NBC’s Timeless tries really hard to avoid any colossal plot holes in its series premiere and instead goes the less traveled sci-fi route, where it deals with less time travel intricacies and more with the moral compass of it all. Who should live? Who should die? Why can’t history be changed if it’s for the greater good? Timeless tackles all of these questions and the series premiere hits the ground running.
One of many time travel-related series on TV this fall (Time After Time, Frequency, Making History, and Legends of Tomorrow), Timeless has a lot to prove in order to stand out. But the series premiere is a good indicator that it’ll at least be appealing to many. Creators Eric Kripke (Supernatural, Revolution) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield) kick off the series, sprinting right out of the gate. The episode is quick-paced with not a moment lost, but thankfully slows down a bit to come to grips with everything it’s introduced. The first few minutes don’t feel like a pilot episode, rather one that is already established since it largely avoids exposition at first. A strength the episode generally carries through to the end. We learn just enough about the main characters and the story to keep us intrigued, but there’s still an obvious amount to learn and dissect for later.
Right off the bat, we’re introduced to the time traveling trio. There’s professor and historian Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), soldier Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), and coder and time machine pilot Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett). They’ve been recruited by Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph), who runs Mason Industries and has built a time machine. They soon learn that the time machine, which has gone under the government’s radar until now, was stolen by former NSA asset and fugitive, Garcia Flynn (Goran Višnjić). His goal, as Lucy theorizes, is to “kill America in its crib,” when its institutions aren’t yet as strong as they are now. Flynn’s first stop in time is the morning of May 6, 1937, at the airfield where the Hindenburg, a German Nazi airship, catches fire and crashes in New Jersey. The time travelers must go back to the same time using a prototype time machine (that conveniently fits three people) to intercept Flynn and stop him from changing history as they know it.
There’s no way to avoid the paradoxes that time travel creates, but Timeless doesn’t necessarily set out to ignore them, either. Once something is altered, only the trio remembers the original timeline, although how and why is never explained. The episode is shrouded in mystery, boasts interesting character interactions, and a whole lot of action and suspense. The episode is fun, but also filled with its share of drama and just a shade of angst. Lanter’s character, specifically, is already shaping up to carry the stereotypical characteristics of male bravado. But my hope is that Barrett’s Rufus isn’t overlooked in terms of development as the story moves forward.
Ultimately, Timeless debuts with a solid series premiere. It has all the elements of an entertaining show and leaves room for improvement and eventual emotional attachment to its characters. It has its own style and take on events and questions whether some things in history are meant to happen or if changing them wouldn’t be so bad. The episode is fast-paced, but never confusing. The characters are all likable, but are not without their flaws. For a show based in time travel, Timeless is fairly contained thus far. This is good because it means it has controllable elements and hopefully won’t drift too far off the reservation. With only one set rule about time travel–they can’t go back to a point in the past where they already exist–there are enough mysterious elements in the story and in the connections between the story’s antagonist and protagonists to sustain a season-long arc.
Timeless stars Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, Paterson Joseph, Goran Višnjić, Claudia Doumit, Sakina Jaffrey, and Chad Rook.
The series airs on Mondays, beginning October 3, at 10/9c on NBC.