Sunday, April 22, 2018

REVIEW: 'Timeless' - Connor Mason Travels Through Time for the First Time in 'The King of the Delta Blues'

NBC's Timeless - Episode 2.06 "The King of the Delta Blues"

When Rufus and Jiya add a fourth seat to the Lifeboat, Connor Mason joins the team as they travel back to the dusty backroads and smoky juke joints of the Depression-era South to rescue the life and legacy of Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues, Godfather of Rock n' Roll and a man who, legend has it, bought his musical genius from the Devil for the price of his soul. Agent Christopher keeps Wyatt in the present to execute a dangerous raid on Rittenhouse headquarters.

Timeless has been breaking from its formula over the last few weeks. Lucy and Rufus teamed up with Flynn in order to go back to the Salem Witch Trials. The action stayed in the present with the team needing to track down a young John F. Kennedy loose in 2018 before Rittenhouse did. And now, a fourth seat has been placed in the Lifeboat to allow even more people to travel back in time. Of course, it's the show breaking one of the initial rules about time travel that it established in the very beginning. Science fiction shows need to abide by the rules that they create for themselves. It was clear that the science only allowed for three people to travel back in time via the Lifeboat. The Mothership could accommodate more people because it was larger. As such, it always seemed like a possibility that more of the main characters could visit the past. But it's also clear that this week the show wanted to tell two distinct stories as they played out in the 1930s. It required four characters to get into the Lifeboat and make the journey. As such, Rufus and Jiya have figured out the science to make it possible and are able to implement the changes right as a new mission pops up. A scientific explanation needed to be given as to how this is possible and what the consequences could be. Jiya's body and mind were altered because she was the fourth passenger in a time machine that could only carry three people. She has had these visions that have been very sinister and eery. And now, they tease a grim fate coming for one of the main characters. But it's also perfectly fine for the show to have that story while also making it okay for four characters to go back to the 1930s now. The show puts in the work to make it line up logically even though it's just a bunch of exposition that can be tossed to the side at the top of the episode.

Connor Mason was the inventor of time travel. He was the head of this massive corporation that was able to finance this project without any government assistance. He did so not knowing that the money was coming from Rittenhouse. As such, that made him a somewhat lackluster character in the first season because it was never abundantly clear which side he was ultimately on. He could have been revealed as a part of the sinister conspiracy to alter history in favor of a more perfect world where a certain collection of people rule. Or he could simply be a naive genius who didn't understand what was actually happening in his company. The show played around with that shifting loyalty quite a bit last season. And now, he's proudly on the side of the protagonists. But his life has forever been changed because he stood in opposition to Rittenhouse. So many of the characters have lost something incredibly personal because of time travel. Lucy lost her sister while Wyatt lost Jessica for a long time. Connor lost his company and his reputation. He is being blamed for the bomb that went off and killed people. He is being billed as the vanishing billionaire who no longer has the skills to lead this company. He is forced out and drinking his sorrows away when the alarm rings signaling that the Mothership has gone back in time once more. He proves himself to be the only true expert on the time period that they travel to as well. And so, the inventor of time travel actually gets to travel through time this week. It's a story that finds so much more dimension with the character than ever before in the show's run.

Rittenhouse is targeting blues legend Robert Johnson right as he is about to record his first album. Connor knows just how big a deal that is because Johnson would go on to inspire the entire rock 'n roll genre. If that is never created, it would destroy the music industry and the various influences it has had on the culture over the years. It could be so destructive. That's what makes it surprising that Flynn is able to eliminate the Rittenhouse sleeper agent fairly early on in this story. They land just in the nick of time to prevent Johnson from being murdered. He's performing his song with his back turned at this hotel. The sleeper agent storms through the door with his gun pointed and only fails because Flynn is right behind to take him out immediately. It's an easy resolution to the main story of stopping Rittenhouse's intervention in the past. But it's much more personal because Johnson is now afraid to record because he believes himself to be cursed. All he sees are people dying around him. The legend is foretold that he sold his soul to the devil in order to become gifted at the guitar. Now, he believes himself to be cursed. That's a mindset that Connor can relate to right now. They believe they have lost everything of value in their lives. It would be better to just run off to some secluded part of the world where no one would ever see them again. Connor believes he finds clarity on his life through his interactions with Johnson. He doesn't see the purpose of the mission in the same way that the other main characters do. He's not trying to dissuade Johnson from leaving. It takes a long time for Connor to get that inspiration again. He does so through a passionate speech from Rufus reminding him of just how important and life-changing he has been in their friendship. He gives that to Connor just when he needs it the most. As such, he is able to inspire Johnson to record his album. It's a nice little personal touch of Connor making an impact on history in a way that he truly appreciates in the end.

Elsewhere, Flynn and Lucy are stranded back at the hotel. They believe they need to convince the recording technician into giving Johnson another chance. His talent is just that special. He needs to be there to record his sound. It will be his ticket to a better life as well that will finally prove to his father that he can make it in the music business. Of course, it's surprising when a second sleeper agent is revealed in this time frame. She kills the technician and goes to kill Johnson at his sister's bar. She is only stopped because Connor has a gun and kills her. That's an action the show probably breezes past too easily. Connor Mason is now a killer. But he did so to save his friends and protect the mission. That's been how many of them have rationalized the actions they've taken to preserve the timeline. Lucy and Flynn's story mostly seems to be pushing them closer together. It was such a sweet moment last week when Flynn comforted Lucy after she told Wyatt to work on his relationship with Jessica again. It was so simple and nice. And now, it's clear that the show is building on that moment to establish more of a relationship between Lucy and Flynn. It's clear that Flynn knows Lucy so well. He no longer has the diary that was given to him by her that outlined so much of Rittenhouse's plan and the way to alter history to the better. But he formed a close relationship to her through those pages. Her turning up in real life was nothing like he imagined. And now, he's still trying to force things into happening because he knows intimate details about her life. He can share a sob story about his wife listening to the same song that Carol sang to Lucy. It's all a manipulation. And yet, Lucy is in a dark headspace right now with her mother trying to kill her and change history. As such, she believes it's okay to seek comfort from Flynn even though everyone is bound to have an opinion on whether they can actually trust him.

Lucy believes that Flynn proves himself as an ally in the field. He is able to protect the team and save the day on several occasions this week. Yes, it's still difficult to forgive him for all of the ways he tormented the team last season. Agent Christopher says they need to start trusting him at some point. But that's merely a way to get him to embark on this mission in the past so that Wyatt can help her in the present. She's determined to launch an attack on Rittenhouse headquarters. Carol, Emma and Nicholas have been carefully plotting from a safe location in 2018. Carol still has the influence to kidnap Agent Christopher and threaten her family. And now, Agent Christopher is taking that fight back to her. She has faith that Wyatt will be able to launch a one-man assault on this compound. That seems crazy given the influence and power Rittenhouse still obviously has. It also seemed inevitable that it would end in not gaining any value out of their plans for the future in changing the past. But it's still thrilling to watch action sequences centered around Wyatt and his army training. He is able to expertly take out multiple targets. He is able to come face-to-face with the leaders of Rittenhouse once more. He even has the opportunity to kill Carol. He is unable to do so because of his feelings for Lucy. Even though he chose to work things out with Jessica, he still obviously has feelings for Lucy and wants to help her fix her own timeline. This episode reminds the audience of the loss of Lucy's sister. It's such a personal act of destruction in Lucy's family. Wyatt doesn't want to be responsible for killing her mother. And yet, that leads to the leaders of Rittenhouse all getting away while Agent Christopher is furious at Wyatt for his inability to act. Of course, it could still lead to some tease of information because of the computers left behind at the facility.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The King of the Delta Blues" was written by Anslem Richardson and directed by Greg Beeman.
  • Is there any possibility of Connor Mason making a small alteration to history simply because he refers to himself as Lando Calrissian in the 1930s? He receives credit for being the studio technician on this record. He can even be heard in the background proclaiming how wonderful the performance is. But knowing the name was already in existence could have forced a change to Star Wars. That's a tidbit the show doesn't really explore. Nor should it feel the necessity to.
  • There's also just the great punchline of Connor Mason traveling through time, marveling at the various ways his body is reacting to the sudden change and then immediately throwing up. He was so reluctant to embark on this mission. Then, he became really excited after seeing it work out. But he's also completely oblivious as to what actually happens while the rest of the team are pros by now.
  • The bar owned by Robert Johnson's sister turns out to be quite the gathering spot for several famous musicians of the time. When Connor and Rufus walk in, they are immediately greeted and are in awe of Muddy Waters, Son House and Bessie Smith. They quickly become friends while all encouraging Johnson to continue performing because he is just that good.
  • It's definitely noticeable that Tonya Glanz wasn't scheduled to appear in this episode even though she's one of the few characters living in the bunker. The show makes a big deal about Wyatt being with Jessica again and annoying the other characters because of the new living arrangements. But that only really means something if Jessica actually appears and is forming relationships with these characters as well.
  • Jiya has another vision at the top of the hour. She spends the entire running time of the hour being tormented over what she has just seen and whether or not she should tell anyone. It continues to be a hassle over who knows about her visions and who doesn't. Agent Christopher doesn't seem to know anything. But in the end, Jiya does share what she saw with Rufus. It's his death when they go back to battle with cowboys. That's certainly ominous and really enticing for the final portion of the season.