‘Timeless’ Review: Back In Time, But Forward In Social Commentary

Sara Crocco ’19 / Entertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer

To think, Timeless is only a mere 4 episodes in and we’ve already visited Las Vegas during JFK’s presidency, Nazi Germany a year before the conclusion of World War 2, the final moments before Lincoln’s assassination and the arrival of the German passenger airship, The Hindenburg —all times in history that were tied to troublesome events.

Viewers get to see these familiar pieces of history through the lenses of 3 extremely different people: Lucy (Abigail Spencer), one of the most knowledgeable history professors in the country; Wyatt (Matt Lanter), a soldier still grappling with the guilt of his wife’s seemingly irreversible death; and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), an engineer who helped bring the time machine they use to travel to life. These 3 characters are tasked to ‘protect the past, save the future,’ because they are the best in their respective fields of work. For a group of people who, depending on the time period, have not always been wildly accepted by society, that should be no big deal, right?

Last August during the TCA’s (Television Critics Association) Summer Press Tour, Timeless executive producers Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan said that they had no intentions of “sugarcoating” history in their show. There are two goals to their non-sugarcoating approach, one of which is to stay true to the grittiness of history/present the facts reliably and the other is to show how our modern day norms would clash with those of the past. By having two out of the three leads be a female and an African-American man, a severely truthful depiction of their presence in different eras of history becomes extremely apparent. “So much of history, as we know, is the history of rich white dudes, and yet there is so much untold history from a minority perspective and from a female perspective,” said Kripke. “… [Timeless] allows us to make commentary on issues that are happening today.”

Abigail Spencer and Sean Maguire in Timeless. Photo Credit: NBC
Abigail Spencer and Sean Maguire in Timeless. Photo Credit: NBC

Despite the progressive nature of the show, there are still people online who have written this show off as ‘one to skip’ in the midst of all the other Fall TV shows. Although, on the contrary, it seems to be much of what our society could benefit from right now. The subtle mentions of racial- and social divides within our country are important to keep in mind, even passively while watching the show for pure entertainment, in an effort to understand what it’s like to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes.’ Beyond the social commentary, it’s an enjoyable show for anyone who loves anything from pure history to echoes of the sci-fi universe through time traveling explorations and adventures, so there is definitely something for everyone to connect with.

Through this show, the viewers have already traveled across a grand spectrum of world history following these characters, watching with uncertain anticipation as historical events they know by facts inch closer to becoming unrecognizable by seemingly inconsequential choices. For example, saving someone who was supposed to die, even when it seems like an isolated event, could change the entire framework of history. Those types of decisions, where they could easily save the people they know are going to meet a fateful end, are the ones most hard to be in control of, because changing anything in the past is too risky for their future and, therefore, can’t intervene. They try episode after episode to stay as far away from altering time, some less than others, but these decisions become harder to notice each time which makes the outcome that much more difficult to predict for when they return back to modern day after everything’s said and done. This, in effect, is one of the qualities that keeps this show so heavily grounded in emotion.

While Timeless has its flaws, it has definitely proven itself to be a show worth watching. While it would be more thrilling to not have the mysteries explored in each episode realized by the main characters so easily in the end, the show still provides a nail-biting drama that, amidst all of the different attire and environments of the eras they visit, is hard to not get sucked into.

Timeless airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC.

Season 1 Grade (so far): B+


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