Reviews

Timeless (2016) TV Pilot Review

Timeless follows a history professor, a scientist and a soldier who must travel back in time to stop a criminal who has stolen a time machine in order to change history and destroy the country.

Warning, there may be spoilers ahead.

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The recurring theme in the 2016/2017 television season appears to be time travel. There are 4 premiering shows centred around this premise: Timeless, Frequency, Time After Time and Making History. Add that to already established shows Legends of Tomorrow, 12 Monkeys, etc. and you run the risk of oversaturation of the genre. This means that the new shows are under an incredible amount of pressure to standout in order to succeed. NBC’s Timeless seems to have the advantage, being the first one to debut, but perhaps that just means it’s under much more scrutiny. Fortunately, Timeless kicks things off very well in the time travel television battle with a fun and intriguing pilot.

The level of intrigue is probably one of the best things about Timeless. After watching the first episode I had more questions than when I began. Is Flynn really evil? What happened to Lucy’s sister? What is Connor’s end goal with Rufus? Will Wyatt stop brooding long enough to realise that Lucy really doesn’t like being called “Ma’am”? The answer to that last one is probably not. But the point still stands. When a show has you thinking about it after it ends, it’s always a good sign. And if there’s more questions asked than answered, then there’s a good chance the audience is going to tune in next week. Timeless did that fantastically well.

Perhaps that was because it was so easy to invest in the characters. Leading the pack is historian/super smart person Lucy, played by Abigail Spencer. Lucy is instantly likeable which is what you want in a lead. Her genuine passion for history and inquisitive nature, paired with a sad family life makes it easy to root for her. But Spencer as well as the writers should be credited for making her that way. Spencer is one of those actress that seems to fit effortlessly into every part she plays, and Lucy is no different. Probably the best thing about Lucy though is that she’s kind of geeky. Her childlike wonder at seeing history happen in front of her was a joy to watch.

Seemingly her polar opposite is Master Sergeant Wyatt Logan, played by Matt Lanter. As I mentioned earlier he’s pretty broody in the pilot which is understandable as he’s recently widowed. However, it would’ve been nice to see something else of his persona. We learnt little else of him in the pilot. Sure he got some cool fight scenes but as the muscle of the team, that was to be expected. Lanter is a talented actor so it was a little disappointing to see him so underused in the pilot. Hopefully we’ll get to see more character development for Wyatt in future episodes.

Rounding up the team is pilot/coder Rufus, played by Malcolm Barrett. Rufus is the definite source of humour in Timeless. He also utters my favourite line of the episode “I’m black. There’s no time in American history that will be fun for me.” The pilot shows a small sample of the racism he’s going to face on his time travelling adventures as he narrowly avoids being beaten up by police. I hope this is a storyline they keep pushing as it adds a realistic touch to an otherwise unrealistic show. Racism isn’t the only threat Rufus faces. His boss Connor has him spying on Lucy and Wyatt, and he’s obviously very uncomfortable. Barrett makes Rufus so loveable that I don’t want to believe he’s doing anything shady, but the evidence is there. And it’s going to make for a very interesting long running arc.

Every hero needs a villain and that appears to be in the form of criminal Flynn, played by Goran Visnjic, who steals the time machine. Normally I tend to scold pilot episodes for not giving enough screen time to their main characters but with Flynn it actually works in their favour. The fact that we get to know barely anything about him just serves to make him more mysterious. And you can’t go wrong with a mysterious villain. But as I asked earlier, is he even a villain? His actions, trying to kill a bunch of people, suggest yes. But the conversation he shares with Lucy hints at something else. Either way, he’s a solid character that I can’t wait to see more of.

Backing up the characters was a very strong plot. Using the Hindenburg disaster was a very smart move and it was executed well in the pilot. The entire premise is fascinating and lends itself to a lot of exciting possibilities. The hint that Flynn would be travelling to the time of the moon landing had me very eager to see the next episode. However, the downside to having such an exciting story full of twists and turns is that sometimes it can end up feeling oversaturated which was sadly what the pilot suffered from. There seemed to be so much going on that there wasn’t an opportunity to pause and think about what we were seeing. It was onto the next scene before we were ready. Fortunately, this is not the worst problem to have. It is far better to be fast paced and have too much material than slow and not have enough. But rushing and cramming can give rise to other problems, like the underdevelopment of Wyatt. It would be great to see Timeless take a step back and make episode 2 a little simpler so we can really get the full enjoyment out of what has the potential to be a great show.

Pilot Rating – 3.5/5

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