It's a rainy night in San Francisco. As Sean Flynn gets up from his stool at an outdoor restaurant and walks away, he passes an alley. As he does, he sees a flash of blue light and a hears a scream get cut off. He considers walking by, but changes his mind and enters the alley, calling out loud if someone needs help. But the person he finds is beyond anyone's help. Only half a body, split almost perfectly down the middle, remains of the mystery man. While Sean reacts to the gruesome display, he hears an electronic ringing. In the dead man's remaining hand is a strange-looking mobile phone, which Sean picks up...
In a remote location, a young woman—Aleph—sits in front of a bank of computers and rapidly shifting displays. "Who's this?" asks the man on the phone. "Who's this?" she answers back, while one of her computers confirms what she already realizes: the wrong person has answered the phone. "We have a protocol breach." From behind Aleph, another woman approaches the array of computers. Older, more focused, her face revealing guarded curiosity and a threat of danger: "I'm Miranda Zero. And you are on the Global Frequency."
Sean's first reaction is disbelief, but the seriousness of Miranda's tone holds him. Aleph has him use the scanner in the phone to show the corpse. Miranda identifies him as David Riggs, a GF agent. Aleph, surprised at Sean's even tone, wonders "Why isn't this guy running away screaming?" but Miranda presses on. GF has been monitoring small bursts of radiation, which began two weeks prior but have grown alarmingly in power and frequency. At the current rate of expansion, Aleph predicts 55 minutes until the blasts become big enough to rip apart entire city blocks. There's only one GF operative smart enough and close enough to be of any use...
University of San Francisco, a physics summit. A dozen scientists huddle around a whiteboard as Dr. Katrina Finch debates superstring theory. When her phone rings, she breaks off to answer: "955." "Dr. Katrina Finch, you are on the Global Frequency." Meanwhile, Miranda offers Sean a choice: stay in the alley and potentially save thousands of lives, or walk away. He agrees to stay until Finch arrives. With a few clicks, Aleph has found data on Sean—he's an ex-Marine and an ex-cop. When Finch arrives, her professional demeanor last just long enough for her to look at Sean and the half-a-corpse and throw up in a corner. Taking a few moments to recover, she fiddles with her science gear and confirms that the alley is littered with electromagnetic radiation, with the added pattern of human brain waves. "A person is doing this."
A San Francisco diner, where a sad-faced man enters and sits at a corner stool. Suddenly, a splash of red—a drop of blood has fallen from the man's nose into his glass of water. A handful of coins resting on the table suddenly turn on their edges and start rolling his way. Cell phones start going berserk. The man rises to his feet and hurriedly leaves the diner, just as the neon sign above him sparks, sputters and dies.
As Dr. Finch and Sean leave the alley, Finch wonders why the windows in the alley remained curiously unharmed in the midst of all that destruction. But Sean notices a small pile of snack wrappers and coffee cups and deduces what Riggs was doing in that alley: he had staked out an office building, the only one visible from that vantage point. But rather than use the street, the subject of Riggs' scrutiny had come up behind him in the alleyway. Working her computer magic, Aleph checks the list of people working in that building with the list of residents in the neighborhood of the first radiation flares, and produces a name: Jenkins. Dr. Finch hurries to find the suspect's house, and Sean decides to come along.
In the car, Sean attempts some small talk, but his eyes glaze over as Dr. Finch describes her six doctorates in more detail then he can handle. A comment about her social life gets her unexpectedly defensive. Arriving at Jenkins' apartment, Sean kicks in the door and they begin investigating. Sean goes straight for the fridge while Finch discovers a disturbing array of brain scans, gruesome photos, and personal diaries. Three keys left on top of a television set begin rattling and dancing, and the television snaps to life to display a video diary. "The seizures are getting worse" they hear Jenkins say on the tape.
From the apartment door, they hear Jenkins' voice again. There he stands, saying he claims not to want to hurt anyone, but even as he apologizes, white waves of energy begin to pour out of his head. "Nyet, nyet!" he screams. Dr. Finch drags Sean into Jenkins' bathroom, where they both stand in his glass-walled shower as she turns on the water. Jenkin's energy crashes around them...
They stumble out of the shower after the wave has passed. Sean can't believe he's not melted, and Finch explains that whatever power Jenkins possesses seems not to affect liquids like water and glass. Finch's phone rings, and Sean explains to Aleph and Miranda that a man named Jenkins wouldn't scream in Russian when his brain was on fire. Searching behind Jenkins' surviving fridge, Sean cuts his hand but finds a plastic bag containing a Soviet passport with Jenkins real name—Vladimir Putekin.
Aleph, with her multilingual skills, begins calling GF agents throughout the world. Via their GF phones, a woman in London analyzes satellite data while an ex-Soviet intelligence officer fills in Jenkins/Putekin's background in the Soviet army. An archivist in Washington DC links the man to Project Mercury, a Soviet psychic research program. Back in Dr. Finch's car, she bandages Sean's hand while she explains the Global Frequency: Miranda Zero, herself a former government agent, realized that no one agency could ever be ready for every possible catastrophe. She recruited experts from every field to spy on the spies, putting together pieces of data. When something comes, they stop it, whatever the cost.
Aleph has determined that all the Project Mercury scientists are dead, except for one named Oskar Sergeyev, who was brought to the U.S. by the NSA after the fall of the Soviet Union. The paper trail stops there, but Miranda has an idea. She tells Sean and Finch to continue tracking Jenkins, while she pays a visit to NSA Headquarters. Her connection is an NSA agent named Barry Julien, whom she threatens and cajoles into revealing Sergeyev's whereabouts—NSA Lockdown Zulu. At the lockdown facility, Miranda has built in a backdoor code, but she will have to work past the other security measures. With her bare hands (and Aleph's help on the GF phone), she knocks out two guards, fools a retinal scan and eludes soldiers by descending an elevator shaft. In his guarded suite underground, Sergeyev turns to find Miranda waiting for him on his couch.
Back in San Francisco, Finch realizes that the strength of Jenkins' bursts is linked to power drains on the city's electrical system. Aleph pinpoints his current location in a sparsely-populated industrial area. Sean takes this as a sign that Jenkins is trying to save lives and minimize damage—"a good guy." A few blocks away, two unfortunate police officers notice Jenkins acting strangely, and try to arrest him. Jenkins begs them to stay away, but his brain lets loose another wave, destroying the cops and their vehicle. Distraught, Jenkins runs away as Sean and Dr. Finch catch up. Sergeyev fills Miranda in on Project Mercury: they implanted a chip in Putekin's brain, which augmented his power. He was sent to the U.S. to be a human bomb on command. But the Soviet Union fell, and the chip was never intended to last for decades. It has begun to short-circuit in Putekin's brain, sending out surges he can't control, fed by the electrical power around him. Which is very bad news, since Dr. Finch and Sean have tracked him to one of San Francisco's generator substations...
Miranda's conversation is interrupted by soldiers under the command of General Purcell, who threatens to shoot Miranda on the spot. She tells him to contact the Secretary of Defense (at his unlisted mobile number!) and warn him that she knows what happened in Tecumseh, Idaho. The General orders Miranda to be kept under guard while he makes the call. When he returns, he tells Miranda that the Secretary has ordered her freed. "What happened in Tecumseh?" he asks her. No reply.
Aleph cannot shut down the power station remotely. There's a manual shutdown at the end of a dangerous vertical shaft, but neither Sean nor Finch can reach it. Improvising, Sean asks Aleph to locate a particular someone who can help. Taking a gun from the remains of the police car, he drives away, as Finch warns that Jenkins will overload in less than fifteen minutes. Elsewhere in San Francisco, a young, dark-haired girl opens her door. "Liz McKenna, you are on the Global Frequency." Sean convinces her to go with him. She is the team captain of the local college gymnastics team. Finch shows her where to go and what to do. After some crawling, a big jump and a swing from a pipe, Liz grabs hold of the breaker and kills power to the facility.
Jenkins' seizures stop, but he has already absorbed too much power, and Finch predicts he will overload in less than a minute. Sergeyev knows only one way to stop the overload: the chip in his brain must be destroyed, while still in Jenkins' skull. At first, Sean flatly refuses. Miranda reminds him that if he does not kill Jenkins, then he dies and so do Dr. Finch and Liz, as well as most of San Francisco. Torn by the decision, Sean points the gun at Jenkins, who takes hold of the gun himself to guide Sean to the right spot on his skull. In the instant before overload, Sean fires.
The next day, Sean sees Miranda for the first time when she meets him at a boat dock. She asks him to replace Riggs in the Global Frequency, to bring his detective skills to work as a field agent. Sean protests that he had no idea what he was doing, and Miranda tells him that in a world of uncertainty, improvisation is the most needed skill. He accepts, and Dr. Finch informs him that they will work together while she "trains" him. Both of their GF phones ring simultaneously, and on Aleph's computer screen, Sean Flynn's name appears as the newest agent in the roster of the Global Frequency.
- "There There" by Radiohead: Before Sean discovers the charred body of David Riggs, a bit of the opening to "There There" by Radiohead plays. "There There" was the first single released off Hail to the Thief, the band's sixth studio album.
Behind the Scenes
- Genesis: Although the characters of Dr. Finch and Sean Flynn were created for the series, the premise and plot of this episode—a human bomb, left over from the Cold War, loses control and threatens San Francisco—is loosely based on issue #1 of the Global Frequency comic book series. Jenkins' final line is an exact quote from the end of that issue. The "human bomb" in the comic was more elaborate, however, and was more like an experimental human wormhole pointed to a nuclear bomb in a remote Russian military base. When activated, it would cause instant nuclear annihilation without the warning associated with an aerial assault.
- Character Names: Because the leaked pilot did not have any end credits, the spelling of the supporting characters' names—Riggs, Vladimir Putekin, Barry Julien, Sergeyev, General Purcell, and Liz McKenna—is only supposition.
Allusions and References
- One of the Global Frequency agents makes reference to the Fortean Times, a British magazine devoted to mysterious or paranormal phenomena.
- (The opening of the pilot)
On-screen text: There are rumors of a conspiracy called the Global Frequency. A group of spies, experts and ordinary people... They save us from the threats that no one else sees or understands. The Global Frequency is real.
- (Sean has picked up the GF phone)
Miranda: I'm Miranda Zero. And you are on the Global Frequency.
Sean: Global Frequency?
Miranda: THE Global Frequency.
Sean: Yeah, I've seen the news, everybody's heard of you. It's just... the Global Frequency's an urban legend.
Aleph: Oh, well that's a step up. We're usually a fairy tale.
- Aleph: Sean, I'm Aleph. The nice one. (pointed look at Miranda)
- (Sean has found the remains of a GF agent.)
Miranda: I need you to collect data from the scene.
Sean: No, uh-uh, there's... half a guy here, and Alpha—
Sean: Whatever girl said radiation!
Aleph: Oh, like, one time!
- Sean: You're telling me that this kind of... that THIS... happens all the time?
Aleph: Ha! If you even knew just how many ultrasecret nightmares the government was covering up, you would never sleep again. Just curl up on your bed, weeping and waiting for the inevitable hellish apocalypse.
Sean: Thanks, thank you.
- Aleph: OK, your expert has arrived: Dr. Finch.
(Dr. Finch arrives, takes one look at the corpse, and vomits in a corner.)
Sean: I'm saved.
- Sean: People don't melt sidewalks, OK? Nobody can do that. I don't believe it.
Dr. Finch: The universe doesn't care what you believe. it doesn't have to make sense to you, it just has to make sense... Sorry for throwing up on you.
- Sean: (to Dr. Finch) You have a PhD in "weird science"?
- (Dr. Finch has described her six doctorates in detail.)
Sean: How'd you have time for a life?
Dr. Finch: I had a life.
Sean: Oh, yeah, I'm just saying—
Dr. Finch: I went out.
Sean: Good for you.
Dr. Finch: I had boyfriends. Many boyfriends.
Dr. Finch: Many.
- (Sean and Dr. Finch come to the locked door of a suspect.)
Sean: The door was open.
Dr. Finch: Huh?
(Sean kicks the door open.)
Dr. Finch: Subtle.
- Sean: I like simple answers and I have an elevated capacity for violence.
Dr. Finch: Is that useful?
Sean: You'd be surprised.
- Dr. Finch: On a molecular level, glass is a liquid.
Dr. Finch: Uh-huh.
- (Jenkins had an electromagnetic seizure, then fled.)
Sean: His name isn't Jenkins.
Sean: Guy shouted at us in Russian. Your body's frying, you don't scream out in your second language. I took high school French, when I got shot I didn't start yelling about the bibliothèque and my crayon jaune.
Aleph: You have a yellow pencil?
Sean: And it's tres gros.
- Miranda: Mr. Flynn, you are turning out to be one hell of a detective.
Sean: Thanks, and stop calling me "Mr. Flynn." You sound like my fifth-grade English teacher and you're pissing me off.
- Dr. Finch: If you are the best at what you do, no matter how strange or obscure or mundane, one day Miranda Zero appears on your door and hands you the phone. That means that what you do will save lives. You are needed. I'm needed.
- Dr. Finch: So science isn't real unless it's something you can punch or kick?
Sean: The kick test is a very good test.
- Barry: I can be fired for talking to you, all right? I can be fired for knowing you exist.
Miranda: Oh, stop panicking. You're an NSA agent, have a little dignity.
- Miranda: Hang up on me, I will kill your entire family.
Barry: Why won't you leave me alone?!
Miranda: Because we're friends, Barry.
- (Miranda asks where the NSA is holding Sergeyev.)
Barry: The National Security Agency has no such illegal facilities.
Miranda: Barry, I designed those illegal facilities. Which one is it?
Barry: He's in Zulu.
Miranda: Thank you. Don't even dream of telling them I'm coming.
- (Miranda has 60 seconds to break into an NSA facility.)
Miranda: I left a backdoor code when I designed it.
Aleph: What is it?
Miranda: Your birthday.
Aleph: Oh, that's so sweet! Fifty-five seconds!
(Thirty-five seconds later...)
Miranda: Uh, yeah, Aleph? There's a keyboard access to the retinal scan.
Miranda: Did you just say--
Aleph: Use the phone, I'll decrypt. (Aleph works on the code while Miranda disables a guard.)
Aleph: In 5, 4, 3, 2... (an elevator door opens) You didn't doubt me, did you?
Miranda: (rolls her eyes as the elevator descends)
- Sean: Jenkins doesn't want to hurt anybody, he's a good guy.
Dr. Finch: Oh, there's no way for you to know that.
Sean: C'mon Kate, didn't you ever just know something? You know, in your gut?
Dr. Finch: (pause, thinks) I hate when you call me Kate?
Sean: Right, see, good start.
- General Purcell: You are very, very under arrest.
- General Purcell: You don't have the right to be on government--
Miranda: I am saving lives. That gives me the right. No government and no border stops me.
General Purcell: You're stopped now.
- Sean: We have ten minutes before everyone in San Francisco dies. Please, you're needed.
- (There is only one way to prevent Jenkins from overloading.)
Sean: I'm not shooting a man in cold blood!
Miranda: You do understand that if you don't do this, you will die.
Sean: Fine, fine.
Miranda: And Dr. Finch dies, and that young girl you just pulled out of bed dies. And three million other people die. Sean, this is what we do. We make the choices, and we accept the consequences. We walk with blood on our hands so that other people don't have to.
- (Jenkins holds the gun against his own head.)
Jenkins: You would have missed.
- Sean: Miranda Zero... your real name?
Miranda: It's the only one you're getting.
- Sean: I don't know if you noticed, but... I had no idea what I was doing.
Miranda: Yes, you were singularly clueless.
Sean: Totally making it up as I went along.
Miranda: And when nothing is certain, there is no skill more valuable than that of improvisation... I've lost my detective. Be my detective.
Sean: I don't trust you.
Miranda: I've done unspeakable things. But when I formed Global Frequency, I made a bet: that ordinary people will do extraordinary things, given the chance. And I was right. And it's made everything worth it.
- Sean: Partners?
Dr. Finch: No, I—I'm training you.
- (last lines of the pilot)
Aleph: (facing the camera) You are on the Global Frequency.