Timeless recap: The Time Team says goodbye in a festive finale
Time to say farewell to Timeless. After two seasons (and two cancellations!), NBC’s decade-hopping drama comes to an end with an action-packed finale. Lucy, Rufus, and Wyatt have experienced their fair share of mortal peril and moral quandaries as they’ve zipped around American history these past two years, and the two-part story “The Miracle of Christmas” attempts to give them a little bit of closure.
Is it successful? Sort of. “The Miracle of Christmas” is an odd beast, squeezing a season’s worth of plot into two hours. Last May’s season two finale ended on a cliffhanger, with Rufus dead and future Lucy and Wyatt visiting their past selves with an offer to resurrect him. NBC declined to renew the show for a third season, but fan campaigning helped convince the network to greenlight a short finale and tie up loose ends. And boy, are there a lot of loose ends to tie up: Over the course of the finale, the team members travel to multiple decades, meet a few historical figures, steal some horses, deliver a baby, revive a dead friend, and rack up a pretty serious body count — all while trying to work through the emotional baggage and traumas they’ve each experienced. That’s a lot to cram into one finale, and as a result, some of those threads are barely touched upon before the episode hurries on to the next thing. But you can’t help but feel that the Timeless crew did the best with what they were given. A slap-dash ending is better than no ending at all, and although it would’ve been nice if Timeless had a little more, um, time to wrap things up, the finale still makes for a lovely sendoff.
Timeless’ first season introduced it as a clunky historical adventure with a murky mythology, but the second season simplified things by stripping away some of the convoluted Rittenhouse mystery and focusing on character-driven drama. “The Miracle of Christmas” continues that trend by letting the historical shenanigans take a backseat to what’s going on inside the characters’ heads. When we last left the team, they were still reeling from Rufus’ death. Jiya was processing her PTSD from being left in 19th-century Chinatown for years, while Wyatt was still trying to cope with the revelation that his formerly dead wife Jessica had been secretly manipulating him as a Rittenhouse agent. (Also, she said she was pregnant!) And poor Lucy was dealing with A) her evil mother’s death B) her conflicting feelings for Flynn and Wyatt, and C) the fact that her beloved sister has been erased from history. So yeah, a lot of emotional trauma in the bunker.
But a glimmer of hope arrived in the final moments of the season two finale when badass future versions of Wyatt and Lucy arrived in their own Lifeboat (looking a little worse for the wear) to ask, “You guys wanna get Rufus back or what?” Tonight’s episode picks up exactly where that cliffhanger left off, with future Lucy and Wyatt dispensing with some important exposition. (They say Jessica made up her pregnancy. So much for that plot point!) Most importantly, they come bearing Lucy’s journal and a new-and-improved version of the Lifeboat, with convenient autopilot capabilities. And so present Lucy, Wyatt, Jiya, and Flynn set off to take down Rittenhouse with renewed vigor.
Their final mission leads them to 1848 California, where the gold rush is about to take off and Rittenhouse has planted its final sleeper agent. Emma and Jessica lead the team on a mad dash around the California hills (with a sort of unclear agenda), and our heroes cross paths with Joaquin Murrieta, a notorious Western outlaw who supposedly served as the inspiration for Zorro. But who cares about Zorro! The California adventure is merely filler before the real drama starts up: After spending time with Lucy and watching his newfound friends grieve for Rufus, Flynn decides to go back to his roots and steal a time machine again. This time, however, he’s got a more benevolent goal in mind — and he travels back to 2012 to make sure Jessica dies as she was originally supposed to. If Jessica dies in 2012, she can never kill Rufus in Chinatown, and before long, everyone’s favorite engineer-slash-sci-fi-nerd is back from the dead. Got all that?
But Flynn’s sacrifice comes with a price. He sends the Lifeboat (on autopilot) back to 1848 California, while he stays in 2012. He sees his long-dead family one last time, before succumbing to the effects of traveling through one’s own time stream. But we haven’t seen the last of him yet…
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Emma is still furious over the loss of her closest lieutenant, Jessica, so she hatches one last plan to put a stop to Lucy, Wyatt, Rufus, and Jiya. And so the team follows her to North Korea on Christmas Eve 1950, right in the middle of the Hungnam evacuation. Nicknamed “the miracle of Christmas,” the evacuation helped get thousands of soldiers and refugees out of North Korea as communist forces were closing in. The team manages to foil Emma’s attempts to murder them, but before they can head back to the Lifeboat and regroup, Lucy makes the decision to stay a little while longer and help evacuate a pregnant schoolteacher who had helped them.
“What’s the point of saving history if we don’t save the people in it?” she asks.
Ultimately the schoolteacher is saved, a baby is delivered, and Agent Christopher pulls some strings to rescue them from certain death in 1950. (Like I said, there’s a lot of plot.) And the team comes face to face with Emma in one final showdown. As Rittenhouse starts to crumble around her, Emma makes one last desperate plea for freedom: She knows how Lucy’s sister Amy was erased from history, and she’s willing to help bring her back.
There’s a flicker of hope on Lucy’s face as she considers Emma’s offer — only to shake her head and say no. Every time she’s meddled in the past, it’s resulted in the death of someone she loves (like trading Rufus for Flynn), and it’s time to let history be history. And when Emma’s caught in the crossfire of the invading army, Rittenhouse finally, definitively comes to an end.
And so our battered, broken team returns to the present with both the Mothership and the Lifeboat. Agent Christopher makes the executive decision to destroy the Mothership but keep the Lifeboat under lock and key, in case it’s ever needed in the future. Jiya and Rufus decide to move past their shared trauma — her three years in 19th century San Francisco, his death — and move in together. And Lucy and Wyatt decide to stop fighting fate and commit to each other.
“I don’t care about the past anymore, and we may not have a future,” she tells him. “Maybe all that matters is right now.” Awwwww.
And so everybody gets a happy ending! Jiya and Rufus cofound a company and help mentor young scientists. Lucy and Wyatt have two kids named Flynn and Amy, and Lucy goes back to teaching American history (with a focus on important female figures). Everything gets wrapped up with a nice, neat bow, and everyone seems to have emerged relatively unscathed after their few years experimenting with time travel. Is it a total fan service ending? Yes. Is it still sweet? You bet.
But the team has one last trip to make. In 2023, five years after they retired the Lifeboat for good, the original trio — Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus — set out on one last mission. Their destination? Brazil in 2014, where Lucy tracks down a grieving Flynn on Christmas Eve and hands him her journal, just as he said she did all those years ago. She can’t stay in the past for long, but she apologizes for everything he’s about to go through and promises that he will find his way. “You’re going to think that you lost your humanity, but you didn’t,” she tells him. “And you never will.”
And so Timeless ends just as it began — with Garcia Flynn nicking a time machine and setting the whole thing in motion again. It’s a bittersweet moment, and I’m not sure how I feel about Flynn’s redemption arc. (The show seems to have conveniently forgotten that he murdered a lot of people along the way.)
But most importantly, the show’s finale illustrates just how far it’s come in two seasons — and how much it will be missed. Timeless could be clunky and confusing, but it was also a lot weirder and more ambitious than just about anything else on television. Where else could you find a show that was so sunnily optimistic and deeply cynical about human nature? Timeless’ depiction of American history was frequently sanitized and simplified, but it also wasn’t afraid to rack up a pretty high body count. Later episodes tended to veer a little too much into cheesy fan service territory — at one point in the finale, Rufus says that he’s Team Lyatt, a reference to Lucy and Wyatt’s popular ship name — but that’s somewhat forgivable for a show whose vocal fandom brought it back from the dead… twice.
So should we expect one more resurrection? As of now, it looks like this is it for the Time Team — and I think that’s okay. Time travel and nefarious secret societies will always be fertile ground for storytelling, but the stories of Lucy, Wyatt, Rufus, and Jiya now have a clear beginning, middle, and end. A stinger at the very end of the episode hints that Connor Mason won’t be the last person to invent a time machine, but this is looking like the end of the line for our particular heroes. Either way, they’re going down in history.