Timeless s1 ep 16

If, as seems likely, we’ve seen the last of Timeless, it’s worth recording that it went out in style. The season-ender saw the team descending on Washington, D.C., in 1954, for its latest adventure in counterfactual history, this time starring Joseph McCarthy. There’s a major Rittenhouse summit due to take place, and Flynn intends to wipe them out in one go, first delivering Team Machine to McCarthy as Soviet spies. Meantime, though, Lucy has her own idea of how that might be done, and it involves playing something of a long game.

Events in the present day timeline also point a way towards the future, with Lucy’s REDACTED revealed to be Rittenhouse; Jiya suffering seizures which suggest – I think? – that she might be able to travel in time without the inconvenience of using a machine to do it; and Wyatt finally starting to move on from his stupid dead wife and see what’s been in plain sight for most of the show’s run, i.e. Lucy (now also conveniently free of that boyfriend she doesn’t actually know). It should be said that by this point Unpopcult is shipping Lyatt hard, and if the show is indeed over we’re consoled by the knowledge that this week’s flirty dialogue allows us to imagine they totally have a future together.

Not for the first time, it should also be acknowledged that Malcolm Barrett as Rufus was this week’s – the season’s? – MVP. And, on that note, the show during its run has done its best to grapple with the occasional incongruity, depending on the period, of having an African-American working on equal terms with his Caucasian colleagues, and to identify historical wrongs: this week, for example, Lucy doesn’t want Rufus to go to a hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound because the hospitals in 1954 are segregated, and the one she would need to take him to isn’t up to standard.

But this might well conclude our business with Timeless: in fairness, I was never quite sold on the big overarching conspiracy plot, but the week-to-week stuff was great fun: the team had chemistry, the clothes were fabulous, and the historical settings were more than good enough. I really enjoyed it, and in the event of renewal I’ll very much be back for more.


Timeless s1 ep 9

As I said last week, I wasn’t planning to review any more episodes of Timeless for now. But I’m bound, I think, to say that this one, in which Wyatt, Lucy, and Rufus are plunged into the middle of the final days of the Bonnie and Clyde story, was as good as anything this show has had to offer. In particular, Wyatt and Lucy get tangled up in a bank robbery, end up in a getaway car with Bonnie and Clyde, and thus find themselves required to impersonate another pair of lovers on the lam.

Which means that, without anticipating it, they’re suddenly in one of Unpopcult’s favourite genres, the Pretending To Be A Couple episode. So, out of nowhere, we get THE KISS, which, of course, even though it’s all make-believe both participants are TOTALLY INTO; the chaste sharing of a bed; the slightly awkward next-day conversation, all I-was-playing-a-role and I-know; and the walking away from each other looking conflicted and thoughtful. Just about everything we’d want from the Pretend Couple playbook, with a snuggling-up-on-the-sofa thrown in for good measure. And, for those interested in such things, Dr Luka Kovač is wandering around toting a gun while wearing a snappy 30s suit and hat combo. Tremendous entertainment.

Timeless s1 ep 8

An unusually-structured episode starts with present-day Gabriel Flynn visiting Wayne Ellis, an elderly man who was part of the NASA team which landed Apollo 11 on the moon. The BTM then heads to Houston in July 1969, where Flynn shoots and kills the younger Ellis, in order that his credentials can be used by Anthony to enter the Mission Control Center. Anthony, in turn, attempts to sabotage the moon landing by introducing a computer virus into the Center’s computer system. The LTM is close behind, of course, although Rufus can’t even begin to work out how to get a 2016 virus out of a 1969 system which has, as he puts it, less computing power than his toaster. And the stakes are high: the failure of the Apollo programme would have unhelpful consequences, according to Lucy, for the Cold War with the USSR. (And, also, more immediately, for Messrs Armstrong and Aldrin.)

Fortunately there’s someone already in the Center who can assist: African American mathematician Katherine Johnson, until recently very much an unsung heroine of the space programme. (Mrs Johnson is not only a real person; she is, joyously, still alive at 98, and is one of the subjects of the movie Hidden Figures, about to be released in the UK, in which she is played by Taraji P. Henson.) It won’t be plain sailing, though: communication with the astronauts is restored, but Rufus will be obliged to kill someone himself, and is troubled by just how untroubled he is in the aftermath.

Meantime, rather than trying to blow up Houston, or whatever, Flynn is off doing something else entirely: he befriends a single mother, Maria, and her young son. As Maria works at Lockman Aerospace, a company connected to the Apollo missions, the initial assumption is that this must have something to do with the main plot. As it happens, though, it doesn’t at all, and once again Timeless gives its characters a little more complexity than it needs to: just as Rufus is something other than a straight up-and-down hero, Flynn, not for the first time, reveals himself to be more than a villain.

As I prefer the episodes which are set in the last 50 years or so, I wasn’t surprised that this one pushed most of my buttons. This might be the last Timeless review for a while, though: with Homeland and Scandal back, and The Blacklist, Legion, Designated Survivor, and the 24 reboot on the way, there probably won’t be the time. But I’ll be watching this show until the end, I think.

Timeless s1 ep 7

We’re dropped straight into the action, with Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus chasing Flynn in 1754 during the French and Indian War. About which I know, well, not much at all. However, there doesn’t seem to be any reason, Rittenhouse-related or otherwise, for Flynn to be there, except to sabotage the LTM and disappear, thus leaving the gang stranded forever. Unless, that is, Rufus can bodge together a repair, while also leaving a message buried in a bottle for Mason to dig up in the present day. And, apart from some vicious Frenchmen and forgiving Shawnees, that’s kind of it.

As it turns out, then, this episode isn’t about altering (or not) history; it’s about the intra-team relationships. The boys are bickering, and Lucy gets drawn into it: recording, journal, sister, wife, etc. Meantime Rufus’s message-in-a-bottle, which provides clues as to how they might be rescued, has been more or less destroyed by the time Mason digs it up; but Jiya works it out anyway, because she and Rufus are totally into each other, which is actually quite sweet. They will kiss before the end of this watchable but underwhelming episode.

Timeless s1 ep 6

I discovered last week that The Alamo isn’t my thing. On the other hand: post-WW2 American politics? That is very, very much my jam. So a Watergate-themed episode of Timeless, and specifically one which turns on the 18 minutes excised from President Nixon’s White House tapes, is always going to appeal to me. As it happens, I thought it was the best episode so far.

Flynn and the BTM are in Washington, D.C., in June 1972, on the very day when Nixon recorded the tape which was later “inadvertently” “edited”, with Flynn intending to seize the tape before that can happen. Wyatt, Lucy, and Rufus therefore need to stop him, although were I part of the LTM team my hand would have been in the air at this point asking whether we could, at least, hear what was on the tape first? As it happens Flynn’s a man after my own heart: not only does he capture the three of them to stop them interfering, he’s already got the tape and he plays it. This reveals that Nixon was talking about – oh yes – Rittenhouse, and he also mentions a missing “doc”. Flynn then sends Lucy and Rufus to recover the document, while holding onto Wyatt, threatening to kill him if they’re unsuccessful. And, meantime, Rufus is secretly reporting to someone in 1972, who wants him to “destroy the doc” But it isn’t a document, it’s a doctor, and she’s connected to the Black Liberation Army, which for once means that Lucy feels less comfortable than Rufus.

On top of that there’s stuff about Flynn’s Secret Pain, Wyatt’s Secret Pain, Rufus’s Secret Recordings, and Lucy’s Secret Conversations With Flynn, not to mention her biological father, who is inevitably someone we already know. Plus a splendid Conspiracy Wall. I loved it.

Timeless s1 ep 5

Wyatt’s under pressure: he’s failed to kill Flynn, so he’s being replaced by Baumgardner, an old Army bud of his, nicknamed Bam-Bam. “You’ll like him better than me”, Wyatt reassures Lucy, although the look on her face suggests that she has no particular interest in having her seatbelt buckle fastened by someone known as Bam-Bam. By the end of the episode she’ll be leading a revolt: no Wyatt, no Lucy. But before then there’s time travelling to be done: word reaches them that Flynn and the Big Time Machine are at the Alamo Mission in March of 1836, very shortly before it’s attacked by Mexican forces. So off they go.

My problem with this episode – and, as it turned out, it’s a pretty fundamental one – is that, compared to the average American, the concept of “The Alamo” means very little to me.Without a quick mid-episode trip to Wikipedia I’d have been little the wiser about who these people were (William B. Travis? General Santa Anna?), what they were doing (the Victory or Death letter?) and why it mattered. And matters. So I was at a disadvantage throughout, which may have coloured my view. But I thought this was a little flimsy compared to the other episodes so far, and I’m sure I can’t have been the only person shouting “USE THE DAMN GRENADES!” at Rufus as he tried to work out how to dig through the rock underneath the Alamo Mission, in order to secure an escape route.

Timeless s1 ep 4

So, four episodes in, is Timeless worth sticking with? This week Jiya – Timeless’s geek girl equivalent of Blindspot’s Patterson – has managed to trace the Big Time Machine, but by the time everyone gets to the location Flynn evades capture by transporting to the Germany of late 1944. Now, Nazi Germany is, of course, the greatest of all the time-travel destinations: if you had the chance, would you kill Hitler? Would you? Would you? (Yawn.)

To its credit, Timeless doesn’t give anyone the opportunity to kill Hitler, nor is Flynn trying to give the Nazis that nuclear weapon from last week (which is pressed into action as a power source for the BTM). But Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus head there anyway, using the Little Time Machine, and discover that Flynn’s plan is more subtle, yet – by 1944 anyway – arguably more far-reaching: to hand Wernher von Braun over to the USSR, rather than allowing him to get to America. As this would change the course of the Cold War, and perhaps stop the US from getting to the Moon, Flynn needs to be stopped. Can anyone help? Well, yes: an undercover British intelligence officer. But not just any old British officer; it turns out that by going into the right bar and ordering the right drink you can make contact with Ian Fleming, who would in due course turn his real life wartime experience into a modestly successful series of spy novels. Meantime, Fleming’s something of a playa as well: “James Bond’s hitting on Lucy!” breathes Rufus to Wyatt.

Von Braun is saved for the post-war West, although the show has a reasonable stab at debating whether he deserves such a benign outcome, after the destruction wrought by his creations; Lucy and Wyatt are now starting to register a slight flutter on my shipping seismograph; and Rufus is threatened by someone connected with Rittenhouse, whatever that might be. There is, however, a moment which is both meta and poignantly optimistic, when Lucy wonders how she’s going to lay her hands on some lederhosen for their trip to Germany, and Mason shows her a warehouse brimming with costumes from every era and continent. I’d imagine that’s only going to be needed if Timeless is renewed, though, which at the moment looks unlikely. This is a shame: I like it, I think it’s good fun, and at the moment I’m intending to stay the course.