REVIEW: Timeless, S2 Ep8 – The Day Reagan Was Shot

timeless s2e8 denise wyatt

Rittenhouse hit close to home on the latest installment of Timeless. As the shadowy organization targeted an unlikely historical figure this week, “The Day Reagan Was Shot” highlighted an important member of the Time Team and discussed all of the frightening and wonderful implications of messing with the present…or the future. It’s easy to say this after every episode (and it just might be edged out by next Sunday’s doubleheader finale), but this could very well be Timeless’ most emotional, intense episode of season two.

When the alarm sounds that the Mothership has landed on March 30, 1981, Lucy determines that Rittenhouse has set its sights on the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. The Time Team quickly realizes that only their youngest members can go, in order to comply with the rules that they’re not allowed to travel back to a time in which they already exist. So, Jiya volunteers to tag along with Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus. Rufus, who’s been “sulking all week” and distancing himself from Jiya, approves if only because they’re going to need a pilot when he’s “gone.” Great optimism, Rufus!

Jiya enjoys her first official outing in the past, stealing some authentic ‘80s souvenirs to take back with her, hinting at a criminal past of deactivating security tags. Donning some sharp business attire—shoulder pads, huge glasses, big hair, the works—the team waits for history to happen as it’s supposed to. Only it doesn’t, not exactly. John Hinckley Jr., the creepy shooter whose obsessive need to impress actress Jodie Foster motivated his actions, gets away from police. And, Wyatt saves the life of a young police officer targeted by a sleeper agent disguised as Secret Service.

timeless s2e8 time team

But she isn’t just any police officer; Wyatt saves young Denise Christopher from a Rittenhouse bullet. President Reagan isn’t their target, then, in a nice twist. It’s Agent Christopher before she was an agent, before she was even anyone of relative importance. But she is important; if she’s wiped out of existence before her time, Rittenhouse would take over the Lifeboat quite easily and none of the Time Team would’ve been assembled. Agent Christopher is clearly Rittenhouse’s biggest threat if they want to go back in time to take her out of the equation.

Karen David, who portrays young Denise Christopher, does a beautiful job of capturing the character that Sakina Jaffrey has played for the past two seasons. It’s absolutely perfect casting in a show that has consistently found spot on talent to play their historical figures. This one is personal, and although we’re already familiar with Denise, David lets us see her as a rookie cop, a young woman struggling with choices and expectations and her own sexuality. The writers have taken a great deal of care in sharing Denise’s backstory, intertwining her family’s Indian immigrant experience with her story of being a queer woman of color in a less than accepting environment.

While Wyatt and Rufus go after the sleeper agent lurking around the hospital, Lucy and Jiya use the aliases Cagney and Lacey to talk to Denise Christopher. (It’s a risky move, but luckily for them, the show won’t premiere for a few months). They pose as a lesbian detective duo hired by Jodie Foster to investigate Hinckley; at first it’s hilariously awkward because they’re making it up as they go, but then they get very comfortable in their lie. (Their ship name is Jucy, FYI). Denise’s brush with a Rittenhouse bullet has some bad consequences: her mother, worried for her daughter’s safety, pressures her to leave the police force and agree to an arranged marriage.

Lucy and Jiya panic about these new developments, and while the trio of ladies follow Hinckley, they attempt to persuade Denise to make her own decisions. Their interactions are both humorous (Denise thinks Lucy is flirting with her at one point; Jiya keeps referencing tidbits from modern pop culture, which is met with confusion) and heartfelt. Lucy and Jiya go beyond the mission, wanting to steer Denise onto the right path not just because it affects the present fight against Rittenhouse, but because they genuinely care about Denise. Lucy has met Denise’s wife and kids and doesn’t want them erased from history, either.

timeless s2e8 lucy jiya denise

Back in the present, Flynn can’t believe that Agent Christopher is spending her time in the bunker when her life could be wiped from existence in a single second. These two have had a complicated, antagonistic history on Timeless, so this heartbreaking talk might be a turning point for them. Flynn talks about what he would do if he had just a few moments more with his wife and daughter, and convinces Agent Christopher that she should share this time with her loved ones, even if she trusts the team to save her.

After Hinckley is apprehended, Lucy and Jiya try one more time to get Denise to pursue a career in law enforcement. What she tells them instead is quite a tearjerker of a backstory: her father, a hardworking immigrant in pursuit of the American dream, was killed by a robber outside a gas station when she was a kid. And it wasn’t the car he’d worked for that he’d been protecting, it was Denise sitting in the backseat. Her father’s killer was arrested by a female police officer, and ever since, Denise has been inspired by her. But on the other hand, her recent experience has her thinking twice about endangering her life for the sake of her mother. It’s a reasonable fear to have, really, but obviously Lucy and Jiya have their work cut out for them if they want to preserve Denise’s timeline.

Meanwhile, Wyatt and Rufus make progress and capture the sleeper agent following an intense elevator fight that includes Rufus stepping up for the assist and Wyatt doing an incredible backflip off a wall. (Easily one of the most GIF-worthy moments of this episode). During their interrogation—of notable importance is their differing interrogation styles; Rufus gets some jabs in with snark and Wyatt uses muscle—they gather some pertinent information.

After a season-long fight against Rittenhouse’s one-dimensional rogues’ gallery, we get a glimpse at a more complex layer to their inner-workings. Something a little more…human. Turns out this sleeper agent wasn’t recruited into Rittenhouse out of loyalty to the cause, but because they blackmailed him after taking care of his family’s debt. He didn’t even know he had to kill someone until he was activated this morning. It gets messier: his brother is the one who believes in the cause and activated him. And he’s still out there, waiting for the right moment to finish their mission. Rufus recognizes that things may not be exactly as they appear at Rittenhouse and convinces Wyatt to keep the agent tied up so they can use him as an informant later. The sleeper agent, though, has other plans, and hangs himself; presumably he saw no other way to escape Rittenhouse’s far reach.

timeless s2e8 lucy jiya

Wyatt and Rufus take out the second sleeper agent, hitting him with a car just as he’s about to shoot Denise through a window of her mother’s home. It’s a jarring hit, if a little bit satisfying, only because we’ve watched this guy stalk Denise’s movements waiting for the perfect opportunity to take a shot. But Denise’s present/future is still in danger of changing, which means Lucy and Jiya have no choice but to tell her the truth. They explain their connection to her, the whole time travel business (though the CliffsNotes version), and everything Denise achieves when she pursues a career in law enforcement. Understandably, she’s incredulous but calmer than anyone else would be in this strange situation.

To convince her further, Lucy shows Denise what was on the flash drive Agent Christopher gave to her in season one. This is probably one of Timeless’ most poignant and meaningful bits of foreshadowing, and it’s incredibly effective storytelling. We had a feeling this flash drive would come into play at some point, but being used like this…it’s a welcomed twist. A tearful Denise looks through the pictures of her future self and her wife and two kids, amazed that this type of life is attainable in the future. That she can choose happiness and stay true to herself and everything will turn out all right, even if it’s a long, difficult road.

timeless s2e8 lucy jiya

And everything does turn out all right—Agent Christopher is there in the present when the Time Team returns. “I’ve waited 37 years to say thank you,” she tells them. And now we know just what led her to handpick her elite squad of time travelers. It’s a sweet turn of events, even if time loops take a lot to process. Agent Christopher’s trust and love for her team takes the spotlight here and proves why Timeless works so well in its wonderful use of the found family trope. Even better is the fact that they returned the present better than they left it: Agent Christopher and her family have a good relationship with her mother.

After seeing how they helped shape Agent Christopher’s future, Jiya is inspired to do whatever she can to stop her vision about Rufus from happening. Rufus, too, finds himself inspired by Agent Christopher choosing to be with her family even when it could all disappear in a second. Changing his stance, he vows to spend every moment with Jiya that he can, no matter the outcome. And the two of them confess their love for each other in a deeply emotional moment that we’ve been waiting episodes for. It finally feels like payoff for enduring the strain put on their relationship.

Timeless winds down its episode, of course, by dropping some mind-blowing twists. When Lucy asks Flynn how he got her journal—a question we’ve all been speculating about since season one—he reveals that a future version of her passed it along to him in Sao Paulo, Brazil two weeks after his family was murdered by Rittenhouse.

So, future Lucy (five years from season one, which means NBC better renew Timeless unless they want another social media outrage by us fans) sent Flynn on his mission against Rittenhouse…and now that Lucy has this information, it’ll presumably send her in that direction. Time loops…you gotta love ‘em on this show. But this also reveals a larger issue: right now, neither time machine has the capability to travel back in someone’s own timeline without causing irreparable damage. Clearly, this changes at some point…and will probably have interesting implications in future seasons. (There’s no “if” here; we say it enough, it has to come true. Come on, NBC!).

timeless s2e8 agent christopher wyatt

The biggest bomb of the episode occurs when Jessica and Wyatt are casually talking after the mission in their shared quarters. Jessica mentions her younger brother, which sets off alarm bells for Wyatt. In his timeline, her younger brother Kevin died as a small child from leukemia. In this new timeline, Kevin is a healthy adult, saved by some new cutting edge treatment. When Wyatt asks her how her family was able to afford this treatment and how they came by it, she deflects and tells him she’s pregnant. Eh…no, thanks. Not buying it. That Rittenhouse sleeper agent story wasn’t just thrown in there without reason; there’s a parallel here, and Jessica’s panicked deflection says it all. Wyatt’s reaction doesn’t look anything like a happy father-to-be, either. Also? It’s a cheap, overdone twist, and Timeless is a lot better than that.

Hopefully, it will be resolved quickly (and in favor of Team Lyatt) in the two-parter finale. If you want to see more seasons of Timeless, please tune in at 9/8c EST on Sunday (and live tweet!) for two full hours of Timeless to close out this amazing season.