This Timeless review contains spoilers.
Timeless Season 1, Episode 4
No doubt about it, Timeless knows just which buttons to push to keep its formula fresh and moving forward just when questions begin to arise about character motivations and the aftermath of conflict. Whether it’s Lucy experiencing the first signs of repeated trauma or Rufus realizing the downside of spying on his colleagues, the emotional journeys of each character fit perfectly alongside the narrative progression. And with the clever red herring the plutonium core provided, the show has proven its ability to surprise its viewers.
That particular twist, in fact, was necessary to keep Flynn’s repeated attempts to change history from becoming stale. Jiya’s method of tracking the mother ship felt earned last week and injected a bit of danger for the seemingly invincible foe. As they closed in on Flynn’s location, the narrow escape to this week’s historical event seemed to be only a near miss on the surface, but with the new, practically unlimited power source the nuclear core provides, the enemy has skillfully and believably put the Homeland Security team back to square one.
If that had been the only takeaway, it would have been sufficient. Adding on top of that a storyline that could easily have been about arming a Nazi V2 rocket with a nuclear warhead was a brilliant bit of misdirection. It’s easy to vilify Flynn, and of course his true intention — to hand Werner von Braun over to the Soviets — is still quite destructive to history. Although it would be nice if the next step forward included some explanation of why eliminating Rittenhouse necessitates knocking the United States of America down a peg, it makes sense for them to hold onto that particular nugget.
Meanwhile, viewers enjoyed being distracted by the fun of having Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels, along for the ride. Although his spy work during World War II was likely nothing like what was depicted in this episode, it provided some fun moments such as the “priest hole” Skyfall reference and the changing of history to include a new Sean Connery film based on the heroes’ adventure. Thank goodness they avoided easy targets like ordering a martini shaken not stirred.
But the serious moments were handled well, too, especially the slow reveal of Lucy’s symptoms that indicate she’s suffering from stress disorder: understandable given her sudden transition from sedate history professor to swashbuckling time traveler. Wyatt’s suggestion that she would either “get over the hump or crack up” may have been oversimplified, but her troubles seemed logically timed here in the fourth episode. Plus, the moment where she visibly sucks it up and goes after von Braun provided a nice triumphant moment for her character.
Unfortunately, Rufus achieved no such triumph even though his journey of discovery felt equally as well planned. His discussions with Fleming about what it’s like to lie to those he protects with his spying endeavors outlined a noticeable contrast between the two men. Rufus refused to continue recording his friends for Mason even though his boss showed more desperation this week. But in the end, it’s the Rittenhouse man’s threats against his family that force Rufus to continue his spying, not Mason.
But Rufus must realize von Braun is correct in drawing a parallel between his singular focus on reaching the moon and Rufus’ desire to achieve greatness by helping with the time machine project. Just as Wyatt’s desire to make his grandfather proud doesn’t always excuse his default use of deadly force, even against Nazi soldiers, Rufus’ principles against spying don’t gloss over the fact that he didn’t think twice about helping to create a dangerous technology because, as von Braun points out, “if you did, you never would have gone through with it.”
So now that Rittenhouse has come out of the shadows, it may be time to learn more about the group’s role in all this as well as perhaps some hints as to how Lucy’s journal figures into the picture. However, even if those details continue to be held close to the vest for a few more weeks or even for the remainder of the season, Timeless can be trusted to dole out answers and revelations along the way that will keep viewers’ appetites whetted until such time as the big answers become clear.