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Timeless recap: Season 1, Episode 2

Our trio heads to Ford’s Theatre in 1865

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Sergei Bachlakov/NBC


TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:

If Garcia Flynn’s goal is to steal a time machine and wreak as much havoc as possible, he’s certainly not aiming low.

After blowing up in the Hindenburg in the pilot, the time-machine-stealing terrorist has set his sights on an even more important part of American history. In fact, it’s arguably THE single most influential moment in American history: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. No pressure.

Just a few hours after our trio returns from (sort of) saving the Hindenburg, they’re forced to take the Lifeboat back out again. This time, Flynn has headed to April 14, 1865, and hooked up with the notorious John Wilkes Booth, who apparently spends all of his time sulking in a dark bar and looking shady as hell. As Lucy puts it, “His brother Edwin was literally the most famous actor in America. John never quite measured up.”

“So this is like if Donnie Wahlberg assassinated the president,” Rufus replies. Yes, Rufus. It’s exactly like if the guy from Blue Bloods assassinated the president.

At first, Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus aren’t quite sure what Flynn’s goal is — does he want to not kill Lincoln? — so they spend their time sniffing around Ford’s Theatre trying to find Flynn, Booth, or anyone involved with the plot. Instead, Lucy has a bit of a meet-cute with Lincoln’s son, Robert, while Rufus runs into some African-American Union soldiers. Rufus says his name is Denzel Washington, while Lucy goes by Juliet Shakesman. Our trio may include an expert historian, an expert coder, and an expert soldier, but apparently, coming up with fake names is not their strength.

While the last episode only touched briefly on moral issues, choosing instead to be more of a madcap time-travel adventure, “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” raises some actually important questions about whether our trio has a responsibility to change history. Rufus is especially affected by meeting the many young African-American soldiers who fought in the Civil War, all of whom are hopeful about the future under a Lincoln presidency. Rufus, however, knows that Lincoln’s assassination sparks decades of Reconstruction-era infighting and increasingly fraught racial tensions, including horrific lynchings in the South. He tries to convince Lucy that it’s their civic duty to shoot Booth here and now, preventing the assassination, but she argues that they have no way of knowing how Lincoln’s survival would affect the future — or whether it would even make things better.

“It’s our job to protect history,” Lucy tells him.

“Yeah, rich white guys’ history,” Rufus replies. “A lot of my history sucks.”

Soon, however, they learn that although General Ulysses S. Grant was scheduled to leave town, his train has been tampered with — meaning that he’ll be attending the play with President Lincoln after all. It doesn’t take Lucy long to put the pieces together: Booth’s plot to kill Lincoln was part of a much larger conspiracy to kill Grant, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. Seward. Lincoln’s death sparked enough chaos and panic in the late 19th century: Imagine how differently things would have turned out if Booth had successfully killed all four.

NEXT: Bye bye, Booth