The Time Team can’t catch a break, not even at Christmastime. It’s winter of 1950 in North Korea, and their latest time-hopping, utterly un-festive mission has led the time travelers to the church of a war-torn village, where they’re now huddled for warmth, out of breath, and covered in dust.
But they’re also laughing — or at least the cast is. Moments earlier, Wyatt (Matt Lanter) had run off in pursuit of an unseen enemy, and actress Abigail Spencer, breaking character as Lucy, stood up looking perplexed. “Aw, where you going?” she ad-libbed, as everyone on set collapsed into giggles. “I’m just having a good time,” Spencer admits afterward. “We’re not even supposed to be here. This is borrowed time, you know?”
Oh, we know. NBC’s time-travel drama has, to put it lightly, struggled to stay on air: In 2017, the network axed Timeless after its first season before reversing the call three days later, then did the same with its second, only to revive it for a two-hour finale. Both resurrections happened because of fans who campaigned for the show’s survival, co-creator Shawn Ryan says. “There were times where I almost gave up,” he remembers. “But seeing that intensity from the fans on many days [made me go], ‘No, I’m going to keep fighting.’ ” The efforts — including fan-funded banners at Comic-Con — paid off, and the cast is more than grateful to have one last reunion. “We’ve been through a lot,” Lanter says. “All of us are taking this opportunity to just have fun with it.”
And to wrap up loose ends. Season 2 bowed with a mind-blowing cliff-hanger: After returning to present day without Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) — who was shot and killed by Rittenhouse agent Emma (Annie Wersching) — another time-travel ship landed in the bunker, and future versions of Lucy and Wyatt emerged, with Future Lucy delivering a tantalizing last line: “You guys want to get Rufus back or what?”
The writers do. Ryan and co-creator Eric Kripke prioritized saving Rufus while crafting the two-hour event — “It would’ve been a s—ty cliff-hanger to end the show on,” says Kripke — and Barrett was present that laughter-filled November afternoon, filming scenes with the rest of the cast on the North Korea set (in reality, a cleverly dressed ranch in Santa Clarita, California).
And no, the actor was never afraid of being actually written off Timeless. “The audience loves me!” he jokes, pointing to the fan-fueled hashtag #SaveRufus. “There was a whole campaign!”
“The question is,” Ryan warns, “has Rufus been saved? Is this a flashback? Is this a different timeline?”
That’s not the only question being asked in the finale, of course. Pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly — on stands Friday — for the full preview of the Time Team’s final(?) adventure, including how Future Lucy and Future Wyatt play into the story, what’s going on with Rittenhouse, Flynn, and everyone else, as well as what the cast thinks about the possibility of more Timeless.
Timeless returns for its finale special Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.