This Timeless review contains spoilers.
Timeless Season 2 Episode 4
With “The Salem Witch Hunt,” Timeless once again proves its ability to avoid the “Please, if you’ll just let me explain” trope in which the protagonist, you guessed it, never gets to explain. With Wyatt putting all his cards on the table with Jessica, with Jiya finally owning up to her premonitions, and with Nicholas Keynes insisting that Carolyn be taken off the Lucy problem, the drama isn’t being needlessly drawn out, and we can cut right to the chase. Lucy’s willingness to change history and include Flynn in missions makes for a no-holds-barred attitude that has streamlined the action perfectly.
Carolyn certainly chose the right historical target to lure Lucy in for one last attempt at conversion to the Rittenhouse cause. Accusing Abiah Franklin of being a witch to prevent Ben Franklin from being born actually seems a mission worthy of having embedded a sleeper agent, but ironically Carolyn gave Lucy the means to turn the moment in history into the Salem Witch Revolt. Appropriate that Lucy commended the accused for their bravery in refusing to admit to being something they’re not right before refusing her mother’s final offer to join Rittenhouse with, “I’d rather be hanged.”
Carolyn’s desperation is warranted, however, because Nicholas Keynes is becoming a stronger enemy than one might have given him credit for. The commentary he offers about exercising and women wearing trousers shows that he’s still somewhat a fish out of water, but talking about the laziness of modern society strengthens his image of one who seeks to improve humanity’s lot. Keynes’ leniency in giving Carolyn one last chance and then taking her off the mission may trouble viewers who are rooting for the good guys, but it really makes him a believable and formidable villain who has the strength of his conviction.
Likewise, Lucy must be applauded for her pragmatism in allowing Flynn to come along on the mission, especially right after getting the news about Jessica from Wyatt and admirably (but sadly) backing off. Even the way she convinces the team that Flynn should be involved brims with diplomacy and practicality: “A woman and a black man should travel with someone who has more… access.” With Wyatt doing his own thing, they need a cover story that helps them blend in, and Flynn has a wealth of experience playing this exact game, although apparently with more comfortable transport.
Flynn’s methodology was a nice counterpoint to Lucy’s new approach as well. Although she’s no longer worried about changing history if it means saving innocent lives, she begrudgingly accepts his strong-arm techniques for getting the answers they need. Flynn does haphazardly help move things along more quickly with force, but is he speaking hyperbolically when he says things like, “I vote bloodbath”? It’s hard to tell, but we have to agree with Rufus when he says, “I like this Lucy. Reckless, Sarah Connor, agrees-with-Flynn Lucy, but I dig her.”
Meanwhile, Wyatt also pushes his way through his own difficulties, and the audience certainly appreciates his direct approach with Jessica. Hidden behind the effort to convince her he’s not the man she knew is the question of why he’s become distant with her and why Agent Christopher and others whose memories are usually wiped by changes in history don’t remember more about the drunk version of Wyatt. And what was that side mission Rittenhouse took to San Diego in 1980 anyway? Regardless, Jessica’s reaction to seeing Connor Mason and the time machine arrival are priceless, and the potential resulting storylines moving forward are limitless.
Rufus’ opinion of Jiya’s prophecies also provided a nice bit of time travel complexity as we saw him move from skepticism to the fear of inevitability, from the determination to change what Jiya saw to the horrific realization that his foreknowledge caused a man’s death. We know that the Time Team can change the future (they did in this episode after all), but Jiya’s visions create a sense of unavoidable truth and set her up as a kind of Cassandra figure, not in the sense that no one will believe her but that she can’t tell anyone without fear of causing what she wants to avoid. A heart-wrenchingly delicious dilemma!
“The Salem Witch Hunt” was full of emotional moments or realizations like that, and now that’s two episodes in a row of Timeless with a perfect balance of the historical, humorous, tragic, and paradoxical — a formula that’s unique to this show. When the execution is done correctly, as it was in this episode, the series shines as an example of how a high concept network drama can actually work in the same way that a riskier cable series can more easily within their niche market. Hopefully, this trend of excellent episodes continues.