NBC’s Timeless made history last year after it was resurrected from the “cancelled” grave in less than a week and brought back to life by a vibrant fan base of #clockblockers that refused to let their beloved show be resigned to the TV history shelves.
Why do we love our little time travel show so much? It’s not like it is the first of it’s kind, time travel shows have come and gone throughout the decades (Dr. Who, you’re still here). What makes Timeless stand out? *spoilers ahead*
I’ll tell you why.
It’s not the amazing sets that put you right on the ground of New Jersey, 1937. Or Texas, 1836, or Chicago 1893. Sets that make you feel as if you can smell, taste, and feel the past. Nor is it the costumes that leave this history nerd salivating. It’s not even the incredibly engaging and terrifying plot involving “Rittenhouse” a secret organization who has been arranging history from behind the scenes for centuries.
All of these things are wonderful, but they would fall utterly short if it were not for the true, beating heart of Timeless. That heart is, the characters.
History is the story of humanity, from Day 1 until now. Our good, our bad, our hopes, our disappointments, our triumphs and our failures. Timeless steers it’s viewers through time using the lens of people that we connect with on a soul level. It teaches history the way it should be taught, as a story about people.
Characters are the heart of every story, be it fictional or real. Timeless tells us a magnificent story that brings both fiction and reality together in an unforgettable way. There is little to connect us, in 2018, to the people of past centuries if we only consult dusty history books full of dry narrative and facts. But put a face to those narratives, give me a heart struggle, questions all humanity has asked, and suddenly I cannot look away! Through these character elements, we discover that those of past centuries were people just like us, and their stories come alive in a whole new way that both breaks our hearts and raises our spirits.
Timeless kept their character list focused and simple. We were given 4 main characters who are very skilled, very imperfect and often weak people who were thrust into an unimaginable situation that likely none of us will ever experience. And yet, we were able to understand not only these fictional characters, but also the real life historical figures they bump into along the way.
How did this happen?
It happened when we felt their pain. Their fear. When they asked questions we have all asked. When they laughed, and when they cried. They touched our hearts and we reached out for more.
Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) is a brilliant historian, a loving daughter/sister, a kind soul and a beautiful woman. She’s not perfect. She makes mistakes, she’s afraid much of the time, and she doesn’t have all of the answers. The dragon that Lucy has to slay in Season 1 comes in the form of her family legacy. She was born into Rittenhouse, a pureblood princess of an evil organization bent upon controlling millions of people. Throughout the season we see both Rittenhouse, and Garcia Flynn whispering things in Lucy’s ear in a oh-so-Emperor-Palpantine way. “This is your destiny, you cannot deny it. This is who you were made to be.” Lucy asks the question, “Can I decide who I will become? Or am I forced to be who they say I am?”
How many of us have asked this question? “Do I have to become an alcoholic like my father?”, “I grew up on the wrong side of town with no guidance and a lot of anger, is this my lot in life?”, “People find me unlikable, am I worthless and destined to be alone?” We’ve all had our devils whispering in our ears, “This is who you are destined to be.” And those whispers paint a picture of someone we do NOT want to be. Lucy’s struggle tugs at my heart, as I am sure it did yours. Her fear is one that I too, have felt.
Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) the handsome, protective soldier with a huge dose of regret and survivor’s guilt. He’s a warrior in every inch of his body, strong and capable. But inside his heart is failing him. He sees the ghosts, the ghosts of his fellow soldiers he had to leave behind, the ghosts of “failure”, and the biggest ghost of all, his murdered wife Jessica. Wyatt regularly asks the question, “How can something like my murdered wife be meant to be?” He grieves over the evil in the world and how powerless he feels to stop it. He’s trapped in the past, and no, I am not speaking about being stranded in a past century. Wyatt is mired in the regrets and pain of his past.
Does this ring a bell for anyone else? Show of hands please! We all have ghosts, some bigger than others. It’s easy to become mired in the pain of the past, and we have all cried out, “Why???”
Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) is a soft-spoken, gentle, shy genius with a crush on his cute coworker Jiya (Claudia Doumit). He also feels zero courage or words to express himself. He jumps at shadows, as well as real monsters. He regularly questions his ability to be the person his team needs him to be. He’s straight-up terrified, feels out of his element, and hears a voice in his head saying, “I’m not strong enough and I can’t do this.”
Ever felt that? *entire world raises hand* Hello, Insecurity! Hello, Fear! There is not a human being on earth that has remained untouched from these very human things.
Garcia Flynn (Goran Visinjic) a former NSA operative who stumbled upon Rittenhouse by accident, which caused the death of his family and sent him plunging through time to destroy Rittenhouse, by whatever means necessary. Flynn is drowning in grief, anger, and he is consumed by both revenge and a desire to save his family. He performs dark, dark deeds, believing that “The ends justify the means.” He’s a man in horrible pain, doing horrible things to try and relieve that pain.
Flynn is a very vivid, crimson image of us as human beings when we are in a place of raw grief and anger. Even as I rooted for our Time Team to stop Flynn, I still ached for his pain. My humanity cried out for his broken heart. Have you ever had a broken heart that hurt so bad, you wanted to do whatever it took to stop the pain?
These were our vessels, our “Lifeboats” that dropped us right into the middle of human experience. And then these vessels, these magnificent characters took us through time. We saw them experience those of past centuries and decades. And we saw the same humanity in Robert Todd Lincoln, Ian Flemming, Katherine Johnson, Harry Houdini, and so, so many more. We saw the people of history in brilliant colors.
By the end of Season 1, our characters were giants compared to the smaller versions of themselves that they began with.
Wyatt realized that he was “meant to be here, helping you and saving history”. He faced his grief, his regret, his fear. He’s not completely healed, healing can sometimes take a lifetime. But he is also no longer stuck in the past. He’s moving forward and opening himself up to something new….#LYATTFOREVER
Wyatt has found a hope and a future.
Lucy grows bolder. She questions less about what is right and wrong, she plants her feet upon what is right and leads her team forward. She also faces the truth, “I decide who I will be, and I will NOT be Rittenhouse.” She is taking her stand and speaking in the truth of her free will.
Rufus. I think I loved Rufus’ arc the most. He believed himself to be the man cowering in the corner. In his heart, Rufus often still feels this way. But we all, including Rufus, know the truth now. Rufus is a warrior! I triumphed with Rufus every single time he was scared and did the brave thing anyway. We watched the hero be called out of Rufus, and we felt our own spines straighten as we gained courage with him.
Flynn. No, the ends do NOT justify the means. Flynn came to the place where I believe he hated himself. His heart was now breaking for more than just the loss of his family, it was breaking over the monster he had become. But he did not see a way to change his course. He believed himself to be too far gone.
Lucy didn’t. Lucy slayed her dragon, owned her free will and her right to choose a path other than Rittenhouse. Through that place of strength, and through the honest lens of her own pain and humanity, she reached out a hand in grace and compassion to Flynn and said, “Come on, I’ll give you a second chance.” And he took it. It was beautiful.
Meant to be.
We can be warriors.
Second chances are possible.
We are not alone in this world, we don’t have to stumble in the dark of random chance and bad luck. I for one, know Who is at work in my world, He is the Creator and Author, as well as my Friend. I believe in meant to be, and it gives me a hope and a future.
We get to choose to rise above our past pain, our dark legacies, our hopelessness. I loved how Timeless showed how meant to be and free will are not at odds with each other. Meant to be simply means, you’re not alone, and there is a plan. Free will is our ability as thinking, creative beings to make choices in our moment by moment. It’s when these two things align, our free will, and the plan, that amazing things happen. Amazing things, like #LYATT
We can be braver than we think, and rise to a new level of warriorhood. Can we have a round of applause here? The stories in history that have always inspired me the most are the stories of normal, scared people who had the hero called out of them because of their circumstances. They were faced with an evil, an injustice, an obstacle, and they overcame it. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
And second chances are real. There aren’t many people in our world who are willing to give second chances. We judge each other based on performances so often that many of us are blinded to the people who are crying out for help, crying out for grace. I believe in second chances, I believe in grace. I am so glad Flynn was given a second chance, and I can’t wait to see what he does in Season 2.
All of the above is hit-you-in-the-gut humanity kind of stuff. And Timeless captured it all while giving us a funny, terrifying, beautiful ride through history. Timeless showed us the people of the past, the present, and what will still be true for our future as human beings. And we loved it.
If you have not already seen Timeless, might I suggest you give it a try? The clockblockers would be happy to welcome you with open arms. And if you are already a fellow Clockblocker, hello, Friend. I cannot wait to join you tonight for Season 2, Episode 1: The War to End All Wars
A review of tonight’s episode will be posted tomorrow. Until tonight, clockblockers! Keep being human!
Timeless airs on Sundays on NBC at 10/9c
If you liked this article, you may like this article on Timeless‘ NBC sister show, The Brave, and why we need more of it.