Timeless was probably always setting itself up for disappointment by letting us hear Nixon’s infamous missing audio from the Watergate tapes, but this week’s episode was a clunker for different reasons. Because while the most famous erased recording in American history turned out to be nothing more than confirmation that Rittenhouse is really, really evil and omnipresent–a huge letdown for using one of the genuinely great American mysteries–it was all the backstory and poorly developed villains that dragged the episode down, especially since so much of it was convoluted.
Things started off poorly when Rufus was picked up in the limo by Connor and the cartoonish Rittenhouse representative, a character so unoriginal in his evil methods that even Connor had to tell him there was “no need for the theatrics.” The entire premise of Timeless is fun enough without needing to resort to old-timey comic book big bads, a shadowy evil corporation secretly controlling everything. There is no nuance or sophistication to the entire existence of Rittenhouse, which is troubling since they are clearly the real villain on the show.
Though they are clearly far more competent than Garcia Flynn, who explained, very conveniently, to Wyatt and us, why he is doing all of this, since his wife and daughter were both killed by Rittenhouse because he found their payments to Connor (uh…maybe they aren’t that competent, since they could have just, you know, killed Flynn instead). He also explained, without meaning to, how his plan makes absolutely no sense.
Rittenhouse is evil, “they control everything, all of us,” and they were founded in 1778 and have basically co-run the United States since then. So his plan to stop them from killing his wife and daughter…is to…destroy America…at some point between 1778 and now…by hoping things work out in his favor…even if it destroys…the entire human race? Forget the fact that he knows that Lucy has already lost her sister thanks to the Butterfly Effect he caused, how is any of this logical? What does he think he will return to in the present if he really does “destroy” America?
(And not to ignore the elephant in the room, but obviously this is a tough episode to have airing now, one where America itself is potentially evil and terrible, but that’s not the show’s fault.)
Now Flynn still has some secrets up his sleeve, like how does he have a diary of Lucy’s she hasn’t written yet, and does that mean he can travel forward in time too? That would open up even more possibilities for the show going forward, ones that wouldn’t be constrained by the factual past. Flynn is basically an ideologue and a madman, and that does make for a far more interesting foe than Rittenhouse, but as it stands now everything he is doing really stupid.
There were some nice touches though, like how the team’s individual secrets and trust issues come to the forefront, and when Flynn addressed how he could possibly possess Lucy’s future journal by shrugging it off as mind-blowing time travel stuff (the show is really good at winking at the premise without breaking the fourth wall). The switcheroo that “the doc” was a person and not a document was a nice twist as well. I’m positive we’ll be seeing the Doc character again, and the fact she was driving to San Diego in an episode that told us how Wyatt’s wife died in San Diego didn’t seem like an accident, so there are probably even more connections than we got in this overly-connected episode.
(Note: While Rufus’s very specific historical knowledge at the exact moment they needed it felt more “convenient” than the show’s writers rely on, but Lucy’s ungraceful fall through the window was a funny moment that reminded us these people aren’t perfect heroes and these tasks are always at risk of failing.)
But then the show ended on the same disappointing note it started on, by revealing that Lucy’s father was–oh so predictably–the very Rittenhouse man pulling Rufus’s strings. Sometimes you can reveal too much at once, and often things can be too connected, and both of those things happened in this episode, making it feel like a slog instead of its normal fun-paced action.
The show almost feels like it needs to slow down in general, and enjoy exploring the entertaining premise that should lend itself to great standalone episodes, ones that aren’t always trying to build towards the bigger mystery, sort of like The X-Files did in its heyday.
I mean, why rush when they literally have all the time in the world?
So for an episode that revolved around one of the country’s great mysteries, ironically the big problem was answering too many questions for us. They didn’t have someone scream, “This goes all the way to the top!” but they might as well have.
But what did you think of tonight’s episode? Travel into our comments section below to tell us what you think.