“When Ernest calls them the Lost Generation, he doesn’t mean aimless. He means battered, broke down, but getting ready to stand back up. There’s a difference.”
With 14 episodes down and two left this season, what has Timeless been about? Is it a well-made procedural that entertains one timeline at a time, getting us all pleasingly soused on the glamorous, swashbuckling fun of its sci-fi premise? Or can it figure out a way to sober up just enough, supersede its own episodic framework, and endeavor to be about The Really Big Things, like fate?
This is a question I’ve deliberated all season. It’s also a question I began pondering anew tonight after Josephine Baker delivered her soft-spoken rallying cry to a starstruck Lucy, who looked captivatingly Art Deco AF as she soaked up the surroundings in everyone’s favorite era: Paris in the Roaring Twenties. (Les Années Folles if you’re nasty.)
A couple weeks from now, I might look back on Black Venus’s metaphorical declaration about the Lost Generation as the hinge upon which the whole series swung from engrossing and enjoyable fourth-dimensional hijinks to sprawling, mythological odyssey. I mean that on a micro level, too: “The Lost Generation” started out as another perfectly good Timeless installment, but ended as one of the best all-around episodes of the season. It left me so pumped, so flummoxed-in-a-good-way that I’m feeling like I just downed my first shot of absinthe.
Perhaps I’m still experiencing the heady aftereffects of the awesome hour that just unfolded, but I’ve never felt more psyched about getting to the bottom of Rittenhouse, Lucy’s written-in-the-future journal, or her paternal lineage — even though, to be honest, that opening scene where Lucy rants at her dad is a bit of a bore-snore. (“I will never be a part of this. Do you hear me?” “Rittenhouse isn’t a choice. It’s blood.” Blahzy blah blah.) Of course, Rufus and Wyatt are anything but disinterested in the news that the Rittenhouse guy is Lucy’s dad, which is information they hadn’t been exposed to heretofore.
“Scary Rittenhouse dude’s your father?!?” Rufus hilariously ask-yells Lucy right before he rejects her and Agent Christopher’s impromptu plan to “let Flynn torch history” by not thwarting his plan to somehow screw up Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight. “They wildly and extravagantly suck,” Rufus admits about Rittenhouse, “but Flynn is going to hurt people. He is going to kill people … and if we don’t stop him, then that’s on us.”
What excites me in Timeless aren’t long stretches of dialogue where two characters, like Lucy and her dad, spout earnest-but-empty platitudes at each other. What excites me is watching the gears click in Rufus’s brain as he realizes he needs to realign his priorities if he wants to stick to his principles. Here’s someone who seemed to be the most reluctant member of the Scooby Gang when the season began. He also hates Rittenhouse the most, but he’s willing to go against all that to make sure someone else doesn’t die on his watch.
Wyatt, who’s locked up in a black site somewhere after stealing the Prototype, is replaced on the Paris mission by that dude David Baumgardner, his old Delta Force buddy he ran into several episodes ago. (As Dave notes, he’s been on standby since “The Alamo.”) Meanwhile, the saucy and self-assured Emma is enjoying her first mission as Flynn’s pilot now that Anthony’s dead, and I’m enjoying their loosey-goosey banter as they await the Spirit of St. Louis. Seeing Flynn unwind a bit as Emma regales him with her “tall” (ha ha) tale about Napoleon felt like a relief compared to his usual clenched-jaw leadership.
Speaking of self-assured and sauced, here’s Ernest Hemingway! Rufus and Lucy meet him while investigating the crash site where Flynn preempted Lindbergh’s flight, and after Lucy tells him she’s read all his books — erm, she means, “All of the words in your one book” — a charmed Papa fires back, “Tell me you love whiskey and I’ll marry you.” Because Hemingway would probably be a Vice investigative reporter if he were alive today, he figures out the district where Flynn must’ve taken Lindbergh based on the Havana tobacco some goon of the week was smoking. Off we go to …
Bricktop’s? Is it Bricktop’s? Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris has long been a guilty pleasure of mine — I just adore the sumptuous sets and costumes and I pretty much go to sleep every night wishing I could order “une bouteille de bourbon, s’il vous plait” like Alison Pill does as Zelda Fitzgerald in Ada “Bricktop” Smith’s Place Pigalle boite. So as much as I get a kick out of Timeless episodes that sort of remake historical movies (Hidden Figures, Bonnie and Clyde), this one set a high bar for itself going up against a well-known film that so splendidly captured the halcyon ambiance of that era. There will simply never be another onscreen Hemingway like Corey Stoll’s brooding take on the legendary scribe, but it’s super cool that Timeless found another legendary watering hole for its nightlife scene: Dingo Bar, where Hemingway and F. Scott allegedly first met. Also, if we can’t spend more time reveling in the moody indulgence of it all, given Timeless still is and always will be an action-thriller procedural, at least this time around Josephine Baker is given an actual speaking part. (Seriously, Woody Allen, what the hell is up with your cinematic marginalization of people of color? SHE WAS A DANCING SPY. Woody’s no better than dumb Dave Baumgardner, who literally has to ask, “Who’s Josephine Baker?” You deserve to die five minutes later in an underwhelming shootout, Baumgardner!)
Lucy and Rufus ultimately find their way through the catacombs of Paris to Lindbergh. While Lucy tries to convince Lucky Lindy to denounce Rittenhouse, his father, and his future as a pro-Nazi mouthpiece (clearly analogous to her own daddy issues), back in 2017, Wyatt proves he’s not just the muscles of the Scooby Gang by figuring out the NSA’s takeover of Agent Christopher’s operation wasn’t on the up-and-up. “How do you get that much clearance for that many people overnight?” he wonders. “They had to be planning this thing for weeks. This is a coup.” As all roads do, this leads to Rittenhouse, so Wyatt and Christopher surmise that someone at the NSA is associated with the shadow organization. It’s definitely the creepy new guy, right?
Also, somebody please make a GIF of Mason’s face when he finds out Rittenhouse Guy is Lucy’s dad — if only because I want to see how my face must’ve looked when Lucy got back home and her mother gave her THE FREAKING JOURNAL FUTURE-LUCY WRITES IN! DUM-DUM-DUMMMMMM!!! I’m so glad the backstory behind this crucial little prop might finally be filled in, but that’s not even the most important part of the ending. The most important part is when Wyatt reunites with the rest of the Scooby Gang — after springing himself from the black site with Christopher’s help and a paper clip — and tells them, “The agents in control of Mason Industries, they’re Rittenhouse.”
And just like that, we watch as a new alliance forms: Wyatt and Christopher, ousted and presumably working behind the scenes, teaming up with Lucy and Rufus, who are now their inside men in a covert operation to destroy Rittenhouse by cooperating with Rittenhouse by pretending they don’t know they’re cooperating with Rittenhouse. This is some Alias-level double-crossing, folks. Timeless is now about fighting Rittenhouse, not Flynn, and it’s still about badass time travel!
Hemingway would’ve killed to cover a war like this.