This Timeless review contains spoilers.
Timeless Season 1, Episode 15
Sometimes the historical time period in Timeless works to the story’s advantage, and sometimes it really doesn’t. Clearly this week’s episode was going for an unusual family relationship with the Capone brothers that would resonate somehow with Lucy’s search for her sister, but it just didn’t line up. Ultimately, the setting was simply a framework to deliver the information about the every-quarter-century meeting of Rittenhouse and place Rufus in danger for a cliffhanger. There were parts that worked, but it was definitely a choppy week.
The most contrived bit of storytelling came as soon as Eliot Ness was gunned down in his apartment. First of all, what a waste of a great guest spot by Supernatural’s Misha Collins, and secondly, didn’t that feel a bit too easy? Of course, desperation needed to drive the team to Richard Hart, a.k.a. James Vincenzo Capone, for help, which would have been fine if their plea had any chance of working. The fact that Lucy was able to persuade — or should I say manipulate? — Hart to make a move against his brother stretched the already thin credibility of the situation.
And what about Flynn’s plan? Are we to believe that the only way he could get to the mayor of Chicago was to rescue Al Capone from the tax evasion charges that brought down his crime empire? At times, the viewer wants to give Flynn the benefit of the doubt that he performs necessary evils to bring down Rittenhouse; this is not one of those times. Although it was a nice follow-up to the off-camera meeting with the French automaker, the use of a known historical figure, which is narratively necessary but always puts a target on Flynn’s back, was particularly forced here.
Oh, but the Costner, Connery, and De Niro pseudonyms were a nice nod to The Untouchables.
The action back in the present was much more interesting, even from the start when Lucy and Rufus stole the time machine. The idea that they could go back to 1962 to kill Flynn’s mother was shocking enough to make the theft of the time machine (and the tranquilizer dart for the new soldier) that much more justified. The prospect of the team heading to UC Berkeley in 1979 was exciting while it lasted. It was tough to decide whether the choice to make that their first jump while they were on the run was reckless or inspired, but the switch to the pursuit of Flynn was still a painful transition.
But the real excitement was with Jiya, and it was great to see this character get her time in the limelight. Watching her MacGyver together a computer to shut down the project just as Connor made it past Rufus’ sabotage was a really fun moment. Like Jiya, the audience now sees Connor as the weak Wizard of Oz, and the deal he makes with the Rittenhouse goons to combine his advanced data mining software with their giant server farms in Utah is a truly chilling turn of events.
That’s not to say there weren’t some enjoyable moments back in 1931. Wyatt certainly has been bumped up a few notches in everyone’s estimation now that the team has seen what kind of soldier it could have had instead, but his “one problem at a time” philosophy was truly inspiring, especially the story about the man who jumped out of a burning plane without a parachute. This calm approach also held back fears about Rufus’ fate as they returned to the lifeboat… until the realization sunk in that the machine is hard enough for Rufus to pilot while fully conscious.
The very fact that Flynn made the killing of Rufus his one final favor from Capone creates quite a contrast to the opening scene in which the supposed villain is seeking absolution. It’s almost as if Flynn wants someone to put an end to his vengeful mission when he asks the priest, “What if God’s not there? Will he stop me?” This statement alone seems to ensure that the finale will be a reckoning of sorts, perhaps in 1954 with the next Rittenhouse meeting.
And that’s where most of the promise of Timeless lies each week: the search for an ultimate showdown. Is it possible to address both the Rittenhouse problem and the issue of Lucy’s sister in one final episode? There will be a cliffhanger, of course, but with which story arc will it relate? Even with a more disjointed episode like this one, the strength of the characters and mythology pulls the show through and keeps audience interest. If only the historical context could be equally as consistent.