Timeless is not a perfect series, nor is it a great series. If you're a stickler for facts and well versed in American history, you'll probably want to go with other ways to spend your Mondays lest you find yourself banging your head on a table during each episode. But the dramatic stakes are silly enough and the costumes are cool enough that if you can look past some of the more annoying aspects of the series, you may actually have a good time.
In its second episode, Timeless traveled to April 1865 and asked if you had the ability to change the past, would you? If you had the opportunity to stop the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, would you? These questions were part of a larger question involving how much power the show's three protagonists should have and whether or not they can or should play God.
This is a common theme found in any work of fiction that deals in the particulars of time travel, and what better situation to address it than the assassination of President Lincoln? When John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger that April evening at Ford's Theater, the Civil War was finally coming to a close and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, was on the horizon. There are very few moments in American history better suited to tackle this conundrum.
Now, common sense says tells us that no, even if we had the power, we shouldn't change what's destined to happen. And common sense tells us that the assassination of President Lincoln has to happen exactly as it did the first time for the world as we know it to continue unchanged. But Timeless would be awfully boring if everything went off without a hitch, which is why Flynn (Goran Višnjić) orchestrated it so that the original conspiracy — which was to include the deaths of three other prominent men and was meant to potentially revive the Confederacy — would be carried out.
Rufus' (Malcolm Barrett) argument — that saving Lincoln could have meant a significantly different and potentially better history for African Americans — was one the series had to address. "It's our job to protect history," argued Lucy. "Yeah, rich white guy history. A lot of my history sucks," countered Rufus. The dude has a point.
Eventually Lucy (Abigail Spencer), having initially argued that some deaths were meant to happen, tried to save Lincoln at the last minute and actually was successful in saving the life of then General Ulysses S. Grant (though in actuality he was never at the theater that evening, as he'd declined the invitation). But it wasn't just Lucy's minimal interference that changed history, it was Flynn's since he carried out the assassination instead of John Wilkes Booth. Now in the show's universe there's a school named after Lucy's time travel alias, Juliet Shakesman, in Point Pleasant, Ohio, aka the birthplace of Grant, and the government seems to be satisfied because the new history is "close enough" to the original history.
Lucy wasn't pleased because she's a freaking historian and also because she's the only person who seems to be affected by the small discrepancies that are occurring in the past. Her sister is still dead and she's engaged to a man she seemingly doesn't know. But the real bomb was the reveal that the man Lucy thought to be her father was never her real father, a fact that was revealed when it was discovered that he married someone who survived the Hindenburg disaster. It's why Amy no longer exists but Lucy does.
Of course, the other major bomb from this episode was the reveal that Flynn may actually be trying to save the world, not destroy it. And he's potentially helping Future Lucy to do it.
Say what now?
Timeless airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC.