Paradox: The Time Travel Podcast

Episode 14: Primer, Part 1

Finally, we’ve come to the smoking hot ridiculously-convoluted-best-friend-betrayal-so-you-can-look-baller-at-a-party of time travel, “Primer.”

Often exalted as one of the best time travel movies out there, “Primer” is a 2004 indie film written and directed by, and starring, Shane Carruth. In a big way, it’s one of the most technically exacting time travel movies, and it’s often thought of as being pretty difficult to follow as a result. But that’s why we’re here!

As always, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve watched the movie before listening, because we’re going to spoil the hell out of it. We’d also recommend you watch it more than once. Like, at least twice. And the second time, probably you should turn on subtitles, because it’ll help you catch some snatches of dialogue that are essential to the plot but easily missed.

Another quick note: by now you’ll have seen the “Part 1” up there in the headline. Ridiculously convoluted as “Primer” is known to be — believe us when we say it’s one of the movie’s charms — we wound up recording an insane, double-wide near 2.5 hours of episode for this one. As such, we’ve split Episode 14 into two parts, hopefully making it more digestible for you, our beloved listeners. Both episodes are live simultaneously, so if you’re looking for Episode 14, Part 2, this is your link.

Without further adieu, listen to Episode 14, Part 1!

Here’s some additional reading we did on “Primer” that might help with interpretations. Best used after viewing but probably before listening to this episode:

A quick graphic showing off how the “Primer” time machine works:

650px-Time_Travel_Method-2(By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1134354)

And this handy plot rundown from qntm.org. We consider this one pretty damn close to a definitive read on the movie (although we have a couple spots where we take issue, as mentioned in the episode). This rundown is also great for seeing key time travel moves and drawing clear lines from lines of dialogue and character motivations to how they play out in the film.

In this episode:

  • It’s “Primer” Time
  • The Plot
  • The Narrator
  • The Machine and How It Works
  • Day One
  • Day Two and How All This Time Travel Nonsense Works
  • The One-Time Use Only Fallacy (That Isn’t One)
  • The Boss Discussion
  • Attic Birds
  • Day 3
  • What Aaron Bleeding Is All About
  • Oh Yeah That Party That’s Actually Integral to the Plot
  • Rachel and Thomas Granger
  • Day 4
  • The Cell Phone and Its Significance
  • Abe’s Plan
  • Tom Granger Appears and What the Hell That’s All About
  • Day 1(a)
  • Aaron’s Lengthy, Not Super-Clear Explanation
  • Aaron Prime (the Timeline Original), Aaron-2 (the First Time Traveler) and Aaron-3 (the second time traveler)

In the next episode of Paradox, we’ll be hitting up some magical time travel with “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (movie not book), in order to lead into the newly released script, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

If you want to talk about “Primer,” especially if we’re not clear anything or you want to argue with our interpretations, come find us on Twitter at @hewizard and @philhornshaw!

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