A review of tonight’s Timeless coming up just as soon as I’m the son of a clockmaker…
Timeless is in a tricky position as it says goodbye to 2016. The creators have said they’re most interested in the Time Trip of the Week stories, and that’s generally where the show has been at its strongest. But where some of the show’s influences like Quantum Leap and Voyagers just let their heroes travel through the past without a major opponent(*), the Timeless premise is built on Flynn’s vendetta against Rittenhouse, which means the conspiracy has to be periodically addressed, and also that it can’t be eliminated without something else taking its place as the reason for Lucy, Rufus, and Wyatt’s ongoing adventures in time.
(*) Later in its run, Quantum Leap introduced a group of Evil Leapers working against Sam and Al, but they weren’t the general motivation for his trips.
So “The Capture of Benedict Arnold” is fundamentally one of those “a visitor to the island promises to take Gilligan and the castaways back to civilization” kind of episodes, in that there’s no way Flynn’s plan to eliminate Rittenhouse — and his promise to return the Mothership — can actually work out. And even before the story heads into “Would you kill Baby Hitler?” territory with Lucy trying to stop Flynn from murdering Rittenhouse’s son, it’s clear that the organization is already much bigger than the one man for whom it’s named.
But what could have felt like a pointless tease for a status quo change that’s not coming was instead one of the show’s stronger episodes to date, because it forced our heroes to work alongside Flynn, and for them to fully grapple with the question of how much they’re willing to change the timeline.
On the former point, the show’s been limited in how much it can do with Goran Visnjic, since every scene he shares with one of his co-stars has to be about how it doesn’t end with Flynn killing them or vice versa, so it was fun to see them get to take advantage of his many skills(*) for once, rather than being threatened by them, and just to have the four leads interacting without death for each other on the table.
(*) At NY Comic-Con, Visnjic — who is an expert horseman and swordsman, in addition to his acting talents — lamented that the writers kept promising scenes where Flynn would get to ride and/or fence, only for them to get cut from the scripts. He doesn’t get to do any impressive work on horseback in this, but the moment where Flynn talks to the horses felt like a the creative team throwing him a bone.
As to changing the timeline, it feels like there will have to come a point where Rittenhouse is either neutralized or supplanted by a different reason for the time trips, and the notion that Lucy and the guys might be willing to alter history(*) to serve their own ends is an intriguing one — the heroes becoming everything they once thought they were fighting against — and something that could keep stories going even after the initial conflict has been narratively exhausted.
(*) Agent Christopher giving Lucy a thumb drive to carry in the Lifeboat as a way to remember her family in the event they’re erased from history served as a reminder that the team should probably have begun these missions with an offline version of Wikipedia for the same reason — or, at least, brought one after it was clear how much was changed as a result of the Hindenburg trip.
It’s unclear if the show will get renewed — there are only 6 episodes to go after this, thanks to NBC giving out a paltry “back-3” order instead of the traditional “back-9” — but if it does, Kripke, Ryan, and company will have to be sure there’s enough material here to support a second season, and beyond.
What did everybody else think of tonight’s episode? And what are your hopes for the rest of the season?