Monday, February 20, 2017

REVIEW: 'Timeless' - Lucy Has a Plan to Expose All of Rittenhouse and Help Flynn in 'The Red Scare'

NBC's Timeless - Episode 1.16 "The Red Scare"

With one of our heroes' lives on the line, the team chases Flynn to 1954 through the paranoid corridors of Joe McCarthy's Washington D.C., en route to a secret, once-a-generation meeting of Rittenhouse leaders. While there, Lucy must wager the ultimate sacrifice to save history as we know it.

It was clear heading into the first season finale of Timeless that the show had a lot of plot to cover. In the end, the show addressed so much. For awhile, it seemed like the show was going to wrap up all of the conspiracy elements with Garcia Flynn and Rittenhouse. The overarching mythology really wasn't what the show was best at doing. It's best moments came from the episodic adventures in the past and the bonding between the three leads. That's where the show truly shined. And yet, it makes sense that the last few episodes of the season focused more on the Rittenhouse conspiracy. The season was coming to a head. It just meant that most of this episode had to race as quickly as possible to cover as much story as possible. On one hand, that robbed it of a unique stance on a specific time period. The team lands in the midst of the Red Scare in the 1950s government. But aside from Joe McCarthy, that doesn't ultimately amount to much. It's still much more interested in its own pursuits and mythology instead of interacting with real historical moments. That's perfectly fine. It just felt like it was doing a little too much and everything seemed to be happening a little too easily.

Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus are easily able to get back to 2017 and heal before following Flynn back to 1954. The gunshot wound Rufus received wasn't that big of a deal in the long run. All it took was Lucy's former fiancé to show up and stitch up his wounds. That's a weird moment because he hasn't been an important character for so long. Even when he was around, it wasn't all that interesting because it was hard to connect with what Lucy was feeling in those scenes. So, his appearance here just feels like an explanation to make things closer to normal once more. The same can also be said of Jim Beaver's NSA agent. He really hasn't been a character. He's been an intimidating presence. He's a way to elevate the threat level and the pressure all of the main characters are feeling. But ultimately, he really didn't do much. He stormed in to arrest Agent Christopher after the team (plus Jiya) took the lifeboat out for their final mission of the season. But that felt like something that should logistically happen instead of something that ultimately feels shocking or earned.

But of course, it is fascinating to watch Lucy get hit with a brilliant idea of how to take down Rittenhouse without having to blow up everyone (including her grandfather) in 1954. This whole season was about the characters deciding if they were on the right side of things. Flynn believes he's doing the right thing because he's trying to destroy the horrifying organization responsible for killing his wife and daughter. He also knows he can't return to them even after they're restored to the timeline because of the monster he has become. He was willing to do things that easily labeled him as a terrorist. Lucy and the team have had a complicated relationship with him. It's always been their mission to stop him. But as they learned more about Rittenhouse, they questioned what good they really actually doing. Rittenhouse had far worse plans for the time machine. So, wouldn't it be better to take them out as well? The team came to their final conclusion last week in deciding that all of these people needed to be stopped. It was up to this small team to do so. And now, Lucy finally has a plan that could dismantle the entire organization. Sure, it doesn't save Flynn's family. She still has to appeal to his humanity to stop him from carrying out his plan. But it works. Lucy is able to persuade her grandfather into becoming a double agent. He collected records of everything Rittenhouse did. And now, the team can use all of that information to cripple the organization in 2017.

All of that is good and worth seeing. But again, it feels like the plot needing to reach a resolution at the end of the season. There is excitement from that for sure. But the character dynamics are much more meaningful to watch. The show has always been shaky about a possible romance between Wyatt and Lucy. This season has largely been about building the trust between the two of them. It was devastating when he accidentally killed the man who would father his wife's murderer. It didn't ultimately bring her back. And now, he has to accept that he should focus on the present and not wallow in the past. That may include a romance with Lucy. But right now, that final hug is enough. He's not in the proper headspace for it anyway. Plus, he just wants to see her reunited with her sister. Meanwhile, the Rufus-Jiya romance has been more prominent this season. And now, Jiya has more importance than ever before. She pilots the life boat for the first time. She has to assist Rufus with it - even though they don't know what adding a fourth person to the ship will do. Early on, the show established that only three people could travel per time machine. It was just a basic rule that the audience had to accept. Jiya being the fourth member has consequences. And unsurprisingly, those consequences hit her and no one else. So, something is clearly happening to her where she gets a brief flash of a different time period. That's a nice tease for the future. But it's more significant that Rufus and Jiya say "I love you" to each other. That helps show just how important they are in each other's lives.

And finally, the show doesn't end the season with everything being neatly wrapped up. Instead, it ends the year with some shocking reveals that make the ongoing mythology even more complicated. There are a number of character reveals throughout this finale. The reveal that Connor Mason was just playing Rittenhouse all of this time because he really cares about Rufus wasn't that great. The show didn't commit to him being evil for a long time. He only chose a side two thirds of the way through the season. So, it feels more like a necessary plot twist to help explain how Agent Christopher gets out of her situation and how the government can arrest so many members of Rittenhouse so quickly. Meanwhile, the other two character reveals are much more shocking and surprising. It turns out that there are layers to Rittenhouse and the conspiracy goes much deeper than anyone previously realized. That's not surprising since the show wants to keep them as a major enemy for a long time. That means this victory now is short lived. But it's also so enticing to see Rittenhouse in control of the mothership. That gives the show a basic premise for the second season that may have more longevity than the Flynn mission of the first season. Plus, it comes with the reveal that Emma has been a Rittenhouse member this whole time. She hasn't been much of a character so far this season. So, it should be interesting to see how all of that tracks moving forward. But the most surprising reveal comes when Lucy's mom announces herself as Rittenhouse as well. It all makes sense in hindsight - with her mom always pushing her to follow in her footsteps plus casting Susanna Thompson in the part. And yet, it's very surprising and will continue to make Lucy's life very complicated moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Red Scare" was written by Arika Lisanne Mittman and directed by Matt Earl Beesley.
  • With both of her parents being Rittenhouse, that makes Lucy a member of a royal family of sorts in the organization. They have big plans for her with the time traveling mission. And yet, she'll continue to resist for as long as possible.
  • Lucy wants to help Flynn save his family. She gives him the information he needs to kill the killers before they strike. And yet, Agent Christopher arrests him before he has the chance. That seems like a betrayal to him. But it also puts a nice resolution on his story for the season. 
  • Flynn also hands over the journal to Lucy before he is arrested. She asks him how he got it in the first place. He confirms that a future version of Lucy gave it to him. So, that would seem to suggest that their journeys together are still only getting started. They could be doing this for years if he knows that she ages well.
  • Lucy's grandfather also happens to be gay. Wyatt needing a moment to fully realizing that is probably one of the few comedic moments of this hour. The other comes when Rufus wants to binge the second season of The A-Team with Jiya in her hospital room.
  • NBC hasn't renewed Timeless for a second season yet. With the ratings being what they are, I don't know if it will happen or not either. It's hard to tell what is and isn't a success nowadays. It could return. I would be happy with that. This season had some really strong and fun moments. But I could also see a reality where NBC pulls the plug as well.