The line I keep coming back to is, “Please help me die easy.” It’s what one of the black Union soldiers tells the Time Team in “The General” after the Confederate ambush, after the soldier’s been shot in the torso, as he looks at Lucy and Rufus with eyes wide with fear but mouth set in steely acceptance of his fate. It’s one of those classic, all-hope-seems-lost moments that happen every week on Timeless, except this one looks and feels different.
Nothing really bad ever happens on Timeless, although its stealth ability to repeatedly convince you something really bad really is right about to happen is a major reason I’m so hooked on the show. Everyone’s tucked back into their bunker by the end of the hour; everyone may not be happy, but everyone is safe. People do get killed, but, you know, mostly Rittenhouse goons and figures we never really got to share a moment with, like suffragist Alice Paul. (Shoutout to Anthony from season one, possibly the only deceased Timeless character I still think about!)
So why was I so shook by the passing of Unnamed Union Soldier No. 1? Probably because his death, unlike many on Timeless, wasn’t handled silently or in one shot or off-camera entirely; it was its own moment. Possibly because the acting in that scene was so good, or because happening upon a man bleeding out for his freedom is just an automatic punch to the feels. (It’s totes obvs that all hope is lost for this guy.) And definitely because, looking back, that scene feels like a metaphorical stand-in for the death of Rufus and the future of Timeless.
Folks, I cannot remember the last time I bawled so pitifully over the death of a fictional character as I did for Rufus. Good-hearted, sweet, vulnerable, defensive, wise-cracking, pop-culture-nerd-king Rufus. I was squeezing hot, hard tears out of my eyeballs for at least a solid ten minutes after Emma shot him. And man, I was so mad at myself — how did I not see his murder coming?! Of course I knew Jiya’s vision of Rufus’s death wouldn’t actually play out as she was convinced it would. Like I said, the Timeless ethos is to convince you the bad thing is bound to transpire before showing you there is, in fact, a way out. But once Rufus avoided getting stabbed in the gut by the Rittenhouse goon as Jiya had long predicted, how did it not occur to me that something just as fatal would befall him a minute later? This has happened before! It’s exactly what happened to that dude in “The Salem Witch Hunt”!
Serious question: Did Wyatt tell Lucy he loved her during their heart-to-heart in the bunker after they returned from their Jiya-rescuing, Rufus-killing mission? Because I was still so beside myself about Rufus that I barely bothered to pay attention. However, I’m pretty sure there weren’t too many words said as Rufus lay dying, which is why when I think back on that moment; it’s soundtracked to that Union soldier’s final wish.
“Please help me die easy,” he implored. Please let me down easy, I silently pleaded heading into Timeless’ second-season finale — because let’s face it, it’s quite possibly the series finale as well. All week I worried how the show could leave open a few narrative possibilities for a season three while still delivering a satisfying closure should season two be the end. Rufus’s evident, imminent resurrection once Future Lucy and Future Wyatt arrive at the bunker in Lifeboat 2.0 turned out to be just what I needed.
Nothing bad ever happens on Timeless, but something bad perhaps will happen to Timeless. Actually going through with killing Rufus was our reminder that yes, cancellation really would suck and really would feel like a death. But the implication that Rufus would live on in a possible season three just goes to show that there is always a way out; all hope is never lost. If you can’t bear the thought of losing Rufus, you don’t have to. All you have to do is believe in these characters you have come to love, who believe in their mission more than anything else, and whose mission has clearly changed yet again. “None of us have anything anymore except each other,” Lucy tells the Scooby Gang (plus creepy Uncle Flynn, a guy Jiya still can’t bring herself to hug) before their shootout with Emma in “Chinatown.” “We take out Rittenhouse together,” Lucy tells them in a speech Rufus calls “better than the one in Rudy.” “We are going home together.”
Here’s the thing: What do you care about more at this point? Figuring out whatever the hell Rittenhouse is and stopping them? Or do you just care about the good guys, like, as people? Wait, let me back up: What even is Rittenhouse at this point? It’s Emma and Jess. Emma, whose last name may as well be IDGAF, seems to have no interest in Rittenhouse beyond using it as a tool to chase down Lucy and make her miserable. In “Chinatown” — and in a plot twist I absolutely did see coming, thank you very much — Jess finally outed herself to Wyatt as Team Rittenhouse, but I’m not super-convinced she’d be in it for the long haul once it’s just her and Emma hurtling through the fourth dimension solely to troll #Lyatt.
And I’m really not sure I’d want a season three full of split-screens or whatever to cram Present Lucy and Wyatt and Future Lucy and Wyatt side by side. That kicker with Future Lucy and Future Wyatt in their Indiana Jones–meets–Rey in The Force Awakens dystopia-garb was quite boffo, no? If there is a season three, that could prove in retrospect to be Timeless’ jump-the-shark moment.
Spoiler alert: Yes, I’m rationalizing here, because I want to brace myself in case the show gets the ax. And yes, I’m actually pretty confident that if Timeless returns for another season, the writers would find a way to set everyone and everything back on their normal paths in swift fashion. (Meaning, Rufus alive, Future Lyatt gone bye-bye, Rittenhouse replenished.) But mostly I just feel spent; the end of “Chinatown” wiped me out. There is lots more we could discuss, of course. How Emma pulled a Sarah Palin by GOING MOTHER-EFFING ROGUE on Carol and Keynes, shooting them both point-blank in the face. How good guest star Christine Horn (you may recognize her from American Crime Story or Good Girls) was as Harriet Tubman in “The General.” How clever Jiya’s story line was, the way she thought to plant that photo in one of Lucy’s history books. (When Lucy found her picture, it gave me a shiver.)
Those are all sweet little forget-me-nots I’ll look back on someday and (not to get too precious) probably smile about, maybe even giggle about under my breath. Right now, though, I want to sit with this feeling: this stew of optimism, shock, and somehow, contentment. Timeless found a way to end this season exactly how it should’ve ended. It’s miraculously both the finale I wanted and the finale I needed.