TIMELESS -- "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
ReviewsTelevision & Film

Recap: The TIMELESS Team Foils an Assassination Plot

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TIMELESS -- Pictured: "Timeless" Logo -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)
Season 1, Episode 2 “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln”
Written by Ana Cho
Directed by Charles Beeson

The show opens in Ford’s Theatre, where we see Lincoln’s assassination as we remember it from history.

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In last week’s episode, Lucy (Abigail Spencer) came back to find that her mother (Susanna Thompson), who had been dying of cancer, was well and her sister had disappeared. This week’s episode is literally the next morning and they are called in to go to the past again because Flynn (Goran Visnjic) has gone to the date of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Why such an emergency? They have a time machine. Lucy informs everyone that she has lost her sister. Poor Amy (Baily Noble), who was such a nice sister, does not appear in the records. She never existed. Jiya (Claudia Doumit) offers to look for evidence of Amy while helping Lucy into her corset, which is a scene very reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara hanging on to the bed post in Gone with the Wind.

Lucy has trouble getting into the pod in her hoop skirt. That is, by the way, exactly what it’s like to wear one. If you don’t hike the hoops up in back when you sit, the front flies up and shows off your pantaloons. Wyatt (Matt Lanter) helps her buckle in. Lucy is all a flutter. Not over Wyatt, but about where they are going. She’s a big fan of Lincoln. They land in the forest and head off to Ford’s Theatre because Lucy knows that Booth checks his mail there at ten in the morning. Lucy runs into Robert Todd Lincoln, who will be Lincoln’s sole surviving son. He is charming and handsome. They both meet Booth. Robert Lincoln tells the story of having been saved by Booth’s brother on a train station platform. An unlikely but true story.

Meanwhile, Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) runs into some black Union soldiers who figure out that he’s not really a soldier after talking to him for a bit. They had gotten the uniforms from some Civil War re-enactors. I guess you shouldn’t try to pass yourself off as a soldier if you aren’t one, and for crying out loud, don’t give yourself Sergeant’s stripes!

TIMELESS -- "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
(Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

The three get back together and follow Booth as he leaves the theater. He goes to a building that Lucy knows as the place that the conspirators met. They are spotted by Flynn through an open window and fired upon. What follows is an awkward firefight. The conspirators have automatic weapons, and Wyatt gets shot. But he has to have been shot by a weapon from the time, since it hardly penetrated. He tells everyone he’s fine and they run away. (Why didn’t they run away to start with?)

While the boys play Operation, Lucy heads to the train station and meets Robert again, who invites her to the play as someone has sabotaged the train and he and Grant can’t leave that evening. She accepts. She also sees Flynn, which she does not mention to the others, and he shows her the book that was mentioned in the first episode, the one that is being used as his bible. It’s a journal in her handwriting. He says that she will help him someday. He says that Rittenhouse killed his family, and that Rittenhouse is a what, not a who.

Lucy comes back to the room with guns and a dress suitable for attending a play with the president’s son. She thinks that Flynn is trying to kill off Seward, Grant and Johnson to change history. Originally, there were thought to be other conspirators trying to take down other prominent government figures but they failed or lost their nerve. What follows is a discussion about whether or not Lucy should try to save Lincoln. Lucy feels that history should remain intact. Rufus feels that the soldiers he met would have been better off if Lincoln lived, not to mention his own family having a better future. Wyatt is also in favor of saving Lincoln, and brings up his wife and whether Lucy would want to save her or not.

What I love about this scene is that the discussion never veers into whether or not Lucy should be in charge. She just is. She made a plan while Rufus was operating on Wyatt, got the necessary supplies, and assigns one to Johnson and one to Seward. She will save Grant.

Lucy goes to the play and it’s equal amounts of wonder and horror because she meets Lincoln. He is warm and wonderful and the actor looks very much like Lincoln. Then she has to sit through the play and wait for the assassin. It’s nerve wracking. I like that she can’t sit still and everything shows on her face. Meanwhile, Flynn has gotten impatient with Booth’s refusal to use a gun that fires more than one bullet (they’re ugly) so that he can kill Grant as well as Lincoln, and knocks him out and takes his place. So he is the assassin that enters the room. There’s a scuffle and Lincoln is killed and Grant is not. Flynn leaps to the stage, where unlike Booth, he does not break a leg. He escapes.

TIMELESS -- "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
I can leap more gracefully and with more dramatic flair than Booth! Pictured: Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

A wounded Wyatt meets a very large assassin and is quickly overpowered, but still manages to shoot the assassin and save the Secretary of State. Rufus is looking for the assassin that was sent to kill Johnson and encounters the soldiers who outed him earlier. He spots the guy with the gun, though, and saves the day, although the soldier has to save him. He has earned their respect.

They say their goodbyes and Lucy has to receive Robert Todd Lincoln’s gratitude knowing that she could have warned him about his father’s assassination and didn’t. Rufus says goodbye to his group of soldiers and tells them to go north, and not return to the south. He also says it gets better. Me, I think there might have been more opportunity in the West.

TIMELESS -- "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
Otherwise than that, Miss Lucy, how did you like the play? (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

While they are in the time machine, Lucy confesses that at the moment Flynn entered the booth, she forgot all about the timeline and tried to save Lincoln. Wyatt presses her hand in sympathy, but I’m not sure Rufus has forgiven her for not wanting to save Lincoln.

Their bosses are happy with the results, even though history shows that an unknown man killed Lincoln, Grant was saved by Juliet Shakesman, and Johnson was saved by some white guy. “All he did was get shot!” Rufus exclaims. Jiya takes Lucy aside and shows her that her sister doesn’t exist because her mother never met her father. He married a descendant of the Hindenburg disaster who survived this time around. Her mother didn’t have cancer because her father was the one who introduced her to smoking. This, of course, leads to the question of who Lucy’s father really was, in either timeline.

Rufus goes to Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph) and throws down a thumb drive and says he won’t record their adventures anymore. He mentions Rittenhouse. Mason reminds him that he plucked him from the ghetto and made him into a scientist. I think Mason has already had a good return on his investment and shouldn’t be pushing the poor guy around. I guess Rufus is under a different kind of slavery.

Wyatt goes to the infirmary to get patched up. (Two shirtless scenes in one episode!) The doctor asks him if he has a ride home, and he says he will get a cab, which underlines that he is alone in the world.

Lucy goes home to confront her mother about her father, and finds herself in the middle of an engagement party. Her own. A total stranger comes up and kisses her.

 

TIMELESS -- "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
Where/when did you say we were again? (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

I didn’t think that I would like Timeless as much as I do. There are several reasons why I was wary of the show, but I want to concentrate first on what I like about it.

The history is pretty good. If it’s not accurate, it’s not glaringly wrong. Some small things are changed to suit the plot. I think Robert just begged off from the play in real life, instead of leaving town. They use a lot of detail. Lincoln was a wrestler. Booth was an actor, and brother to a more famous actor. That makes it likely that Booth was obsessed with fame and wanted to attain it by assassinating someone famous, as well as holding a grudge about the war between the states. And that’s the way he was written, consumed with the “romance” of what he was doing,concerned with how he looked and what his lines were when he did it.

The characters continue to interest me. Lucy is obviously the main character. Besides the mysterious connection she has with Flynn and the hints about the future, she is the only one whose life was changed by time travel. Right now, at least, it’s her story because the changes in the timeline in the first episode caused her to lose a sister and gain a fiance. She’s the one whose life has been impacted and who will have to make some difficult choices.

Wyatt is solicitous of Lucy and supportive of Rufus. He may become the glue person while Lucy leads, which would be a nice gender switch. The temptation to change the past and bring back his dead wife is bound to create conflict in the future. Or the past, whichever comes first.

Rufus has to deal with the fact that he is not a fighter as well as dealing with the racism that is endemic to the past. Although they are now on their second trip to the past, it’s only been a few days and they haven’t had time for weapons training or teaching the voyagers hand to hand combat.

The plots of both episodes are thin, relying heavily on coincidence and happenstance. No one but Lucy is committed to the mission, and she goes from her heart instead of her head when pushed as well. At least they are talking about it, though. The writers are making them uncertain and lost on purpose.

Flynn having her journal must mean that she loses it in the past, if stealing the time machine is the first time that he time travels. It seems a simple fix for her to just not write it. Knowing that her father was not her father makes one wonder if Flynn is actually her father. But then what about his murdered family? I can’t believe in Flynn as a sympathetic character since he will ruthlessly kill anyone, past or present. They are setting up mysteries that need to be solved.

What we have established so far is that the future is changed by changing the past. In the first episode, it appears that they may be using the “pebble in a stream’ theory of time travel, where a change causes ripples but is quickly incorporated into the old timeline. The reporter that is saved by the Hindenburg not bursting into flame like it was supposed to is shot later on, so she still dies. But Lucy, who can see the changes that are not apparent to those who didn’t time travel, experiences an altered timeline.

We also know that the time travelers don’t remember the timeline that they didn’t live through. In the new tv series Frequency, based on the movie, the protagonist remembers both the old and new timelines when history is changed. That’s got to cause a lot of headaches. Lucy is clueless as to what is going on in her life because she missed the rest of the story.

Why didn’t I think I would like it? Three things:

  1. Sony is being sued by the creators of El Ministerio Del Tiempo because they presented a similar format to the company and Sony did not pay them.

  2. Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan, the show’s creators, said that Timeless was going to be more like Quantum Leap or Back to the Future than it was like 12 Monkeys. Besides dissing 12 Monkeys, which is an excellent show, their statements show a deplorable lack of knowledge about other time travel shows. Timeless is nothing like Quantum Leap, which involved time traveling into someone else’s body and life only within the protagonist’s life time. With a very few exceptions they avoided important historic events. It could be said to be more like Back to the Future, which at least has a time machine that you travel in. But the creators said that there would be no doubling back on your own timeline, and that’s all that the second movie is about.

The show that Timeless is most like is Time Tunnel, in which they randomly went from historical event to historical event. Our travelers are not lost, but where they go in time is determined by where Flynn goes in time, and they have said we will be traveling to historical events.

  1. Traveling to historical events. Not only does that mean that we will be going to events that have already been covered in time travel stories, but have been covered as historical stories as well. Do we really need another story about saving JFK? Or finding out if there was another shooter on the grassy knoll? Do we have to go back to the Alamo, the Hindenburg, Lincoln’s assassination, or ask the question as to whether or not we should kill Hitler as a baby? Do we have to?
TIMELESS -- "Pilot" -- Pictured: (l-r) Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan -- (Photo by: Joe Lederer/NBC)
Oh, the humanity! Haven’t we seen this before? (Photo by: Joe Lederer/NBC)

I’m hoping that at times the show runners will take  the road less time-traveled by. It would be nice to visit some more obscure and less publicized events that are from a different perspective than those of the dominant culture. Ones that don’t have a National Historic Marker Site to visit.

Despite my misgivings, Timeless is adventurous and entertaining with interesting characters. I’m liking it so far.

 

Timeless airs on Monday nights at 10pm, 9c on NBC.

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Teresa Wickersham

Teresa Wickersham has dabbled in fanfic, gone to a few conventions, created some award-winning (and not so award winning) masquerade costumes, worked on the Save Farscape campaign, and occasionally presents herself as a fluffy bunny or a Krampus.

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