Sunday, April 29, 2018

REVIEW: 'Timeless' - Lucy Passionately Argues for the Importance of One Speech and Marching in 'Mrs. Sherlock Holmes'

NBC's Timeless - Episode 2.07 "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes"

In the bustle of 1919 New York City, suffragette Alice Paul is framed for murder and the Time Team partners up with legendary female crime solver Grace Humiston - aka "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes." Together they attempt to prove Alice's innocence in time for her to give a powerful speech that turns the tide in the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Back in the present, Connor Mason salvages key intel from the Rittenhouse raid.

The core formula of Timeless has been changing this season. The show has been playing around with structure. And then, it added a fourth seat in the Lifeboat. It broke one of its first rules about time travel in order to send even more characters to the past so that they could have more agency in these missions. As such, it will never simply be Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus together on a mission anymore. There will always be at least one more person going back in time with them. Honestly, that's perfectly fine too. The show has developed more of its ensemble this year while really focusing on the core narrative. Even though "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes" sends four people into the past, it still feels like a reliable and comfortable episode of Timeless. It's just nice to see the main trio on these adventures again with none of them really knowing what to expect from Flynn. That was the energy for the entire first season. And now, they are such reluctant allies. It appears that Lucy is forming a much closer bond with Flynn. But she is making sure that everything remains professional as well. This episode forces the characters to address all that has changed even though the mission this week is relatively the same as many previous journeys into the past. It's a fascinating story because the show is always looking onward to the future and how any development in the past no matter how big or small could be life-changing. But it's also keenly aware of just how the personal dynamics amongst the characters are changing. That includes the villains in this story as well because there are a couple of big plot developments pertaining to the Rittenhouse characters throughout this hour.

The team travels back to 1919 to ensure that the Suffragist movement continues to move forward with the passage of the nineteenth amendment granting women the right to vote. It's the show traveling back to an inherently more sexist moment in time. Of course, the show has always been commenting on the fact that Lucy and Wyatt face discrimination in almost every single time period they visit. Sometimes it is a big deal like it is here. When it is, it's usually in service of the story in some really important way. Other times, it is just able to blend into the background or be a part of a really twisted joke. The show has a good sense of humor about itself even when it is addressing issues like racism and sexism. Here, the show presents the optics for how much or how little the world has changed in the past 100 years. The nineteenth amendment was passed in 1920. Since then, women have become more empowered and revered than ever before. However, there is still so much discrimination that they face on a daily basis. The show is a little blunt with showing just how cruel and sexist the world of 1919 is. That's especially apparent in the central march that serves as a strong allegory for what's happening in real life now. In looking at history, Lucy understands the importance of this march. She sees this as the key moment where one speech forever changed the course of history. One speech was enough to change the mind of the most powerful man in the world. This could be a really life-changing event for Rittenhouse to ruin. As such, the stakes are very high as the team heads into the past.

This influential speech was given by Alice Paul. She is one of the leaders of the suffragist movement as well as the head of the National Women's Party for 50 years. She is so important to history. Lucy has a great deal of respect and admiration for her. She champions her as the reason why she has so much freedom today. In 2018, women no longer are seen as just property. They have the freedom to do whatever they want. And yes, that still annoys a significant amount of people who believe in the traditional values of the world. But it's also freeing to have that choice to determine whatever life one wants to live and know that someone out there will also support that decision. It's a freedom to be given equal opportunities. That's something that all of the female characters on the show can appreciate and revere. But the Rittenhouse sleeper agent has framed Alice Paul for murder. A senator has been killed. He is completely inconsequential to history. But Alice being imprisoned and tortured will keep the movement from moving forward. It's necessary to have her voice heard. She is so important to history. Lucy and Wyatt are fighting hard to clear her name. They once again recruit someone from the past to assist them on this mission. This time it is Grace Humiston who Lucy dubs "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes." Again, it's a fitting insight into history that presents such a strong parallel for the debate in this national conversation. Grace has fought for the little amount of respect that she has. She is able to expertly solve this case and clear Alice's name. And yet, that doesn't do any good because Alice is found murdered in her cell. That just further showcases the corruption of this time and just how far Rittenhouse is willing to go for their cause.

But it's also fascinating to see the minds that change that would otherwise be stuck in their previous beliefs. Grace doesn't voice any support for the suffragist movement until Lucy and Wyatt recruit her for this mission. She just wants to do solid police work. She wants to continue honoring women by solving their murders and disappearances. That's how she gives back to her community. Lucy can argue that's not enough. She is only helping women in death and not in life. She is being just as discriminatory and oppressive as the men she works with. Seeing the complexities of women throughout this story is enough to get Grace to change and open her mind. As such, she becomes the one to deliver the rousing speech that gets the president to change his mind about this issue. It's a very significant moment. But it also only happens because Emma intervenes in the past. Her story is a little more difficult to follow because Nicholas has a very special mission she wants to complete this time around. He wants her to just pilot the Mothership. He doesn't want her to get involved in battling the time team because he has romantic feelings towards her that he acts on as soon as she returns to the present. It shows that Nicholas still sees himself as the future of the Rittenhouse lineage. He no longer needs Carol or Lucy to carry on the family name. He believes he can build a future with Emma - the only person in Rittenhouse he can actually trust. But that trust may be short-lived because the show is asking the audience to believe she intervenes in the past to ensure the sleeper agent fails in order to keep her own life exactly the same. She wants her mother to have the freedom to leave her abusing husband. She wants to attend a prestigious university and be one of only a few women to graduate with an engineering degree. She is proud of those accomplishments and doesn't want them to go away even though she's still completely loyal to Rittenhouse.

The personal dynamics are probably the more awkward stories in this episode. The Emma story is a little problematic because it's hard to really have sympathy for her or trust that she is telling the truth - even when she's the one who saves Lucy's life. Meanwhile, the dynamic between Lucy and Wyatt feels like a story the show has already done before even with the added complication of Jessica being back in Wyatt's life. He continues to feel a victim because he can't have Lucy. And yet, he should be celebrating right now because he got Jessica back after fighting for her for so long. Lucy is the one who should feel defeated right now because she wasn't allowed happiness for very long. The universe seems destined to make her suffer. That's unfortunate but at least she and Flynn aren't starting some kind of romantic dynamic. They are just becoming closer as friends. Elsewhere, Rufus and Jiya are still fighting about Jiya's vision that seems to proclaim that Rufus is about to die. That doesn't come to fruition this week though because there are no cowboys in sight. As such, that makes Rufus feel invincible. If he does buy into the notion that some events are just suppose to happen, then he can walk around with confidence that he won't die until this mission with cowboys. He'll be safe until that moment. Of course, he can still be injured in numerous ways before that point. He's not as invincible as he would like to believe. Everyone notices this change in attitude. He gets what's coming to him as well. But that doesn't help him cope with his future or how Jiya's visions may or may not inform what's going to happen. It's just something he needs to be worried about especially now as the missions are becoming more and more dangerous.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes" was written by David C. Hoffman and directed by Doug Aarniokoski.
  • Grace is very perceptive and the show really takes the Sherlock Holmes description to an absurd level. She is basically just the female version of that character. Her quirks and deductions are the same way that that famous character has always conducted business. As such, the comparison is apt. But she really only comes alive as a distinct personality when she is making that speech during the grand march.
  • Of course, it's also very amusing to watch as Grace is able to perceive just how complicated the relationship with Lucy and Wyatt really is even though she can't quite come up with the exact issue that is plaguing them. She knows they aren't who they claim to be. And yet, she doesn't fathom time travel at all and the various complications that can result from that. She wants to figure it out eventually but she probably never will despite the new amount of fame she receives.
  • The show really does point out that the only change to history is replacing Alice Paul with Grace Humiston. As such, the memory of Alice really only resides in Lucy. She may be the only person in the present day who understands her contributions to history. Now, she is barely a footnote in Grace's own story of empowerment and leading this movement. But it's also notable that the present is just as messed up with sexual politics as it was before this latest mission.
  • Connor Mason is combing through the recovered items from the Rittenhouse raid to determine if there is anything that is actually salvageable. He is able to put together one piece of technology with a significant amount of data to it. And yet, that only introduces one new mystery to the proceedings. It's a picture of Jessica. Her being in Rittenhouse's records mean they have a more sinister plan for her. But right now, Connor and Agent Christopher want to keep that a secret.
  • Emma's interactions with Rufus and Flynn remind everyone of the history that all have them share. She has always been loyal to Rittenhouse. But she worked with Connor Mason and Rufus to build the time machine. She worked with Flynn to pilot the Mothership in order to defeat Rittenhouse. Those felt like genuine bonds at the time. And now, they are finally allowed to be mad about the deception.