When I originally wrote this post, it was a lot more positive than this version will be. I had written it Tuesday night, directly after I’d finished my spoiler-free reaction (which was written directly after I finished watching the screener of the episode). I still stand by everything I said in my spoiler-free review as it was all true in relation to how I felt directly after watching the episode. However, as time has passed and I’ve reflected on the episode some more, it occurs to me how much it doesn’t hold up to any kind of scrutiny. It was immensely enjoyable while watching it, but the moment I put any real kind of thought into it, more and more problems began appearing. (This review will feature spoilers!)
Episodes 211 and 212: The Miracle of Christmas (Part 1 written by Lauren Greer, Part 2 written by Arika Lisanne Mittman; directed by John F. Showalter)
As Christmas arrives in the Bunker, the Time Team is inspired by a visit from their future selves to find a way to try to save Rufus (Malcolm Barrett). But when the Mothership jumps to 1848 California, they’re forced to put those plans on hold and chase Rittenhouse back to the Gold Rush, where they encounter one of the era’s most dangerous villains. Then chasing the Mothership to Korea in the winter of 1950, our team helps a stranded, pregnant refugee attempt to escape a tragic fate. Stuck with no way out, our team faces its toughest challenge yet, and in the process, come to terms with their feelings for each other. Also starring Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Goran Višnjic, Sakina Jaffrey, Paterson Joseph and Claudia Doumit.
Timeless has never been a particularly well-written show. It’s always been a bit messy and inconsistent, especially in relation to its ongoing plot arcs and character arcs. This remains true for the finale, only it’s more apparent. While, at first, things feel satisfying to a casual fan like me, the more I think about it, the less I like a lot of what happened in the episode. For example, I like the idea of Flynn sacrificing himself for the team; it feels like a realistic way to end his character arc, allowing him to be the ultimate hero. The problem is that it doesn’t quite feel earned when compared to where the character was at the end of season 2. The same is true for the Lucy/Wyatt relationship. I am not against it in principle, but in execution, it didn’t feel earned. They had to cram seasons’ worth of development for the two characters into a 90-minute episode to the point that Lucy lost all real sense of agency and devolved into someone who just needs to choose a man so she can be happy. And that doesn’t feel right for the character. The same is true for everything related to Emma and Rittenhouse as well as the entire final ten minutes of the episode. And it’s doubly true for Lucy’s decision not to save her sister. The idea of her having to let go of her sister because the consequences of time travel are too great is a really interesting idea, but there’s just not enough time given to it in order to make it land.
Most of this stems from the fact that the writers had to cram literal seasons’ worth of storylines into a 90-minute film. In no universe was that ever going to fully feel satisfying. Very rarely do films designed to wrap up a canceled show ever really work as well as the show did (looking at you, Serenity), and the Timeless finale is no exception. All of these problems stem from the episode not having the time to properly explore these ideas. It also didn’t help that the writers either imposed upon themselves (or had imposed upon them by NBC) an edict making this series finale accessible to new viewers. So, instead of getting resolution to certain plot elements (like Jiya’s visions) or having certain things remain in the episode that have since been revealed by one of the writers in a Twitter thread to have been cut for time (an explanation that Carol and Nicholas were still killed in the new Jessica-less timeline by Emma, just in a different way, or any of the other 20 minutes’ worth of deleted scenes), we got the whole North Korea plotline which felt sort of out of place in a series finale. It was time wasted on a standard Timeless adventure that could have been spent providing more closure and giving more time and explanation to the closure that was provided.
The worst thing is that this problem is one that the writers could have avoided. They should have known they were on borrowed time when they got a second season. Very rarely do shows that are canceled and then renewed (by the network that canceled them) last more than another season or two. After getting canceled at the end of season 1 and then getting picked up for a shortened season 2, the writers should have treated season 2 as their final season. They had ten episodes in which they could have planted the seeds for the series’ conclusion. They never should have ended the second season on the cliffhanger they did because, frankly, there was so little chance the show was going to get to continue that it’s almost insulting to the people who follow the show to just assume they’ll be able to keep saving the show (something the series creators still seem to be assuming based on certain interviews). Had the writers used season two as their final ten episodes, a lot of this could have been avoided. Yes, they would have had to change their plans a lot and certain fun things we saw in season two wouldn’t have happened, but it would have given them the time they clearly needed to better explain their resolutions (ie: what did Rittenhouse want, all the stuff about the different timelines and better setting up Lucy’s decision to not save her sister, and the Lucy/Wyatt relationship). But, alas, they didn’t do that and so they had to try and do the impossible and wrap up the series in two hours when they had way too much story to tell in such a short time.
That being said, it is impressive that the finale is as decent as it is. It’s nowhere close to a train wreck and, from a casual fan’s perspective, it does still mostly work. Yes, it’s not as satisfying as it should have been and a lot of the ideas happen way too quickly to really work, but it was still nice to have some kind of resolution, however rushed it may have been. I liked a lot of the ideas that were at play in this finale, and I think that my interest in those ideas has led me to be a bit kinder to the finale than some other fans might be. It’s messy as hell, even more so than the show normally is, but there were some interesting ideas and it did at least end the story, even if it was a bit disappointing at times. They should have cut the entire flash-forward sequence though because that was just too cheesy even for this show. I mean, when are writers gonna stop using that trope of someone naming their kids after some brave person they knew. It was stupid in Harry Potter and it’s stupid here when Wyatt and Lucy name their kids Flynn and Amy. The montage after Lucy gives Flynn the journal is way too ridiculous as well and it legitimately made me laugh out loud. I like the idea of them showing Lucy giving Flynn the journal, but the montage just ruined the moment. The whole last ten minutes were a bad idea and left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth (aside from that last shot of the girl working on a time travel formula; that was a nice teaser for more adventures).
Overall, the Timeless finale is a mess, much like the show itself was. It has moments of greatness surrounded by moments of mediocrity and bad writing. It had to cram way too much information into a two-hour block while still keeping it new-viewer-friendly and there just wasn’t enough time to satisfyingly do all they wanted to do, so much of it was half-hearted at best. I applaud the writers for their effort as doing something like this is never easy, but these problems are also due to how they handled season 2 in the first place. They had the chance to craft a longer conclusion to the series when they were given their first miraculous save, but instead of doing that, they took advantage of their fans’ passion and mistakenly assumed they’d be able to save them again. It didn’t work and they blew their chance at giving the show a better conclusion than a rushed, ninety-minute film. But that’s life. As it is, the movie is fine. It was a lot of fun while I watched it and it’s not as bad as some of Timeless‘ worst episodes were but nor is it as good as some of Timeless‘ best episodes. It is what it is and that’ll have to do because it’s very unlikely it’s gonna get another shot.
3.25 out of 5 wands (I try not to give .25’s or .75’s, but I kept wavering between a 3 and a 3.5 here, so I had to give it a 3.25. This will not be a regular occurrence.)