Sunday, March 11, 2018

REVIEW: 'Timeless' - Wyatt and Rufus Travel to World War I to Rescue Lucy in 'The War to End All Wars'

NBC's Timeless - Episode 2.01 "The War to End All Wars"

After barely escaping an explosion at Mason Industries, Wyatt and Rufus chase the Mothership back to a French battlefront during World War I to rescue Lucy from Rittenhouse. They discover Lucy has recruited Marie Curie, the famous French scientist and the only person ever to win two Nobel Prizes, to help save the life of a wounded American soldier. They learn the soldier is Lucy's own great grandfather, who Rittenhouse is bringing to the present to be their leader.

It's been over a year since Timeless aired its last episode. So, it may be easy to forget all that happened at the end of the previous season. As such, a weighty "Previously on" segment at the start of this premiere was very necessary. Some of the big picture things were easy to recall. The minor details could be lost without the reminder. And so, it's important to remember that Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus were successful in their mission of stopping Garcia Flynn and returning the Mothership time machine back to Mason Industries. That was followed by Agent Christopher arresting Flynn as soon as he met with Lucy (without her permission of course). And that was followed by the big cliffhanger that Lucy's mother was also a part of Rittenhouse and has stolen the Mothership with sleeper agent Emma to achieve their own agenda. All of that set up an exciting second season for the show. And now, that story is finally being told. Of course, there's also the sense that the show is completely changing things up at the start of the season as well. It does so by literally blowing up the base of operations for the time travel team. It does so to ensure that the Rittenhouse unit is able to use the Mothership undetected for a little while to set up their grand agenda for the season. But it's also just a convenient excuse for the show to build new sets considering it moved production from Vancouver to Los Angeles this year. It's all very convenient. It also has a much darker tone to it because Rufus, Wyatt, Jiya and Connor Mason are all literally being held underground to risk exposure to the outside world and whatever threats are awaiting them out there. It's intense. But that change doesn't affect the tone of the show too much or the way that it tells its adventures across time. That's very fortunate even though this premiere does push the main characters into making some pretty destructive and grim choices.

All of that is largely told through Lucy's story of being taken by her mother to help with the Rittenhouse mission. Of course, she's not made aware of the true scope of the plan. She knows that Carol and Emma are now the ones in charge. Lucy's work in the past acquiring information about Rittenhouse allowed her and the team to destroy the majority of the organization in the present. But there are still enough operatives to hijack the Mothership while planting a bomb at Mason Industries. Lucy is confronted by the truth about her mother. She is a Rittenhouse agent just like her father was. She is actually royalty in this organization. Carol may actually be more important and more dangerous than Lucy's father was. She actually puts things into motion here while also trying to appeal to her daughter. She wants Lucy to join her in this endeavor. She is able to make that appeal by making it seem like all of her friends are now dead. Lucy believes for the majority of this premiere that she's the only one left who can protect the timeline from people who wish to do it harm. She believes it's solely up to her to stop the people who wish to use time travel to bend the past to their will. It's just a mission that puts her in direct opposition to her mother. She can no longer see her mother the same way. She is suddenly a completely different person. It's a shift that Susanna Thompson plays quite well throughout this premiere. Carol is a woman on a mission. She won't be distracted by anything even though she still has a weak spot for her daughter.

And so, it's fun to see a new collection of characters travel back in time for the distinct purpose of changing the timeline. This time there are two historians aboard the ship. It's now clear that Carol pushed Lucy to enter this profession and ensured her success for this specific mission. She was taking up the family mantle of knowing everything about the timeline and how best to disrupt it for the benefit of Rittenhouse. It's a mission that comes into sharper focus by the end of the premiere. Lucy, Carol and Emma travel back in time to 1918 France at the height of World War I. They have traveled back to this date to save the life of a young soldier. At least, that's the mission that Lucy is aware of. She is taken back in time in order to prove her allegiance. This is a test to see if she really is loyal to Rittenhouse now that she has no other options. This is the life that Carol wants for her daughter. Emma doesn't believe Lucy's sudden shift in perspective at all. This was a life that Emma chose. She wasn't a part of a royal family in the organization. She had to prove her worth. And now, she has strength and respect in being one of the sleeper agents in time who has helped Carol achieve her grand goal. She sees Lucy as a dangerous player in all of this. She's absolutely right to believe that. Even making her prove her loyalty by killing an innocent bystander in time isn't enough for her. That is such a destructive moment for Lucy. She does it in order to blend it because she doesn't believe she has any other choices. She doesn't know that Rufus and Wyatt have tranced her back to this time period. And so Lucy does what it takes to survive. That's how everyone tells her to rationalize this. But it's also pushing her into a morally compromised headspace where she can't quite reckon all that has happened in her life lately and the kind of dystopic future that her mother wishes to create.

There is then the reassuring moment that despite all of the changes being made this season the show will still follow the pattern of the characters going back in time and recruiting someone notable of the period to help them with their mission. In this case, it is Marie Curie and her daughter. They just so happen to be operating one of the only x-ray machines of the time. They don't yet know just how poisonous and dangerous the radiation exposure can be. But they are scientists on the battlefield doing good in the world. They are saving lives. And now, they are tasked with helping Lucy, Emma and Carol save the life of this soldier. Of course, they ultimately just become little complications in the main story. The x-ray machine isn't absolutely detrimental to saving the life of this soldier. There is signal interference coming from the Mothership. That throws off the images. And yet, Emma is still able to save his life. It's ultimately not all that important. It's just interesting to have these two in the woods around this event so that they too can stumble upon the Mothership. They are curious about it. They wish to understand the interference and this technological marvel in front of them. But it also proves just how far Carol is willing to push her cause. Emma is determined to kill anyone who gets in the way of the ultimate goal no matter what consequences it will have in the timeline. Carol holds that same belief even though she's a historian. She can respect this time period and Lucy's idea to recruit these women to their mission. And in the end, Carol still decides to listen to her daughter and save these women. That's a hopeful note - despite the sinister tease at the end of the premiere.

And then, there is just the rewarding moment that comes when Lucy reunites with Wyatt and Rufus. The guys manage to get the Lifeboat working just as the Mothership goes out on this mission. They are able to travel back to World War I too. Lucy runs into them just as she goes to steal a grenade to blow up the Mothership. She is ultimately unsuccessful in stopping Carol and Emma from their nefarious plan. They still bring this man back to the present with them. It's then that it's revealed this man is actually Lucy's great grandfather. He's a Rittenhouse agent who actually dreamt up the manifesto for using time travel to change the world and form a perfect society for Rittenhouse. It's a mission that includes planting sleeper agents throughout time who can be activated at a moment's notice for whatever their mission turns out to be. Here, that includes an agent working his way up the ranks so he can be a general on the battlefield during this day. He presents a complication for Wyatt and Rufus to keep them from blowing up the Mothership in time. But that also allows them a sense of what they are up against this season. This premiere lays out the premise for the year in the time team needing to go back to these ten events to stop these sleeper agents before they carry out their sinister plans. It's a mission to stop Rittenhouse's ultimate goal of creating a reality akin to The Hunger Games and The Handmaid's Tale according to Rufus. This premiere is all about establishing that premise while bringing the team back together. But now, they are facing a familiar threat in Lucy's mother who has just brought another distant relative to the present to complicate this mission. That is followed by the tease that Agent Christopher approaches Garcia Flynn to try to use his information on Rittenhouse to help them in this endeavor. That's an intriguing way to keep Goran Višnjić around this season - though Flynn will understandably only talk to Lucy.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The War to End All Wars" was written by Arika Lisanne Mittman & Tom Smuts and directed by Greg Beeman.
  • Lucy and Wyatt almost share a kiss. That moment happening in the premiere basically proves that the show is ready to just go there with them as a couple this season. Last year was defined by them trying to save their loved ones from tragedy. That put distance in any potential romantic overtones. But now, they are somewhat being forced to admit that these feelings exist and they need to act on them.
  • Of course, things are bound to get close and personal down in that bunker with Lucy, Wyatt, Rufus, Connor Mason and Jiya being unable to leave. They are hiding to ensure Rittenhouse doesn't find them. Agent Christopher is the only one with the freedom to leave. So, that could potentially foster more intimacy amongst that core group of five. Or maybe it won't change that much because Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus will still have freedom when they travel in the past.
  • So much of last season was defined by Lucy's quest to restore her sister to history. It was her rationale for staying with this mission for so long. This premiere does talk about that here. Wyatt knows something is wrong when Lucy doesn't show up for that mission. And then, Emma proudly proclaims that she changed history to ensure Amy will never return. That may just be an empty tease. But it could also be true because in that alternate reality Carol was in no condition to lead this Rittenhouse mission.
  • It's a big deal that Mason Industries explodes. Connor Mason is a broken man because of that action. He is in hiding and the world believes he is to blame for 22 deaths. He has lost everything because of this drive to create time travel. And now, he's no longer sure of his technological brilliance. He's lost his edge. That's a somewhat strange and blunt story here. I'm curious to see what will happen with that.
  • Jiya suffered consequences for being the fourth person in the Lifeboat when it can only accommodate three people while traveling through time. She is suffering these mini-seizures. No one has any explanation for them whatsoever. Though she isn't cryptically getting glimpses into the past or alternate timelines like she did at the end of last season. Here, it's mostly just confirmed that she's still dealing with this. That should be an intriguing complication.