TIMELESS -- "The Assassination of Jesse James" Episode 111 -- Pictured: Daniel Lissing as Jesse James -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
ReviewsTelevision & Film

TIMELESS Rides with Jesse James

Season 1, Episode 12 ” The Murder of Jesse James”
Written by Jim Barnes
Directed by Greg Beeman and John F. Showalter

Going back to the Wild West means that I had to go back and do some research. Why do I not know much about that period in history? Maybe because all those movies are crap, as Wyatt (Matt Lanter) would say.

Once again, this is a good episode with great guest stars. We meet Jesse James, who is well played by Daniel Lissing. He is a fox-faced man with bright eyes. We have Bass Reeves (Colman Domingo), who is a historic black lawman who may be the inspiration for the Lone Ranger. There are other contenders for that title, so it’s hard to be sure. And his sidekick, who says Tonto means fool, is Zahn McClarnon, who plays Mathias on Longmire. They were great in their roles, and Lissing and Domingo both physically resemble their historical counterparts.

Lucy dreams about her sister, who was lost to time. She feels guilty because she forgot her birthday. But of course she didn’t, because the dream reminded her.

Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) finds out that Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph) is training Jiya (Claudia Doumit) to pilot the time machine. He’s not happy. He loses his leverage as the only pilot and Jiya might be put in the same situation he was. Also, time travel is dangerous. Since Rufus’s declaration last episode that he will not be used again, Connor is menacing and cold. He chose a side, and it’s not the same side that Rufus is on.

Wyatt visits the man who Flynn told him killed his wife. He’s in prison for two other murders, but not hers. Wyatt is satisfied that he was the killer.

Flynn (Goran Visnjic) goes to the past on the day that Jesse James was murdered, so our intrepid trio follows him. Jesse is about to be murdered by the Ford brothers (Alex Rose and Lincoln McGowan) while dusting a picture. Garcia Flynn shoots them both and saves Jesse’s life. Flynn appeals to his vanity and asks him to have a drink with him because he has a proposition. He wants him to ride shotgun with him on a quest. They are interrupted by a pair of marshals. Jesse goes out of his way to confront them and shoots them both.

Our trio finds the Ford brothers in the house, and the dead marshals in the saloon. They know Flynn and Jesse are headed to Indian territory. Lucy is distracted but she comes up with an idea. They will get help from Bass Reeves, famous lawman. They walk to Bass Reeves’ house and find Bass Reeves with his vest and badge and pearl handled revolvers. Rufus is delighted to find out that the Lone Ranger was black. “Awesome!” I love Rufus.

This is really a long walk. (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

Lucy talks Bass into helping them and they get her into some pants, which is good, because she’s wearing a sinfully ugly dress this time. They get on horses and Lucy slips back off again. She’s not much of a rider. Bass Reeves has a white horse, of course. Technically gray.

And here’s where we run into some discrepancy with the real world. Jesse James was killed in St. Joseph, Missouri. You can still visit the house and see the bullet hole in the wall. (I may just do that.) Jesse was talking about doing a job in Platte City, which makes sense. Bass Reeves was the law for the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. In fact, if we go by where he was buried, he was 290 miles from Jesse James’ house. So, the writers moved him and his family of many children to within walking distance of St. Joseph. The bad guys are going to Bluff Woods, so our guys follow them.

Cute that Reeves’ oldest kid’s name is George.

They come across Native Americans that Jesse and Flynn shot and Reeves decides they have to give them a decent burial. They bed down for the night and our three talk about death and killing, prompted by Reeves saying that he always sees the faces of the men he killed. Wyatt confesses to having met his wife’s killer. Rufus talks about the man he shot. Lucy says she just wants her sister and to go home. They are all in dark places and little comfort to each other.

Most depressing camp out ever. (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

Jesse and Flynn find a cabin in the woods. Flynn yells to the occupant that he is from the same place and can take her home. A woman comes out with a gun but is persuaded to let Flynn in. She has circuit boards and a copy of the Hunger Games lying around. She is from the future and her name is Emma (Annie Wersching).

Jiya has been having some trouble with the flight simulations so she breaks into secret computer files and finds out about Emma, who was one of the two first test pilots. Emma was killed during a test flight. Jiya is doing this while Flynn is telling Emma that he knows that she fled to the past and faked her own death. Going back and forth between their Flynn and Emma’s conversation to Jiya watching Emma on the tapes gives us background to fill out Emma’s story.

Emma agrees to go with Flynn (who wouldn’t?) and Flynn says goodbye to Jesse. He pays him and tells him that the leader of the posse following him is Bass Reeves. Jesse is thrilled at the idea of killing Bass Reeves, knowing his fans would love it. But he wants Flynn’s gun, a semi or fully automatic. Maybe an AR-15, I don’t know. Flynn gives it to him.

When our posse — Reeves, his friend Grant, Lucy, Rufus and Wyatt — arrives, Rufus immediately realizes from what’s left behind that Emma lived in the cabin. He knew her.

Automatic fire rains into the cabin. Grant is killed. Wyatt gets the drop on Jesse outside the cabin but only wings him. Jesse surrenders, throws his gun down and his hands up. Wyatt wants to kill him but Reeves has a gun on him and a gun on Jesse and tells him no, he should be arrested. Suddenly a shot rings out from behind and Jesse James falls dead. It’s Lucy, who has shot an unarmed wounded man in the back. She earns the disapproval of the Lone Ranger.

Stop surrendering or I will shoot! (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

When we get back Wyatt talks about how all those Westerns are crap but they finally met someone heroic. It bothers him that he doesn’t live up to Reeves. He asks Rufus to help him steal the ship and save his wife.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why Lucy shot Jesse James. She must have done it to save Wyatt. Did she imagine that Wyatt was so consumed with rage that he would shoot Jesse with a gun pointed at him? And did she then think Reeves would shoot him rather than haul him off to jail? Although that would have caused quite a problem. That must be it-she shot him to save Wyatt from getting himself arrested by someone that no one wanted to kill, and had a lot of history left to make. Or maybe she was just sick of all the testosterone.

It doesn’t reflect well on Lucy. Eight people died that wouldn’t have if Jesse died at the correct time. She shot him in the same way that he originally died. She was setting history right. But he wasn’t a threat at that moment. The Ballad of Jesse James is critical of his murderer.

“But that dirty little coward
He went and shot Mr. Howard
Laid poor Jesse in his grave”

Lucy is the dirty little coward now.

I like that the episode didn’t glorify Jesse James. You may have guessed from previous recaps that I don’t like romanticizing killers. It may be just a sign of our times, though. In the thirties, he was portrayed as Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. In the fifties, he was a James Dean type character, a social rebel. It makes sense to me now that he’s portrayed as a psychopathic narcissist with a yearning to see his own name in the papers. He’s like a school shooter.

Jesse James and Garcia Flynn are an interesting match. He sees a lot of himself in Garcia. Jesse tells him that his cause, the Civil War, was just an excuse for what he really wanted to be, a killer. He tells Garcia that he will be the same when he loses his cause.

That’s Marshal Lone Ranger to you. (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

As for Emma, I think the reason that Flynn hired Jesse James, besides giving us a historical figure to watch, is because getting her was a secret. He came alone even though he still has henchmen left. I wonder what he’s going to do with her.

Jiya knows about Emma, and that’s not good, because Emma knows all the dirty secrets. She’s already put herself in danger from Rittenhouse.

Timeless has not been renewed and Eric Kripke, the creator, has asked that people live tweet and watch it live instead of DVR-ing it to let NBC know it has an audience.

I guess we get to see Rufus and Wyatt try to rescue Wyatt’s wife in the next episode.I hope we get to spend some time with Lucy because Lucy’s got some ‘splaining to do.


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


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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