To anyone who has ever been a Supernatural fan-hell, to anyone who has gone onto Tumblr for more than an hour-the name of creator Eric Kripke is well known. After serving as primary show-runner to the infamously long-running show in the first five seasons, he has since stepped back and pursued other creative endeavors. Today, I want to discuss his most recent and arguably most successful project since his last season of Supernatural.
Timeless on NBC.
Timeless is a time travel drama that centers around how the past directly influences the present and future of America as we know it. When a man named Garcia Flynn steals a time machine to change history, his ultimate goal initially unknown but immediately suspect, the United States government hires learned history professor Lucy Preston, scientist and experienced time machine pilot Rufus Carlin, and scarred, impulsive soldier Wyatt Logan to stop him. However, as the trio survive a myriad of time adventures, encounter numerous historical figures, and protect as much history as they can against Flynn, they learn things aren’t as black and white as they had believed when they started this job.
There are few truly bad things I can say about this series. The only reason I can see someone not even mildly enjoying it is if they have absolutely no interest in American history, to the point where they can’t even appreciate the fully fleshed out, historic side characters that feature each week. The show could also be improved by showing more lasting female friendship. As it stands, the closest female friend Lucy seems to have is her sister Amy, who disappears toward the end of the Pilot as a result of Lucy’s time travel shenanigans. Lucy is motivated throughout the entire season by the deal she makes with head Homeland Security agent Denise Christopher to get her sister back, but still… She didn’t have one friend before all of this started?
The show does much more right than it does wrong. The setup of the golden trio who each brings a unique perspective to the team is a foolproof classic for a reason. In particular, Rufus’ point of view on American history as a black man is one that is always handled with the attention that it deserves. From the portrayals of Colored Regiments in the Civil War, to the Black Panthers, to the Native American Shawnee chieftess Nonhelema, Timeless is always respectful of people of color, their struggles and their accomplishments, even when it’s difficult. Rufus also enters into a relationship with a woman of color early on in the season, Jiya, who receives more and more attention from the narrative as the season goes on. She doesn’t just get swept under the rug as a name that gets mentioned once in a while to remind the viewers that she exists. Her presence matters to Rufus and to the team.
Lucy, meanwhile, is able to give her point of view on American history both as a historian and as a twenty-first century woman. Though she cannot always be outspoken with her criticism of the ever present misogyny of the era that they’re in out of fear of risking the mission, she isn’t afraid to say it to Rufus and Wyatt, as well as to the men of the era in question when she is pushed too far. Lucy is strong and capable in her own right, far from the damsel in distress that crumbles under pressure, even when given information that threatens everything she thought she knew about her family and/or makes her question whether her fate is in her own hands.
Lastly, Wyatt is a character less about providing a representative perspective like his two partners and more about fulfilling narrative roles, though this doesn’t make him any less compelling. Wyatt is a soldier who knows how to enter battle, but doesn’t know when to retreat. He is a prospective love interest to Lucy, who hasn’t let go of his mysteriously murdered wife. He is a foil to Flynn, who stole the time machine to erase the deaths of his wife and daughter at the hands of the enigmatic, powerful, long-established Rittenhouse group. Flynn says at one point that “Every man is a hero in his own story.” Wyatt is the man that Flynn believes himself to be and Flynn is the man Wyatt fears to become.
While Supernatural proves that Kripke has always had a fascination with the idea of fate vs free will, Timeless tackles the concept in a manner that hits much closer to home and feels plausible during these politically cynical times. The cliffhanger of the season (hopefully not of the series), of a family member not being who we thought they were, of realizing that we’ve been manipulated all along, is one we can all relate to on a smaller scale.
A solid first season that deserves to set up and grow into a second. Renew it, NBC!
Best episode: This was difficult to choose because the episodes are so consistent in quality. If you enjoyed the Pilot, chances are you are going to enjoy every episode in the season, perhaps with only one or two exceptions. I finally narrowed it down to three-episode 4 “Party at Castle Varlar” for the inclusion of Sean Maguire’s Ian Fleming, episode 8 “Space Race” for Lucy’s telling off of the misogynistic NASA employee, and episode 16 “The Red Scare” for overall excellence in the arts of both closure and cliffhanger. But picking the finale as best episode of a season feels like a cheat, doesn’t it?
(Shown: Abigail Spencer’s Lucy Preston and Sean Maguire’s Ian Fleming in “Party at Castle Varlar”)
Best character: Lucy Preston