Timeless Episode 12 Review: The Murder of Jesse James

Significant emotional impact for several characters and a couple of interesting twists give this pivotal episode its punch.

This Timeless review contains spoilers.

Timeless Season 1, Episode 12

Frustration and overcoming hopelessness seem to be the focus for many of the characters in this week’s episode of Timeless. The episode title, “The Murder of Jesse James,” is an apt name considering the focus was on the murder and not the infamous outlaw himself. Although some of the pent up feelings bring us back to motivations that have carried through the season, others propel the story forward towards the build-up to the finale.

Initially, Wyatt was the only character that had a specific set-up for his increased aggression. Visiting Wes Gilliam in prison brought very little closure for the man whose wife was killed, but he got an admission of guilt and a confession for the murders of two other women. Wyatt’s resulting desire to kill Jesse James by proxy is therefore understandable and in line with his shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude throughout the series so far, especially given James’ reference to Wyatt’s “cause.”

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What is more surprising is the personality change Lucy undergoes based on the dream she has of Amy on what would have been her sister’s birthday. Although feelings of guilt may have heightened her compulsion to finally try to do something about it, what could she possibly do? Did killing of Jesse James, in the back no less, release any of that tension? The murder will almost certainly haunt her, especially given the disdain Bass Reeves shows her as he delivers the reward money.

And speaking of Reeves, the first black U.S. Marshal was obviously the star historical figure, and like Katherine Johnson in the “Space Race” episode (kudos to Timeless for beating Hidden Figures to the punch), it’s wonderful to see this show highlight unsung heroes. Sending Rufus through history as a black man could easily have become heavy-handed satire, but Timeless has handled it well, especially here. Reeves acts as an excellent counter to Wyatt’s aggression and as a mirror to Lucy’s desperate actions.

But Lucy and Wyatt aren’t the only ones acting out of desperation. Connor Mason himself, who has waffled about and warned against the malevolent intent of Rittenhouse has finally “picked a side.” By choosing to train Jiya in piloting the lifeboat, he has helped the secret organization circumvent Rufus’ refusal to record missions for them. Although this isn’t a surprising decision, what does it mean for Rufus? Is his family still in danger? And is Jiya putting herself in the line of fire as well?

Jiya’s discovery of a previous pilot in the video archives coincides somewhat incredibly with Flynn’s mission to “rescue” her from self-exile in the past. Equally hard to swallow is Flynn’s decision to go after Emma Whitmore on the date of Jesse James’ death. Why draw attention to his target by choosing a moment in history that Lucy could track with her historical knowledge? He could have picked any day in the decade Emma was there; Jesse James would’ve still taken his money. Narratively, the sequence of events was obviously necessary, but logically, it asks a lot of viewers’ ability to suspend their disbelief.

There were some nice comedic moments as well this week, which Timeless can always be counted on to include, usually through Rufus. His description of the town he and the others ride into as a “scary version of Blazing Saddles” was an effective way of explaining the dirty looks their party is getting without being too overt. Likewise, turning around the nickname “Tonto” — Spanish for crazy — on Wyatt was the perfectly subtle way to highlight the involvement of the self-sacrificing Grant and the belief that Reeves was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger.

So now Wyatt wants Rufus to help him steal the time machine to save Jessica, and Flynn apparently has enlisted the aid of another pilot. These two twists add a lot of interest for the story moving forward as does whatever emotional fallout Lucy will suffer because of her actions. Timeless has done a top-notch job of storytelling despite the occasional misstep, and it’s always interesting to try and guess where the show will go next.

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3.5 out of 5