Timeless finale recap: ‘The Red Scare’
Lucy faces off against Rittenhouse once and for all in a twisty finale
Well, on the plus side, the season finale of Timeless tied up plenty of loose ends — from Lucy’s complicated Rittenhouse ancestry to Rufus’ gunshot wound. But this last episode left us with even more questions than we started with, and as season 2 has yet to be officially announced, this could be the last we see of the Time Team. If this is a season finale, it’s a darn good one. If it’s a series finale, it’s going to be maddeningly frustrating.
This episode kicks off with Lucy finally finding a use for her fake fiancé, asking him to come to a warehouse in Oakland in the middle of the night and stitch up Rufus’ gunshot wound. Apparently he’s a doctor? I definitely forgot that. She then gives him a very generic breakup speech, which makes a lot of sense if you know that she’s a time traveler and zero sense at all otherwise. I also had to look up the fact that Fake Fiancé’s name is actually Noah. That’s how much of an impression he made. Alas, and fare thee well, Hot Noah! We hardly knew ye.
After Hot Noah leaves, presumably never to be heard from again, Rittenhouse storms the warehouse, capturing Agent Christopher but just missing Lucy, Wyatt, Jiya, and Rufus as they escape in the Lifeboat and chase Flynn to 1954. Flynn figures that the easiest way to find a member of Rittenhouse is to go to Senator Joseph McCarthy, the man who’s obsessed with finding and weeding out secrets in 1950s Washington. There’s something especially, um, timely about McCarthy, especially in the way he lies and stokes the public’s fear of evil, un-American outsiders. So it’s really no surprise that one of the most evil figures in American political history was actually a member of Rittenhouse — and apparently, not a very high ranking one, either. Flynn intimidates him into giving up the location of the secret Rittenhouse meeting, but not before leaving McCarthy one parting gift — the photos and names of two supposed Communist spies: Wyatt and Lucy.
Lucy and Wyatt are immediately captured by McCarthy’s men, and before he heads off to destroy Rittenhouse for good, Flynn pops by for one final visit with Lucy. He reminds her that her grandfather, Ethan Cahill, was a high-ranking White House aide and a reluctant member of Rittenhouse. Flynn calmly tells Lucy that he’s going to kill her grandfather and that he has no idea what that will do to Lucy. He says this with about as much interest as someone who’s experimenting with a different kind of milk in his coffee — rather than tinkering with the existence of another human being.
Flynn then leaves to carry out his dastardly plot. There’s a great moment early in the episode where he complains to Emma about not being able to find any more henchmen. Apparently there aren’t that many who can withstand the effects of time travel. Plus, Wyatt keeps shooting most of them. Where does one recruit a henchman, anyway… Craigslist? Is there a henchman union? Is there special hazard pay for time-traveling henchmen versus regular henchmen? Are motion sickness pills included with the job?
As for McCarthy, he finally picks a fight he can’t win, and Wyatt makes short work of his goons. “Really?” Wyatt asks him. “The man with the Eastern European accent tells you I was the Communist?” Free from McCarthy’s clutches, he and Lucy decide the best way to find the secret Rittenhouse meeting is to go straight to an actual Rittenhouse member: Ethan Cahill. They find him and tail him, but before long, it becomes pretty clear that he hasn’t taken them to a secret nefarious meeting.
“Is it just me, or is Rittenhouse way more gay than I thought it would be?” Wyatt asks.
It turns out that Ethan Cahill has a secret — and it’s not just the fact that he’s a member of Rittenhouse. At first, he’s terrified that Lucy and Wyatt are there to blackmail him about his sexuality, but when he realizes they just want information about Rittenhouse, he obliges. In fact, he seems relieved, and the words pour out of him as he talks to Lucy and Wyatt about his guilt, his own troubled family history, and how desperately he wants out of Rittenhouse.
He takes them to the Rittenhouse meeting, and it’s not long before they find Flynn in the basement, setting up explosives. (It sucks when you don’t have any henchmen and have to do all the heavy lifting yourself.) Wyatt moves to take him out, once and for all, but Lucy stops him, giving an impassioned speech about how this isn’t what Flynn really wants, and this won’t bring his family back. He’s already caused so much hurt and destruction, she reminds him; there’s no reason he has to cause any more.
Flynn began his arc on Timeless as a bit of an enigma, a seemingly random terrorist whose only real goal was to wreak as much havoc as possible. And he largely succeeded: As I’ve mentioned time and time again in these recaps, this is the man who literally shot Abraham Lincoln, our nation’s most beloved president. Still, as time has gone on, we’ve learned more and more about our main antagonist, and thanks to Goran Visnjic’s performance, there’s an emotional weight to his decisions, even if they’re not always the most logical choice. In the penultimate episode, we saw him grappling with his faith, and here, we see a real interaction with his wife and daughter, before they were killed. He may be hell-bent on exacting revenge, but he’s also broken, and Lucy appeals to him by telling him she’s got a plan to take down Rittenhouse once and for all.
Back at the Lifeboat, Jiya is keeping Rufus company, and although she’s the one who’s supposed to be monitoring his health after his gunshot wound, the situation quickly shifts. The Lifeboat isn’t built for a quartet, and Mason Industries has never attempted to bring four people through time and space. At first, all seems well, but it isn’t long before Jiya starts to experience some unexpected side effects: first bloodshot eyes, then fainting, then a series of seizures. It’s unclear why Jiya is the only one to be affected, but whatever’s happening to her is definitely serious.
Rufus and Wyatt meet back up to take Jiya back to the present (and a hospital, hopefully), while Lucy stays behind to have a heart-to-heart with Flynn and Ethan. She tells Ethan everything, from the existence of time travel to the fact that she’s biologically his granddaughter. She begs him to help her and Flynn destroy Rittenhouse once and for all, and after he gets over the fact that he just watched a time machine disappear into space, he agrees.
It’s then that we finally see Lucy’s plan come together — and it’s a pretty great one.
NEXT: A mother of a twist
Back in the present, Lucy reunites with the much, much older Ethan, who’s spent the last six decades keeping meticulous secret notes on everything there is to know about Rittenhouse. Not only is it enough to convict Ethan’s son, Benjamin, and all the other members, but it’s truly touching to see Ethan’s years of hard work pay off. He tells Lucy that he had doubted her for so long, but he kept going anyway, just on the off chance that he could eventually stop such a hateful organization. We don’t spend much time with Ethan at all, but his brief arc and reunion with Lucy is one of the most powerful and touching moments of the entire season.
And for a while, it looks like the Time Team is going to get a happy ending! Rittenhouse has been disbanded. They no longer have control of the Lifeboat. It even looks like things are going to turn out okay for Flynn after Lucy gives him the name of the Rittenhouse members who killed his wife and children, so he can take one last trip through time and bring his family back. “Then surrender the Mothership or destroy it, I don’t care,” she tells him. “But this, it’s over.” He agrees — and they even prepare to part as friends. (Taking down a century-spanning evil organization tends to bring people closer together.) But it’s then that Agent Christopher appears out of nowhere, arresting Flynn despite Lucy’s protests. She swears that she didn’t set him up, but he doesn’t believe her. It isn’t hard to figure out that we haven’t seen the last of Garcia Flynn — and if we know anything about him, it’s the fact that he’s a guy who likes to carry a grudge. Watch out, Lucy.
But even that isn’t enough for Timeless. We’ve still got two twists left in this episode, starting with Rufus and Jiya’s reunion. Just like with Flynn and Lucy, things seem great, at first. The pair even take the time to declare their love for each other. But Jiya’s seizures still aren’t over, and they’re having some, well, unexpected side effects. Whatever’s going on with her, it’s a mystery that still has to be unraveled.
But no, we still have to have one more loose end — and it’s a big one. Finally, after all this time, Lucy has been given permission to take one last trip and ensure that her sister Amy is born, as she always should have been. Before Lucy takes off, she has one last heart-to-heart with her mother, Carol, opening up about the time machine and her sister’s existence. She even tells her mother that no matter what happens, even if her mother ends up sicker than before, she loves her so, so much.
Carol replies that that’s okay: Rittenhouse would never let that happen.
“How do you think I met your father?” Carol says. “We both come from good, strong Rittenhouse families. And that almost makes you royalty.”
Um, what? You mean that Ethan gathered enough data to take down every member of Rittenhouse except for Lucy’s mother? Not only that, but Emma has actually been a sleeper Rittenhouse member this whole time and stole the Mothership for them? (If so, why was she hiding out in the woods in the 19th century, if she wasn’t hiding from Rittenhouse?)
So that’s a pretty big twist… especially for a show that has yet to be renewed for a second season. It remains unclear whether we’ll see the return of the Time Team any time soon, and we’re not exactly leaving them in a safe place. On one hand, this episode is one of the strongest we’ve seen yet, with all of our main players delivering powerhouse performances. It took a little while for Timeless to settle into its rhythm and fully introduce its clunky mythology, but now that we’re here, the show is bolstered by strong characters and meaningful relationships. (Special shout-out to Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett for always bringing their A-game, even when the material doesn’t live up to their performances.)
But now that the show has finally found its footing, especially over the last few episodes, we’re now faced with the fact that we may not get a season 2 at all. This season finale makes it clear that there’s a lot more to explore with these characters (and plenty more obscure historical figures to meet), so if we don’t get a second season, I’m fully prepared to blame Rittenhouse. Otherwise, I’ll be waiting patiently for the return of the Time Team.