirdest thing about them is it only seems to make a difference in certain parts of the Galaxy, marked "plural"... one of which Earth seems to have inhabited; it's weird and complicated and I'm pretty sure he was making it up as he went along (and he really didn't want to write the last book, either). But the "puzzle" idea, I'm sure he meant to stick to that whenever he thought of it.

Now, I'm not too convinced by this idea that having confidence in another's fidelity is comparable to reservation of one's own full free consent; it sounds too much like suspecting of a cheerful giver that he only gives alms because it makes him happy. It may well be true that charity is fulfilling, but that's because it's supposed to be. Virtue is the habit of doing good, and habits are things we do without much thinking, and that means virtue is at least as much emotional as it is rational. (Forming virtue is a rational exercise, and virtue itself demands use of reason from time to time, but itself isn't thinking).

There may even be a case to make that, because Darwin has the kind of confidence that he has, he is making a weightier gamble than someone who can well imagine his wife being faithless: he'd be really surprised if Mrs Darwin were other than she obviously is. (And I'm glad they use these pseudonyms, too, because it's just too weird to contemplate such counterfactuals about living people we blog-chat with.)

OK, I've got to pack up and hop on a train, so cutting-short there!

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila -- I think our respective views on signs of predestination are clear to the other and that neither will budge, so I hope I'm not coming off as argumentative (What? Too late? =P) when I address one other point you're making.

While I do believe there are many things beyond our control and that imagining otherwise can lead to actual injustices, I think it misses the mark to say that Darwin's model is one of a spouse whose love and fidelity are conditional. (I'm sorry if the hyperlinking is a little obnoxious, but it was the only way I could think of to provide an example of what I mean without totally derailing this particular discussion.) In fact, I'm not really sure how you got from "I'm sure he will never cheat on me" to "I'll stay true to him only if he never cheats on me." I would have said that the former statement is evidence of unconditional love inasmuch as "charity believes all things."

Unfortunately, I don't have the time right now to give your comment the thorough response it deserves. Feel free to add more thoughts when they come to you. I promise to reply to them later.

Bat -- And I can't even read your comment! =( But I will as soon as I can!

Sheila said...

That post you reference is partly what I was referring to about us having talked about this earlier ... because I wrote a post on my own blog inspired by it too!

I don't think that those people who are so confident really would leave their spouses if their confidence turned out to be ill-founded (at least, I would hope not!), but for me it made it all much more meaningful to be fully aware that my spouse, being human, COULD betray me in any number of ways. If I could prevent this by taking away his free will, I wouldn't. And it means a lot to me that my husband *knew* I would hurt him in all kinds of unforeseen ways, and still signed on for this adventure.

And since we were aware of these dangers, we have tried hard not to presume or become complacent. I feel that one of the things you promise in marriage is forgiveness, and you should expect to be exercising that constantly, both for big and small things. Why should we fail to prepare for challenges ahead, simply in the hopes of "believing all things" (well, one hopes not ALL things, that would be gullible, right?)?

Sure, we can know a lot about a person's character. I really don't worry about my husband cheating on me because *he isn't the sort* -- doesn't mean he couldn't, but I suspect he wouldn't. Walk out on me, though? Sure, and I imagine he's tempted to it often. ;) But even for things you wouldn't think are part of someone's personality, they may surprise you. I know I got a chill down my spine when I read that bipolar disorder often first manifests in one's late twenties (which we both are) and sufferers in the manic stage are often virtually incapable of fidelity. I mean, you could promise your life to someone, and they could turn out to have a mental illness which changes everything you thought you knew of them! But if I turn that around .... if I had a mental illness that made me do things that (later, and saner) I was horrified about, wouldn't it mean the world to me to know there was someone who had *promised* to put up with all that?

Trust is different, in my opinion. My mom seems to be *convinced* that sooner or later, my dad will cheat on her because that's what men do and because a personality test told her he was a cheating type. That's hardly fair either. You should trust your spouse NOT to do that .... even though you know they COULD, and it's possible that they will. This may sound like a huge contradiction, but I don't think it is exactly.

At this point I am thinking more of the original article on this topic then of what you said yourself, so I'll shut up, for fear I'm not really responding to your comments at all.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- That's an interesting point about Darwin. And maybe another interesting point about Adams. I'm still not keen on giving The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a second try, but someone who can make things up as he goes along and still stick to a main unifying theme sounds like a worthwhile Fantasist.

Sheila -- With respect to the article you've linked, the Darwins' post, and thoughts of marriage in general, perhaps we're just arguing about personal impressions. You say that believing your husband could cheat on you--though, of course, you wholeheartedly doubt it--makes your marriage more meaningful. On the other hand, if I were married and my husband hesitated to go double or nothing on my fidelity, I'd be heartbroken and question his own fidelity to me.

There are also some general points you made that I disagree with. Take free will: I don't think that believing that someone will always keep his vows is disregarding his free will, anymore than believing that I will keep my vows is disregarding my own free will. On the contrary, I'm presupposing free will, for how else can anyone choose the good at all?

But does this mean I'm being complacent and presumptious? Perhaps it's just personal impressions again, but I never got the idea that believing something will turn out a certain way relieves me of the responsibility of working toward that end. And when I read about similar beliefs from Catholic writers (St. Paul and St. Louis are coming to mind), it is always accompanied by exhortations to keep working hard and not to relax in complacency. They're not saying, "You're going to reach the finish line even if you drop out of the race," but "You're going to reach the finish line because you keep running."

Finally, I think a lot of people are conflating "My spouse will never cheat on me" (which is all that the writer of the original post said, "cheating" being understood as adultery or divorce) with "My spouse will never hurt me even in minor ways." I think the majority of couples get married expecting some conflict from the other (and I'd wager that Emma Smith and her fiance are among them), but they don't marry with a Plan B because they believe there's a real risk it won't work out. At least I hope they don't . . .

Bob Wallace said...

"Back to the Future" was okay because it was silly and fun. The time-travel plot holes in the Terminator films were not okay because they were not fun, and definitely not silly.

Enbrethiliel said...


James Cameron didn't seriously fumble until Terminator 2, but I think it's going to be a classic anyway. As far as I can tell, saying "The Terminator" will get people remembering the second movie rather than the first.

There's no denying that Back to the Future is adorable, even if it gets time travel wrong.