It was a twist so shocking, it felt like something out of, well, a sci-fi show: Just days after NBC canceled Timeless, the network reversed its decision and announced that it would be bringing the time-travel adventure back after all for another season. Now, one year later, the Time Team is officially back, and the premiere episode teases a sophomore season that’s tighter, smarter, and still a hell of a lot of fun.
When Timeless first made its debut in the fall of 2016, it in many ways felt like just another network television show. For one, it capitalized on the omnipresent time-travel trend (as evidenced by DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Doctor Who, Outlander, Time After Time, Future Man, Making History, and roughly 127 other shows). Timeless also stuck closely to well-worn TV tropes, from the time-period-of-the-week format to the will-they-won’t-they chemistry between two of its leads. But from the get-go, Timeless always had a delightfully weird and anarchistic streak running under all the network normalcy. Here was a show where the main villain could shoot Lincoln in the head one week, and then a few episodes later, Harry Houdini was helping everyone escape from H.H. Holmes’ murder castle. The tone oscillated wildly between campy fun and self-serious drama, and even though the rules of time travel didn’t always make sense, they sure made for some crazy twists and turns. And perhaps most importantly, it was anchored by three extremely magnetic leads: Abigail Spencer as historian Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as soldier Wyatt Logan, and Malcolm Barrett as pilot Rufus Carlin.
With the season 2 premiere, “The War to End All Wars,” Timeless is focusing on the parts of season 1 that worked the best (like its strong characters) and jettisoning the parts that didn’t (like the overly complicated and frequently confusing Rittenhouse mythology). When we last left our heroes, Lucy had just learned that her mother, Carol (Susanna Thompson), is actually a high-ranking member of Rittenhouse. Even more damningly, Carol is in cahoots with Emma (Annie Wersching), the Rittenhouse sleeper agent who had been hiding out in late 19th-century Missouri for the last decade and has now stolen the Mothership. As for last season’s main villain? Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic) had turned out to be far more of a sympathetic character than anyone had initially believed, and he had even struck up an uneasy alliance with Lucy, before Agent Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey) swooped in at the last minute to arrest him for his crimes.
Oh, also, Lucy is still trying to get her sister Amy back after accidentally erasing her from history, and Rufus’ coworker/girlfriend Jiya (Claudia Doumit) has started having strange, time travel seizures. So yeah, everything is going great for the Time Team.
As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, season 2 kicks off with a literal bang, as Rittenhouse blows up Mason Industries. We pick up about six weeks later, as Rufus and Wyatt are hiding out in a secret bunker (procured for them by Agent Christopher) and trying to repair the damaged Lifeboat. No one has heard from Lucy since the night of the explosion, and Rufus and Wyatt both fear that she’s dead. But Jiya is there, chilling in the bunker, as is Connor Mason himself (Paterson Joseph), who turns out to be not in league with Rittenhouse but generally pretty useless at repairing the time machine. Mason Industries is his company! You’d think he’d have a better sense of how to work the time machine that he helped build! Come on, Connor! You’re the CEO, so justify your presumably exorbitant salary!
As for Lucy, she’s doing a little mother-daughter bonding with her mom — by heading to World War I-era France. In order to prove her supposed loyalty to Rittenhouse, she accompanies Carol and Emma to save a soldier named Nicholas Keans, and it’s only a matter of time before Lucy gets a taste of how ruthless Rittenhouse really is: When Keans’ friend starts questioning the trio of women, Emma calmly shoots him in the leg, before handing the gun to Lucy to finish him off. Lucy is horrified at the idea of killing an innocent man, but she eventually pulls the trigger as her mom nods approvingly. Our poor historian has come a long way (and been through a lot) since we first saw her geeking out over the Hindenburg.
Lucy realizes that they’re going to need more advanced medical equipment to successfully treat Keans, and as she goes to track down a “petite Curie,” an early X-ray machine, she runs smack into the machine’s inventor: famed scientist Marie Curie. As Marie and her daughter Irene accompany Lucy back to help save Keans, Lucy is torn between her total admiration for the Nobel-winning scientist and her worry that famous historical figures don’t tend to live very long after crossing paths with Rittenhouse.
Her fear comes to pass as Lucy, Carol, Emma, and Keans make their way back to the Mothership — only to find Marie and Irene excitedly jabbering about their new discovery. Emma immediately draws her gun and moves to shoot both Curies, but Lucy begs her for mercy. Before Emma can murder one of the most celebrated and important female scientists of all time, Rufus and Wyatt show up, having successfully repaired the Lifeboat and tracked the Mothership to 1918 France. They rescue Lucy, save the Curies, and almost convince Carol to give up Rittenhouse and come back to the future with her daughter — only for Carol to choose Rittenhouse and disappear into the future with Keans and Emma. It’s a devastating moment for Lucy, made all the more heartbreaking by Spencer’s performance, and it adds a much-needed personal touch to the Time-Team-versus-Rittenhouse dynamic. (Recap continues on page 2)
Also complicating things? The mysterious Keans, whom Emma and Carol bring back to the future. As we soon learn, he’s not just a Rittenhouse member, but a key architect of the organization’s entire mission statement. He’s the guy who’s been dreaming of all the havoc Rittenhouse could wreak if only they had a time machine. Now, with the Mothership safely in its possession, Rittenhouse can get cracking on its master plan to scatter sleeper agents throughout history, embedding them around the world and in every decade, ready to make as much mischief as possible.
Oh, and Keans is also Carol’s grandfather — and Lucy’s great-grandfather. Talk about an uncomfortable family reunion.
The premiere seems to be setting up a neat little formula for season 2, as each episode will presumably find the Time Team chasing after another Rittenhouse sleeper agent sprinkled throughout history. In the show’s first season, the excuses behind each time jump were a little wonky; sometimes Flynn’s reasons for going back and meddling history just seemed like a flimsy excuse to get our trio to the Alamo/Nazi Germany/wherever. With the new focus on these sleeper agents, Rittenhouse is starting to feel like an actual organization with real goals and plans, as opposed to sort of just a general, catch-all Big Bad whose only two defining characteristics were “mysterious” and “nefarious.”
But it’s not all bad news for our beloved trio! After weeks of thinking the others were dead, Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus are finally reunited — and no one is happier about this than Lucy and Wyatt. Everyone’s favorite will-they-won’t-they couple are so relieved to be back together that they come this close to sharing a kiss — only to be interrupted by Jiya, doing her best impression of C-3PO interrupting Han and Leia in Empire Strikes Back. From a story perspective, the Lucy-Wyatt relationship has always felt like a bit of an afterthought, like the writers decided that the show should probably have some sort of romance because, well, every other show on television does. But thanks to the chemistry between Lanter and Spencer, the relationship between Lucy and Wyatt has actually become one of the most captivating and charming parts of the entire series, and hopefully season 2 will see it develop in new ways.
We’ll have to wait and see how season two unfolds — the cast has teased that future episodes will take the team everywhere from the Salem witch trials to NASCAR in the 1950s — but the premiere episode seems like a step in the right direction. Not only does this new episode preserve all of the first season’s most delightful elements, but it also tightens up a few loose ends, proving once and for all that its resurrection was well worth it.
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