The Lazarus Project Recap: Series One’s Time Loops & Resets Explained

With series two out now, here’s where George, Shiv, Rebrov, Janet and the time loop were left after series one’s cliffhanger.

Paapa Essiedu in The Lazarus Project series 2
Photo: Sky Max

Warning: contains major spoilers for The Lazarus Project series one.

The new series of The Lazarus Project on Sky does not mess about. Episode one plunges viewers straight back into the action and expects them to keep up with George and the gang’s time travel twists. The last time we saw them, they were stuck in a constantly repeating three-week loop caused by a collapsing-in-on-itself black hole and everybody was losing their sanity. As series two introduces more time travel to the plot, things only get more complicated.

If your memory of all that needs a little refresher on what everybody was up to the last time we saw them, with series one spoilers ahead, read on.

The Very Short Version: Resets, Time Loops & 2012

As brief as we can make it: George betrayed the Lazarus Project by causing a global war so they’d have to reset time to before his girlfriend Sarah died in an accident. He killed Shiv and framed him as the traitor, and when time was reset, Shiv disappeared. George got Sarah back, but this time around she dumped him.

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Shiv came back a year later on the eve of the July 1 2024 checkpoint with a clue to the whereabouts of kidnapped ex-Lazarus agent Janet, but George shot him dead at midnight before he could read it.

Three weeks later, a black hole created by Janet’s kidnappers destroyed the world, which triggered the Lazarus machine’s dead man’s switch, resetting time back to the 2024 checkpoint. Everyone is currently stuck in an automatically repeating loop of the same three weeks, starting at the midnight when George shoots Shiv. The only person who might be able to fix the loop is Janet, who’s somehow been sent back to 2012 by her kidnappers. And finally, Sarah took the serum that means she can remember time resets and now knows about everything.

The Slightly Longer Version: George, Sarah, Rebrov & Shiv

The world of The Lazarus Project has ended many, many times before (due to nuclear war, global pandemics, chemical and biological weapons, you name it…) but whenever the world has ended, top secret organisation Lazarus has used black hole-related technology to reset time back to the checkpoint day on the previous July 1. They then do whatever’s required to stop that particular apocalypse from happening and try to keep the world going until the next July 1, which then becomes the new checkpoint day (think of it as a videogame save point – until you reach it, you’re in danger of losing everything).

Series one saw app developer everyman George (Paapa Essiedu) recruited to the organisation. George has a rare genetic mutation that means he naturally remembers the period of time rewound that everybody else forgets – a gift/curse that most Lazarus agents get by injecting a special serum.

When George’s girlfriend Sarah (Charly Clive) is hit by a truck and dies, George secretly betrays Lazarus and conspires with rogue agent Rebrov (Tom Burke) to engineer a global war so that the clock will be reset to when she was still alive. George kills fellow agent and genetic mutant Shiv (Rudi Dharmalingam), and frames Shiv as the traitor. When the clock resets to July 1 2023, and Shiv comes to confront him, George says that killing him will only make Shiv look guiltier to Lazarus, and so Shiv goes to ground.

George gets Sarah back alive, but in this 2023, with a vague sense (but no real memory) of her previous timeline, she finds herself dissatisfied, turns down his proposal and breaks up with him. (Months later, Sarah tells George that she’s getting married to somebody else, and it’s only when she then stumbles on his exciting time-travel secret agent life that she starts things up with him again.)

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On the eve of the next checkpoint: June 30th 2024, Shiv visits George to show him a note left by Janet (Vinette Robinson) – a former Lazarus agent and Rebrov’s partner whom Shiv was tracking down after she was kidnapped – but George thinks Shiv is there to kill him, so he shoots him dead at the stroke of midnight and dumps the body before he can read the blood-soaked note.

Three weeks later, George is about to be arrested on suspicion of murder after his neighbour Reggie reported the gunshot, and CCTV showed George moving a body, but time rewinds back to midnight on June 30th, just as George has fired the bullet that killed Shiv.

Whoever kidnapped Janet was attempting to create their own Lazarus “machine” using black holes but it went wrong and created a continual three-week time loop between the black hole collision and the previous checkpoint.

Through multiple iterations of shooting Shiv at midnight on June 30, George uses his paramedic neighbour Reggie (Bradley John) to stabilise Shiv long enough to get the message from Janet. The clue leads to Janet’s ex Rebrov, who realises that she’s been sent back in time to 2012. As Janet is the only person who can fix the constant time loop, they now need to go back in time to find her and her (and Rebrov’s) daughter.

In a Bit More Detail: Why George Keeps Shooting Shiv and Reggie

With Shiv, George doesn’t have a choice – it was a “I’ve started so I’ll finish” kind of deal. When everybody jumped back three weeks to the midnight between June 30th/July 1st, George had already pulled the trigger and so couldn’t decide not to do it. He just had to learn how to clear up after shooting the gun, and how to stabilise Shiv using his paramedic neighbour Reggie.

George has to keep killing Reggie to silence him and cover his tracks. In the original timeline, Reggie alerted the police to the gunshot he heard, which led to George being arrested on suspicion of murder before the three-week time loop kicked in. It’s not quite the same as an actual murder, because while the time loop is in operation, George knows that Reggie will come back to life again.

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How Did George Betray Wes, Archie and Lazarus?

After Sarah died, George colluded with Lazarus Project prisoner, rogue agent Rebrov, to find Janet in Barcelona and have her make a detonator for the stolen nuclear warhead nicknamed “Big Boy”. When a suspicious Shiv followed his trail, George killed him and framed him for his own acts of betrayal. George detonated Big Boy in a remote Russian countryside, but it didn’t cause enough widespread murder for Lazarus to reset time, so he took a different tack and murdered the Russian ambassador and her family and staff to provoke Russia and the US into a global missile war.

The sting of George’s betrayal is even more bitter for Archie because the man she loved – Lazarus agent Ross (Brian Gleeson) – also died, but she did what George couldn’t do and resisted the temptation to destroy the world to bring him back.

What Happened With Janet, Rebrov, and Their Baby?

Both former agents, they met while working at Lazarus and in 2012, became a couple. In 2018, they had a baby son, but he was conceived and born between the 2017 and 2018 July 1 checkpoints, so when Shiv failed in his mission to stop an attack, the timeline was reset and Rebrov and Janet went back to July 2017 to before they’d conceived their son and lost him.  

Still grieving their son, they got pregnant again, but this time with a baby girl who was conceived before the checkpoint but born after it. That meant that every time Lazarus reset the clock to the 2018 checkpoint (which happened multiple times because of the Archie/Ross storyline), Janet and the baby re-experienced the traumatic birth time and time again. Making it worse for Janet is that she knew that their daughter had the ability to remember time loops and so was traumatised by re-experiencing all of her past births too.

Before one of the resets, Janet drove into traffic and took both of their lives. Then she left Lazarus and disappeared with the baby girl, and Rebrov became a rogue agent hell-bent on destroying the project.

Who is Zhang Rhui and Who Are Janet’s Kidnappers?

Zhang Rhui is a former Chinese government agent employed by the group that kidnapped Janet. George had inadvertently led them straight to Janet and her daughter in Barcelona when he sought her out to make the nuclear detonator for “Big Boy”. When Shiv tracked Janet and her kidnappers to Hamburg and raided their lab, Zhang escaped with Janet, who’d left a note behind in the lab that read “It’ll be worth the wait”. The message was a code she shared with her former partner Rebrov, which meant “I’m in danger. Come and find me.”

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When Archie tracked down Zhang, she learned that she had also taken the serum and could remember time loops, and that the group she worked for was trying to make their own Lazarus time-reset machine using a black hole. They teamed up and raided Janet’s known location, but found it empty. That’s because they were in the right location but the wrong year – Janet was no longer in 2024, but in 2012.

Sarah and the Serum

George stole a vial of the time-loop-remembering serum from Lazarus and gave Sarah the choice of whether or not to take it. She evidently chose to, because at the end of series one she rushes in just after the checkpoint and exclaims that George can time travel. All change for series two!

The Lazarus Project series two starts on Wednesday November 15 at 9pm on Sky Max, and is available to stream on NOW and Sky Go in the UK.