REVIEW: Timeless, S2 Ep2 — The Darlington 500

This week’s episode of Timeless combines all of the elements that make the series fun, while delving a little deeper into the mystery behind Rittenhouse.

When the alert echoes through their underground bunker that the Mothership has landed in the middle of 1955 South Carolina, no one really knows what to make of its historical importance—not even Lucy, our giant history nerd. So it’s with great reluctance that she and Agent Christopher drop by Garcia Flynn’s prison cell to pick his brain about why, exactly, the date means something to Rittenhouse. No one is thrilled about this arrangement, but it’s great to have Flynn back in a scene with Lucy, even if he’s using every opportunity to get in a jab about her mother’s betrayal. Once again oozing that dangerous, antagonistic charm, Flynn gives them an address for Darlington, South Carolina he found on a Rittenhouse agent. “This one’s free,” he growls. “The next one will cost you.”

Something tells us that Timeless will take up this offer very soon, and we’ll be seeing more of Flynn in their future.

Still, the date and place doesn’t ring any bells for Lucy, but that’s just fine, because now it’s Wyatt’s turn to swoop in with the essential historical details. He tells the team that Darlington, South Carolina is where they’ll find Ryan Millerson, a name that only earns him crickets and a lot of vacant stares. As it turns out, Ryan Millerson is Wyatt’s childhood hero and a big name in NASCAR.

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And the Time Team is off to 1955 in their makeshift period accurate attire (working on a tight budget is tough, but they pull it together). Lucy looks ready to go to sock hop in her saddle shoes and royal blue poodle skirt, complete with bright red lipstick. The outfit is all kinds of cute…definite cosplay potential. They find themselves surrounded by all the sights and sounds of the 1950s stock car circuit: the old fashioned automobiles, the buzz of engines on the dusty track, the ugly racism of the Jim Crow South.

Wyatt may be out of his mind with fanboy glee, but Rufus quickly reminds them that like most points in American history, this is not a good time period for him to be in. While searching the track for Millerson, Wyatt diffuses a situation between some racist goons and Wendell Scott, another of his childhood NASCAR idols. Wendell was one of the first African American NASCAR drivers—a name that many don’t know but should.

 Timeless’ biggest strength has always been the history lessons it weaves into the plot. Sure, sometimes we already know these historical names, but Timeless makes a point to shine a light on the lesser known figures that your history classes tend to skip over. Marginalized people who have left their mark on history but don’t get the recognition they rightfully deserve. This is what makes the show so important. From the very first episode, Timeless has always taken strides for inclusivity, never shying away from the ugly parts of American history. And Wendell Scott’s story continues that trend. Portrayed by the charismatic Joseph Lee Anderson, Wendell shows off not only his racing prowess and mechanic skills, but his unwavering determination to succeed in a sport that would not reward him with trophies or accolades.

In an episode rife with expert comedic timing by our favorite trio and laugh-out-loud jokes—Rufus makes a quip likening Wendell to Han Solo, and we’re always up for an apt Star Wars reference—that add a little levity to the situation, we get to revel in just how much fun this show can be. Wendell seems to fit easily within the Time Team as he helps them escape from Emma and whatever Rittenhouse Expendable she’s dragged with her this week. (Wendell is under the impression that our team is hunting Communists, though he doesn’t exactly buy it).

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Wyatt’s fanboying is delightful beyond words, so you kind of have to feel bad for him when they find a bomb wired to the engine of Millerson’s car. Even worse, Millerson pulls a gun on them, flanked by Emma and her minion of the week. Yeah…he’s their sleeper agent, which immediately deflates all of Wyatt’s previously held respect for him.

He’s actually from their time, left in the past long enough to establish himself as a big name stock car driver with a wife and a child on the way. That part wasn’t planned, and Millerson assures Emma his family won’t prevent him from completing his mission. The conflicted look on his face, though, tells us that he’s grown a little more attached to his new life than he’d anticipated.

And that bomb wired to his car? He’s supposed to take out all of the CEOs of the automobile industry gathered at the race so Rittenhouse can cause enough chaos to seize control in Detroit. “This is simultaneously giving me a headache and a panic attack,” Lucy says, once they puzzle out Rittenhouse’s latest dastardly plan. We’re with you, Lucy.

Disillusioned by Millerson’s double life, Wyatt thankfully finds some common ground with Wendell as his car undergoes repairs. Before he got into stock car racing, Wendell was a bootlegger, smuggling moonshine in his trunk. Wyatt opens up about his past, revealing that he wasn’t always the well-mannered soldier we know. He smuggled “things” over the Texas border (he won’t say what, but we can make some guesses) and grew up trying to please an abusive father who forced him to fix cars. It’s the first real glimpse Timeless has given us into Wyatt’s past after developing Lucy’s hectic, Rittenhouse-infused family tree. Matt Lanter gives a quiet, heartbreaking performance as he details Wyatt’s painful childhood.

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To sneak onto the track to stop Millerson, Wendell has Rufus ride in the passenger seat while Lucy and Wyatt hunker down in the secret bootlegging compartment built into the trunk. This gives Wendell and Rufus a chance to talk, and Timeless slips a real Wendell Scott quote into their conversation: “When it’s too tough for everyone else, it’s just right enough for me.” It speaks to Wendell’s perseverance in the face of death threats and the constant vandalization of his car; his pure love for the sport encouraging him to break barriers.

Lucy and Wyatt’s scene in the trunk, on the other hand, is something straight out of fanfiction and has probably launched a thousand fics since the episode aired. The writers truly know what their Lucy/Wyatt shippers want, and it’s a joy to watch scenes like these—even if it’s a struggle to pay attention to the substance of the scene through the fangirling. (And there was a lot of fangirling). Confined to a tiny space, Lucy’s claustrophobia is making the ride a rough one, so naturally Wyatt offers to hold onto her for the duration of their trip. They get very close to one another, an embrace more intimate than we’ve seen from the two of them before.

It’s a beautiful moment for them, as they both feel comfortable enough in their close proximity to be honest about their messy parental figures. They come to terms with the conflict they feel about their parents, the line between loving them and letting go of their toxic pasts, the betrayal of someone who was supposed to care for them. Lucy and Wyatt resolve to move on to the future they want for themselves, and if Lucy needs help processing her emotions about her mother, Wyatt’s going to be there to listen.

And they almost kiss—so close you can nearly hear the fandom’s collective frustration—only to be interrupted yet again. Worst. Timing. Ever.

Elsewhere at the track, Emma (whose 1950s hairdo is gorgeous, by the way) threatens to kill Millerson’s pregnant wife if he doesn’t carry out his mission as planned. She’s particularly ruthless this episode, and while we love to hate her, it’s awesome that Timeless has given us an interesting female villain. Millerson’s affection for his new family motivates him to act, but he and Emma’s Rittenhouse Expendable are killed by Wyatt before they can do any damage.

Or so they think. Millerson has armed the bomb wired to his car, a last-ditch effort to complete his mission. With Rittenhouse and the police on site closing in, the Time Team has no choice but to hop in the car with the bomb. Wyatt gets behind the wheel of his ex-hero’s car, leading police and Rittenhouse on a chase through dusty backroads as Rufus scrambles to disarm the explosive. And Wyatt is having the time of his life, a big grin on his face as he shows off his driving skills. The Time Team takes us all along for the ride, and it’s good, adrenaline-fueled fun down to the very last second. Wyatt parks in Wendell’s garage with the finesse of an expert racer, and even Wendell’s impressed. Obviously, Wyatt can’t contain his fanboying.

Once the bomb is diffused, the trio heads back to the present. But the crew at the bunker is dealing with their own issues: Agent Christopher has to use drastic measures to keep Connor Mason out of the spotlight as he wants to go public to defend his company. Earlier in the day, Jiya had a disturbing prophetic vision about Rufus while he was repairing the Lifeboat—a burn on his arm that has actually happened as predicted. Jiya’s understandably unnerved by the odd, jarring visions she’s been suffering from, more so now that there’s truth to them. But of course she doesn’t tell anyone about them…which probably doesn’t bode too well for the team in the future.

At Rittenhouse headquarters, Emma’s failed mission puts quite a damper on her already dismissive outlook on Nicholas Keynes’ leadership. She writes him off as a kooky old guy who wants to surround himself with the vintage comforts he’s used to instead of embracing modern technology. That is, until Emma sees what Carol’s lunatic grandpa has been up to. He unveils a mural he’s been painting, a sort of blueprint for their plans going forward. The details of the mural are blurry, but Keynes explains history as if it’s art, the canvas they’re going to paint for themselves.

“It’s time to begin preserving human culture: taking what’s best of us and subtracting and sloughing away the worst,” he tells the group gathered around him. “Shaping, cutting away at the rock that is the human race until it resembles something like Michelangelo’s David. Until it reaches perfection everlasting. We few will save the world.”

Yikes. Emma looks at Keynes’ handiwork like it’s the most beautiful thing she’s seen in her life—they’re probably going to be two screwed up peas in a pod—but the trepidation on Carol’s face is unmistakable. Is she having second thoughts about her dear old grandpa and his tyrannical manifesto?