On the Oct. 31 episode of NBC’s “Timeless,” the show’s time-traveling trio found arrived in the ultimate no-win situation: Alamo Mission, days before the famously deadly siege. Like every time travel story, from “Back to the Future” to “Doctor Who,” this show’s chaos butterflies are in full effect — so by the fifth episode, they knew that warning (or saving) the Texan revolutionaries could be cataclysmic for their current reality…
And yet. The difference between knowing this and really understanding it is an ongoing struggle for our stalwart historian Lucy (Abigail Spencer), pilot Rufus (Malcolm Bennett), and soldier Wyatt (Matt Lanter).
Each character is also on the brink of a personal crisis when they are sent to back to the Alamo Mission: Lucy, increasingly frantic to will her sister back into existence after being semi-responsible for her vanishing from the universe; double agent Rufus, increasingly torn between loyalty to his corporate overlords and his teammates; and soldier Wyatt, possibly about to be kicked off the team for his continued inability to gun down rogue time agent Flynn (Goran Visnjic) in the previous four episodes.
The time periods selected for this show are ostensibly those native to Flynn, who is set on some sort of terrorism-adjacent plan to upend the United States… or something. Of course, we know it’s the show that selects each week’s on-the-nose time setting for maximum drama: When Lucy must deal with the non-interference policy, she’s put face to face with Lincoln on the day of his assassination; when Wyatt’s double-dealing weighs heavily on his conscience, they catch up with a Cold War-era double agent in the 1960s; and now, Wyatt deals with his Texan heritage, survivor’s remorse, PTSD, and lack of follow through by dealing with the ultimate no-win situation.
And while the sci-fi underpinnings and emotional undercurrents aren’t exactly subtle, what “Timeless” invariably is, is wholly genuine — in a way that resembles no other current TV show so much as “Westworld.” Perhaps it was the team showing up in frontier chic for their Alamo trip, or the way they’re all gaining so much insight, or the iffiness of the so-called “bad guys” — but the parallels with HBO’s thinkpiece-generating sci-fi western are almost too perfect.