Diyah Pera / The CW

Take Frequency's Wife...Please

Sarah D. Bunting is not a crackpot. She just thinks the creaky bitter-cop's-wife trope isn't one this show has time for. Or that any other show has time for.

Frequency isn't really very good, at least not yet. I like it, but that isn't the same thing, and the show has a couple of fairly serious problems. I do like the puzzle-solving element that serves as a throughline, and guessing how the tiny tweaks in 1996 will manifest in 2016 (understand: guessing that Marty McFly would return to the "Lone Pine" mall after mowing down a tree in the past is still one of my proudest moments), but the writing is playing fast and loose with that stuff in a way it hasn't earned yet, and wasting time with flashbacks to Raimy and Daniel's meet-weird dinner with Julie instead of nailing down the details on how things would have changed and why.

It doesn't know what to do with Gordo, who could serve as a solid underpinning of consistency across the two timelines, but since his presence in all the variations to date isn't explained and we barely know him, his scenes feel like the crass exposition dumps they are. It also doesn't know how to write Raimy's relationship with Frank as an adult, in my opinion; "Signal & Noise" again sees Raimy braying at Frank about his selfishness in a fashion I just don't find believable, and if it's supposed to indicate that she's coming apart from stress, neither the writing nor the portrayal is putting that across.

And my GOD do we have to sit through yet another agonized, but still utterly tedious, variation on a theme of "cop's bitter estranged wife is bitter"? It's the laziest goddamned character beat in the set; it's so lazy, it's not even a full beat. It's a b-. Frequency needs to course-correct Julie and Frank's relationship, stat, and every other show and movie needs to follow suit. I am not a crackpot.

Because here's the thing about the cop's bitter ex (and, for that matter, the fireman's bitter ex; see also: Backdraft) on TV. It's not that this isn't "realistic." Of course cops' spouses get fed up, get cheated on, get sick of the shitty pay and the frisson of terror every time s/he's late home. Of course wives waiting out an undercover assignment feel lonely, angry, and not chosen. It's not that it never happens. It's that, on TV, it basically always happens. You never see the Julie who's like, "Sweet, you're off the UC job and not dead, guy I knew this was the deal with when we got married and with whom I still elected to have a kid! Let's fuck, and then you can go back to the case and I can go back to having my own things I care about!" It's never that. It's always I Can't Do This Anymore Lady, like, can't she just be bummed she doesn't get the hot case goss, but then has her own shit to do, and goes back to doing it because she knew this is how it is with detectives?

A lady's welcome to change her mind, of course, or go in thinking she can cope with the NYPD as more or less a party to her marriage but realize she can't, but my understanding based on living in New York City -- where Frequency ostensibly takes place -- is that 5-0 and firefighters is a family business for a lot of people. It goes back generations; your dad ran a desk at a precinct, your uncles were Narcotics, you went to the Academy, and when you got married, it was to another cop or to the sister of your first partner or whoever...someone who also grew up around cops, probably, and that a cop's spouse's life is sometimes lonely and that the job comes first and that [insert writerly emotional aggro here] is like the worst-kept secret in the world, and even if you married a cop not coming from that world, it's STILL the worst-kept secret in the world, BECAUSE EVERY COP MARRIAGE ON TELEVISION IS IN THE SHITTER, BECAUSE OF THIS TROPE!

Add to this the, er, frequency with which cops' ex-wives are written as though they didn't just get embittered by their husbands' absences and drinking of their emotions and whatnot, but rather as though they never really liked the guy at all and considered him an inattentive POS from the jump, and I just really can't with that trope anymore, particularly not on a show that could better use those scenes to bring Satch into the cone of silence. Or Julie herself, for that matter.

Given the opportunity to reveal her 2016 self to 1996 Julie, though, Raimy declines, reasoning that she shouldn't change anything else because the future effects have already gotten well out of hand. This, after screeching at Frank for like an hour that he had to tell Julie she's going to die, even though they had 11 weeks to crack the case from two separate timelines before freaking her the F out for no reason and making Julie think they're crazy. Frequency needs to pick a lane with Raimy's attitude towards warning 1996 people about their futures, and if it can't do that, it needs to change lanes with how it approaches Julie and Frank's relationship -- because if they do have a good relationship, if he does trust her, then it's actually more poignant and dramatic if Raimy can't out herself from the future. And that's a hell of a lot more interesting then the 19,691st version of the cop's ex Drawing A Line. The show has bigger fish to fry, and no one cares. I am not a crackpot.

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