Warning: contains spoilers for The Lazarus Project finale.
Even if season one of The Lazarus Project ended with all the characters safe, happy and playing gin rummy while the world enjoyed a sunny, peril-free existence, a second season renewal for this sci-fi thriller would still have been essential because The Lazarus Project is great viewing. It’s exciting and involving, action-filled and, despite its darker-than-dark premise, often very funny (see: Shiv’s corpse landing neatly intact at George’s feet after he’s taken extreme effort to dispose of it in an exploding car. I laughed louder than at that photo of a monkey, taken by a monkey). Whatever happened in the finale, we were always going to want more.
And more is now here. The eight-episode second season arrives on Wednesday November 15 on Sky Max, NOW and Sky Go.
As the minutes ticked down on series one’s finale, it became clearer and clearer that this show was in no way a one-and-done deal. Things went from bad to worse to massive, global, bad, worse and hang on, Rebrov’s back at HQ, Shiv survived being shot by George, and Sarah took the serum! Let’s unpack it all below.
The Other Lazarus Project
The finale revealed that the Chinese secret service had been tracking the Lazarus Project for years. They’d developed their own serum to give their agents the ability to remember time loops and made their own version of the reset machine. However, in 2024, the copycat Chinese machine apparently went wrong. It caused – to use Wes and George’s technical terms – “a big fucking explosion in space” which meant everything in the universe got “zapped” and the singularity was “fucked”.
When everything was zapped, the Lazarus machine wound the clock back to the last July 1st checkpoint thanks to a dead man’s switch that causes it to automatically reset if it’s ever destroyed. The result was a time loop in which the new singularity destroys the universe three weeks after the July 1st checkpoint, after which the Lazarus machine resets everything back to July 1st, and it all happens again and again and again in an unending cycle.
The only person with the knowledge to make the Chinese machine was apparently ex-Lazarus agent and super brain Janet (Vinette Robinson), who’d gone to ground with her daughter when Rebrov went rogue. Luckily for the Chinese, in 2022 George (Paapa Essiedu) led them straight to Janet when Rebrov sent him to her to build the detonator for his soon-to-be-stolen warhead. The Chinese hired mercenaries to kidnap Janet (and presumably her daughter) and had her working on the problem. To fix the current three-week time loop, it’s now imperative for the Lazarus agents to find Janet, but the problem is… Janet’s no longer here.
Janet and Rebrov’s Codes, and Time Travel
Spies that they are, Lazarus agents/ power couple Janet and Rebrov used codes to hide secret messages in apparently harmless phrases. “Big plans are afoot” means immediately kill whomever says it, “this couldn’t have gone any other way” apparently means to trust whomever says it, and “it’ll be worth the wait” means that one of them is in trouble and needs rescuing.
That last one is the message Janet leaves on the notepaper at her Hamburg kidnap site (the Chinese apparently brand their top-secret time machine project with proprietary notepaper?), and – here’s the mind-bending part – it’s the message she also texts to Rebrov in 2012 on the day he first asks Janet out. That was long before the couple set up the codes, which is why Dennis dismisses the message as nonsense at first. In 2012, when Dennis received the text, Janet was taking a photograph of him, which is what jogged his memory about the message in 2024. Dennis realises that present-day Janet must have travelled back in time to summer 2012, which is why he received the text message with their special code before they were even a couple.
Where is present-day-Janet? In London, just as it gears up for the 2012 Olympic Games. Geographically, she’s likely in the tower behind Dennis in the photograph past-her took of him when he was receiving now-her’s text message. And if Lazarus wants Janet back, they’re going to need the help of Dennis Rebrov.
George, Sarah and the Serum
Oh George. Like the big, romantic wally he is, when George lost Sarah to an unforgiving rubbish truck, he tried to end the world to bring her back again. He stole and detonated a nuclear warhead, and then massacred the Russian ambassador and her people to try to kickstart WWIII and force Lazarus into resetting the clock. They did, but the lesson is to be careful what you wish for. George got Sarah back, but – as Shiv’s wry “We’ll see” predicted – things were different this time around.
If buying a burrito or feeding a cat can avert an apocalypse, then losing your beloved after being drop-kicked into the traumatising world of Lazarus can change someone enough to shunt their relationship off the tracks. Not to mention the brilliantly wiggy idea that people who can’t remember time loops can sort of remember time loops, they just have no context for their impulses to say, panic at the sight of rubbish trucks, or – in Sarah’s case – to grab life by the horns and really live it because she’s just been rewound from a reality in which she was very much not living life.
So, George and Sarah went wrong. Until they went right again. Turned on by George’s confession of super-spy status, Sarah (Charly Clive) ditched PE teacher Carl and all was well. And then the world ended. After countless three-week loop iterations caused by the messed-up singularity, George decided the only way this was going to work was if Sarah could also remember the time loops. So he gave her the Morpheus in The Matrix choice – red pill/blue pill, serum/no serum, wake up/stay asleep. In the final moments of the finale, Sarah burst into their flat with the words “Fucking hell, you can time travel!” and George smiled. She must have taken the serum and is now in on the secret. Will it be happily ever after for them now? I mean, unlikely, but whatever happens, we need to see it.
Plus these unanswered questions!
Where is Janet and Rebrov’s daughter? Last seen in hiding with her mother in Barcelona, is the little girl in the custody of the Chinese secret service and are they using her to manipulate Janet into doing what they want?
Did Rebrov want to be caught? Archie theorises that Dennis let himself be captured, possibly so that he could get inside intel on Lazarus. Is she right?
What exactly is ‘The Machine’? George is told it’s not strictly a machine, and Wes refuses to answer Rebrov when he demands to see it and to meet whomever it is that enacts the resets when she orders them. Wes also refers to the “dead man’s switch on our end” of the reset process, which rather poses the question, who is on the other end?
When did The Lazarus Project start? The earliest recruitment we witness is Shiv’s as a teenager when Wes comes to bring him in during the 1990s. We know the project was operational in the early 1960s, from a speech by Archie (Anjli Mohindra) in the very first episode. Who recruited Wes, and who’s higher up the chain of command? Is it a person or something… else?
The Lazarus Project series two is airing weekly on Sky Max and available to stream in full on NOW.