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Timeless makes a deal with the devil

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Well, that was a mid-season finale, all right. At the midpoint in its first (and possibly only) season, Timeless seems like a decent, if sometimes uninspired, major network outing—a little weirder than most, perhaps, and sometimes so totally inconsistent as to seem kind of nuts, but mostly it’s familiar territory. There are times that doesn’t serve the show well (last week’s episode, for example), and times that it does. Is “The Capture of Benedict Arnold” a perfect hour of television? Of course not. Still, there’s something to be said for getting the job done, and this episode certainly does that. It may not be groundbreaking art, but it’s rarely boring, and this episode is no exception.


Key to that success: forcing the heroes into a position where they have to be otherwise. It’s not a new idea, but it’s a good one, and despite Timeless’s unexpectedly high (and oddly casual) body count, seeing Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus struggle to settle on the lesser of two evils makes for a surprisingly affecting scene. It also serves to remind us of a few things: Rufus has killed a guy now; Wyatt’s not new to killing (though the others don’t seem particularly aware of the issues he dealt with in “The Alamo”); Lucy’s been saying over and over again that their job is to protect history, but her priority is almost always protecting the person in front of her, no matter what she says. Both men get on board with murdering real life human David Rittenhouse pretty quickly (Barrett’s especially good in this scene), but the biggest part of the scene belongs to Lucy and Wyatt, as the latter tries to convince her using the Trolley Problem.


Part of what makes this scene so effective, beyond the terrific acting from a threesome that got better and better together as the season progressed, is that it ties in neatly to nearly every plot thread in the episode. Benedict Arnold (Curtis Caravaggio) made a choice, which was prompted by the choices of others and spurs others to choices of their own. Agent Christopher worries that all the mucking about in history they’re doing will eventually result in the erasure of her family, and takes steps to remember him. (Sidenote: all I want for Christmas is more for Sakina Jaffrey to do in the back half of the season. She’s just too damn good to waste like this.) Young John Rittenhouse parrots his father’s beliefs about the choices, or lack thereof, in the lives of peasants. And of course, Flynn chooses not to kill the kid and changes his mind, just as Lucy chooses to stand between the little Rittenhouse and a bullet.

So, now Lucy’s on the Mother Ship and Wyatt and Rufus will have to rescue her. It’s just an OK note on which to end the first half of the season, but it’s a close to perfect way to end this particular episode—though truth be told, it feels a bit abrupt. It’s the most appropriate conclusion for an episode in which the big three choose to ally themselves with a guy who, whether he’s right about Rittenhouse or not, is a total psychopath. This is the most interesting Garcia Flynn’s been all season, including the bit where he sort of hit on his mom.

That’s not entirely the fault of Goran Visnjic, though it does sometimes seem like he’s got factory default settings for his facial expressions. Giving a villain an agenda doesn’t mean you’ve given them substance, or even a personality. Here, at least, he has a complete arc: he discovers there’s a need for the Life Boat trio, bribes and/or coerces them into uniting with him for a spell, seems somehow convinced that this is the beginning of a partnership with Lucy, and then is furious when she’s not willing to murder a child in pursuit of what he believes to be their mutual goal. Just like that, you go from partnership to kidnapping and assault.


Perhaps that’s the biggest parallel we can draw in this episode: like Arnold, Flynn believes there’s something due to him, largely because of a relationship that might be just a little bit one-sided. Like Arnold, he reacts in a big way, swinging out of control and changing lives forever. One can assume that, like Arnold, Flynn will be living with the results of these choices for a long, long time. We, on the other hand, will be living without them until the show comes back next month.

Stray observations

  • Thunder mug. BRB, working this into my daily parlance.
  • David Rittenhouse.
  • The scene with Kid Rittenhouse was terrific, writing-wise. Weird, creepy, so calm.
  • Time-travel nitpick of the week: Why should Flynn have to murder the kid? Why couldn’t he just take him in the mother ship? It removes him from the time in which he’s a threat, and then he gets an adventure away from that creepy clock house. It’s not like Flynn gives a damn about changing history.
  • That’s a wrap on Timeless until January! Thanks for watching along.
  • If you want another time-travel show to fill the gap, you’ve got options. Legends of Tomorrows sophomore season is proving better than its first, Outlander has the best sex on TV, and there’s always Doctor Who. And if you like complex mythologies, nefarious mystery organizations, and being thoroughly disappointed after season two, I highly recommend Alias.
  • Made it through this whole review without a single Hamilton joke.