Last night was the season premiere of Timeless on NBC, and as much as my anxiety hated the “cancellation/renewal” of the series last year, I think the show itself really benefited from it. Everything feels so much tighter and more put together this season. There has been an argument for shorter seasons for a while now, and I think Timeless is a perfect example of how and why that works so well. Building an overarching story over ten episodes is bound to make for more cohesive storytelling than trying to make it stretch for 23. The episode feels full, but not crammed. Even the montage at the beginning to remind viewers of last season shows the scope of Kripke and Ryan’s world. Now let’s get into The War to End All Wars!
The premiere opens on St. Mihiel, France in September of 1918, mid battle. A soldier is running around, looking for his Captain, whom he finds, only to run off again so we can see said Captain freak out for a minute until he finds his leather pouch…. Which has a smart phone inside. Yep, this WWI Captain has a smartphone.
But we’ll get back to that, because we have to check in with the Time Team at Mason Industries! The show picks up right where we left off- with Lucy going to tell her mom all about Rittenhouse (which she thinks she’s eradicated), only to find her mom had been in on it the whole time. Now, back at Mason Industries, Wyatt and Rufus are all ready to go back and re-exist Lucy’s sister Amy, except Lucy isn’t picking up the phone. Probably has to do with the clear signs of a struggle in Mommy Rittenhouse’s kitchen, and also a bit to do with why there is a shit load of explosives at Mason Industries. Turns out Rittenhouse ain’t so dead, after all. Wyatt sees the explosives just in time to save himself and Rufus, but not much else.
Six weeks later, no one has seen or heard from Lucy, the team (including Mason and Jiya, yay!) are all living in a super secret and super gross bunker so Rittenhouse doesn’t catch wise to the fact that they’re alive, and to say things are tense is an understatement. While Jiya, Rufus and sorta Mason try and fix the Lifeboat (with a nice shout out to the fans by Rufus yelling “Clockblocker!” in frustration), Wyatt is 100% all over finding his “co-worker” Lucy. Now, while Jiya is alive, she is still very much affected by the whole “one too many in the boat” shit that happened last year. She’s had headaches, has been fainting like a Victorian-Era maiden, and whatnot. This is one of the biggest reasons I wanted Timeless to continue, if I’m being honest. I want to find out what the hell is happening to Jiya and how it will affect everyone.
While Wyatt is freaking out in a totally platonic way, Lucy is chillin’ at Rittenhouse with her mom, dressed in period clothes and about to hop back to our opening scene. There is a moment after they jump that Lucy softens a bit towards her mom (and not the fake submissive shit she’s been doing) I get the impression that this is Carol’s first trip, and it’s definitely their first trip together, and Carol’s excitement is a bit contagious. She’s a historian, after all. Of course we can’t have nice things, so Emma the sleeper agent of Olden Times is there, too. The three women head to a farmhouse while Generic Bodyguard #1 goes who knows where. Carol, Lucy, and Emma are holed up in the super cozy and not at all awkwards farmhouse for two days of mistrust and glaring. Turns out the trio was waiting for a wounded soldier named Nicholas Keynes to drop in, all bloody and whatnot. His arrival interrupts Emma’s bitter rant about Lucy not falling all over herself to be a “princess” in the Cabal because some people had to work their way up the ladder of corporate shadow government management! Between the wounded soldier and Mama Rittenhouse playing peacemaker, we learn that the three women were sent to save dude’s life.
While they’re working on Keynes, the buddy who dragged him in gets an eyeful of newfangled technology and freaks the fuck out when Emma defibrillates his bro in arms. Emma, ever the reasonable woman, shoots him. But only in the leg, because you guessed it! Lucy gets to kill him!! Yay! To prove her loyalty, Lucy kills poor soldier-boy who was understandably not cool with a bunch of people shocking his buddy. Once the complication of a human life is out of the way, Emma tells Carol that she can’t get the shrapnel out of Keynes without an x-ray. Alas, x-ray machines are still too big to fit in a purse, but lucky for them there is a Petite Curie at the field hospital, so Lucy and Carol go to borrow it while Emma stays behind.
Meanwhile in the bunker: Yay the Lifeboat is fixed! And they got the systems up and running! Jiya tells everyone where and when the mothership is (and that it’s been there for a few days) and Wyatt wastes no time dragging Rufus with him to the front.
Back in 1918, Lucy and her mom are having a heart to heart about how Emma thinks Lucy is still resistant to the idea of world domination, and Lucy tells her mom that it’s not possible to fight them, since Carol and Rittenhouse killed all her friends. It’s a nice moment. They come upon a Petite Curie and run into none other than Irene Curie! After Lucy explains about the situation at the farm house, Irene grabs her mother, ya know, Marie Curie, and after some adorable fangirling on Lucy’s part (she curtsies, for God’s sake), the group gets ready to go. Before they leave, however, Lucy tells her mom that A) Bringing Marie Freaking Curie along for the ride isn’t a great plan and B) she’s hella thirsty. Lucy scampers off and sneaks into an armory, snagging some grenades and running into Wyatt.
Small World War, amirite?! It’s a sweet reunion, and Lucy gives Wyatt and Rufus the cliff’s notes on her past six weeks: Mom is Rittenhouse, the grenades are for the mothership, and Lucy hadn’t planned on making it home from this trip. Lucy tells them where the Mothership is and gives them a grenade before leaving, and Rufus is all of us, rolling his eyes when Wyatt talks about how glad he is to have “their historian” back. Sure, Wyatt.
Once the Prestons and the Curies get back to the farmhouse, Marie assures Lucy that radiation is 100% harmless (lol), and Carol seems to enjoy watching a mother-daughter relationship that isn’t built on lies and a breeding program. Marie is unhappy with the image, saying it’s blurry and something must be interfering with the machine, so Irene and Lucy go out to check the truck. They have a nice bonding moment over the burden having brilliant mothers can be, but they’re interrupted when Marie comes out saying the x-rays are still blurry. Hmmmm I wonder what it could be?
While all of this is going on, a suddenly and for no reason in particularly buoyant Wyatt and a still grumpy about time travel Rufus are running around camp, trying to hotwire a car, 1918-style. Captain iPhone catches them, however, and takes them to a tent to because desertion is frowned upon in wartime. One inside the tent, Rufus recognizes Generic Bodyguard #1 from a peek he’d gotten earlier and so they all fight! Wyatt and Rufus (but mostly Wyatt) overpower and kill the Rittenhouse Heavy and the Captain, after which, Wyatt finds the smartphone. Thinking this might be an important tidbit, the boys snag the phone before skedaddling out of camp. The two successfully start a hand crank car which, kudos, and head towards where Lucy told them the Mothership would be. In between Rufus bitching about how fucked up their lives are, what with his family thinking he’s dead and his girlfriend having side effects that no doctor could help with, and rolling his eyes at Wyatt once again denying that he’s in love with Lucy (convincing no one); the two try and figure out what a WWI Captain was doing with a smart phone full of pdfs of handwritten documents and not, as one would expect, porn. This is a Captain who was known and respected by the men under him and rose through the ranks, and that begs the question: How long was he there?
Back at the farm house, Lucy’s plan to smother Keynes and therefore foil Rittenhouse’s plans for him hits a snag when her mom catches her, pillow in hand. But, at least it was mom, who only uses guilt trips as punishments and not Emma, who is just dying for an excuse to shoot her. Carol apologizes to Lucy for killing her friends and thinks all is sorta okay, and since Keynes is stable, it’s time to go home. And take him along. When the four of them get to the Mothership, however, there is a slight complication, and it ain’t Wyatt and Rufus. Marie and Irene wanted to see what was disrupting their machine and wound up finding the Mothership. Not one to take chances or question orders, Emma the good little brainwashed soldier whips her gun out, ready to kill the mother of modern physics. Thinking this is a bad thing, Lucy jumps in front of them, not really thinking things through, since Emma is more than happy to kill Lucy, too. Carol tries to get Emma to not kill her kid, even though Emma shows her the grenade she found while snooping through Lucy’s shit. While Emma is starting her villain monologue about how someone willing to die to stop them is never going to be loyal, Wyatt and Rufus show up to save the day.
Wyatt points a gun at still-unconscious Keynes’s head and threatens to shoot him if Emma shoots Lucy. Who says chivalry is dead? They make the switch and everyone is back with their team when Emma drops her own bomb on Lucy, telling her that, under Carol’s orders, she made a few trips in the mothership to ensure that Lucy will never get Amy back, no matter what she does, so that’s fun
Back in the bunker, everyone is super happy to see Lucy back and not corrupted. Once in her bunk, Wyatt comes to talk like the good co-worker he is, and Lucy confesses that she was ready to blow up the Mothership with her and her mother in it, because it didn’t matter anymore, since he and everyone else was already dead, but then he (and Rufus) showed up alive. The two share a platonic sympathy hug that turns into a friendly near kiss, but Jiya interrupts, reminding them that they have a job to do.
Turns out sad, mopey Mason is a thing of the past, and he was able to see where the Mothership has been going for the past six weeks. They figure out that Rittenhouse went to ten different places/times, which Rufus says makes sense, since the document on the Captain’s phone is basically a blueprint to change history, and rather than huge moments of destruction like Flynn was doing, Rittenhouse is choosing pressure points in time, dropping sleeper agents, and making small shifts to create massive change (finally, the story I have been dying to see). When Lucy explains what they were doing in 1918, Rufus gets extra nervous, since Keynes is the guy who wrote the manifesto. The times and places Rittenhouse is going to are much more obscure than what Flynn was doing, but Agent Christopher thinks Flynn may be the only one who can help them, since he had Lucy’s journal and all. Problem is, he’ll only talk to Lucy.
And, speaking of Keynes, he wakes up at Rittenhouse with Carol right there to explain to him the whole time-travel thing being real, and then tells him she’s his granddaughter. Dun dun DUN!!!
Okay, so I’m actually really excited about where this season is taking us, and after getting a sneak peek at the first four episodes, I’m pretty stoked. I love that the show is taking a more focused and nuanced look at time, and that rather than using a machete like Flynn did, the much more sophisticated and organized Rittenhouse is using a scalpel to change history in their favor. While I understand why, in the first season, the show went to a bunch of momentous times and places with famous people, I love that things are little less obvious. It makes perfect sense: Flynn was no historian or expert, he mainly went to major points in history to destroy what he knew of Rittenhouse. They, on the other hand, are orchestrating history and know that tiny changes can have massive consequences, and those changes don’t have to happen with a president. Which brings me to another thing I’m enjoying so far: there are actual changes happening that we will be learning about as we go. It was such a huge frustration for me last season that things like killing Cornwallis and Benedict Arnold didn’t have major consequences; that saving several of HH Holmes’ victims didn’t change things that we could see. Last season, the only things we seemed to see that were of any remote consequence were the disappearance of Lucy’s sister and the appearance of a new Bond movie. The shorter season and the knife’s edge renewal has added an urgency and led to tighter storylines this season, and Timeless starts to solidify their take on time travel, and I am all here for it.