Season 2 of “Timeless” Finds its Groove with “The Salem Witch Hunt” (S02E04 – REVIEW)

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “The Salem Witch Hunt” Episode 204 — Pictured: (l-r) Michael Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn — (Photo by Patrick Wymore/NBC)

It only took four episodes, but season 2 of Timeless finally delivers an episode that lives up to the promise of its premise. Written by Kent Rotherham and directed by Guy Ferland, The Salem Witch Hunt follows the Time Team as they travel back to Salem Massachusetts, 1693. While Wyatt (Matt Lanter) sneaks away from the bunker to face an unbelievable truth, Lucy (Abigail Spencer), Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) and their former enemy-turned- teammate, Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic), chase the Mothership to the Salem Witch Trials. There they must prevent the execution of a headstrong young woman – Abiah (guest star Sofia Vassilieva), who, it turns out, is the mother of one of the most consequential Americans of all time – the yet to be born Benjamin Franklin. When Lucy is accused of being a witch, the team rallies together to save Abiah, Lucy, and all the other accused women. (This review features spoilers for this episode.) 

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “The Salem Witch Hunt” Episode 204 — Pictured: Sofia Vassilieva as Abiah — (Photo by Patrick Wymore/NBC)

The Salem Witch Hunt feels like the first episode this season where something actually happens. It feels like there are interesting situations and problems for our characters to face and it feels like there are real consequences awaiting them in the wake of those situations. In this episode, all of the main characters are pushed into making huge, bold decisions that actually have repercussions for the show going forward. First, we’ve got Rufus, Flynn, and Lucy in 1693 dealing with the Salem Witch Trials – and wildly changing history without a care. It’s always a joy having Flynn working with the Time Team, and it’s no exception here. What’s surprising is how he’s not the one wanting to change history the most; Lucy is. I love that, finally, after nineteen episodes of Lucy allowing terrible things to happen solely because that’s just how history is, finally snaps and decides to majorly change something in saving the majority of the women accused in the Salem Witch Trials from their deaths. Yes, it’s partially because she got swept up into the trials herself, thanks to her mother (Susanna Thompson) and Rittenhouse, but it’s still nice to see her finally sticking to her morals and making a bold move in defense of some of the most historically wronged people.

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “The Salem Witch Hunt” Episode 204 — Pictured: (l-r) Tonya Glanz as Jessica, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan — (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Secondly, we’ve got Wyatt dealing with the sudden news that, for some reason, Rittenhouse went back in time and saved his wife, Jessica (Tonya Glanz). He literally broke out of the bunker at the end of the last episode to go find her and he spends the majority of this episode trying to convince her to give him a second chance. The introduction of this plotline is especially interesting given what happened between Wyatt and Lucy in the previous episode. The revelation of Jessica’s return throws a beautiful wrench into Wyatt and Lucy’s blossoming relationship, and I adore when shows do things like that. This is an interesting storyline, even if it’s not hugely surprising. What is surprising and bold about it, however, is how Jessica was brought back and the subsequent way in which Wyatt tries to introduce her to his new life. There’s a scene towards the end where, after she witnesses the time machine return to the bunker, Wyatt tries to explain to her everything that’s going on and how he felt when he thought she was dead. It’s the closest the show has come to really exploring how these alternate universes that this show’s time travel keeps creating impacts the time travelers. For Jessica, none of what Wyatt is telling her has happened in this universe, but for him, it’s painfully real and all of that is super interesting and handled really well in the context of the episode.

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “The Salem Witch Hunt” Episode 204 — Pictured: (l-r) Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Claudia Doumit as Jiya — (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC)

Lastly, we have the plotline between Rufus and Jiya (Claudia Doumit) dealing with her seizures and resultant visions of the future. Ever since Jiya’s trip in the Lifeboat at the end of season 1, she’s been having seizures. Lately, her seizures have been accompanied by strange visions that seem to predict the future. Naturally, she wants to tell her boyfriend, Rufus, about these visions. Prior to the Time Team’s mission to 1693, Jiya warns Rufus that she saw him shooting a man in her vision. His desire to keep her vision from coming true ultimately leads to the death of the man anyway, just in a different way. This idea is similar to something featured in an episode of Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan“: once you know the future, you can’t change it. Rufus knew that this man was going to die because of him, so he actively seeks to avoid that outcome, ultimately causing the death of the man anyway. As he says in this episode: if he hadn’t been warned about Jiya’s vision, he probably wouldn’t have spent so much time dealing with the man and, subsequently, probably wouldn’t have ended up causing the man’s death. This idea is always a fun one to explore in time travel stories and the way that Kent Rotherham explores it within this episode and with these characters is ridiculously interesting. It adds another layer to Rufus and Jiya’s relationship and helps give their plotline something to grapple with.

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “The Salem Witch Hunt” Episode 204 — Pictured: (l-r) Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Sofia Vassilieva as Abiah, Jennifer Christopher as Alice Parker — (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC)

As if all of that wasn’t enough, this episode has the benefit of something the last couple of episodes of Timeless haven’t had: a clear motivation for why Rittenhouse is doing what it’s doing. In The Salem Witch Hunt, Rittenhouse has gone back in time to make sure that Abiah Franklin dies before she can give birth to Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin was a very important part of early American history, but here, his importance is that he inspires Americans to fight against the government and authority figures. Without him, early Americans might’ve been more willing to succumb to tyranny. Rittenhouse wants to reshape history so that they have tyrannical power. Their desire for Benjamin Franklin to not exist makes complete sense in this regard, and this motivation is set up early on in the episode, so the stakes are appropriately set. Not only is this episode about rescuing all of these wrongly accused women, it’s about maintaining America’s willingness to fight against tyranny. Huge stakes. With these stakes set, Kent Rotherham is able to beautifully execute and deliver the promises set by the episode’s premise.

Timeless - Season 2

TIMELESS — “The Salem Witch Hunt” Episode 204 — Pictured: (l-r) Michael Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston — (Photo by Patrick Wymore/NBC)

The Salem Witch Hunt is easily the best episode of the season so far. The episode features the usual superb production design, costume design, and acting – especially from our main cast, but it turns out that writer Kent Rotherham is really the star here. He juggles a number of really interesting plotlines and handles them beautifully, giving each plotline a sense of importance and plenty of screen time to be adequately explored. He quickly sets up Rittenhouse’s motivations and lays out the stakes for the episode so he can deliver upon the promising premise of the episode. He forces the characters to make bold decisions that further develop them and impact their relationships with each other. Rotherham crafts the most interesting episode of the season so far and director Guy Ferland visually executes that strong script perfectly. It’s just a great episode. More like this, please.

5 out of 5 wands.


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