Timeless Season 2 Finale Review: The General and Chinatown

The two-part finale of Timeless concludes an excellent season as visions, deaths, and surprise appearances leave viewers breathless.

Timeless Season 2 Finale
TIMELESS -- "A History of San Fran" Episode 210 -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan, Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin -- (Photo by: Patrick Wymore/NBC)

This Timeless review contains spoilers.

Timeless Season 2 Episodes 9 and 10

It’s clear now that Timeless has a firm grasp on the concept of changing the rules and re-inventing itself each season to ramp up excitement and broaden the scope of the show. After watching “The General” and “Chinatown,” fans are no doubt thinking that if NBC fails to renew their beloved show again after an ending like this, it will be a crime even worse than the first cancellation. As a finale containing two episodes that felt like prologue and main event, the season put an exclamation mark on its success as a sophomore outing with an ending that was staggering in its implications and its potential outcomes.

But even had each episode been judged on its own merits, “The General” would have stood out in a number of ways. Christine Horn’s performance as Harriet Tubman was inspirational, for one; Rufus characterized the story of the Combahee River Raid well when he told Wyatt, “Dude, Harriet Tubman’s hardcore!” But Timeless is at its best when it’s tying in elements of history to the main characters’ own experiences, and Tubman’s well-recorded reliance on visions from God were the perfect way to persuade Rufus to see Jiya’s visions in a different light.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Jiya, who welcomes Rufus’ new confidence as she tries to grapple with what she learned from Stanley Fisher, one of Mason Industries’ earlier pilots who also struggled with visions. The idea that Jiya’s prophecies could be changed from a passive experience to an active one was the first concept introduced in the finale that began to open up new possibilities. Along with Tubman’s supposedly divine visions that accurately described the time machine, Jiya’s experience starts to get metaphysical.

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The Civil War story itself was really just a framework at that point, with the generically evil Rittenhouse goal of helping the Confederacy win the war of secession for some reason providing the impetus. Apparently, Emma is okay with slavery even after fighting against the oppression of women earlier. The most successful part of the first story was allowing the embedded agent, Colonel Ryerson, to win battles by virtue of giving him a military history of the Civil War. Unlike some previous sleeper missions, this one actually made sense given the position he was in.

There were some character arcs that carried nicely across the two episodes of the Timeless finale. The first was setting up Wyatt for the realization that Jessica was not being completely honest with him. Their conversation about the child they would have together clearly made Wyatt happy, and that will continue to be a motivating factor for him even after Jessica’s betrayal. The other more subtle development unfolded between Flynn and Lucy who continue to grow closer even as Lucy tries to mend things with Wyatt with a heartfelt hug. Clearly there’s more to come there.

But what a ride “Chinatown” was! Finally a mission to the past that didn’t simply spring from following Rittenhouse to a moment in history! Finding Jiya’s photograph in a book was almost as fun as finding the century-old lifeboat covered in vines, returning to the team in the present the old-fashioned way. Connor’s infectious optimism is such a great new mode for his character, and Rufus’ determination to retrieve the love of his life despite the fact that she told him in Klingon not to come was inspirational.

Some nitpicks are waved aside, such as why Jiya sat for the photo to begin with (just to let them know she was okay?) and why Nicholas Keynes came with Emma and Carol on this particular fateful trip, but the excitement overwhelmed any such misgivings. After Carol’s graveside discussion about Rittenhouse legacy with Nicholas, it seemed somehow appropriate that Emma would shoot them both just as the tide was beginning to turn against her. Nicholas never really gelled as a mastermind the way he was first introduced, and truth be told, Emma is way more interesting as a character anyway. The possibility of seeing her as a villain next season is quite enticing.

Jiya spending three years in the 1880s will no doubt have toughened her, and it also nicely sped up the development of her ability to control her visions. Given what we saw when Rufus tried to modify the outcome of a prophecy during the Salem witch trials, it shouldn’t have surprised us when Jiya was only able to change the manner of Rufus’ death, but it definitely did! We should have known when four people got in the lifeboat to rescue Jiya that only four, including her, would be coming back.

But with time travel, there’s always a way, and Timeless brilliantly foreshadowed the impossible situation at the end of the finale back when Flynn and Lucy discussed the manner in which her older self delivered the journal within her own lifespan. Seeing an upgraded lifeboat appear beside its rusty counterpart was cool enough, but the bearded Wyatt and short-haired Lucy from the future were magnificent to behold, like some kind of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft ready to break all the rules and undo Rufus’ death. Talk about a game changer!

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That ending couldn’t have been more perfect, and it really brought home how transformative Timeless can choose to be season to season. Having already upped its game from its stellar first season, the stage is now set for a truly epic upgrade for the series in the same manner that the lifeboat was spruced up in the end. Fans were no doubt already scrambling for a Timeless season 3 renewal, but with a finale like this, the social media furor will become deafening. And besides, we already mentioned how Rufus is the heart and soul of the show; how can we just leave him back there in the past?

Rating:

5 out of 5