Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: October 12, 1996 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 17.2 million viewers, 11.8/22 in Households
Was this episode trying to tell me that fate is playing a role in the show’s universe? Chuck couldn’t escape being the hero of Chicago, helping a woman giving birth to one or two children, which means he was always destined to have that picture taken of him, and to become a better person for a hot minute, even if behind the elevator doors, it wasn’t him who assisted in the birth. But when fate starts playing a role in this show, that could mean a lot. First of all, the writers could have been playing with that premise, teased that there is a higher power directing Gary’s heroic actions, and that he will always be receiving tomorrow’s paper, whether he wants to or not. It could also mean that the show, if it chooses to explain where the paper is coming from and why Gary is receiving it, would go into a fantastical direction, or maybe the writers decided not to give a damn and keep the show grounded. No explanation as to the background of the paper means you don’t have to think much about that back story, let alone have to create an arc around it. Although I do believe it’s necessary at one point to go there. After all, the paper is the only fantastical element of the show, and not shining a bright light on it at one point is gonna be extremely lazy.
I loved that Chuck was front and center during this episode, that it was his hour to shine, that he was not such a big asshole after all. He might only be interested in making some money out of the paper, but it also turns out he is a solid human being. Scared, maybe. Freaked out, yes definitely. But at least he wasn’t going crazy and manic when he realized he was walking straight into his fate, and at least he wasn’t a sexist dick, when he realized he was in the elevator with a pregnant woman, and decided to make jokes about being a pregnant woman. Chuck is an asshole every once in a while, but he is a friendly asshole, and maybe the events in this episode have established that Gary can trust Chuck with a mission to save a life. Maybe Gary doesn’t need to do all of this by himself, after Chuck managed to actually stand on his own two feet by the end. Although let’s not forget that Chuck didn’t do anything. But is falling into unconsciousness better than running away from being a hero? Is this an argument this episode made in hindsight?
The writers also tried a few different things with this episode. It started off with Gary walking through town with Chuck, having a discussion about movie night, and in every minute, Gary is preventing a bad thing from happening, whether it’s a robbery, a kid becoming a runaway, or a politician becoming the center of a sex scandal. That sort of reminded me of the good days of ER (the first six seasons), during which the doctors treated patients and then left to treat another patient, with the former patient never being seen or heard of again, simply because it’s part of a premise. Sometimes the docs just need to treat a little cold, or bandage someone’s foot. In EARLY EDITION, sometimes Chuck just needs to hold a horny politician back from meeting his date of the night. There is no need to hear more from that politician, and there is no reason to even remember this ever happened, as Gary will go save a life that will actually have meaning, as it’s being the focal point of that episode’s narrative.
By the way, about that woman Gary kept seeing. She was obviously part of the fate narrative of the episode, as his fate was it to miss her every time she showed up in his peripheral vision, including the moment he was sitting at the fountain, believing he has missed her, only for the viewer to realize that she was still there, only to be missed by Gary again. He was a bit idiotic about how he handled the situation though, when he was asking about whether she was married or not to a florist of all people. But the story showed that Gary can be truly distracted, which means if something bigger and larger is at stake, will Gary be able to pull all focus on his heroic action, or will he be again distracted by a pretty blonde walking through the streets of Chicago, because Gary is now a single person, thinking about living the life of a single person, which means randomly hooking up with strangers for a night and then never calling again. Since Gary’s now ex-wife isn’t calling for a quick nooner, it means Gary is destined to … never have a relationship again. Does it mean the paper doesn’t want him to be in a relationship? Is that part of the fate narrative as well?
Best part of the episode: The comic storyline of Chuck’s doctor ex. It was a silly moment, but it took away the serious aspect of fate for a minute, and it proved that EARLY EDITION can also be just funny, even if the banter between Chuck and Gary works better when it comes to the humor part of the show.
Worst part of the episode: Marcia was twisting Gary’s mind, and for that she deserves the award. She just got divorced from him, and the first ting she does is waiting for him in his hotel room? Ugh, what a nightmare woman.
Weirdest part of the episode: Chuck knows he has to stay away from elevator, but he decides to get on one anyway? This man isn’t smart at all. No wonder fate wanted him to be in tomorrow’s paper.
Player of the episode: Cynthia Nixon made for a good fake pregnant woman during the final third of the episode. It almost excuses her for the rather dull bid she made for New York Governor in 2018. She also reminded me here to start thinking about whether I should be watching SEX AND THE CITY.