TIMELESS, Episode 9 (“The Last Ride of Bonnie & Clyde”) – A Review for Time-Travel Fans (SPOILERS!!)
Agent Denise Christopher of the NCTC gets a bigger role to play in Episode 9 of NBC’s Timeless, and with that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to consider a time-travel conundrum involving those who do not time-travel.
Every time our heroes return to the present, history has been altered to varying degrees. But to those in the present, it’s just history. So imagine you’re Christopher, and you’re debriefing Lucy, Rufus and Logan after they return from Civil War-era Washington, D.C., for example. And they tell you that the history you’re familiar with—in which an unnamed, unidentified assassin killed President Lincoln—what do you believe when they tell you that in the original timeline it was John Wilkes Booth who was supposed to have killed him? You’re the one who sent them on a mission into the past, so are you basically forced to believe them? Sure, in some instances our heroes can point, for example, to an otherwise unwritten James Bond novel in which they are featured as characters to help bolster their credibility. But to Christopher and other non-TTers, that book always existed.
And here’s something that approaches paradox, even though we have determined to accept the TT device in Timeless as couched in the possibility of alternate timelines (perhaps many co-existing timelines): When our heroes return to the present, they are always expected by those at TTHQ. That means that in the altered timeline to which they return, somehow events were similar enough that Flynn had jumped to the same point in the past from roughly the same point in the present, and Christopher sent our heroes back to chase him for roughly the same reasons with roughly the same information.
Just once I’d like to see our heroes return to a present that is so radically altered as to be completely unrecognizable, or one in which they are not expected to appear at all. Could be fun, no?
Anyway, I’m coming up with fun scenarios in part because episode 9, “The Last Ride of Bonnie & Clyde,” was a frustrating disappointment in several ways. Basically, when the most interesting part of the episode involves Agent Christopher in the present, we got problems. To their credit, the show’s creators are trying to give depth to our favorite characters and endow their relationships with some complexity. The results are mixed. And the TT stuff is pretty flat. And somehow, just when I thought I could not be more annoyed by how little information we’ve got about Rittenhouse, I’m as annoyed as I’ve ever been. It’s episode 9, folks, and we still don’t know much more than Rittenhouse = Scary + Secret.
So, let’s recap quickly, if possible. After a brief prelude in which we witness the grisly demise of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, we return to the present where Lucy is having a “first” date with her alternate-timeline fiancé, Noah. He still seems way too nice, but at least now he seems to get that this is, somehow, not his Lucy. He tells her he doesn’t want to interview for a job he thought he already had. Good for him, seriously. Logan sees Lucy wearing her engagement ring following the “date” and confronts her, giving her very good advice, actually, reminding her that she is not really “meant” to be with Noah, and so should cut him loose so he can find whoever he is meant to be with. I mean even if we argue with the notion of Fate or Destiny as operative here, let’s remember that Lucy does not intend to stay forever in any timeline where her sister does not exist. And last time she had her sister, she didn’t have Noah.
Meanwhile, Christopher (who we learn has a daughter with an upcoming ballet recital—thank you, plot-exposition-oriented phone call!) has finally caught wind of the word “Rittenhouse,” and seems determined to uncover its meaning. Flynn has traveled back to 1934 Arkansas, and an offscreen raid of his hideout has turned up evidence that his goal is something called the “Rittenhouse key.” Our heroes exchange awkward, silent glances, realizing as we do that Christopher just heard about Rittenhouse for the first time. She sends them back to find the key before Flynn does, and even mentions that she hopes to get there “ahead” of Flynn this time.
Note: They don’t. I don’t mind telling you, dear reader, that I let this off-hand remark get my hopes up. As you know, I’ve been wondering for some time when they will figure out how to arrive in the past just slightly ahead of Flynn. Well, they haven’t, and they don’t.
In search of the key, Lucy and Logan leave Rufus to enter a bank that turns out to be the next in the long list of banks robbed by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Once Lucy is done being starstruck by the charismatic criminals (we need a word that applies to meeting famed historical figures…historystruck? figurestruck?) she and Logan recognize that the notorious Bonnie is wearing the Rittenhouse Key on a chain around her neck. With no other choice, they follow the criminal pair out into the street where they are greeted by a hail of police gunfire. Seems Flynn has tipped off Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (famed for bringing the Barrow Gang’s crime spree to a bloody end that next morning in Gibsland, LA) to their next heist. Rufus shouts a lifesaving warning, and for his troubles he is left behind as Lucy and Logan help Bonnie and Clyde steal a getaway car.
The rest of the episode is paced considerably more slowly. Logan and Lucy pretend to be another pair of glamorous bank robbers in an effort to earn the trust of Bonnie and Clyde. It works, in spite of Logan’s ineptitude at historically authentic improvisation. (Thank god for Lucy, am I right, folks?) But as the foursome hide out in a cabin on what has to be the world’s most awkward and dangerous double-date, it’s Logan who manages to really win over the doomed pair.
After learning that Clyde stole the Rittenhouse Key from Henry Ford (member of Rittenhouse, maybe?) and gave it to Bonnie in lieu of an engagement ring (she’s already married, oops!), Logan tells the actual story of how he proposed to his actual wife, letting them believe he’s referring to Lucy. And, well, Lucy is the most moved of the three listeners, and responds by giving Logan a passionate kiss. But after Bonnie and Clyde turn in for the night, Logan is all business again, making plans to steal the key and skip out while the infamous pair lay sleeping.
Meanwhile, Rufus is stuck at the police station, where Hamer is interrogating him thanks to Flynn tipping him off that Rufus is in cahoots with Logan and Lucy. But by the end of the interrogation Hamer is convinced Rufus is innocent, and starts to resist Flynn’s manipulations. He turns instead to a criminal known to be an associate of Bonnie and Clyde’s, getting him to spill some info on where they are likely hiding out. What a dirty rat.
They send the rat ahead to the cabin, and his ill-timed knock at the door wakes up Clyde before Logan can steal the key from around the sleeping Bonnie’s neck. In the confrontation that follows, Rufus arrives and reveals the rat’s treachery by playing back a recording he made (with his handy dandy spy recorder!) in the police station, when the rat was spilling the beans. But then Flynn arrives with Hamer and a bunch of rangers armed to the teeth, preventing a smooth getaway. Clyde is shot while he and Bonnie make a run for the car, and Bonnie—insisting she die in Clyde’s arms—levels a gun at the police, forcing them to shoot her, too. But not before Flynn gets the Rittenhouse Key, and hoofs it.
Our heroes have failed to get the key. They only know that it had Latin words inscribed upon it, something about the beginning of time and the end of time. Yawn. Whatevs.
This may sound like it could have all been very dramatic, but it wasn’t. It was hackneyed and flat. We already know that Logan is obsessed with his dead wife, so he’s not likely to follow through on anything he feels for Lucy. And the lesson Rufus learns about how there are still honest, good people in law enforcement (Hamer) seems forced.
That moment’s only real value is found back in the present. Christopher has been doing some investigating, and has pictures of Mason with Cahill. She confronts Rufus, who warns her that she’s getting mixed up in something very dangerous and that she’ll leave it alone for the safety of her loved ones. (Remember we learned she has a daughter?) Hamer’s purity inspires Rufus to take Christopher at her word that the truth is the most important thing, and he agrees to tell her everything he knows. “About Mason,” she prods, to which he corrects her, “About Rittenhouse.”
The last moment of the episode may be the most goofy, annoying, and frustrating thing to happen in the entire series. Flynn sneaks past guards into a museum or something, barely managing not to kill anyone as he makes his way to an ornate mantel clock. Then he presses a button, flips a lever, and turns the magical Rittenhouse Key in the clock’s keyhole—yes, this clock has a keyhole—and the steampunk-inspired clock rattles and clicks and reveals intricate moving parts, then finally opens to reveal a tiny scroll sealed with red wax. He opens the scroll, reads it, looks meaningfully off-camera, and…roll credits.
Argh. ARGH. This entire episode is a big tease with no payoff. How many times have I told you, creators of Timeless, that we need some information about Rittenhouse? It’s like you guys don’t even read this blog! Can you imagine?
Anyway, there had better be a payoff. And soon. Next week is the mid-season finale. You hear me, writers? Don’t leave me with TT blue balls for the holidays.
The TT analysis:
TT Integrity: No major blunders. But nothing to make me excited either. And I’m still craving some answers to my questions about alternate timelines, and left to wonder why most alterations of past events leave the current timeline relatively unchanged. Why no more sisters disappearing from existence, for example? That kind of thing.
Determination: 6.0 wormholes on my 10-wormhole scale.
TT Narrative: Low scoring this week. Traveling into the past to meet Bonnie and Clyde should be full of possibilities, but ultimately the writers came up with hoary clichés and hackneyed subplots about doomed lovers, about how lawmen used to have guts and integrity, and worst of all about secret artifacts like clocks and keys that ultimately reveal nothing. I know I’m watching episodic television, but dammit, I’m not asking for much. Just give me one thing about Rittenhouse that I can hold on to. Just one thing! As for the part about Christopher, it made her more interesting to be sure. But it also made me wonder if she’s going to die soon.
Determination: 3.5 wormholes on my 10-wormhole scale.