By Ruby Campos
A history professor, a scientist, and a soldier walk into a time machine
After a speedy opening flashback to the crashing of the Hindenburg in 1937, NBC’s new time-travel series Timeless takes us back to the present to reveal a staff of scientists held up at gunpoint by Garcia Flynn, an evil mastermind who proceeds to steal the company’s time machine.
Shortly thereafter, Homeland Security finds some assistance in history professor, Lucy Preston, and Delta Force soldier, Wyatt Logan. The two outsiders are brought up to speed on the situation. Why are they needed? To find Flynn and stop him from catastrophically changing history. How are they going to do it? By using the prototype of the time machine, of course.
After some understandable freaking out about time travel being real, Lucy and Wyatt are joined by Rufus Carlin, an engineer who helped create the time machine, and who is acting as pilot of the time-hopping device.
Successfully landing just hours before the Hindenburg crashes, the three literally stumble out of the prototype and begin scoping their way around looking for Flynn. As they do so Lucy begins theorizing why exactly Flynn would want to come back to this point in time, if the Hindenburg is supposed to crash, and he is the bad guy, then is he going to save it?
The trio is confused but continue their search and decide to head into a bar (Rufus remains outside after getting a lot of stares, and we’ll touch on this a bit later) and ask anyone if they have even seen Flynn.
Lucy and Wyatt strike gold when reporter, Kate Drummond (guest star Shantel VanSanten) tells them that she did in fact see Flynn about two hours previously. Its also pretty noticeable that Wyatt takes a special liking to Kate.
Since the time for the crash is fast approaching, Kate, Rufus, and Wyatt continue their frantic search, but they still cannot find Flynn. Wyatt sees Kate standing underneath the Hindenburg and decides to save her before it’s too late, since Lucy previously noted to him that Kate does end up dying because of the crash.
However, the crash doesn’t actually end up coming and Rufus and Wyatt don’t know what just happened. Unbeknownst to them, Lucy has found Flynn among the commotion on the ground, but she is caught and it about to be taken to Flynn when Wyatt and Rufus show up and take out Flynn’s assistant.
Shortly after, Rufus ends up finding a detonator and Lucy comes up with another theory, one that could quite possibly be true. Flynn could still be trying to crash the Hindenburg, just at a later time. But why? According to Kate’s earlier reports, some quite important people were originally scheduled to be on the Hindenburg’s second flight, but of course that never got to happen. Lucy frantically stresses how much more catastrophic it would be to the timeline if the inventor of the helicopter and someone who aided the United Nations were to be killed in the crash. But as she reaches the end of her realization the travelers are arrested and end up stuck behind bars as the Hindenburg gets closer to its new crash time.
While they sit in the cells, Lucy reprimands Wyatt for not being more careful with how he handles himself. He could dangerously alter history by saving someone he shouldn’t, and they definitely do not want the Nazis getting their hands on the modern gun that Wyatt has been using.
When Lucy asks Wyatt what the deal is with Kate and he tells her that she reminds him of his wife who died because of something he did, we get the feeling he may be about to try to save Kate from her well documented death.
Meanwhile, Rufus masterfully distracts the police officer, and Wyatt, with the use of the underwire from Lucy’s bra, manages to break them out of the cell. The trio then rush to the Hindenburg to find the detonator that is most definitely going to be used to crash the doomed blimp this time.
The three quickly make their way onto the Hindenburg and run into Kate. After a bit of persuasion, they manage to gain her trust and she aids them in their search. They end up finding the bomb shortly afterwards but there are less than 4 minutes left on the timer. Wyatt and Kate stay to dismantle the bomb while Rufus and Lucy have to figure out a way to land and get all of the passengers out.
The latter two are successful in holding the crew hostage, however with just seconds left on the clock someone comes in to stop Wyatt from diffusing the bomb. Kate is quick on her feet and hits the man with a frying pan mere moments before Wyatt snips the right wire. All seems fine for about a second but when the man comes to; he aims his gun at Wyatt but Kate moves his arm and he ends up shooting part of the aircraft, causing it to burst into flames.
Everyone on board manages to evacuate mostly unharmed, and Lucy comes face to face with Flynn in the crowd of passengers and onlookers. He shows her something strange. It appears to be a journal filled with Lucy’s writing, however the page falls on an entry from 1961. Having not been alive in 1961, it is impossible for her to have written it, but Flynn ominously tells her she just hasn’t written it yet. He also tells her to think about why Homeland Security chose her to come on this trip to stop the time traveling thief, he also tells her to ask about “Rittenhouse.”
Wyatt sees the two together and rushes over to aid Lucy and in the altercation, Wyatt takes a shot at Flynn and Flynn ends up shooting — and killing — Kate.
Lucy, Rufus, and Wyatt then take the time machine back to the present. The textbooks now say the Hindenburg explosion happened a day later than it originally had, and there were only two deaths at the scene. Wyatt wants to go back to fix things again and actually catch Flynn, but he is reminded about the rules and dangers of traveling back to a place and time more than once. Wyatt and Lucy are told to go home but not until after Lucy asks about Rittenhouse, but Homeland Security seems just as confused about the term as she is.
As the episode closes, Lucy goes back home to her sister and her sick mother but a few things have changed. Lucy’s mother is healthy and walking around on her own, and Lucy’s sister has ceased to exist. These seem to be the first noticeable effects of the Hindenburg incident, and the scene ends with Lucy getting a call to return for another trip.
A few Notes
–I think the three main characters really help make this show so enjoyable. Lucy’s attention to detail and the overall mission was pretty admirable considering she had just learned the time travel existed. I was also really impressed with how, despite being scared out of her mind, she was still quick-minded in situations of danger (i.e. referring to Wyatt and herself as a doctor and nurse looking for the sick patient and referring to herself and Rufus as the Black Anarchist Cross when taking over the flight crew).
-I think Wyatt is going to be the character that gets them into more trouble in the future because he wants to do the right thing but disregards the rules of time travel. It should be interesting, however well-meaning he is, messing with timelines the wrong way is, more often than not, super destructive.
-I’m glad that the show didn’t shy away from the fact that traveling back in time to the 1930s wasn’t the same for Rufus as it was for the other two. It was uncomfortable watching him be continuously (and unnecessarily) be singled out because of his race, and it really shows how far there is to go from that point in time. And one of my favorite moments from the episode was definitely when Rufus was distracting the police officer and outburst that he hoped the officer would live to see celebrated black icons and leaders like Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, and Barack Obama because time isn’t on the officer’s side.
This was an extremely jam-packed, fast paced, but still enjoyable opening episode for this time traveling show. There is always so much that can be done with time travel stories, literally any time and any place is up for grabs. I look forward to seeing where the show goes with the criminal time traveler concept and learning so much more about this world and its characters.
Timeless continues Tuesdays on NBC.