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Timeless premiere recap: Season 1, Episode 1

TV’s latest time-travel show kicks off with an explosive first episode

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Joe Lederer/NBC


TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
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Let’s do the time warp again…and again and again and again.

It’s no secret time travel is very trendy right now. From Doctor Who and Outlander to 11/22/63 and Legends of Tomorrow, it seems like half the shows on television involve zipping through space and time. And with the premiere of NBC’s Timeless, we can officially add another show to that long, long list.

And if the pilot is any indication, this is going to be kinda fun!

The first episode makes it clear Timeless has no, um, time to explain how time travel works (or to give really any background at all). We’ve got terrorists to catch! You see, there’s this villain named Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic), a former NSA operative stationed in Eastern Europe who killed his own wife and child before disappearing. He’s now popped back up again and pilfered a working time machine from the mysterious Mason Industries.

With Flynn disappearing into history, it’s up to the government (led by a Homeland Security officer named Denise Christopher) and Mason Industries (headed by mogul Connor Mason) to assemble a badass team of experts to stop him. As Denise puts it: “We are on the clock so follow me, but hold on to your asses.” Roger that, Denise.

First up, we’ve got historian Lucy Preston. She’s a history professor, but she’s a cool history professor: She gives lectures about LBJ and his penchant for whipping out his junk. Lucy’s mother was also a famed historian, but she’s since gotten sick, and it’s up to Lucy and her sister, Amy, to take care of her. Lucy is keen to follow in her mother’s impressive footsteps, even though she’s been denied tenure at her mom’s former university. So Amy gives her some wise advice, which sounds more than a little like foreshadowing: “Stop worrying about disappointing Mom. Make your own future.”

There’s also Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a Delta Force sergeant who serves as the team’s muscle. He’s pretty chill about this whole time-travel thing, and while the rest of the characters are freaking out about the fact that holy cow, time travel is REAL, Wyatt kind of just arches an eyebrow and makes a sarcastic comment about the whole thing, Han Solo-style. We soon learn, however, that he’s got a history of his own: His wife, Jessica, has died, and he holds himself responsible. He’d give anything to be able to go back and change that moment — which is almost definitely going to come up again as a future story line. This is, after all, a show about time travel.

And finally, we have Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), a technician at Mason Industries who’s the only one who actually knows how to pilot a time machine. He’s also not too keen on this whole “going back in time to confront a known terrorist” thing, but his boss, Connor Mason (played by Paterson Joseph), tells him he has no choice. Rufus is also African-American, which means that if he’s traveling into the past, he’s going to face challenges his white companions won’t. “I am black,” he says. “There is literally no place in American history that’ll be awesome for me.”

Flynn and his terrorist cohort hijacked the newest time-machine model, of course, which means our heroes are stuck with the so-called “Lifeboat,” an earlier prototype that works…most of the time. The Lifeboat is linked to Flynn’s Mothership, and although the Lifeboat can’t tell you exactly where the Mothership is, it can tell you “when” it is. As Wyatt puts it: “Naturally. Only tells you when. Time-machine problems.”

The rules are pretty simple: Our time travelers aren’t allowed to go back into their own timeline, and they aren’t allowed to go back to points in time where they’ve already been. (Wyatt, of course, asks the sensible question: Why can’t they just go back to earlier that day and stop this whole thing from happening?) If they did, it would cause major problems. Rufus says one pilot tried it, and when he came back to the present, he wasn’t all there. Literally, he wasn’t all there: Parts of him were missing. Ew.

So, our trio of time-hopping heroes tracks Flynn to New Jersey on May 6, 1937. That date, of course, is notable as the day the Hindenburg exploded. Along the way, they run into Kate Drummond, a renowned war correspondent and journalist who’s charming, smart, and destined to die when the Hindenburg comes down. Wyatt is horrified — partially because Kate reminds him of his late wife, and partially because Lucy tells him there’s nothing they can do to save her. Her death is a fixed point in time, and if they were to change that, there’s no telling how devastating the effects could be.

But when Rufus, Wyatt, and Lucy show up at the airfield, the Hindenburg safely lands without incident, and to their surprise, it doesn’t actually explode. It doesn’t take Lucy long to figure out Flynn wanted to prevent the explosion today so he can actually blow it up tomorrow, when notable historical figures like John D. Rockefeller are on board.

NEXT: Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, and Mike Tyson