This Timeless review contains spoilers.
Timeless Season 2 Episode 5
As Timeless gets more creative with its formula, it becomes clear how many possible permutations of time travel intricacies and lesser-known historical tidbits the show is able explore. Having JFK in the present could have come across as extremely gimmicky, but it actually served the larger story quite well in a number of ways. While the investigation had only small moments of action and stretched credibility at times, the important relationships evolved in a manner that wouldn’t have seemed possible even at the start of this season. This shift in the group dynamics, in fact, was the greatest success of “The Kennedy Curse.”
Keeping the mission to 1934 in the background was an interesting way to frame things. Rather than belabor the details of the sleeper mission to Kennedy’s prep school, it was enough to just show the end result of Flynn rushing in to the rescue. Viewers can simply use their imagination to picture the enjoyably rough interactions between Rufus, Wyatt, and Flynn or even the circumstances under which they would leave Flynn behind to make room in the life boat for a young John F. Kennedy. Whether we believe Flynn actually dispatched three Rittenhouse sleepers is beside the point, especially when he wordlessly shares a beer with Lucy in a much more important and strangely poignant ending.
The story of JFK is one of the most understated history lessons we’ve gotten in Timeless. The curse that gives the episode its name is mentioned as Kennedy astoundingly finds out about his own death and those of his siblings, but its implications go by quickly. The mention of his chronic illness brings us the factoid of the week, but it also guides both Lucy and her mother to him in the hospital. The most interesting subtext, however, came from watching Kennedy, the man who helped pass the Civil Rights Act, enjoy the diversity of kids in the modern era. It was subtle and quick, but it fulfilled the weekly historical requirement in an innovative fashion.
Arguably, the whole adventure was designed as an illustration of the topic of debate between Jiya and Rufus. Jiya believes her prophecies (which Connor now knows about, intriguingly) are steered by a higher power as guaranteed truths, but Rufus believes things can be changed and does in fact try to save Kennedy from being assassinated. Does the change in venue from Dallas to Austin for the altered timeline prove that the president’s assassination was meant to be or not? And was Kennedy’s path altered further in ways we don’t hear about? That might explain the half dollar changing its face to that of Nixon — unless that wasn’t a permanent change.
But again, the episode isn’t really about Kennedy anyway; he just provides the mission for Wyatt, Lucy, and Jessica to go on so that their issues can be hammered out along the way. Regardless of how preposterous it is that Agent Christopher would allow her to join in, Jessica being included reflects both her own helpfulness, such as when she comes up with the name of an anti-psychotic drug that convinces the clerk to tell them about Kennedy’s whereabouts, as well as Lucy’s continued relevance in pointing them towards the hospital and trusting Wyatt to escape with a paper clip. As Jessica says, “I’d go with the historian on this one. She’s kept you alive this long, right?” Right!
The interplay between the two women couldn’t have been orchestrated better, from the initial awkwardness to Jessica’s final realization that Lucy and Wyatt were an item. Putting aside Jessica’s quick acceptance of the time travel concept (what choice did she have?), her willingness to defer to Lucy garnered sympathy while making viewers realize along with the historian that Wyatt’s years with Jessica really do trump Lucy’s more recent albeit more intense feelings. In the end, Wyatt telling Lucy, “I regret nothing,” seals the deal, and all but the most hardcore Lyatt/Wucy shippers can accept that… for now at least.
The only really weak aspect of the episode was Carol’s misguided attempt to threaten Agent Christopher into keeping Lucy off the mission because, come on, why was Agent Christopher even out in her car at all when Wyatt and Lucy were already on the case, especially without Rufus, Connor, or Jiya aware of her absence? Agent Christopher did give us a nice motherly moment as she expresses pride in Lucy’s refusal to be sidelined despite Carol’s threats, but otherwise, the side plot felt forced.
While Nicholas Keyne’s attempt to place a more controllable president like Nixon in JFK’s place was an intriguing idea, the episode ended with that confusing image of the changing face on the half dollar. What an odd and confusing visual to include, one which should have erased JFK from everyone’s memory as Connor mentioned earlier! In any case, the time travel complexities are always a fun touch to this popcorn sci-fi show, not anything to obsess over, and hopefully Timeless will continue to experiment with its form and bring us innovative stories each week.