Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “36: Release”

Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA is a relisten and recap series for season one of ars PARADOXICA released every Tuesday and Thursday.

Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA is a relisten and recap series for season one of ars PARADOXICA released every week. You can see the full series here.


“36: Release”

An embed to RadioPublic’s direct link for the episode, which you can also find here.

Transcript
Written by: Daniel Manning, Mischa Stanton, Eli Barraza, and Tau Zaman


So, what happens in this episode?

The final episode of ars PARADOXICA begins with Dr. Nikhil Sharma and Mateo Morales getting to their outpost, where they’ll be stationed while they distribute Dr. Sally Grissom’s story. The location is sparse and freezing, but at least they finally have each other. Dr. Sharma teases Morales about making the codes the listener hears at the end of each episode so difficult. Morales teases Dr. Sharma for having difficulty with them.

The Petra acting as Sylvia Pureboot–who I’m just going to call Pureboot to make things less confusing–is called in to “help with an experiment” Dr. Grissom D is running. When Pureboot arrives, Dr. Grissom D fires up a Timepiece and traps them both in a CAGE. Dr. Grissom D tells Pureboot she knows who she is, and while it’s clear there’s distrust and tension between them, they also both acknowledge that they aren’t even the versions of themselves who hate each other. Pureboot says that she prefers being Pureboot than Petra–she likes being someone good, someone kind, and she likes working with Dr. Grissom. She isn’t Petra Prime, and she’d rather just stay there than help the other Petras. Dr. Grissom D doesn’t give her that option, though. Dr. Grissom D doesn’t trust Pureboot and tells her she has to leave. Pureboot agrees, but tells Dr. Grissom D what the others have planned.

The next scene is a Petra communicating with the others over their network as she’s being apprehended. She’s eventually captured and told she’ll “get to see [her] sisters.”

The episode transitions to Dr. Esther Roberts D, Jack Wyatt D, and Dr. Sally Grissom A talking about how this was the seventh Petra captured of a known 12 copies. Dr. Roberts D says that Amelia recently called her to say that the Eldridge has stopped checking in with ODAR. They realize it’s too poetic to be a coincidence and deduce this must be where Petra Prime is hiding out. Dr. Grissom A toasts to her team, thanking them for everything they’ve done for her across the timelines (even if these versions of Dr. Roberts D and Jack Wyatt D have no memory of the events, given they’re from Timeline 4 and not Timeline 3). Dr. Grissom A tells them that she’s going to confront Petra Prime herself. She tells them:

I’ve already given up my future twice, at least. I want all the people I care about to see theirs–not just you guys, but everyone you haven’t met yet.

The next day, Dr. Grissom A arrives at the Eldridge to find it shockingly empty. She’d expected the other Petras to be around, but instead, is greeted only by Petra Prime, who doesn’t stop her from coming aboard. Petra calls them “two lonely peas in a lonely pod,” and when Dr. Grissom A calls her extra for being holed up here, she says she likes the poetry of it. The two still have the teasing but tender dynamic they’ve always had, even–especially–with everything they’ve been through. Eventually, though, Dr. Grissom A gets impatient. She says that if Petra Prime wants everything to be destroyed, she should just do it, but Petra Prime says Dr. Grissom A doesn’t know her full plan yet. But then, Dr. Grissom realizes. Petra Prime isn’t going to tear this timeline asunder. She’s going to travel back to 1943, travel back to when a Dr. Grissom first accidentally invented time travel, and hopefully tear the anchor asunder.

Dr. Grissom A says that what Petra Prime is doing could break everything apart, all of spacetime, but Petra Prime correctly points out that Dr. Grissom A had altered spacetime irreparably too. Petra Prime says that ODAR never cared about any of the “failed” timelines and treated them like they didn’t matter–and she thinks they’re right, or so she says. But Dr. Grissom A doesn’t agree, and she doesn’t think Petra Prime really does either.

I think you know as well as I do that everything that’s happened, and everything that hasn’t happened, still matters. When you arrived in 1943, you may have been alone, but your brain–your unique, beautiful brain–still carried the memory of your classmates, your sister, your family–and that . . . that matters, Petra. Carrying these stories across time, even if it kills most of us, that matters. If you really don’t want to continue their legacy, then fine. Flip that fucking switch and get it over with, but don’t you dare tell me that none of this matters.

There’s a pause. Petra Prime explains that all she ever wanted was a choice. She says that she and Dr. Grissom A were the only ones who never got a chance to choose. And then, Petra does make her choice. She chooses not to continue with her plan. Then, she gives Dr. Grissom A the chance to choose, too. Will she let this all continue? Or will she try destroying the anchor?

There’s another long, beautiful pause, filled with nothing but static, and interference, and decisions.

And then, Petra Prime and Dr. Grissom A initiate the Timepiece, and they’re launched into the 1943 of Timeline 5–so immediately into its inception that they push Dr. Grissom E overboard without anyone from ODAR seeing her arrive in the first place. They take her to shore, and tenderly, kindly, explain who they are. Petra Prime tells her that she accidentally invented time travel. Dr. Grissom A explains that, yes, she is a Dr. Grissom, but older, and different. They both apologize for taking this choice away from Dr. Grissom E, but this time, they’re going to try something different.

They’re going to make sure ODAR never gets a hold of a Dr. Grissom in the first place. They’re going to all disappear together and see what happens. Dr. Grissom E agrees, and Petra Prime breaks their Timepiece.

The final scene returns to Dr. Sharma and Morales, who agree that they’re going to make the recordings public–and those recordings are, of course, ars PARADOXICA. Well, with some edits, given they have over 30,000 hours of recordings between all the timelines.

Morales asks Dr. Sharma where they should start this narrative. Dr. Sharma decides there’s only one place it could start:

Dr. Grissom: Hello? Testing, one two . . . Okay! This is the audio diary of . . .


Key facts and characters

  • Dr. Grissom E: Dr. Grissom E is the Dr. Grissom who discovered time travel in Timeline 5, who runs away with Dr. Grissom A and Petra Prime before she is found by ODAR.

How does it hold up?

When this episode first dropped, I remember worrying that it would be so terrifying, so action-packed, so stressful that I’d have a hard time keeping pace with it. I wasn’t prepared for something so tender and quiet.

This time around, I knew it was coming–but I still wasn’t prepared for just how beautiful this episode was.

As I try to write this, I find myself incapable to not process this episode on a thoroughly emotional and almost selfish level. Critical semi-objectivity isn’t something I can easily achieve here, so I have decided I won’t try.

ars PARADOXICA is why I do what I do. I started writing because not enough people were talking about how incredible Mischa Staton’s production was. ars PARADOXICA helped me launch my career, changing my life in this time irreparably in the best of ways. I’ve grown while watching The Whisperforge grow. I’ve seen Stanton not only work on more and more projects, but have a segment in the PodCon2 closing ceremony at their mainstage. I’ve seen The Whisperforge launch The Far Meridian, and StarTripper!!, and CARAVAN, all spearheaded by some of the writers from ars PARADOXICA, and all of those podcasts have been so astounding and beautiful.

Returning to this quiet, beautiful, poetically circular episode wasn’t just amazing in how well it stands up in writing, acting, production, and everything else that’s always made ars PARADOXICA one of the best fiction podcasts ever made. It was also amazing because of how time, along one timeline, works–how the stories we love can grow with us, how they can mean different things each time we encounter them, how they can spiderweb out to more and more works by those involved in them, and how they be the reason our lives change.


Butterfly Syndrome

Timeline 1

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
    • XXXX: Dr. Nikhil Sharma goes back in time with two conflict missions: kill Dr. Grissom or bring her back to the current year.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, but Dr. Grissom does not move forward with the test on the Timepiece.
    • On Wednesday, July 16th, 1945, Dr. Grissom, Anthony Partridge, Helen Partridge, and Chet Whickman witness The Trinity Test.
    • On September on an unnamed date, Quentin Barlowe is killed by a bullet in a time loop:
      • Loop A1: Quentin Barlowe is shot by Chet Whickman from Timeline 3.
      • Loop A2: Dr. Grissom is shot by June Barlowe, which is then sent back in time to kill Quentin Barlowe, also closing the loop.
    • Quentin Barlowe’s funeral occurs on September 16th, 1945.
    • Dr. Grissom invents the TAP on September 20th, 1945.
    • The ODAR Christmas party, and subsequent mass firing, is on December 21st, 1945.
      • Loop B1: When the Polvo power grid overloads, Dr. Grissom A uses the timepiece to help save Polvo.
      • Loop B2: Dr. Grissom B goes to RAINBOW A and pulls the lever to regulate the power. RAINBOW B explodes.
      • Loop B3: Dr. Grissom C chokes out Lambert and saves RAINBOW A, saving the town in conjunction with Dr. Grissom B or Maraczek.
    • December 24th, 1945: Dr. Grissom A wakes up. Dr. Grissom B and C have been killed by Cornish and Donovan.
    • February 1946: Dr. Grissom, Roberts, Wyatt, Anthony Partridge, and Helen Partridge are moved to Point of Exile, Colorado, by Donovan and Whickman.
    • March 1st, 1946: Dr. Grissom concludes that forward time travel using the timepiece is impossible.
    • August 2nd, 1946: Dr. Grissom accidentally gets stuck in the CAGE for an hour and a half.
    • August 18th, 1946: Helen Partridge’s jazz performance.
    • September 9th, 1946: Roberts and Whickman stay in the CAGE for just over 22 hours.
    • December 23rd, 1946: Helen Partridge leaves Point of Exile.
    • December 24th, 1946: Partridge discovers Donovan’s tapes.
    • October 27th, 1949: Dr. Grissom establishes the answering machine in The Blackroom, and Esther Roberts reunites with Bridget Dreyfuss. Dr. Nikhil Sharma is brought back from XXXX.
    • November 2nd, 1949: Dr. Grissom and Dr. Sharma break into the ODAR HQ.
      • Loop A: Dr. Nikhil Sharma is killed by Chet Whickman.
      • Loop B: Petra revives Dr. Nikhil Sharma.
    • November 1950: Hank Cornish starts working with Andrew Thurston to cover with tracks with the KTNK.
    • February 27th, 1953: Dr. Roberts is put in house arrest.
    • March 3rd, 1953: Dr. Roberts’s trial.
    • May 28th, 1955: Mateo Morales is brought back from the future. The cure for Butterfly Syndrome is completed.
    • Unnamed date: Dr. Grissom A uses the Timepiece to enter the timeline of Dr. Grissom D (Timeline 4).
    • May 19th, 1985: Petra, Carmen, the other children, and Van arrive after travelling back in time.
      • Loop 1: Liam travels back in time ten minutes to see himself.
      • Loop 2: Liam A meets Liam B from 10 minutes in the future, giving him severe Butterfly Syndrome.
    • December 13th, 1990: Petra, Carmen, the other children, and Van travel back in time to May 19th, 1985.
    • 20XX: Director LeMartine travels back in time to take over for Dr. Roberts as Director of ODAR.

Timeline 2

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, but Dr. Grissom moves forward with the test on the Timepiece, which then sends an electromagnetic pulse backwards in time into Timeline 1.

Timeline 3

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, and Dr. Grissom does not go forward with the test on the Timepiece.
  • On September on an unnamed date, Quentin Barlowe is killed by Chet Whickman after Whickman finds out that Barlowe’s records are fake. The bullet is sent through a rift in time to Timeline 1.

Timeline 4

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom D is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom D received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom D lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom D is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
  • December 25th, 1946: Dr. Grissom D is joined in her timeline by Dr. Grissom A, who immunizes Dr. Grissom D against Buttefly Syndrome.
  • Jump back: Dr. Sally Grissom A and Petra Prime travel back to October 29th, 1943 in Timeline 5.

Timeline 5

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom E is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom E received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom E lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • Immediately, Dr. Grissom E is joined by Dr. Grissom A and Petra Prime, who make sure she is not found by ODAR. The three run away together and destroy the Timepiece so ODAR will never have the power they did in the other timelines. This event is the conclusion of ars PARADOXICA.

Fragment Timelines

Throughout the series, there are fragmented timelines that the audience is never given the full details of. Instead of trying to factor these into the main timelines, they’ll be given their own sections.

Bill Donovan’s Tapes

In the first season, Partridge finds the tapes that Donovan has been sending to himself from the future using his own Timepiece to make sure he gets his way. Only certain tapes were played in the episode, “10: Consequence, Act I.”

  • Tape 1: Recorded August 1st, 1945; sent back to July 10th, 1945. Donovan tells himself to let Partridge take the others to Las Vegas. He tells his past self that J. Edgar Hoover is gay.
  • Tape 2: Recorded July 17th 1945; sent back to July 10th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that the intel on J. Edgar Hoover wasn’t sufficient.
  • Tape 5: Recorded July 26th, 1945; sent back to July 18th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Winston Churchill lost the United Kingdom general election and that they should call in a favor.
  • Tape 7: Recorded August 10th, 1945; sent back to August 4th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Truman still will not fund their work until he sees good evidence that it’s going towards something.
  • Tape 12: Recorded September 12th, 1945; no date listed for when it was sent back. Donovan says that he found the tape of Chet Whickman from Timeline 1, Loop A1, shooting Quentin Barlowe.
  • Tape 16: Recorded December 3rd, 1945; sent back to November 28th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Hank Cornish has arrived in town.
  • Tape 19: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self how to avoid being hit by a car.
  • Tape 20: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tries again to tell his past self how to avoid being hit by a car.
  • Tape 21: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self to not go outside.
  • Tape 26: No dates given. Donovan tells his past self to tell “her” how much she means to him.
  • Tapes 29-33: Recorded December 21st, 1945; sent back to December 20th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self how to trigger the explosion in Polvo, make sure Dr. Grissom uses the Timepiece to create duplicates of herself, and then use those duplicates as physical proof that the timepiece is working to get their funding.
  • Donovan’s final tape: Recorded December 10th/15th/18th, 1946: Donovan tells his past self that his illness is getting worse, but he receives the tapes.

Elbourne’s experiments

  • Experiment 1: Food is sent to a mouse back through the Timepiece.
    • Loop 1: The mouse, Kronos, pushes a button, and receives his food an hour later. Food is brought back to Loop 2 through the Timepiece.
    • Loop 2: Kronos receives his food as soon as he pushes the button. The food is received from an hour into the future via the Timepiece.
  • Experiment 2: A mouse is sent back through the Timepiece many times to complete a maze.
    • Loops 1-6: The mouse, Hermes, attempts to complete the maze with quickly declining proficiency.
    • Loop 7: Hermes is dead at the start of the maze.
  • Experiment 3: Three mice are sent back to their past selves. Pushing a button, the future mice will receive food but shock their past selves.
    • Loop 1: The mice–Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos–are raised to adulthood. They are trained to receive food by pushing a button.
    • Loop 2: The adult mice are sent back through the Timepiece to adjoining cages to their past selves.
      • Future Clotho pushes the button, indifferent to the pain of Past Clotho.
      • Future Lachesis refuses to push the button, starving herself.
      • Future Atropos attempts to kill Past Atropos by abusing the button, regardless of receiving food.
  • Experiment 4: A mouse will be sent to raise itself in the past with its mother.
    • Loop 1: A mother mouse raises a child mouse in isolation.
    • Loop 2: The child mouse, now an adult, is sent back through the Timepiece to raise itself with the mother. The adult mouse attempts to kill its past self.

The Recruitment of Gaines and Marian

In a version of the current timeline, both Gaines and Marian are recruited into ODAR. Sometime after October 28th, 1943, Marian is given the order to stop Gaines from joining ODAR.

  • Loop 1: Both Gaines and Marian are recruited by ODAR.
  • Loop 2: The current timeline, Marian destroys Gaines’s offer letter to work for ODAR.

The Multiple Petras

In order to execute the jailbreak plan for Maraczeck and Lambert, an infinite number of Petras traveled to the past, to other Petras’ timelines, to help them learn from their mistakes.

  • Petra 1: Taught by all the iterations before herself, Petra’s mission fails, so she uses the Timepiece to travel to the timeline of Petra 2.
  • Petra 2: Taught by Petra 1, she attempts the jailbreak plan and fails. Petra 1 dies, and Petra 2 travels to the timeline of Petra 3.
  • Petra 3: Taught by Petra 2, she attempts the jailbreak plan. Petra 3 is the Timeline 1 Petra, and she is currently still joined by Petra 2.

The Death of Cornish

In Timeline 1, Hank Cornish almost escapes after being revealed as ODAR’s mole. Partridge, from the Blackroom, rips him out of time and lands him in another timeline, where his corpse washes ashore and is found by that timeline’s Chet Whickman.


ODAR & You!

  • Dr. Grissom A briefly mentions Pepsi, which was invented way back in 1898.
  • This finale, this time around, made me think of two of my favorite non-podcast pieces of media. To explain would spoil both stories, but if you enjoyed ars PARADOXICA, there is a chance you will also enjoy the video game Bastion and the musical Hadestown–specifically the musical in this instance versus the 2010 concept album.
  • The weather in TULSA today is: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

ars PARADOXICA may be over, but my recaps still aren’t quite done. Keep an eye peeled for a few more posts about ars PARADOXICA in the future. For all of the ars PARADOXICA recaps, start with this post, or see all of the posts in the series here.


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