This week’s episode of Timeless, titled “Stranded,” did two very smart things that portend well for the show moving forward. The first was abandoning the typical formula it normally follows, the one that sees the team called together to chase after Flynn with specific instructions and exposition about the era they are headed to. The second was taking a break from the larger conflicts on the show, those of trying to stop Flynn and figuring out just what Rittenhouse really is. By virture, the show was able to have some fun with a standalone episode.
By starting in the middle of Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus’s adventure, and not dedicating time to rehashing the well-established premise, the writers were able to focus entirely on the story, that of them needing to fix a 21st century time machine with 18th century objects. It allowed scenes where the characters were discussing their motivations, fears, and issues with each other to feel more natural, unlike last week’s heavyhanded and jam-packed episode.
(Speaking of fun, by our count that “flux capacitor” joke was the show’s second Back to the Future reference. The first was when Wyatt tried to send his wife in the future a telegram just like Doc Brown did with Marty. If we’re not remembering any let us know. We would hate to miss a good BTTF/time travel reference.)
And while we don’t try to get too far into the weeds with the show’s handling of actual time travel, the “protocol” was a nice addition to the overall method of dealing with potential problems that might arise from such meddling with history. Timeless has mostly handled time travel with a wink and a nod, but they still manage to add little wrinkles to the dynamics here and there, which makes it all the more interesting. Hopefully they have their own internal rules for how it works so we don’t eventually start finding logic gaps going forward.
While we’re happy to see an episode with a different focus, this wasn’t the most stressful episode; the only stakes were whether or not they would make it back, not what Flynn might change about the past. They were always going to make it back, so there was an element of fun missing since the outcome was never in doubt.
If they can find a way to do these types of episodes without eliminating the inherent tension of the premise, we think these types of installments will become our favorites.
There were a few minor developments addressed beyond the team’s trip to 1754 Pittsburgh too, like the growing relationship between Rufus and Jiya, Agent Christopher’s mistrust of Mason, as well as Mason’s own standing up (kinda) to Rittenhouse. The way those stories were handled were miles better than in last week’s episode, and helped to flesh out some of the minor characters.
We do have on question about the big picture though: If Flynn is relying on Lucy helping him one day, why would he want to strand her in the past? Flynn’s “plan” continues to be confusing.
Overall, this episode wasn’t as exciting as the show’s best, but it also wasn’t a mess like the show’s weakest. The bigger takeaway is that the show can survive outside of its own formula and that it isn’t dependent on Flynn to drive the team’s adventures. If they can manage to do that more often, while still making sure the stakes of time travel are greater than just the lives of three people, it will keep the show fresh and fun, which will also give a greater weight to the episodes that focus on the main conflicts.
But what did you think of this week’s episode? Take the time to travel into our comments section below and let us know.