REVIEW: Timeless, S2 Ep1 – The War to End All Wars

timeless s2e1 lucy lifeboat

A year after NBC’s decision to reverse their cancellation—a plot twist so good that it nearly felt like part of the show itself—Timeless is finally back with its second season. This reunion with the Time Team feels sweeter knowing we could have lost the show entirely, a fact too painful to even consider again. “The War to End All Wars” reminds us how beloved this series is, and how much we’ve all missed being in the company of these characters. Timeless welcomes us back with a comfortable familiarity—due mostly to our favorite trio’s warm, easy chemistry—but it also raises the bar for an even smarter, high-stakes sophomore season.

When we last met up with the Time Team, Lucy (Abigail Spencer) faced a shocking betrayal from her own mother Carol (Susanna Thompson), who revealed that she’s a part of Rittenhouse. Not only that, but Lucy is Rittenhouse royalty, both of her parents in the upper echelon of the shadowy organization itself. Last season’s Rittenhouse was painted with broad strokes, their motivations and goals never quite defined in a way that felt put together, though it led to some memorable adventures in the Lifeboat. This season’s iteration is more streamlined, pushing the narrative toward exciting new possibilities without retconning everything that had been previously established. It makes the organization more sinister, focused, and presents a clearly defined conflict for the Time Team, who seems to have their work cut out for them going forward.

With the apparent victory over Rittenhouse and Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic) behind bars, Wyatt (Matt Lanter) and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) are prepping for one last trip that will hopefully bring Lucy’s sister back to the timeline. There’s just one problem: Lucy’s nowhere to be found. As Lucy’s sister Amy was her primary motivation to go gallivanting through time last season, Wyatt knows something’s up…maybe just a few minutes too late. A bomb detonates inside the Mason Industries building, and we pick up with Wyatt six weeks later in a gritty underground bunker.

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It feels like a good reset—new location, new problems, our heroes at their lowest. Rittenhouse isn’t finished with them yet, Lucy is missing, the Lifeboat is broken, and Jiya (Claudia Doumit) is still having weird time travel-induced seizures. Even Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph) is feeling particularly useless, having lost his entire life’s work, unable to find a solution to fix the time machine he helped invent.

Problems repairing the Lifeboat and concern for Jiya’s health wear Rufus thin (we even get a “Clockblockers!” shout out as he swears inside the offending time machine, a reference to the Timeless fandom). Meanwhile, Wyatt is frustrated, angry, and impatient, willing to do anything to get Lucy back. Unlike Agent Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey), Wyatt believes Lucy is still alive, held captive by Rittenhouse because they would want to recruit her. He doesn’t acknowledge the possibility of her being dead, not when he spent last season grieving his first love. He doesn’t even have to say it; it’s there in the way he carries himself, his short temper, his eagerness to defy orders. (This is the first episode of the season and it’s already so good to us shippers).

In 1918 France, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel is raging as the Americans launch a joint offensive with France against the Germans. Lucy is along for the ride, a mother-daughter bonding trip that still manages to fill her with a sense of awe despite her situation. To prove her loyalty to Rittenhouse, Carol and Emma (Annie Wersching) drag Lucy into the middle of the organization’s latest scheme. They’re in 1918 France to save the life of Nicholas Keynes (Michael Rady), a soldier wounded on the battlefield. Lucy’s strained cooperation hasn’t come easily, as her mother remarks that she’s come very far these last several weeks. Emma, though, isn’t convinced of Lucy’s loyalty, and the two share a passive-aggressive stepsister-like relationship. Emma’s place in Rittenhouse is clear: she’s a trained operative deeply committed to their cause, which makes her a ruthless (and perfect) villain. Emma shoots an innocent soldier—Keynes’ friend, who’s more than a little freaked out about the modern medical equipment the women are using—and asks Lucy to finish him off, a chance to prove herself.

Lucy’s horrified look before she pulls the trigger is heartbreaking (Abigail Spencer gives Lucy’s arc a compelling emotional weight throughout this episode), but more so is the way she seems to effortlessly suppress her own emotions to appear calm and collected. There’s no reasonable possibility that Lucy would ever switch sides with such ease, but she knows that to survive and maintain her cover, she has make some difficult choices. In true historian fashion, however, one thing Lucy isn’t going to compromise are the lives of historical figures. As she and her mother cross paths with Marie Curie (Kim Bubbs) and her daughter Irene (Melissa Farman), Lucy hopes to keep them out of harm’s way while they use their portable X-ray machine, a “petite Curie.”

timeless s2e1 lucy carol prestonBreaking from her mother to do some exploring of her own, Lucy weaves through the American encampment, and it’s here that we feel immersed in the history alongside her. Muddy roads, columns of smoke rising into the sky, dog fights between planes that spiral in the distance, wounded soldiers being hauled off the battlefield. With a keen eye for detail, Timeless gives us a glimpse of the Great War on a smaller scale, but it’s just enough to drive home how truly devastating it was.

While shoving grenades into her bag, someone grabs Lucy from behind. Her first instinct is to fight back…until she finds herself face-to-face with Wyatt. The tearful, emotionally charged moment before they embrace is everything—Lucy’s been under the impression that Wyatt, Rufus, and company were killed in the explosion, and now Wyatt has his suspicions confirmed. Timeless could have very well kept Lucy separated for a few episodes this season, but the choice to reunite the trio in the premiere is the right one, as their relationship is the glue that holds the show together. And their hugs are so genuine and heartwarming that every time it happens, it feels like they’re bringing you into the fold, too. Their dynamic is so deeply woven into the fabric of Timeless that it wouldn’t be the same show without its charismatic leads and the chemistry (and their mix of witty banter and heart) that Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett bring to their characters.

In the newly repaired Lifeboat, Rufus and Wyatt were able to track the Mothership with a little help from Wyatt’s own knowledge of military history. He’s insistent about keeping the empty seat open for Lucy and only Lucy, determined to bring her back. And it’s a good thing, too, because Lucy was ready to blow up the Mothership and doom herself to a life in the past—or worse, a suicide mission—to end Rittenhouse. That Lucy was willing to make this a one way trip and sacrifice her life gives us some insight into what she must’ve been thinking during those weeks when she thought she’d lost her closest friends, her found family. It’s one of the more devastating revelations of the hour, the desperation of a woman with nothing else left to lose.

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Instead, Lucy sends Wyatt and Rufus off to the Mothership with one of the grenades before she meets back up at the farmhouse with her mother and Emma. The reunion does Wyatt and Rufus’ moods some good; there’s a noticeable shift as they return to their snarky repertoire. Wyatt mentions having to “save Private Ryan” when the two of them are apprehended by army officers while attempting to steal a car. And they work smoothly as a team to dispatch one of them in their escape; Rufus lends a hand, proving he’s not just there to provide the humor. Wyatt discovers a modern cell phone in the captain’s possession—the work of Rittenhouse, no doubt, that spells trouble for the Time Team.

On their way to the Mothership, Rufus harps on Wyatt about his feelings for Lucy because he’s been picking up on the romantic tension between the two for some time now. “You’re in love with Lucy. Just admit it,” he says to Wyatt, and well, Wyatt doesn’t exactly deny it. It’s refreshing to have Timeless acknowledge their feelings directly, to see the progression of Lucy and Wyatt’s relationship moving in the right direction and have these two guys holding a meaningful conversation about it. The trend toward softer male action heroes, men who aren’t afraid of showing vulnerability or emotion, who treat women as equals, is definitely a welcome one. From their pilot episode, Timeless has been a shining example.

Also on their way to the Mothership, Carol, Emma, and Lucy are bringing Nicholas Keynes to the present. Unfortunately, Marie and Irene Curie have beat them to it, marveling at the impressive machine they’ve stumbled upon. When Emma pulls a gun, prepared to shoot a couple of the most innovative minds in history, Lucy places herself between them…which gives Wyatt and Rufus just enough time to catch up. Lucy begs Carol to “be on the right side of history,” telling her to give up Rittenhouse. But Carol chooses Emma and Rittenhouse, placing her loyalty to the cause above her own daughter. It’s a stark contrast to Marie and Irene Curie, whose close relationship offered a parallel to Lucy and Carol’s fraught dynamic during the episode. Marie feels her work is important, but it pales in comparison to her daughter. The betrayal on Lucy’s face is soul-crushing, made worse by Emma’s declaration that she’s gone through the timeline to make sure Lucy never gets her sister back—following Carol’s orders. It’s as if Emma is taking Lucy’s place, the Rittenhouse loyal daughter she’s always wanted, while Emma continues working her way up the ranks.

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“I’ve lost everything,” Lucy tells Wyatt later, in the quiet of their underground bunker. To which he assures her, “You haven’t lost me.” It’s a fantastic, heartfelt moment for us shippers (among a lot of swoon-worthy moments), but more than that, Wyatt is right. Lucy may have lost her old life and the parents she thought she knew, but she still has the family she’s found through her work with the team. And as she processes the betrayal and her complicated feelings about her mother—how do you fight an evil who wears the face of the woman who’s raised you?—Lucy won’t be alone. They nearly kiss…their faces inches apart, Lucy’s hand on Wyatt’s cheek…when they’re interrupted by Jiya, who has the worst timing imaginable. Guess we’ll have to wait a little while longer for that Lucy/Wyatt kiss.

Timeless has a knack for delivering a last minute twist, and this premiere offers a one-two punch. The phone Wyatt and Rufus recovered holds a Rittenhouse manifesto, all of the nefarious things the organization could do with a time machine. To carry out their plans, they’ve placed sleeper agents (like Emma, who lived undercover in the past for a decade) at pivotal locations in history. The document was written by Nicholas Keynes himself, and as it turns out, he’s Lucy’s great-grandfather. With Keynes and the Mothership in the possession of Rittenhouse operatives, Agent Christopher has no choice but to ask none other than Garcia Flynn for help in deciphering the plans. But Flynn has one very specific condition: he’ll only speak to Lucy.

This new sense of focus for Timeless going into their second season is not only exciting and clearer than the previous storyline, it opens up a whole timeline of potential. The show has learned from its weak points and pared down all of the unnecessary mythology for a tightly plotted, fun narrative that leans into everything that made Timeless so memorable to its fans. And we can’t wait to jump back into the Lifeboat with them.