[Spoilers for the Season 2 finale of Timeless follow, obviously.]
Well that was a much better Season 2 finale than what we got from Revolution, Eric Kripke's previous show which ended with nanobots taking over an ice cream store or something? OK, it was much more complicated than that, but it's relevant to this conversation because we never got to see what happened next, as Revolution was canceled after that episode.
Something similar could be afoot with Timeless, which just concluded its second season with one of Kripke's best cliffhangers. And like Revolution, there's a very good chance that we won't get to see the story continue as NBC has a very tough decision about whether or not to give Timeless a third season. But NBC should renew it, dammit, because it's become one of network's most necessary shows.
First, here's what happened in the two-part Season 2 finale (the abridged version): Jessica (Tonya Glanz) was outed as a Rittenhouse agent (we all knew it, right?). There was a splendid Kirk Cameron reference. Jiya (Claudia Doumit) was taken by Jessica back in time, and Jiya ended up escaping and living out her life in old-timey Chinatown in San Francisco. Emma (Annie Wesching) shot Lucy's mom (Susanna Thompson) dead to take over control of Rittenhouse. Jiya was practicing how to save Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) from dying, as she saw his death in one of her visions. She was able to stop his death as she knew it, but then Rufus got shot by Emma and DIED FOR REAL. Everyone, particularly Lucy (Abigail Spencer), Wyatt (Matt Lanter) and Jiya, was very sad and went back to present time. And then it was hold onto your butts time, as a new, upgraded version of the Lifeboat appeared in the bunker in the final seconds, and out stepped...
FUTURE WYATT AND LUCY. You could tell they were from the future because they were dressed like Battlestar Galactica recruits on shore leave. And Wyatt had a thick beard! And just when you were all, "OMG IT'S FUTURE WYATT AND LUCY," future Lucy said, "You guys want to get Rufus back or what?" End scene. End season. And possible end series.
We pray that the last part doesn't actually happen, but we'd be foolish to think it wasn't a possibility. Its overnight ratings are dismal, with a 0.6 average in the 18-49 demo, down over 40 percent from last year when it was barely renewed. (DVR numbers give it a solid boost, but still not enough to get excited about.) That places it as NBC's third-lowest performing show of the year, and that just doesn't pay the bills. By all accounts, it should get canceled based on that very obvious business sense.
But Timeless is more than just a money-making opportunity for NBC. It has grown creatively since its solid first season to become one of the better and most relevant broadcast sci-fi dramas in a while. Though its time-travel premise came about during a massive influx of time-travel shows (remember Making History and Time After Time?), Timeless uses moving from decade to decade in a surprisingly intelligent and *gulp* woke way. The series' trademark is hitting all the right popular moments in history but focusing on lesser-known historical figures of color and women who made their mark in the history books but may not get the talk they deserve. Just in Season 2, the series visited Harriet Tubman, famed guitarist Robert Johnson, one of NASCAR's first black drivers Wendell Scott, Hedy Lamarr and Grace "the female Sherlock Holmes" Humiston. Watching Timeless isn't just an entertaining experience, it's an enlightening one.
"We're really proud of the diverse stories we're telling and we're really exposing elements of history that are about women and about different ethnicities and we're really proud to keep telling those stories," Kripke told me earlier this year. And he should be. Timeless has a distinct flavor specifically because it goes out of its way to bring to light these important people, and that's more important now than it ever has been.
But from a geeked-out perspective, Kripke used Season 2 to crack open the cuckoo now that the show's story is really beginning to unfold. Future Wyatt and Lucy, people! That explains how Lucy handed Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic) the journal, and it breaks one of the show's most rigid rules: no time traveling to your own time or where you can meet your old self. Where is the show going to go from there? Let's also not forget that Rufus is dead, and we can't end things like that. Every character has an interesting storyline that just seems to be beginning, and with future Lucy and Wyatt joining the fun, Timeless just opened the door for the right kind of insanity.
Showrunners who end seasons with mind-blowing cliffhangers almost always know that what they're doing is a huge risk because there's always the danger that their show won't be picked up. Sometimes those endings are ratings bait, and other times they're a clue for what's already been planned for the next season. This is very clearly in the latter, and is proof that Timeless doesn't just have more stories to tell, it has a whole new fun concept to throw into the mix. Remember how amazing Seasons 3 through 5 of Supernatural were? We're approaching that possibility with Timeless.
I was pretty hard on Revolution at my old place of writing, but Timeless is leaps and bounds better than that show was. NBC is waiting to see how the finale performs before execs make the call, but let's be honest: NBC probably won't pick up Timeless for another season — even though that's also what we thought before when NBC changed its mind and gave it a Season 2. This time will almost certainly be different. If NBC doesn't pick it up for Season 3, we'll be left with one of the most painful cliffhangers in a long time.