Timeless 1×12 “The Murder of Jesse James” Review

Timeless “The Murder of Jesse James” Spoilers Ahead

Rufus Carlin, Lucy Preston, and Wyatt Logan in Timeless "The Murder of Jesse James"
Photo by NBC/Sergei Bachlakov/NBC – © 2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

History isn’t always how we imagined it, but sometimes it’s better. It’s cooler.

Time in History  (Episode Summary): Jesse James. Bass Reeves (The Lone Ranger). Tonto. And fabulous hats —extremely relevant to storytelling. People need to look great you know? In tonight’s riveting episode, Timeless explored the differences between right and easy while taking its core characters on mind rattling quests of their own. Flynn’s agenda to partner with Jesse James leads to the trio partnering with Tonto and the Lone Ranger. There’s a shocking reveal. There’s a death. There’s a murder. There are even heartfelt conversations by the fire but no one sings “Kumbaya” or “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

When it comes to this show, what we know only lies on surface level, and Timeless’ “The Murder of Jesse James” proved that by unraveling secrets we weren’t even expecting. And in doing so, it forced its viewers not to trust as easily. It forced viewers to question the side we’re on because with the amount of secrets Mason has kept thus far, it takes us back to wondering how much of what we’re told is actually the truth. But “The Murder of Jesse James” felt satisfying—and much, much better than the old western films because of the epic reveal concerning The Lone Ranger. In Timeless’ strongest episode to date, it took us on an incredibly riveting journey.

Most Noteworthy Performance: I’ll probably say this every week, but the cast of Timeless is too good. And that’s perhaps what makes this series so fantastic because I’ve never seen a show balance its characters so well. As a result, someone like me is then left with a difficult decision every week —because let’s be real, even the guest stars are incredible.

Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin in Timeless "The Murder of Jesse James"
Photo by NBC/Sergei Bachlakov/NBC – © 2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

That said, Malcolm Barrett’s work in the final scene with The Lone Ranger crushed me. When Rufus first realizes the Lone Ranger is Black, his reaction is as precious as a child learning that Santa Claus actually brings gifts after they fall asleep. And my heart ached for him because that was then followed by a “we’re being stared at because two of us are Black.” Thus far, my favorite thing about Timeless is the fact that it doesn’t shy away from the horrors within history. History wasn’t kind to people of color. History wasn’t kind to women. History was dark and repressive and the show’s choice to bring light to this fact during each episode is magnificent. It’s especially great concerning what’s going on in the world today.

And Barrett’s organic performances make it that much more gripping. Thereby, when Rufus went to speak with Bass at the end, my heart shattered at the fact that history would once again be changed in all the wrong ways. They’d go back to a time where no one would know that The Lone Ranger is a Black man, and that leaves someone like Rufus in a state of understandably great despair. Barrett delivered Rufus’ heartfelt concerns with aching poignancy— at that moment, that childlike wonder that had engulfed him in the beginning was now replaced with the pangs of isolation, pain, and profound sadness.

And that moment hit on a dark, heavy note where you could feel the paralyzing agony of the truth being masked. How many things have been hidden in history? How many lies have we believed because the textbooks told us so. And at some point in time, someone like Rufus probably stood begging for the truth to be told. Malcolm Barrett’s cutthroat performance was filled with the right amount of emotions all throughout the episode, but in this moment, he was indescribable.

Most Exquisite Moment: There’s nothing quite as cathartic as moments of shared vulnerability, and the Time Team has gotten great at opening up to one another. Starting from Wyatt’s meeting with Jessica’s killer to Lucy’s dream about her sister— it wasn’t easy. And things weren’t resolved, nor will they be for a while, but the loveliest aspect of this is the fact that opening up to one another has become effortless. Where they were once strangers, today they’re the ones who know each other best. Today, they can tell one member is off their game. They can tell when they’re overstepping their boundaries, and they can call them out on it. Though a brief moment, it was comforting.

Timeless’ “The Murder of Jesse James” set a number of things in motion, but mainly the team’s work with Mason Industries is en route to plunder. And I hope Jiya shares the information she learned with the team because Mason’s threats were out of line — lines that Rufus needs to know were crossed. And with everything that’s happening concerning Wyatt’s wife, it’ll be interesting to see where the team stands in Mason Industries after their rogue mission next week.

On another note, the exhibition of easy and right allowed us to explore the perfect themes this week with Rufus’ concerns, Wyatt’s fight, and Lucy’s actions. And when Bass states that he doesn’t do it for the people, but rather himself, it showcased character at its absolute finest. And that’s what needs to be understood, sometimes the easy route is elimination, but never is that the right choice. Sometimes, the easy choice and the right one are the same (i.e. The Lone Ranger telling his side of the story). The choices we make in life dictate where we’ll go and Timeless’ ability to explore this through dark, complex situations has made “The Murder of Jesse James” an incredibly strong episode.

Further Thoughts:

  • Abigail Spencer broke me with the haunted demeanor she carried Lucy with. And after shooting Jesse James, it’ll be riveting to see how her character attempts to bounce back. That was perhaps the most unexpected part of the episode and it’s something I look forward to exploring as it’ll undoubtedly shape her character.
  • Wyatt needed a hug, some whiskey, and perhaps s’mores this week because his killing rampage attitude wasn’t flying with any of us. And it’s great to know that Rufus can bring light to it and ask all the right questions when need be.
  • I can’t wait to learn more about Emma and the secrets she’s learned while working at Mason Industries.
  • That tiny proud smile Wyatt wore when Lucy got on the horse was precious. We see you, Logan. We see you. You can’t hide your admiration with the lovely historian for too long.
  • On a very, very serious note, where can I get one of those hats?

What are your thoughts on Timeless “The Murder of Jesse James” episode?

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