This Timeless review contains spoilers.
Timeless deserves a lot of credit for creating both an enjoyable and a credible ending for a season two cliffhanger in only ninety minutes without commercials. The series was canceled just after the death of a major character and the last minute promise that his death could be undone, and fan efforts to #SaveRufus, including flying a banner over San Diego Comic Con, were largely responsible for the existence of this movie finale to give the series a proper resolution. And other than perhaps an overabundance of cheesy Christmas one-liners, this was the perfect send-off for the show.
That’s not to say some elements weren’t rushed; of course they had to be with such limited time. The plot with the freshly recruited Rittenhouse sleeper agent in 1950’s Korea was particularly choppy. One moment, the team was being led through the woods by the pilot and the next they were recovering from a helicopter crash. It was whiplash-inducing! Other than that, though, the accelerated pacing was as measured as it could be given the context. In fact, it’s surprising that Timeless was able to pause for the necessary emotional beats at all, but fortunately it did.
The show even found time to highlight yet another under-recognized historical figure, Joaquin Murrieta, the inspiration for the legend of Zorro. They somehow managed to make reference to his tragic family history, his horse banditry, and his monte dealing — all part of his mythos — in a short space of time. But most importantly, giving the outlaw time to discuss the merits of vengeance with Flynn tied in nicely with the former villain’s own quest against Rittenhouse, and the fact that he counsels Murrieta against it foreshadows one of the greatest hero moments of the show.
Interestingly, it was Wyatt who introduced the idea of removing Jessica from the timeline, but Flynn clearly realized that if the team got distracted by the mission to save Rufus, they’d never be able to take down Rittenhouse. Taking matters into his own hands is vintage Flynn anyway, and the fact that we got to see the often-referenced 2012 argument between Jessica and Wyatt and hints of her complicity with Rittenhouse made her quick death more satisfying despite its convenient ease. The physical pain caused by entering one’s own timeline added just the right element of danger and difficulty to the side mission.
The pat nature of Flynn’s sacrifice perhaps took a bit of the punch out of Rufus’ triumphant return to the fold just as the team needed rescuing from bounty hunters, but again, what choice did Timeless have? All things considered, “Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!” provided a grand entrance and was one of the pithier holiday catch-phrases, and the fact that no one besides Jiya, Lucy, and Wyatt even remember he was dead in the first place mellows out the abrupt resurrection. But it sure is nice to have Rufus’ pop culture references back: “Where we’re going, we don’t need gold.” Nice!
Sadly, Emma was given much less successful Christmas villain lines, starting with the awkward “Tis the season to finish what we started,” and continuing with the equally awful “Santa’s got one last chimney to shimmy down.” What was appreciated, however, was her shift from a disgruntled Rittenhouse enforcer to a self-absorbed hoarder of treasures and personal wealth. Her selfish motivations tempered the lofty goals of the larger conspiracy, which fit better into the two-hour movie format, and both her befuddlement at losing Jessica and her last minute attempt to recruit Lucy by saying she could save her sister, Amy, held just the right amount of desperation for an antagonist on the way to ultimate defeat.
Emma’s death, like Jessica’s, was quick and appropriately meaningless, but it did lead to Lucy’s admirable decision not to bring back her sister, which was one of the more surprising elements of this finale movie. But it makes sense! Flynn’s attempt to rescue his family took him down a dark path, and Wyatt’s resurrection of Jessica turned out horribly; even rescuing Rufus exacted a terrible price. This crucial dilemma brings us one of the best lines of the night: “If we’re willing to use this machine to get back the things that we’ve lost no matter the price, when will it end?” When indeed!
The Korean adventure seemed to be more about providing a Christmas setting rather than visiting an unsung hero of history, but it was still fun. “The Dunkirk of the Korean War” naturally gave “The Miracle of Christmas” its title, but the danger of the Communist invasion mostly provided a backdrop for Emma’s defeat and confessions of love between “Riya” and “Lyatt” (with both ‘ship names getting a welcome mention in the episode). These emotional moments were both authentic and earned in the race to the finish, and the writers should be applauded for giving these relationships their due.
The finishing touch that left the finale movie feeling like a complete package was Lucy’s final visit to Flynn to give him her journal, a payoff that reached back to the start of the series and brought things full circle. Placing this moment after the epilogues for each character was the perfect move, tempering the otherwise sugary sweet ending with more poignance. Tenure for Lucy, government contracts for Connor, and twin daughters named Flynn and Amy are all well and good, but we needed that torturous final moment for the time machine, the team, and the unlikely hero in the end.
And you know Timeless wasn’t going to fade to black without the possibility of time travel dangers to come. As expected, a young future scientist is already working on designing another machine, and the lifeboat may yet come out of mothballs in the extrapolated future of the show. “The Miracle of Christmas” gave Timeless fans exactly what they were looking for and did it well under quite restrictive conditions. There may not have been that many surprises in the end, but the beloved series now has the final chapter it so richly deserved.