A Hollywood Caper That’s Not Quite as Exiting as It Should Be (Timeless – S02E03: “Hollywoodland” REVIEW)

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “Hollywoodland” Episode 203 — Pictured: (l-r) Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan — (Photo by Justin Lubin/NBC)

Timeless continues to be a bit of a mixed bag. On paper, I really like this episode. In execution, it’s better than the previous episode (The Darlington 500) but still not as good as it should be. Much of that is down to the fact that the stakes are never clearly defined and the motivations of key characters are underexplored – but more on that soon. Written by Matt Whitney and directed by John Showalter, Hollywoodland is the third episode of the second season of Timeless. When a Rittenhouse sleeper agent in 1941 Hollywood steals the only copy of Citizen Kane, Lucy (Abigail Spencer), Wyatt (Matt Lanter) and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) team up with Hedy Lamarr (guest star Alyssa Sutherland) to get it back. Hedy Lamarr turns out to be not only a glamorous movie star but also a scientific wizard whose discoveries led to the invention of Wi-Fi. (This review features spoilers for the episode.) 

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “Darlington” Episode 202 — Pictured: (l-r) Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan — (Photo by Justin Lubin/NBC)

First things first: last week’s episode. I didn’t review last week’s episode because, frankly, I was so uninterested in it that I couldn’t bring myself to craft an entire review about it. It’s not that it was a bad episode, it’s just that the premise of it was utterly boring. I have no interest in stories about racing, so the fact that the episode revolved around early racecar drivers really didn’t interest me. Timeless is one of those shows that lives or dies based on the premise of that week’s adventure. Like other procedural/serial hybrids, the ongoing plotline is never enough to save an episode if that week’s procedural elements are weak. The Darlington 500 was a really weak premise for me and, as a result, I didn’t care for the episode much. It was competent and the character development was nice, though somewhat inconsistent, but the episode as a whole fell flat for me. The cliffhanger of the episode, featuring Nicholas Keynes (Michael Rady) laying out his plans for Rittenhouse, was the most interesting aspect of the episode, and it’s a thirty-second scene that happened at the tail-end of the show. So, not really enough to save the episode.

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “Hollywoodland” Episode 203 — Pictured: (l-r) Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan — (Photo by Justin Lubin/NBC)

Thankfully, Hollywoodland is a lot better than last week’s episode. There are still a number of problems, but I’m a whole lot more interested in classic Hollywood than I am in racecars, so the episode as a whole ended up working better for me. There’s a lot about this episode that I really do love. Aesthetically, it’s beautiful. Timeless frequently excels at production and costume design. Everything about the episode, visually, looks vintage Hollywood, which is perfect. The general plot itself, too, is rather good. Especially tying Hedy Lamarr into the mix. I loved the idea of Rittenhouse stealing Citizen Kane – though their motivations for doing so were extremely underdeveloped; something I’ll touch on a bit later. All of the stuff involving Flynn (Goran Visnjic) was great, especially how they further along his storyline towards the end of the episode. Best of all was the culmination of Wyatt and Lucy’s will-they-won’t-they romance. There’s been so much pining between the two of them since the very first episode that it was so satisfying seeing them finally hook up. The way it happens is a bit of a cheesy cliche, but I still loved it. This whole show is cheesy and it’s part of why I like it.

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “Hollywoodland” Episode 203 — Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin — (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

Unfortunately, for every element of the episode that I liked, there was an element that I disliked. While the idea of having the Time Team stop Rittenhouse from stealing the only existing print of Citizen Kane, the show spends exactly no time bothering to explain why Rittenhouse wants to do that. In previous (and subsequent) episodes, it makes sense why Rittenhouse is trying to change the thing they’re trying to change, but here it’s completely unexplored. Yes, Citizen Kane was a wildly influential movie, but it’s a movie. Were they trying to end Orson Welles’ career before it really got started? Were they trying to screw over RKO/Paramount? What was their desired outcome with erasing Citizen Kane from history? Who knows; the show certainly couldn’t be bothered to explain it. Without that key bit of exposition, the caper is never as exciting as it should be. The stakes aren’t established, so there’s no real urgency in rescuing the film. This should’ve been a really exciting episode that focused on the Time Team trying to save this film because of its significance, but since the episode couldn’t be bothered to set up the film’s significance, the caper just sort of falls flat.

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “Hollywoodland” Episode 203 — Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston — (Photo by Justin Lubin/NBC)

It’s problems like that that keeps holding Timeless back from being truly amazing. The premise was so great, and the visual aesthetic was so great, but the execution of that premise was so flawed. The episode is held together – barely – by its strong premise and the interesting and strong developments in the ongoing plot of the season. Hollywoodland is a prime example of how shows like Timeless live and die by the premises of each week’s episode. The Darlington 500 has very similar problems as Hollywoodland does, but Hollywoodland’s premise is a lot stronger than The Darlington 500‘s was, so Hollywoodland worked a lot better for me. It’s still a mostly competent piece of TV, but the flawed execution of the strong premise really let the episode down. It’s held afloat by the always strong performances from the cast, the beautiful aesthetics, and the interesting developments in the ongoing plotline. But, at the end of the day, Hollywoodland was nowhere near as exciting as it should’ve been, and that’s a real shame.

3 out of 5 wands.

 

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