So the time machine trope has been kind of done to death at this point. Regardless of whether or not its meant as comedy (see Fox’s new opus, Making History) or a Sci-Fi drama (my current favorites are The Time Machine and Primer) or anything else, all us fans now know the moment anyone busts out a time machine, it’s all downhill from there. Ripples in time, like ripples in a pond, go concentrically out and have a tendency to affect the past, present, and potentially even the future. But who cares! We’re doing it again, and hopefully we will have learned from past – are they past? Future? Alternate past? something – mistakes enough not to repeat them.
We begin with this private industry company, Mason Industries, who made a time machine. And then, as was inevitable, this mad dude called Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic), stole it. Then, of course, three less-than-ordinary folks were conscripted to take the second time machine prototype the company was already building, called the Lifeboat, and go after Flynn!
Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) is a passionate History professor second to none, rather like Dr. Nathan Heywood from Legends of Tomorrow in her ability to drop all kinds of interesting information on nearly any time period in history you can think of! Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) is a scientist who helped build the infernal time machines, and bears the enormous responsibility of being the only one able to pilot the silly thing when our trio goes back on their trips. And rounding them out is Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a U.S. Army Delta Force operative, with a bunch of darkness in his own past and his own personal vendetta concerning the murder of his wife. All three are reluctant and skeptical to strap into the rounded pod of an untested time machine, but that first jaunt to stop Flynn from preventing the Hindenburg disaster changes all their tunes!
And what’s Flynn’s problem? In true Doctor Who fashion, Flynn got ahold of a diary (it even has a blue leather cover, hah) Lucy compiled and somehow wibbley-wobbly-timey-wimey gave to him, describing all the time travel adventures she actually hasn’t gone on yet. Flynn’s plan is to use the information in the diary and the stolen time machine to stop Rittenhouse, the nefarious collective of blue-blooded families who’ve existed throughout fairly-recent history working their evil schemes from without and within, like the Illuminati in a Dan Brown novel or something, to ultimately take over and remake the world in their desired image. It also doesn’t help Flynn’s fragile emotional state that Rittenhouse, indirectly or not, caused the disappeared-death of his beloved wife and daughter when they started mucking about with time travel. Them ripple effects, they are a bitch.
Mason Industries, led by Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph) himself, get to endure a hierarchy shake-up when Special Agent Denise Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey) of Homeland Security comes in to take over the super-secret time travel project, determined to find and stop Flynn at nearly any cost. Jiya is a programmer at Mason Industries and also happens to be Rufus’ girlfriend, being trained on the side to pilot the time machine herself, which will effectively negate any need for Rufus once she’s done. Mason has the dubious privilege of being harried by Rittenhouse and Homeland and troubled by the chosen threesome’s own issues throughout the series, and while I understand and even empathize with his plight, I wish we had gotten to see a little more of what he stood to lose in the background. Agent Christopher always proves to be on the side of our trio but never forgets she has a job to do, and it does come to a head at the end, when the inevitable choice of duty vs. heart has to be made.
So where, and when of course, has our trio been to in this glorious first season? Mason Industries dutifully provides them with entire outfits for the appropriate time period, though of course nothing can be done about the fact that Rufus is a black man, and in his own words, “History hasn’t exactly been kind and understanding to my people.” Lucy does manage to turn her potential failing of being female into an actual asset, especially when faced with situations like needing to talk Kennedy’s mistress into a mission, or encouraging little-known black female mathematician Katherine Johnson into saving the Apollo 11 flight. We’ve met Abraham Lincoln, heard Richard Nixon, thrilled at Bonnie & Clyde, Benedict freaking Arnold and General Washington himself, been in the murder castle of America’s first known serial killer H.H. Holmes, done escapes with Harry Houdini, been fired at by Jesse James, shared a drink with Charles Lindbergh and Ernest Hemingway and Josephine Baker too, even met the original Scarface (but don’t call him that), Al Capone. All the details of the time are lovingly, meticulously attended to, from the underground atmosphere of Prohibition to the breathless wonder of first-time space travel in 1969, no stone is left unturned, no vintage car or authentic 1800’s rifle overlooked. Even Lucy’s hairstyle is always carefully tailored to whatever time period she’s about to fly off to; I appreciate that kind of detailed love.
Spoilers really are Timeless!
So we’ve come down to the finale episode, and most of our heroes still haven’t quite decided what their end game is going to be. Wyatt seems to have finally given in to the fact that stealing the time machine and changing history just is not going to bring his beloved wife back; the idea that your beloved is fated to die by whatever means is just a huge bummer, man. Rufus has finally stood up to Rittenhouse and Mason himself, despite being their spy for most of the series, and is paying for it literally in blood, mostly coming from that gunshot wound in his chest. Special Agent Christopher and Mason have taken it upon themselves to collaborate, albeit reluctantly, to steal the lifeboat from under the noses of the Rittenhouse infiltrators that have managed to take over Mason Industries. Lucy is still desperate to take the time machine and go save her disappeared sister, especially after finding out that her father is Rittenhouse alumni and has plans for her pedigree to aid them, with or without her consent. Our trio have found out about a Rittenhouse summit meeting during the Joseph McCarthy red paranoia era of 1954 and are determined to go find Flynn, who’s gone off planning to just blow up the entire summit meeting, and stop all this nonsense once and for all!
But Rufus can’t very well fly a complicated time machine with a patch-job hole in his chest, thank you alternate-timeline Lucy’s now-ex-fiancee, so of course Jiya volunteers to come help drive. Rufus begs her not to, warning that the lifeboat was only ever built to carry three people through a wormhole, but things are hurtling forward and there’s no stopping them now, even though yes Jiya does pay a horrible potential price for it at the end.
Ethan Cahill, another Rittenhouse member who has some odd (for 1954) habits and also happens to be Lucy’s grandfather, after getting a clear demonstration of the ability of the Lifeboat, agrees to aid our intrepid time travelers as best he can – working as a mole, leading another kind of double life inside Rittenhouse, for as many long years as he can stand, gathering all information on them to aid our trio and ultimately Mason Industries. And while all this is roundaboutly successful in the end, all except for perhaps poor Jiya, the show finale ends with dawning horror of insurgency rampant again, as Lucy learns she hasn’t gone down the rabbit hole nearly far enough.
I know, sadly, that NBC still hasn’t decided on whether or not to have a Season Two of Timeless and that seems to me to be why the Season One finale ended up with both a wrapup and a cliffhanger. Personally, I loved me some Timeless and sincerely hope our heroes and heroines return for some all new wacky time travel adventures!
Travel back through the wormhole for all Timeless Season One episodes at NBC.com!