The Red Scare
Claudia Doumit as Jiya, Malcolm Barrett as Rufus.
When Timeless premiered, I described the show as “Quantum Leap meets Lost.” Tonight’s season ender is more than a little like the Lost finale redux, delivering big wallops of emotion while going easy on the meaty, twisty-turny plot payoffs. The reward isn’t a mind-blowing, jaw-dropping revelation; the reward is hanging out once more with these wonderful characters.
And that’s not a bad thing! With “The Red Scare” possibly serving as a series finale — please no, please no, please no — I’ll happily take a denouement full of feelz over a boffo cliffhanger. Now that the season’s come to an end, what I’ll reminisce about most isn’t Lucy’s mother’s surprise confession in the very last scene that her lineage likewise descends from “good, strong Rittenhouse” stock. Instead, I’ll be rehashing the scene before that, when Lucy and Wyatt come thisclose to acting on their long-simmering tensions as they flirt over Lucy’s upcoming final mission to rescue her sister. (This show deserves so much credit, by the way, for keeping that obvious romantic sizzle on the back burner rather than letting the pot spill over.)
I mean, it is a DUM-DUM-DUMMMMM big deal that Lucy’s mother has been in on Rittenhouse this whole time. According to her, the organization is still alive and well despite all the crackdowns that happen toward the end of the hour. I guess what I’m saying is … I just don’t care right now. If there’s a second season then Timeless can find ways to make me interested in this new chapter of the Rittenhouse saga — and the fact that Emma, Flynn’s replacement pilot who spent years hiding out in the Wild West, has apparently been a secret Rittenhouse operative all along, or somehow got turned right at the end. (That reveal did send a quick shiver up my spine, I must admit.) I’m even fine waiting until next fall to discover what it meant when Jiya momentarily hallucinated a destroyed Golden Gate Bridge outside her hospital-room window. But at this point, I’m not dying to know how Jiya’s virgin trip in the Prototype messed her up. Who cares? Rufus really loves her and finally said it! I mean, Rufus says, “You promise to hold on, and I promise to stop holding back.” I do not have the emotional bandwidth to handle this!
“The Red Scare” is allegedly about McCarthyism in the 1950s, but that historical milieu is just a red herring. Likewise, while Flynn time-travels to 1954 specifically to cajole Joe McCarthy into telling him the location of the big Rittenhouse meeting — a plot point so important that half of last week’s episode led up to it — we never actually wind up at the meeting itself. We also never see Benjamin Cahill, Lucy’s dad and season-long “scary Rittenhouse dude,” as Rufus so memorably put it, get the takedown he deserves (or even show up at all, strangely). There was a bit of narrative bait and switch here, a trait that also reminded me of the Lost finale, which left so many questions unanswered.
But again, that’s okay! Instead, we got lots of juicy little surprises and callbacks to enjoy, like Emma casually discussing how Flynn indeed murdered Anthony and then made it look like a suicide (aha!), and the hilarious return of Lucy’s fiancé. That one was a true LOL and I couldn’t believe what a kick it was to see him, considering what a wet blanket he was earlier this season. (Also, good on Lucy for even remembering his name. Hi, Noah!) Jiya finally gets to pilot the Prototype for real, despite her confession “Like, I’ve died a lot” in simulation training. Agent Christopher has a badass moment when the Scooby Gang plus Jiya takes off for the 1950s and she’s left to take on the Rittenhouse/NSA/Connor Mason battalion of douche bags. McCarthy trolls President Trump with lines like, “I don’t deserve this crooked press.” (Can I preorder an episode about Roy Cohn as the through line between McCarthy and Trump?) Wyatt gets in one more fight scene in which he takes out McCarthy’s two guards with … a rolled-up newspaper or something? I couldn’t really tell, but Wyatt still whupped some un-American butt. Lucy gets to meet her grandfather Ethan and — oopsie! — she finds out he’s in the closet. (Another great bit of dialogue, from Wyatt: “Is it just me or is Rittenhouse way more gay than I thought it would be?”)
Ultimately, what brings down Rittenhouse isn’t a huge fight scene or an insane plot twist or any jaw-dropping sci-fi wizardry. It’s paperwork. Connor Mason reveals to Agent Christopher that he’s gone through the NSA’s servers and collated “everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Benjamin Cahill.” It’s a dull but honest turn of events that Mason thinks a dull, honest person like Christopher is well-equipped to bring to the “dull, honest authorities.” Meanwhile, in 1954, Lucy asks Grandpa Ethan to work as a double agent for decades on end, compiling incriminating evidence against Rittenhouse. He makes good on his promise come 2017 when she visits him and receives a scrap of paper with the address to a huge room full of files he’s put together. It’s all very logical, if a bit of a letdown from our season-long roller-coaster of mysterious cat-and-mouse games through the fourth dimension.
Like Lucy’s journal. What is up with Lucy’s journal? When did she actually sit down to write it, why did she write it, when did she give it to Flynn, and why did she give it to him? These questions are finally raised as Lucy and Flynn meet to exchange information on his family’s killers, but they’re just as quickly interrupted when Christopher swoops in to arrest Flynn on terrorism charges. Boo, Agent Christopher!
That scene may have been set in the present, but let’s let bygones be bygones and declare it all in the past. What I’m looking forward to is another season of Timeless. Come to think of it, let’s all time-jump to the fall premiere right now, shall we?