This week, we heard the great news that Timeless is back on March 11 for season two. For anyone who follows me on Twitter, you know I’ve been a fan of the show since the start. I was so disappointed when it was cancelled and elated when it was uncancelled. So to say that I’m excited for season two is an understatement.
In honor of the forthcoming premiere, I decided to go back and rewatch the show’s pilot (again—I’ve already rewatched the series once, now that I own the DVD set). It’s fun to go back to the beginning after you know key plot points. For instance, in my initial watch of the show, who knew how important that last look Lucy gave Amy as she left the house was. Now, in rewatching it, it’s suddenly a very sad scene.
It’s a really fun episode. Centering around the Hindenburg, our three main characters went back to 1937 to stop Garcia Flynn from changing history after he stole Connor Mason’s time machine. The Time Team, made up of Lucy (the historian), Wyatt (the soldier), and Rufus (the pilot), are of course using what we call the Lifeboat, an early version of the time machine that was only kept operational in case of emergency. Which this just so happens to be. (By the way, the design of these machines is great. And not a Delorean in sight.)
Shows about time travel can be overly complicated. Just look at a show like The Flash. If you don’t establish rules early, things get ugly pretty quick. And I’m impressed by the ease of which Timeless establishes such rules: Mason Industries can track the date that Flynn takes the time machine, but not the place, hence the need for a historian. Also, you can’t go back to a time that you’ve already existed, which means no going back to your past—and no correcting any mistakes or changes you make on missions.
This becomes especially important for the series. First, it means that when Lucy’s sister disappears at the end of the episode because they’ve changed the fate of folks on the Hindenburg, there’s no going back to make sure the survivors who were supposed to die actually died (and yes, we could argue whether anyone is “supposed” to die—and actual question that’s often debated in the series). It also means that Wyatt can’t go back to save his wife, who died years earlier. (To be honest, how they didn’t do a background check on Wyatt to see if he had any major life tragedies he might want to “fix” via time travel seems like a mistake, but I like Wyatt and they were probably trying to find a soldier quickly, so it works.)
What the show also gets right is the ugly parts of America’s history in the pilot. Rufus calls out the obvious rather quickly, when asked to pilot the Lifeboat: “I am black. There’s literally no place in American history that would be awesome for me.” He’s also given angry stares when he walks into a 1930s bar, forced to stand outside. The writers didn’t shy away from this. What’s more, they made Rufus someone to root for, as he creates a distraction in a jail cell, citing all the accomplishments black people make in the future: “The future is not on your side, boy.” Powerful.
Overall, the pilot balances the right amount of action, sci-fi, and just plain fun in a show that draws you in. Sure, this particular episode doesn’t delve into some of the more philosophical questions about time travel (like if you could go back in time and save someone who could make the world a better place, would you—something that’s in the Abraham Lincoln episode), but it does lay everything out on the table. And it even gives us some intrigue: What does Flynn want with the time machine? Who—or what?—is Rittenhouse? And how do we get Amy back?
There’s a lot more to happen after just the one episode, but the Time Team shows its skills. It’s fun. And certainly worth the rewatch.