Spoilers ahead for the series premiere of Timeless
Imagine: someone you love dearly erased from existence. Not dead. Just never existed. You can”t lay her to rest at a funeral. You can”t tell yourself about the mark she made, the difference she made while she was here. You can”t reminisce about this person with other family members who loved her too.
That”s the blow Lucy suffered at the end of last night”s series premiere of Timeless when she returns home after her first journey to the past, overcome with relief upon seeing that her mother is no longer sick – but her sister, Amy, was never born.
“Erased from existence” is certainly not uncharted territory with time travel entertainment. But the way Timeless delves into this bit of time travel fallout is so affecting, in large part thanks to the solid performance from Rectify“s Abigail Spencer as Lucy. It”s a conclusion to the pilot that recalls Star Trek“s bittersweet exploration of altered timelines with the episode “City on the Edge of Forever.” But unlike Captain Kirk, who can try to move on in his restored timeline and “get the hell out of here,” Lucy”s called back to Mason Industries and left to wonder whether she can – or should – get her sister back.
(And she really is erased. Lucy can”t even find comfort in the knowledge that she”s somewhere out there – the co-creators of Timeless have told press that there”s no multi-verse or co-exisiting alternate timelines on the show. Just “one single timeline.”)
I chatted with Spencer about this devastating end to the pilot when I was in Vancouver last month to visit the Timeless set. “I have several women in my life who are my sisters,” Spencer said. She had those women and family members (she has two brothers) on her mind when filming the final scene of the pilot.
The conclusion of the pilot works because as a viewer, you can place yourself in Lucy”s shoes and think about losing your own sibling or sisterly friend that way but also because of how efficiently Timeless introduces us to the endearing relationship between Lucy and her sister. Amy has less than two minutes of screentime. In that short amount of time, we see the two women working together to care for their mother, and we see Amy give her sister some firm encouragement after Lucy”s been denied tenure at the university where she”s upholding her mother”s legacy: “Stop worrying about disappointing Mom,” she says. “Lucy, you”re a great professor. Go somewhere you”re wanted, appreciated.”
Lucy”s world has changed drastically overnight, and her worldview is changing too. With her passion for history, and her mission now to preserve it, she believes “history was predetermined, things happen for a reason, we gotta keep it the same,” Spencer said. “But now that her sister is gone, she wants to get her sister back, and all of her belief systems are challenged, and you kind of see that develop with every episode.”
I”ve seen next week”s episode, “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln,” and I can assure you that though Timeless dives right into its next Time Travel Mission of the Week, the show keeps Lucy”s anguish over her sister believably top of mind. The second episode poses questions that pack a punch both intellectually and emotionally, and it delivers some compelling clashes between Lucy and Wyatt: Was Wyatt”s wife”s death meant to be while Amy being erased is “wrong”? Timeless co-creator Eric Kripke, who also created Supernatural, has often spoken of his fascination with the concept of destiny, and now he gets to deal with fate in a time travel show. Spencer has me on board already with her winning character, so I”m looking forward to seeing how Lucy grapples with the loss of her sister and the slipping away of her whole understanding of the world in episodes to come.
The second episode of Timeless airs on NBC on Monday, October 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.