Amazing Stories – Apple+ Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review

The Cellar

Time travel stories and ideas have been around since the 9th Century and since then, have only grown in popularity. Whether it be a man hell-bent on changing the past to save his beloved, a Goosebumps episode featuring a cuckoo clock of doom or a mad man with a police box travelling through space and time, every avenue of this concept has been dissected, explored and presented in all sorts of media forms.

Amazing Stories’ debut episode, The Cellar, isn’t a particularly original time travel story but it does have enough heart and ideas to make it an enjoyable watch nonetheless. The ideas surrounding paradoxes and changing the past have been done multiple times before, but there’s enough in this to make for a compelling 50 minute episode.

Episode 1 of Amazing Stories begins with Sam and his brother Jake arriving at a run-down house and contemplating how they’re going to fix it up to its original glory. Sam however, is too distracted by photos on his phone to really admire the beauty in the cellar. That evening, Sam meets the girl Francesca in a bar and it’s here he tells her that he and Jake fix up houses together. After the date, we cut back to the house where the brothers discuss the future, with Sam’s brother telling him he needs to find his purpose in life.

Inside the house, Sam finds a hidden treasure box with a picture of a bride inside and some match sticks. However, an air-raid siren wails overhead, leading the brothers to scramble inside as a storm begins to rage.

In the cellar, Sam has a headache, complete with ringing in his ears, leading him to hurry back up the stairs where he finds himself transported back through time. Infront of him is the woman from the picture, who happens to be called Evelyn, holding a shotgun up to his face and counting back from 5, as a horse-drawn carriage carrying her Mother arrives.

While her Mother berates Evelyn for her taste in music, Sam saves her scolding as he takes the records away and tells her the music is his. As her Mother leaves, Sam tries to convince Evelyn that he’s a time traveler.

That evening Sam arrives at Evelyn’s engagement party and introduces himself to her Grandfather, the one who built the house originally, and asks him about the cellar. With few clues to go on, Sam and Evelyn head out together that evening and talk about the future, before she takes him to a jazz club where they dance.

Unfortunately, Evelyn’s Mother sees her leave the club and their argument leads Evelyn to head home and start packing her things up, intent on leaving forever. Sam meanwhile, finds a potential way back to the future, as he spies the familiar barometer and tells Evelyn he’ll find a way to bring her back with him to the present.

Sam and Evelyn immediately hit it off and start falling for one another while Evelyn prepares for her wedding. In the meantime, Sam continues to work as a montage sees us jump forward several days as the couple wait hopefully for the storm to arrive, believing it to be the catalyst that’ll make the barometer work. Unfortunately, Evelyn’s fiance catches them conspiring together and as he takes her away, Sam is beaten down in the cellar. It’s enough for him to hear the ringing in his ears again, as he jumps back to the present.

Sam listens to the weather outside and contemplates how to get back to 1919 again. Realizing he needs another storm to hit, he waits for the “Super Derecho” in order to teleport him back to the past. As the air-raid siren wails again, Sam returns to the cellar and watches as the barometer rings and transports him back. Only…it transports him to the future instead where he sees Evelyn singing to a 5 year old child named Sam.

Sam manages to transport himself back to the past again as the cellar starts to fill with water. He heads up and finds Evelyn, grabbing her by the hand and leading her to the cellar. As the house starts to fall apart, Sam finds himself trapped but tells Evelyn to use the barometer and leave him behind.

Evelyn jumps back to the present where she finds Jake and he realizes the gravitas of what’s happened. As Jake and Evelyn sit and talk together, they find a hidden letter in the cellar that confirms Sam’s in 1919. Evelyn reads the note and learns Sam didn’t die in the storm. A gorgeous split-scene ensues as we see him finally finding his place in the past while she’s in the present. This ultimately presents the paradox – as Sam leaves the picture and the box for himself to find in the future where the episode ends.

As a straight forward time travel story, The Cellar does well to add some character and charm to this tale, with the vague time travel concepts wisely left to our imagination to figure out rather than trying to explain with exposition. Some of the political writing, including the Women’s Right protest through the village at the end, and the jab at Climate Change midway through, feel like odd inclusions in an episode chock full of charm and heart.

While these topics are important, it’s questionable whether they really needed to be placed in the middle of this story about finding purpose and a place you belong. The poetic nature of Sam and Evelyn both needing to be in different time periods to find their place is a really nice message and something that helps this episode stand out. So far so good, the series gets off to a good start here and while the story is hardly amazing unto itself, there’s enough here to suggest the series is building some solid foundations to grow into.

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