“Timeless” has never shied from using the trappings of its genre to carefully land our heroes in precisely the right time and place to learn whatever lesson they most need to move ahead — whether that’s the value of teamwork, the cost of betrayal, or as in this week’s fast-paced installment, that fear is the mind-killer.
Similar to how Miss Frizzle teaches her students about the digestive system by forcing them to ride a bus through the human colon, our heroes come to grips with this latest lesson by spending time being nearly murdered by America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes (Joel Johnstone), in a sort of fancy dress genre TV version of “Saw.”
Lucy (Abigail Spencer) and her colleagues have always been working from a place of fear: Lucy, that her sister is gone forever; Rufus (Malcolm Bennett), that his double dealings spell trouble for his family; Wyatt (Matt Lanter), that he will never learn what happened to his late wife. These heightened emotions provide the drama that hooks an audience — every adventure forcing further and further to self-reflection, shedding more of who they want to be and exposing more of who they truly are. So, are we — delighting in every daring escape and deathly adventure — so different from the madman who secretly joined his victims in an airless death dungeon because it amuses him to watch their fear?
If you thought “Timeless” would head to the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair and not include a man who built and ran a “murder palace” disguised as a hotel, then you haven’t been paying attention to the amazingness of this show. Holmes, most recently the inspiration behind “Sherlock’s” Culverton Jones (Toby Jones) and “American Horror Story: Hotel’s” James Patrick March (Evan Peters), was one of the most prolific serial killers in history. His particularly well-organized method of mayhem — constructing an entire hotel filled with gas chambers, secret passageways, slides to convey bodies to a dungeon — was one that to any armchair psychologist would diagnose as having a particular thrill in viewing the fear of his victims.