‘Timeless’ Visits a Dark Place in ‘The Salem Witch Hunt’

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Photo by Patrick Wymore/NBC

TIMELESS: 3.04 “The Salem Witch Hunt”

Ever since I heard Timeless would be visiting Salem during the witch trials, I’ve been waiting for this episode. This is a time period I’ve been especially interested in, and boy did they set up the atmosphere. From the moment they stepped into those deserted, foggy woods, you knew this would be a dark episode. And let’s be honest, I was sure Lucy would somehow be called out for witchcraft (she is a time traveler from the future, after all).

But I had no idea that the person to accuse her would be her own mother. Or that she’d be on the list of the eight—or as it turned out, nine—to be hanged on the darkest day. Add in the fact that Benjamin Franklin’s mother was also added to that list, thanks to Carol, and you have the setup for a really intense episode that has a lot riding on it.

As far as Rittenhouse plans go, this one feels like it’s the first that made sense. The last three episodes, with their sleeper agents, felt like lower stakes, compared to taking Benjamin Franklin out before he even had the chance to be born. That would truly change the shape of America. (I’d also argue that we’d run into a little bit of trouble technology-wise, since he was the man who also discovered electricity, but perhaps our WWI Rittenhouse guru doesn’t care about something as trivial as electricity.)

But let’s talk about Carol’s plan. Despite the fact that Carol was one of two existing Rittenhouse members who saved Nicholas Keynes from his death in the early 20th century, it seemed odd that she’d have to “earn her stripes” by knocking out Franklin. And her plan to “save” Lucy by essentially threatening her with hanging in order to get her to join Rittenhouse. That was harsh. Clearly, Carol isn’t thinking straight with this plan. And her desperation as Lucy declined, with her cold, “I’d rather be hanged”…wow.

And let’s be honest, when your neck is on the line, suddenly everything looks darker. It takes a lot to add humor to an episode like this one, and can we just say, thank God for Flynn? Flynn and his search for a weapon was one of the highlights in an episode that could otherwise be too depressing or cold. While I may miss Wyatt on the Time Team, I did enjoy him in this episode.

Let’s talk about Flynn for a moment. Did anyone else feel a little sting of jealousy when Wyatt saw Flynn step off the Lifeboat with Lucy? And that look Flynn gave Wyatt? Hmm.

There were definite developments for Wyatt in this episode, even though he didn’t go on the trip this time around. Still reeling from his discovery that Jessica is alive, he’s trying to patch things up—by telling her the truth and bringing her to the bunker. (That won’t be awkward later, I’m sure.) How Christopher is continuing with Wyatt and his behavior, I’ll never know. But we also discovered that it wasn’t some twist of fate that brought Jessica back. Rittenhouse went back to 1980 to take out her killer (meaning Rittenhouse knew Jessica’s killer the entire time—digest that for a moment), in order to take Wyatt out of play. Rittenhouse surely knows how to play the game dirty.

And how about those who don’t know the game they’re playing? Let’s turn to Jiya and Rufus for a moment. Jiya is now openly accepting that her visions of Rufus are just that, and she finally told him. And he believed her. But then came an interesting game of fate: Was it fated for that man to die, even if it wasn’t at Rufus’ hands, simply because Rufus was now in his time period? Or was Rufus being aware of this man really the cause? Is he right to ask Jiya to keep the visions to herself? Was it really fair to blame Jiya at all?

I don’t have many answers, but I certainly don’t think Jiya’s to blame. And holding back her visions from Rufus—especially if they’re of his future and he could be in danger—only seems like a bad thing. It will likely take a toll on their relationship, too. I’m a big fan of Rufus and Jiya, so I hate the idea that anything could cause tension, but if it gives them more screen time, I’m all for it.

Finally, the big change in the episode: Lucy agreed to change history. As she put it, “I can’t sit back and watch innocent people die anymore.” Such an important line, and she truly did make change. The trials became the  Salem Witch Revolt, and even the term “witch hunt” has disappeared from the lexicon. If only, right? Sure, there could have be some really dire consequences of these actions. What if the witch hunt spread throughout Massachusetts, or even across the colonies? What if they killed more people? I love that Lucy was able to push these thoughts out of her mind simply to save the innocent. It was a positive message in a dark episode, and I wonder how changes like these may play out in the episodes to come.

Overall, I felt like this was an incredibly strong episode, from the ambiance to the plot to the acting. Possibly one of the best. While I would never want to take my own time machine to visit the Salem witch trials, I’m certainly glad they did.

A few other notes:

  • While I could see Jessica’s frustration at Wyatt being a terrible husband or even a drunk, some of her arguments bugged me. For instance, her being upset that she hadn’t heard from him in two months or that he hadn’t returned her texts? Wyatt was Delta force, which (disclaimer: all I know of Delta force is what they showed on Army Wives) means that he could be called away on a mission at a moment’s notice, with no details to share with family, and no clear idea how long he’d be gone. Wouldn’t she be used to his disappearing and not texting?
  • Any Supernatural fans out there? Recognize Bathsheba Pope? Yep, she was the Darkness in Supernatural.
  • Everyone’s reactions to Jessica was great. Both the bunker’s reaction to her being dead in the first place to Rufus’s reaction to hearing she’s alive. I’m glad they faced that head-on.
  • Lucy in this entire episode was just so good. From the moments that she’d signal to Flynn to do his thing to the phone call with Wyatt to her speech to the women in that cell. Kudos, Abigail Spencer.
  • “You know black and white necks snap just the same, right?” This line was perfection, and I’m glad they continue to call out the racism in each time period, instead of taking a blind eye to it.
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