Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Monday’s season finale of Timeless. Read at your own risk!
After 16 episodes of hopping through history to chase a villain and solve a conspiracy, Lucy (Abigail Spencer), Wyatt (Matt Lanter), and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) finally caught a break.
Sort of. In the season finale of Timeless, the trio chased Flynn (Goran Visnjic) to D.C. in 1954 at the height of the Red Scare, where he tried to take out all of Rittenhouse at once, but couldn’t after Lucy convinced him there would be a less violent way to do so. She tracked down her grandfather and Rittenhouse member Ethan Cahill (Johnathan Tchaikovsky) and convinced him to keep tabs on Rittenhouse’s dealings, building a case full of evidence of their wrongdoings that, in her present, she’d be able to use against them.
But Rittenhouse continued to operate, thanks to Lucy’s mother Carol (Susanna Thompson) — and Flynn is still bloodthirsty after his truce with Lucy became a trap engineered by Agent Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey) to bring him in. (At least Lucy has her notebook back?) EW spoke with executive producers Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke to break down the twists in the finale, why Senator Joseph McCarthy (Spencer Garrett) felt right for the episode, and what stories would be pursued if the drama were renewed.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you guys choose 1954 as the final stop?
SHAWN RYAN: There were a few reasons. One was we were looking to go the 1950s all season long. I was kind of shocked by how often we went to the 1930s, I would not have guessed that at the beginning of the year… And this Rittenhouse meeting, we realized, was during the time of the Red Scare and McCarthyism, and while a lot of people in the country are aware of that, here in Hollywood-land where writers live, we’re especially attuned to that. It was a real dark spot in American history as far as artistic people were concerned, so I was interested in learning a little bit more about McCarthy and have our heroes go against him. It just seemed like McCarthy was the perfect Rittenhouse character to build around and do, and we were also looking for a story that could involve Lucy’s grandfather who we’ve heard about in previous stories, and that worked out time-wise as well.
I’m curious, did you break this episode’s story before or after the election?
RYAN: It would have been shortly after the election, right before the holiday break in December.
You noticeably peppered certain words like “crooked” into McCarthy’s dialogue and had scenes that highlighted his hotheaded bullying behavior, which brought to mind some statements our current Commander-in-Chief has made—
ERIC KRIPKE: [Laughs] Yeah, we get what you’re driving at. But look, what’s good about a genre show and especially a show about history is we don’t have to try to jam in earnest messages. That’s not really what we’re here for. We’re pointing out a particular time in history that actually happened and letting the audience draw what conclusions they may. People can infer what they want to infer or not. It’s just up to them to draw what they want out of the material.
This episode did skew into politics more than a lot of the others. Did you go into this season thinking you’d do something like this down the line?
KRIPKE: No, we wanted it to skew emotional. What we were really interested in was seeing Lucy’s family lineage within Rittenhouse. What we wanted the finale to be more than any other thing was to be intensely emotional and character-driven.
What was the storytelling motivation behind making her grandfather closeted? Were you trying to draw a parallel between Ethan’s struggle to “fix” himself to the TimeTeam’s struggle to “fix” history? I might be reading too much into it.
KRIPKE: No, you should read whatever you want into it! We began the show with the motivation to commit to telling historical stories that aren’t often told, to really present an accurate and inclusive and diverse vision of history, and to correct the undue focus on just, like, white dudes, because there were a lot of other people working their way through history, too, which is why we’ve shown people like Josephine Baker and Bass Reeves.
Honestly, where [this story line with Ethan] came from was in discussion with the writers, where [we realized] we haven’t really addressed [LGBT issues]. We’ve talked about women’s rights and we’ve talked about racism and what we hadn’t addressed up to that point, and it’s an important point, is what it would have been like to be homosexual in America’s past… It felt like the right emotional story to illuminate.
Now, about that twist with Lucy’s mother proving Rittenhouse is still alive and well, along with Emma (Annie Wersching) taking possession of the mothership, was the fact that Carol would be the key to keeping Rittenhouse alive a story you guys always had planned?
RYAN: Yes. To pat ourselves on the back, this was something that Eric and I talked about while we were making the pilot. We always thought Lucy’s mother was secretly Rittenhouse. We debated the best time and way to reveal that, and it’s something we kept secret for a while from Susanna [Thompson, who plays Lucy’s mother], because we wanted her and her actions and her worry with her daughter to be sincere. But that was not a last-minute add – it was something baked into the concept of the show.
To clarify, Lucy wasn’t lying when she told Flynn she didn’t know Agent Christopher would be coming to apprehend him right after she gave him the names of the Rittenhouse people who killed his family, right? He definitely didn’t know.
RYAN: Correct. She went there in good faith to give Flynn the names, and he was in agreement [about the plan]. Agent Christopher was on to the fact that something was up and she tailed Lucy, so Lucy does feel a little betrayed in that sense.
Timeless hasn’t been renewed. Any updates on a potential season 2?
KRIPKE: We don’t know. We’ll be pitching season 2 to NBC in April, and I mean, we’re hopeful. Our DVR numbers are strong, our international numbers are strong. There are so many issues that play into it these days, so we’re hopeful and we have a lot more stories to tell. We’ll just have to see what happens.
RYAN: The passion that our fans have has been humbling and amazing, and obviously we’re just trying to spread the word… I think it’s a show people tend to like, and it’s not too late for people to convince their friends to watch online. All of those numbers get accumulated.
Looking back on the first season, what are some stories you’d like to pursue further if you do get a season 2? I’m sure the mystery of Jiya’s (Claudia Doumit) seizures is at the top of the list.
RYAN: Yeah, and we’re very interested in the Rufus and Jiya relationship. I think there’s a lot of people who want to see where Lucy and Wyatt go. There’s a hint at the end of the finale that maybe Wyatt’s ready to put down the past and look forward, so that’ll be interesting. Another question is, can Connor Mason truly be trusted? There would be new antagonists to chase around in the past on a weekly basis, so many periods of history we haven’t gotten to. The past is endlessly fascinating, so in season 2, I have very little doubt we’d be able to find the worlds and the people we want to meet Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus.
In that case, what historical figure or time period is at the top of your lists?
KRIPKE: For me, it’s Robert Johnson, the blues guitarist. I’m dying to tell the story of juke joints and traveling blues guitarists.
RYAN: Well, I want Leslie Jones to come over the summer when she’s not shooting Saturday Night Live to play Harriet Tubman. [Laughs.]