Spoilers. If you have not seen season 1-3 of Travelers, you should probably do so before reading further.
Last chance. Don’t read any further unless you’re ready…
Okay, here we go.
Season 3 of Travelers ended in a time paradox, at least based on old perspectives regarding time-travel theory. Mac went back further in the past to prevent the initial Traveler program from launching with 001, which means he would never have been sent back in the first place, but here’s the thing. Based on modern understanding of how time travel would work with crossover timelines and alleged time loops or paradoxes, this is all perfectly feasible. A Traveler from the future could change the past in a way that would eliminate their own existence and still continue in their new timeline even though they will never have been born.
Multiverse theory is complicated, but the important thing to understand is that it works. Mac can now exist in 2001 and retain memories of the previous timeline he just left as well as memories from the future even if his actions mean his future will no longer exist. They played around with this concept a little in season 1 when they prepared to take action to stop Helios-685 from hitting Earth. They knew they could erase their very existence and made the vow that they were willing to do so for the greater good. They didn’t disappear, though, which matches with things current multiverse theory stipulates.
The science works out.
This is all extremely important because it means that the events of season 1-3 did happen. They weren’t wasted time, as so many time travel representations from Hollywood and other mediums claim. Erasing one’s future existence would not cause a time loop or a paradox according to the modern theory. It just creates a separate piece of the multiverse within the space-time continuum. I’m hammering this home so fans won’t believe the three seasons they just watched never happened. They did, just not in the timeline that was created when Mac went back to 2001.
He remembers it. The events occurred. Now, using this knowledge, Mac and the Director have an opportunity to do it right with the next iteration of the Traveler program.
Three possibilities going forward
Possibilities one and two are longshots, but they must be mentioned. Netflix could choose not to renew for another season and nobody else picks it up. This is unlikely due to the popularity of the show, but stranger things have happened. The other possibility is a complete reboot from the moment Mac warned the Director not to send 001. New stars to join Mac, new problems to fix, etc. Fans won’t like that at all.
The third possibility is that season 4 will start the Traveler Program Version Two and will include Mac, Trevor, Philip, Carly, and possibly a few others. The reason I believe this is the most likely scenario is because of the S3E10 ending with Marcy and David. Their story was closed. With no 001 coming back to damage Marcy’s brain, she’ll be able to just be a nurse. The corny fan-favored sendoff of two of the most liked characters in the series finding each other without the Traveler program interfering in their lives was designed to give them a cute farewell, but they likely won’t be back. Neither will Kat, who will now likely marry John since Mac never stole her from him.
If they were going to do a complete reboot without any other returning characters, they would turn off too many fans.
How will they get there? The clues are in Mac’s final scenes…
He went to the World Trade Center to send a message to the Director.
But as he peers out the window less than 15 minutes before the first plane hit the building at 8:47 am, he doesn’t see a plane in the distance.
His eyes dart around the sky and he gets a subtle look of confusion on his face.
He checks his watch.
At this point, he realizes things aren’t happening as they should be. Then, it occurs to him. Things have changed.
His message worked and in this new timeline the Director is able to send Travelers back further. With the original 001 prevented from going back, the Director can start over. It did, and as we’ll find out in the beginning of season 4, the second version of the Traveler Program launched earlier than the first.
Version one’s failure means they need to change more things. The Director thought the beginning of the end was Helios-685, but now realizes they need to go back further. They’ll need to stop the direction the world was taking even before the asteroid hit.
This is why Mac is confused. Thanks to his message, the Director started version two of the Traveler Program before the terrorist attacks. The version two Travelers stopped the 9/11 attacks.
Some would argue the planes would be too far away to see with the time left. It’s possible that Mac’s plan was to leave the building either way, but it appears he makes a decision at that moment to continue the mission based on this new information that 9/11 was not about to happen. Whether version 2 of the program stopped 9/11 or if the planes are just too far away to see them, this theory works.
From there, they’ll likely fast-forward to the same day when season 1, episode 1 started. The deaths of the three returning Travelers and a new doctor will bring them all together to meet Mac, who has been doing his thing for the previous 15 years. It’s far-fetched to think that without 9/11, Carly, Trevor, and Phillip would still die the same way, but viewers will suspend disbelief because they want Mac, Carly, Trevor, and Phillip back in action.
In episode 1, season 4, the new team will start to ask questions about what they did in the previous timeline. They’ll note that the Director hasn’t told them anything about the previous timeline because it doesn’t have a historical record of it, but after years of debriefing with Mac it’s aware of some of the pitfalls they’ll need to avoid this time around. By doing it like this, they can avoid cheating fans out of feeling the first three seasons were meaningless since they never actually happened. Again, they did happen based on modern scientific interpretations and as such, this new timeline is only possible as a result of the events that led to Mac going back to 2001.
None of it was in vain. All of it was part of the grand plan.
They started getting into a lot more social commentary in the third season. Changing the events of 9/11 will allow them to get into even more.
They’ll need to reintroduce the Faction into the mix, but I imagine they’ll do so with a bit of a twist. This new iteration of the Faction will need different goals and should be stronger than they were in the first three seasons. This can be done by changing their backstory and replacing 001 with a different type of leader, perhaps an opposing AI or a 21st century organization that captured some Travelers and is now using their knowledge to advance their own goals without a care for the repercussions they’ll have on people in a distant future.
All of this makes me wish I could work with the season 4 team, but instead I’ll have to wait around for the next season like everyone else.
Whether these theories are true or not, one thing is certain. It would be crazy if Netflix didn’t choose to renew Travelers for at least two more seasons. The faster they do it, they more buzz they’ll get for the show immediately.