“We all have choices. We can decide to be something different.”
At the start of “Timeless’s” beloved first season, historian Lucy (Abigail Spencer) had her first face-off with time terrorist/dreamboat Flynn (Goran Visnjic) amid the flaming wreckage of the Hindenburg. Then, we learned these two have extraordinarily intriguing chemistry together — and more importantly, that Flynn has in his possession a journal about their adventures together (which Lucy hasn’t yet written, because: time travel.) The existence of this diary has loomed over the events of this season, as Lucy hid its existence from her teammates, and later, emboldened by their advice, chose to chart a different course for herself.
And yet, here we are in the midseason finale, with Lucy and Flynn facing off yet again — not backgrounded by fire, but in the endlessly dark, slightly claustrophobic woods near the home of Rittenhouse The Person (which: More on the later). In a convenient bit of costuming, Lucy’s historical ensemble of the week owes as much to Grimm’s fairy tales as to 18th century patriot wear. When she swoops in, all flying cloak and righteous indignation, to become a human shield for a young child, it is an instantly iconic moment for the show and her character.
Seeing these two square off again emphasizes how both have changed since their initial interaction. In the pilot, Lucy had not yet lost her sister to time purgatory — and she viewed the events from a binary of good-versus-evil and, more importantly, saw her time travelling as a one-off gig. Now, Lucy is a veteran time traveler, devoted to the cause as she strives to find her sister and fix everything… And notably, she’s learned more about Flynn’s motivations. While he is still in most ways the same rakish bad guy she went after in that first mission, she gets how they’re on the same page: Trying to change the past to bring his family back to life.
Lucy now also knows, because of Flynn’s mid-episode soliloquy, that he sees himself as unworthy to return to his family once he has saved them. It is for this reason she entreats him with the quote above, pleading to change his path the way the she intends to change hers. Even before she jumped into his situation, we know, Flynn was hesitating to murder the child in his crosshairs.
Early on, Lucy’s faced with the decision to kill Rittenhouse The Person — an odious misogynist played by Armin Shimerman at peak nasty — if it could help save the world. Flynn, Wyatt and Rufus are all in favor; Lucy is indecisive up until she comes face to face with him, but Rittenhouse pretty much makes the decision for them all, instantly proving himself the most despicable character ever — and that’s on a series that has included both literal Nazis and, in this same episode, Benedict Arnold (Curtis Caravaggio).
The killing of Rittenhouse in self-defense removes the moral question from the team, until they realize that John Rittenhouse (Jake Brennan), his young son, has escaped — to be potentially the evil organization’s new founder. For Lucy, the woman who hesitated to bless the murder of the adult Rittenhouse, the killing of a young boy is unconscionable. Hence, her spur of the moment decision to act as the child’s human shield, counting on Flynn’s nascent humanity to save them both — and perhaps, engendering a lifelong gratitude from the boy, who may yet grow up to be something other than a supervillain. By the time she and Flynn are finished with their weepy face-off, the kid has done the smart thing and taken off.
Unlike each previous episode, this one doesn’t end with the team checking back into present day. Regardless of the fate of Rittenhouse Jr., Flynn’s casual disposal of General Cornwallis will at the very least affect the founding of British strongholds on the Eastern seaboard; Rittenhouse The Person’s execution of Benedict Arnold is the sort of historical switcheroo that could substantially change American history. It’s entirely possible when the show returns in mid-January that Wyatt and Rufus (Malcolm Bennett) will wind up in this show’s version of “It’s A Wonderful Life’s” Pottersville, with Rittenhouse — or something even worse — running the game.
While episodes like last week’s Bonnie & Clyde adventure highlighted the sexual tension between Lucy and Wyatt (Matt Lanter), it’s her less explicable connection with Flynn that’s been the engine behind the show so far. That we go into midseason hiatus with the two of them setting off together — for, potentially, the very adventures Lucy will later write about in her diary — feels like the logical conclusion for an arc that began with the flaming, doomed Hindenburg.
“Timeless” returns Jan. 16 for the final six episodes of its freshman season; no word yet on Season 2.