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Why Rembrandt Brown Was the Real Main Character of Sliders
We're all the Crying Man.
Between 1995 and 2000, viewers went along for a ride across the multiverse in Sliders (streaming now on Peacock). The story begins in the home of Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell), a graduate student and experimental physicist tinkering with antigravity in his basement. The machine he makes doesn’t negate gravity, but it does open a portal onto an alternate reality. After 15 minutes in a topsy-turvy world, Quinn returns home, picks up his friend Wade Welles (Sabrina Lloyd) and mentor Professor Maxamilian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), and goes for another dip in the ocean of infinite possibilities.
Meanwhile, a struggling musician named Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown (Cleavant Derricks) is driving toward his big comeback. Rembrandt used to sing with a group called The Spinning Topps – with hits like “Tears in my ‘Fro,” “Cry Like a Man,” and “Head-Butt Me” – and earned his stage name “The Crying Man” for his ability to shed real tears while performing. The group had a falling out and Rembrandt’s career has been in continual decline ever since. But he’s on his way to sing the national anthem at a San Francisco Giants game, and that’s going to fix everything.
Quinn, Wade, and Arturo leap into the unknown and some unexpected portal mechanics send the vortex out of the basement, out of the house, and into the street. Rembrandt, in a hurry to get to the most important gig of his life, is sucked through the portal and into a different world. The show was built around O’Connell’s Quinn Mallory, the young boy genius who invents sliding and pushes humanity into an endless buffet of brave new worlds, but it wasn’t his show. Not really. Sliders is really the story of Rembrandt Brown.
Rembrandt Brown's Call to Multiverse Adventure on Sliders
The four sliders find themselves in the first of many new worlds with five hours on the countdown clock. Quinn, Arturo, and Wade are in a version of Quinn’s house, but Rembrandt has crashed his Cadillac into a wall of ice outside. The four of them have arrived on a version of Earth in the midst of an ice age, complete with deadly ice tornadoes. It seems unlikely that they'll survive until the timer reaches zero, so Quinn opens another portal, and they jump through it.
The early leap saved their lives, but messed up the timer. Now they are adrift in spacetime, visiting random worlds for random durations, hoping that the next world they land on will be their own. The four of them are all in it together, and they all have to rely on one another to survive and get home, but only Rembrandt is there through the whims of fate. Quinn built the machine and chose, more than once, to use it. Wade and the professor at least knew what they were doing when they decided to jump. Rembrandt was quite literally swept up in the adventure.
Rembrandt is our Everyman, the otherwise benign protagonist who serves as a stand-in for the audience. Most of us aren’t graduate-level physics students, professors, or their friends, but most of us have dreams and opportunities, and most of us can relate to getting pulled into situations outside of our control by forces we don’t totally understand. If there’s anyone we can identify with on this trip through the back rooms of the cosmos, it’s Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown.
From Stowaway to Sliding Veteran
Rembrandt’s non-consensual inclusion in the vortex is a source of contention between him and his sliding companions (Quinn in particular) at first, but they quickly become something like a family. More importantly, sliding into alternate worlds gives Rembrandt the chance to see the road not taken, and learn that it isn’t always better. In fact, it rarely is.
In every world they visit, things usually remain less than ideal, but in new and creative ways. Throughout the series, Rembrandt sees himself living a variety of lives, from being part of the nobility to being the famous performer he always believed himself to be. In every case, the benefits of the alternate path come with heavy costs. Even with infinite worlds at their fingertips, the grass is almost always greener, and without exception they'd give it all up to get back to the world they know.
Over time, dreams of stardom give way to caring for his friends and companions and hoping to get home. Later, getting home comes with the added goal of eradicating the interdimensional Kromagg invasion of Earth Prime. In short, Rembrandt grows to fill the shoes he accidentally stepped into, and it’s a good thing too. Before long, he’s the only veteran slider left.
Rembrandt Takes Charge and Saves the World(s)
Quinn Mallory may have been the protagonist when the series started, even if Rembrandt was always our POV character, but that was doomed to change. By the end of Season 3, Rembrandt had survived the death of Professor Arturo and the loss of Wade. Worst of all, Wade suffers a fate worse than death at a Kromagg camp, something Rembrandt never really got over.
Later, even Quinn is lost when he is combined with his alternate (the version of Quinn from another world) during a sliding mishap. Something of the original Quinn survives for a while, buried inside, but is eventually lost in the psychological mishmash left over from the combination of two people. Even Quinn’s long, lost brother gets lost again, this time for good, when he gets unstuck (unable to exist in any one reality) in the multiverse.
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Other sliders join the group, in ones and twos to fill the gaps, but of the original four who left Earth Prime, only Rembrandt remains. Since the beginning, each episode has opened with a voiceover spoken by Quinn. By Season 5, even that has fallen to Rembrandt.
When we reach the end of Season 5 and the end of the series, there is one last portal and it opens up on Earth Prime, but there’s a near guarantee that the sliders won’t survive the jump. In the end, it is Rembrandt who jumps into the vortex alone, knowing it almost definitely leads to his own doom, in the hope that it might liberate Earth Prime from Kromagg dominion.
Quinn Mallory may have invented sliding, but Rembrandt Brown perfected it.
Catch the complete series of Sliders streaming right now on Peacock.