I’ve had two long-standing issues with Timeless since its beginning: stakes, and character development. The first half of the first season really felt like the show was throwing everything at the wall and hoping something would stick. This week’s episode brought both stakes and character to the fore, and it’s about time. Let’s get down to Public Enemy No. 1
The show opens on Flynn in a Catholic church. He’s been sitting there for awhile, and the priest comes to check on him. It’s a really interesting character moment, and we learn a little of the man Flynn was before he became the anti-hero we have now. He talks about his very Catholic wife, and questions the existence of God and fate. If he can change “fate” then what of God’s plan? Flynn has a job, but he’s beginning to question his mission and is seeking absolution. No matter what he does, nothing gets better (perhaps because you’re going about it the wrong way, bud).
Back at Mason WareRittenHouse, Rufus slips a phone into Jiya’s pocket while Neville gives the team (minus Wyatt) their mission: Kill Flynn’s mother. Neville is sick of playing defense and honestly I’m shocked this wasn’t the first thing they did when Flynn started wreaking havoc on history. Lucy and Rufus balk at the idea, but Neville brought Sullivan, the charming muscle. The ongoing bit of calling Lucy “ma’am” and her increasing annoyance with it has been a highlight for me.
The team prepares to go, and Cahill, practically carrying a “World’s Best Dad” mug, finds Lucy and tries to make the case to her that this plan is really the best solution. The life of one vs the lives of the many is a longstanding moral dilemma, but Ol’ Benny Cahill doesn’t seem to think so. He even dangles bringing Amy back, in the douchiest of douche moves. He’s basically admitting that they could fix her vanishing from existence at any time, but they simply aren’t. It doesn’t escape Lucy’s notice that killing Flynn primarily saves Rittenhouse, and we get a tiny inkling that maybe, maybe things we can’t see are changing after all. Is it the big, sweeping historical changes one would expect? No, but clearly Flynn is more than a thorn in their sides if they’re taking these kinds of measures now rather than earlier in the game.
Time Team Minus Wyatt But Plus Stick-Up-His-Ass Sullivan (don’t worry, I’ll only use that once) heads to Houston, 1962, to get to killing. Lucy and Rufus don’t have much choice, since Neville basically pulled a “cake or death!” on them, telling them it’s a few hours of distasteful murder, or 10-15yrs in the Special Hell (aka black site). As soon as they land, it’s night night for Sully, thanks to a tranq dart. Rufus planted a worm in the Mason Industries computer system to buy himself and Lucy some time, and we get to see Mason in Full-Dick Mode, as he shoves Jiya aside trying to track the Lifeboat. Rufus and Lucy jump back to present day, meeting up with Wyatt and Christopher. It’s another sweet team reunion, and Wyatt is so proud of his girl for holding the gun the way her taught her, Lucy, in turn, is super annoyed by Wyatt’s new chill sense of calm. Yay the fam is back together!! They decide to go save Lucy’s sister once the Lifeboat charges by making sure Amy’s parents meet. It’s so hopeful and they’re so happy that you know it can’t last.
It doesn’t, of course. Before they can plug in the Lifeboat (seriously, how do they charge this thing?! It’s a three prong, I bet. Don’t want those power surges.), they get a notification that Flynn took the Mothership to 1931 Chicago. There is real tension when Wyatt says they have to stop Flynn, while Lucy wants to save her sister, and Rufus is worried about what will happen to Jiya. For once they are at cross purposes when it really matters. Finally the rest of the team agrees when Wyatt and Christopher point out that literally no one else can stop Flynn, in a little parallel to this week’s episode. Rufus calls the burner he slipped to Jiya and begs her to be careful, but delay the recovery time at Mason Industries. He hates to drag her into this (why? You think your girlfriend is safer if she’s alone and completely unaware?). Neville overhears Jiya’s end of the conversation (which pretty much amounts to “Rufus are you okay? Come home!”) and calls his flunky, Singer (in a lovely Supernatural Easter egg) to take her into custody.
In 1931, Flynn meets with Al Capone and gifts him with the tax ledgers famously used to put Capone away for tax evasion. When Time Team arrives in 1931, they are super inconspicuous in their “fashion forward” clothes and head immediately to the courthouse, where Capone is holding a press conference, saying the state’s case against him was thrown out for lack of evidence. This is just a bit different than what Lucy remembers, which is Capone being sent to prison for tax evasion, thanks to the Untouchable himself, Eliot Ness (guest star Misha Collins). It’s clear Ness is in a super fantastic mood when he literally punches a reporter in the face, so the team decides the smart move is to chase him down. They claim to be PIs sent by WIlliam Randolph Hearst, and ask if he knows anything about the “tall, dark-featured man” who was with Capone. Ness only knows he’s not from Chicago, much like these three oddly-dressed weirdos. I am not sure if the need for coherent backstories can be emphasized enough for these three. I love the fumbling, but you’d think that before they run into people during their jaunts to the past, one of them would think to say, “Hey, so I’m a teacher named Theresa, you’re a janitor named Robert, and you’re an astronaut, or something”. Maybe not astronaut.
Meanwhile, in the WareRittenHouse, Jiya is chillin’ in a store room when Mason and Neville come in to threaten her a little more. Mason tells her to play ball or go to jail, and Jiya calls him a coward. Apparently plucky snark can save her, since they leave in a huff.
For some reason, Ness decides to help them, and they all troop over to his super secret “rat trap” apartment, where they discuss Capone, Flynn, and the massive danger both pose. Ness tells them about the threats that caused him to send his wife to Ohio, but he is (famously) dogged in his pursuit of Capone, asking, “How could I not?” again drawing a parallel between himself and Time Team. Too soon, though, there is a knock at the door, and Ness is riddled with bullets, untouchable no more, and the only man who can stop Capone is dead.
Wyatt is still his weirdly calm zen new self, telling Lucy that they can deal with one problem at a time. This goes over well with the frantic historian. Wyatt tells them first they have to stop Capone, then figure out what the hell Flynn wants with him, anyway. Sometimes I think Lucy might need a glass of wine or six. When she stops for a moment to think, she remembers that Capone has a brother whom he hasn’t seen in years who, like Ness, is a Prohibition Agent and honest man. They traipse over to Richard Hart’s house and beg his help. Richard is reluctant to help them, saying he’s no Untouchable, and what would make them think he could bring himself to send his baby brother to prison? They finally convince him, and head to the Lexington Hotel, where Capone has brought Flynn a present: The Mayor. Now, you may not know this, but Chicago is kinda known for it’s corrupt police and politicians. Mayor Thompson is no exception. Flynn beats him mercilessly, asking him about the summit Charvet mentioned back in Paris, presumably mid-torture. Unfortunately, Charvet didn’t give Flynn any details, which is what he wants from the mayor. Thompson finally tells him that there is a summit in DC every 25 years, and all the Rittenhouse bigwigs attend, the next one being in 1954. Capone then orders that Thompson be “brought to the docks” and tells Flynn that, between the tax ledgers and finding Ness so Capone could have him killed, he still owes Flynn one. Shortly after Flynn leaves, Richard and Time Team arrive and go up to see brother Al.
Back in the present, Jiya finally gets some shit to do on her own, and I’m so happy. While locked down in the storage closet, she straight up MacGyvers a computer out of spare parts and Shuts. It .All. Down. Mason was able to see where the Lifeboat is now, but still won’t be able to track it for quite awhile. Always the opportunist, Mason uses this dilemma to get Cahill to agree to get him the NSA database so they could literally locate anyone, anytime, anywhere. Because that will keep us all safe. Okay.
At the Lexington, the reunion between the long-estranged Capone brothers starts a little awkwardly, but that doesn’t last long. Richard tells Al that he’s here to bring them in, and the guns come out. Then Al says that the last thing Flynn asked him to do was kill Rufus, so Lucy and Wyatt can’t follow him anymore. Capone shoots Rufus and Richard shoots Capone, killing him. Rufus is badly wounded, but Lucy shoots down taking him to the hospital, saying that they’re segregated and “NOT GOOD.” They manage to get him to the Lifeboat, and he holds on long enough to get them started, but we have no idea where and when they might be going.
So, I didn’t like this episode at ALL the first time I saw it. Was Collins’ casting a ratings ploy? Did I enjoy seeing my favorite angel in a dark trench coat with a shoulder holster? Was I unsurprised they killed him? Have I read Cas As Ness fanfiction? The answer to all is “yes”. To add to the list of issues I have been having all season with this show is that we don’t get enough time with side characters to care about whether they live or die. Now, I was pissed when Ness died, but that was more a reaction to the fact that it was Misha Collins than to Ness himself. Having watched it again, without the Misha Salt, killing Ness early on was a smart move. It immediately created tension and urgency. The hero was dead, and the team had to figure shit out without him. And they did. There was a lot packed into this episode, but this is also the first episode in which Jiya was more than “the girl Rufus likes”. She was a badass who actually helped the team. She stood on her own and I FINALLY cared about her. The other thing I saw more of here was the stakes for everyone. They are all fugitives now, fighting for the greater good, but on two fronts. If Timeless gets a second season, I’m sure they will team up with Flynn, given their status and his scene with the priest. Oh, and Rufus is bleeding out. So high stakes there.
We are careening towards the finale next week, and I for one, am actually really excited for it.