Timeless 2×09 “The General” and 2×10 “Chinatown” Review

Timeless “The General” and Timeless “Chinatown” Spoilers Ahead

Episode still from Timeless "Chinatown"
Source: NBC

Who lives. Who dies. Who tells your story?

Episode Summary | Time in History: Where didn’t we go is the question? What didn’t we do? Who didn’t we meet? Timeless‘ explosive, remarkably bold two-hour finale did a number on our hearts and there are no words. (Seriously though, there are no words. I’ve been staring at this article for an hour now.) Both Timeless’ “The General” and Timeless’ “Chinatown” carried the weight of sincerity in an encompassing finale that explored raw human emotions beautifully.

Timeless and its characters are a representation of its viewers, they’re terrorized, broken, privileged, hurting, loving, fearful, strong, and so much more. And if this two-part finale reminded us of anything, it’s that the world we live in is not only far more vast than we can imagine, but it was an acute ode to the fact that every human being’s story matters. We are made up of our beliefs, our fights, our journeys, our heartaches, and sometimes, our quiet solitude. It’s been one heck of a season with none of our characters in the same place as they begun, and if that’s not superb character development through intrinsic storytelling, then I don’t know what is.

There’s a fight in all of us. There’s a fight in all of them. And to find that fight is to find ourselves, only we must be cautious that through every little change, we choose each other over and over again. The human race is dependent on kindness. It’s dependent on adoration. And it’s dependent on stories. As much as this is a homage to season two, a review of these episodes that aired, it’s also a plea for a renewal—it’s the choice to dissect why these stories matter. And no matter what this show’s future holds, this two-part finale left us with an extraordinary message—find your fight and run towards it. Don’t stop until you have it.

As we did for the season one finale, we’ll be dodging our usual performer/scene format for a full episode review because that’s what finales demand.

Harriet Tubman once stated: “I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.”

Timeless has often pegged the questions of fate vs. free will into its episodes by bringing us to a place of thought-provoking, profound complexity. And in this area, characters have often found the serenity they’d been searching long and hard for. They’d find the serenity that’s searched for them along with the destiny that’s always called to them. And if we specify God’s plan, it’s always in our best interest, for I can’t imagine a single God who’d want to harm His believers because even when it appears as though that’s happening, it’s proof that there’s something greater than us in the world.

Timeless writers have confirmed that they choose where their characters are first physically, spiritually, and emotionally, then they move towards finding a historical figure that’d fit precisely in the equation, and Harriet Tubman could not have been more perfect to tell the story of resilience and faith. We all know her name, we know the cause she fought fervently for, but what we don’t often realize,—because the history books neglect to tell us so—is how much passion fueled her bones. To fight for something in the way she did not only requires colossal will, but it requires a fire that could never be put out, and it requires faith in something bigger than ourselves. Whatever it may be for others, Tubman’s was her faith in God. It was the choice to believe in something bigger than herself that inspired her to fight in spite of the all-consuming fear that attempted to convince her otherwise.

Both “The General” and “Chinatown” would come to showcase that living in spite of fear is a task each of our characters needed to overcome. The episodes would serve as proof of the fact that legacies are dependent on perseverance not fearlessness, for even within the seemingly bravest of souls, fear never stops attempting to govern. Timeless is great at a number of things but delivering powerfully moving speeches and one line, epic responses is the series’ forte.

As we’ve said in this past, while this show wants to tell the stories that matter, it wants to do so in a way that’s so organic, you find yourself immersed in the truth that television series often shy away from. That’s why Rufus’ response about being free his entire life is so far-reaching because it’s not often that question is asked as frequently today. I can’t imagine or pretend to know what that moment must have been like to film for both Malcolm Barrett and Christine Horn. And I also can’t pretend to understand the profound impact it must have had on Black viewers worldwide. But I imagine that the superlative performances and honest conversations are bound to leave on imprint in viewers for a long, long time.

Timeless excels at this type of pure, honest storytelling—it excels at giving us moments that easily bring forth tears despite the fact that not all of us can relate to the history that’s brought to life in front of us. But we can all thrive from the excellence that’s found in Tubman’s advice—the heartfelt declaration of fighting in spite of fear because it’s either death or victory. A moment where Horn had me cheering loudly during because the resilience and passion in her eyes could light up even the darkest of corridors.

Thereby, to have someone as influential, and as vigorously bold as Harriet Tubman talk about God to a non-believer like Rufus made for a truly compelling form of art. Because no matter what, respectful conversations are of great importance. It’s vital not shut anyone off but to listen despite our differences, and Timeless has done a gorgeous job of handling religion in Rufus’ life with both the absence of it, and the curiosity regarding it.

It was fascinating beyond words to see him care so profoundly for Harriet Tubman’s visions because even though he doesn’t believe, his admiration towards her is enough for him to wonder of the thing that keeps her at peace. It was fascinating beyond words to see him come home from his time with Harriet Tubman and share with Jiya that he’s acknowledging some sort of a higher power in their lives. And faith in something that’s bigger than ourselves always serves as the glimmer of hope we could all use—because even in the midst of darkness, faith is there, quietly glowing in the distance while fighting its absolute hardest to dim the fears and negative thoughts that say the end is merely bleak. It’s not, it’s hopeful, it’s beautiful, it’s prophetic.

That’s why Rufus can’t die. He cannot be taken out of this equation because without him, there is no Time Team. There’s no Timeless. He’s our heart. And all those movie references? We need him. We need him because if the Avengers have proven one thing it’s that the nerdy pop culture references can come in handy during the battle against enemies. You hear that, Wyatt? (Yes, in case you’re wondering, my brain still can’t stop thinking about Infinity War.) And without Rufus, we have a Jiya that just isn’t the same. (Anyone else still crying from the way Jiya was crying because good grief, Claudia Doumit killed me in that scene. Jiya’s a wreck. I’m a wreck. We’re all wrecks basically.)

This love is too precious. This love is too pure. And we refuse to let this become some Titanic-esq tragedy with future Jiya crying about it being 84 years too long. If we’re told that there’s a plan, the will of a higher power, and simultaneously the existence of free will, then it’s clear that they don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Rufus may have died in this timeline, fighting for his love of Jiya, the refusal to live in a world where she’s far from him, but it doesn’t mean that his story’s over because if there’s a way to get him back, which evidently there is on this show, then it must mean that’s in God’s plan, too.

It means that for reasons exclusive to each individual, the team needed to grieve him, they needed to fight for him, and they needed to mourn him. It means that for whatever reason, this was necessary to bring them all together. It was necessary to force them to fight together because things had gotten a little out of hand with the petty arguments they’d been having and the darkness they’d been facing with Rittenhouse as their enemy.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I know why Rufus had to die other than the fulfillment of a prophecy, and because this show loves following through with whatever they plant, I do know that his fight’s not over yet. And that’s why he needs to come back. That’s why the team will fight for him because while people aren’t always given closure, there’s still a great deal that needs to be said and done in this man’s life. And a part of that is growing old with Jiya because they deserve to fight over what Netflix series they’re going to binge-watch next.

The energy in “Chinatown” was unreal—both Barrett and Doumit were so compelling in their fight for one another, I kept having to take off my glasses because tears were fogging them up. From the moment Jiya was taken, Barrett played on Rufus’ fears and rage perfectly because up until the moment they found her, he was too engulfed in his fears to even have hope, and that’s essentially what makes him so realistic. Yes, he’s determined and heck yes does he know his girl along with the secret language they share, but fear and rage are two emotions that when combined, it’s easy to get lost in them.

That’s why when hope finally found its way into his heart, it made its way onto his expression gorgeously in a moment so subtle, it left me stunned. And in the same way, Doumit played on Jiya’s grief with such raw embodiment, it was difficult to watch. The hollow, haunting expression never once left her and the weight of his death had consumed her entire being—her physicality, her expressiveness. The Jiya we’d known was no more. The good life is together—there’s no other option, there’s no other person, so split them apart and darkness will find its way into the room so quickly, it’ll feel like everybody’s drowning. 

I’m all for these kinds of profoundly poignant scenarios because it gives the performers ample opportunities to shine, but most importantly, this part of their story serves as proof of the fact that come what may, they’re going to live beyond their fears and they’re going to fight for the light. They’re going to find each other again, and they’re going to fight for their love through everything.

You know what’s indication of exquisite performances and a mind-blowing sequence? Put the last 15 minutes on mute and you’ll feel every ounce of the emotions even with the absence of dialogue. I did this, and I felt it. Did I cry? Is water wet? The final sequence before the Time Team came back to the bunker broke me, and if that wasn’t enough to have me up all night, Connor’s desperation to get back into the lifeboat to save Rufus did the trick. As we’d mentioned in “The King of the Delta Blues”, Rufus is the son Connor never had, and the weight of his death would linger in him profoundly. In this fight to get Rufus back, each of the characters are bound to experience indescribable growth.

And speaking of fighting for the light, Timeless is so great at creating multi-faceted characters that even when they’ve betrayed us in the way we imagined they would, it’s impossible to hate them. It’s impossible to be angry because the motives are understandable. We can look at a human being and understand that they aren’t purely evil for the sake of being that way, but rather because for whatever reason, the darkness in their hearts is equivalent to the fight they’re loyal towards.

It was anything but easy to see Rufus and Wyatt at odds with one another because of what Jessica had done to Jiya, but in the end, it made for riveting television, for it’s exactly what Wyatt needed to step out of the ridiculous stupor he was in. I had lost count of the amount of times his behavior made me roll my eyes in both “The General” and “Chinatown,” but the reality is that none of these characters would have behaved differently if they were in his shoes. (Except maybe if they were given a burger prior to having the news broken. I don’t know why they didn’t think of this at the bunker to be honest.)

But Wyatt’s behavior, in spite of the fact that his gut told him otherwise made all the sense in the world because regardless of who she was at the moment, for years, this had been the woman he’d been searching high and low for. Jessica, whether she was his or Rittenhouse’s is still Jessica at the end of the day. She’s still a version of the wife he’d love to the end of time, and his fight for her needed to be in full force in order for everything following to matter.

Wyatt is a soldier, and at the end of the day, honor matters most to soldiers—they’re loyal to their cause, which is where his steadfast dedication to Jessica has always made sense, and especially in this episode. He just needed someone to remind him of the fact that he can’t have his cake and eat it, too, but it took losing someone as close as Rufus to help him understand that in spite of the fact that once again he’d made a promise to Jessica, he’d fallen in love with Lucy.

And the reality is that falling in love with Lucy is what’s made him a better, more noble man because the Wyatt we knew in the Pilot is so far from the Wyatt we know today. That’s why, no matter how frustrated I found myself with Wyatt, it wasn’t hard to understand him because these characters are all so passionate, that if any of them were in his shoes, they’d probably, most likely act the exact same way. And if losing Jessica to Rittenhouse is what he needs to choose for himself again then so be it because while this isn’t the route I wanted the series to take, it’s the route that showcases Jessica’s heart, too.

Her family and their quest to save her brother is something that needs to be taken into consideration because if any six-year-old was met with the same approach she was, you bet they’d do the exact same. Timeless’ two-part finale was all about fighting for the cause that’s fervently believed in, and despite her love for Wyatt because that’s easily genuine, too, Rittenhouse is Jessica’s flag. It’s what she owes everything to and for the time being, it’s what she believes in. It’s bigger than herself and it’s bigger than her love for Wyatt. (But also, I still don’t believe the pregnancy. It’s unrealistic within the time frame they’d been together unless more time has been passed than we think. Shrugs.)

Rittenhouse. Oh good ol, Rittenhouse. When will you ever be stopped for good? Remember when Flynn was trying to destroy them and no one believed him, so instead we found a million and one ways to stop him? Yeah, that was fun. If there’s one thing I’m disappointed with in this season, it’s the addition of Keynes because I expected so much more out of him than a confused little man who’d flip flop constantly with where his loyalties lie. And I definitely felt that we’d get more out of him before his untimely demise but alas, here we are.

It’s that Carol Preston however who’s so ruthless, it’s heart pounding. I thought for sure that she’d finally tell Lucy how to get Amy back, but nope, Carol is so pressed on her ridiculous loyalty that even death couldn’t stop her being selfish. You couldn’t do it just this one time, Carol? But a massive kudos to Susanna Thompson who often excels at delivering speeches of this caliber, making the audience feel every ounce of the emotions that are bursting within her.

But since the beginning of season two, this has been Lucy’s fight. And it’s been the quest to understand why she’s so important to Rittenhouse. It’s been the story of a woman fighting for herself and her beliefs and good lord, we’ve never loved this character more. And here’s the thing, if we did stick to our original format, you best believe that Abigail Spencer would be our Noteworthy Performer of the Week.

There’s no emotion Spencer can’t convey and there’s most certainly no scene she’d deliver without bringing 110% to the table. And the one way to be able to tell an actor’s a great performer is if you could differentiate them from all the roles they’ve played in the past, for it means acute embodiment has taken place. Spencer has embodied Lucy so beautifully that I had to hold my breath all throughout the scene where she had Emma at gunpoint. It was nothing as I’d imagined but simultaneously everything I could’ve wanted for that confrontation.

Emma has in fact taken everything from Lucy, and she needed to release those emotions in order to finally confront herself, too. She needed to confront the heartaches that had been bottled up within her in a time where it mattered most, and this was it. Spencer played on a plethora of jaw dropping emotions all throughout the episode, but it was her utter vulnerability that never once faded. This wasn’t Lucy’s best day, and Spencer made it clear that snapping completely out of the daze wasn’t going to be easy, but by the end of the episode, it’s evident that she’d fight for the peace they all deserve. She just needed to grieve first. She needed to feel. And we’re glad Flynn was there to help her through it because as we’ve often said this season, there’s something so unbelievably special here.

Lucy’s relationship with Flynn is hands down one of the best things that’s come out of season two. We may not know what’s inside the journal, but we do know that for whatever reason, fate wanted the two of them connected. It wanted them close and it wanted them to fight for one another. And all season long that’s exactly what Flynn’s done, he’s fought for Lucy— doing everything in his power to ensure that she’s at a good place to do what’s right and necessary. While I don’t necessarily feel as though there’s something romantic between them, but rather something that goes beyond that—a steadfast devotion to fight the good fight together. Something otherworldly even, moving and profound without the added romance. Wherever they go, whatever they do, this breed of selflessness that’s between them is certainly a permanent piece in the puzzle now.

And perhaps, the most beautiful thing about Lucy’s character has often been how devotedly she’s loved. She loves every single person in the bunker so deeply, it consumes her to the core. This is her family—Wyatt, Rufus, Flynn, Jiya, Christopher, and Mason. They’re the family she’d do anything and everything for and they’re her fight. They’re her cause because despite her love for Wyatt, she’d never once stop him from being with Jessica because loving someone means putting their happiness above your own. And loving someone means fighting for them even when they aren’t fighting for themselves. There’s a great deal that was easy to appreciate about this episode, but nothing as the simple ways in which she put her team first. Whether it with Rufus and Jiya, Wyatt or Flynn. She chose to see the good. She chose to believe in something bigger than herself. And she would’ve forgiven her mother if she had apologized, too.

But the future is saved. Wyatt and Lucy help us believe this because the moment they came off the new lifeboat, the game changed. Is anyone else obsessing over Lucy’s Lara Croft look as I am? And that beard on Wyatt? Heck yes, sign us up. A good beard is everything at the end of the day.

Timeless is special. It’s rare to find a show as bold with its storytelling as this and it’s even rarer to find a show where writers care so meticulously about allowing their characters to take the wheel. “The General” and “Chinatown” both delivered compelling hours that pulled our characters out of their own heads and into something far bigger.

Whether it’s the rediscovery of faith or the confrontation of our inner demons, this is one of those episodes where if I allow myself, I could write over 10 pages of analysis for. And any time a show makes me want to do that, I deem it perfection without ever using that word lightly. This team will fight through hell and high water to defeat Rittenhouse, it’s their fight against the world, it’s their purpose. And in doing so, they’ve grown so remarkably as characters, if you watch the Pilot, you’d barely recognize them.

On that note, perhaps the greatest detail in all this is that the progression came so effortlessly, it’s almost surreal. It’s raw, it’s honest, and it’s poignant storytelling at its absolute finest. We need this show back for a third season for a number of reasons, but primarily because the stories that are told through characters could have the most visceral effect on viewers. They’re evocative. They’re bold. And they’re unapologetically honest. Timeless writers believe in these characters, they believe in these stories, and in a sense, this is their fight, the choice to tell these stories as a reflection of viewers and their art. And if that doesn’t make this a brilliant season finale then brilliant is a nonexistent concept.

Further Thoughts: 

  • How amazing was it to see Jiya fight and have her own little alter ego at a different time? It’s crazy how she’s able to control her visions now but is that enough for her not to go too deep one day? It worries me a bit, to be honest, but I trust our perfectly smart girl.
  • Serious question, did anyone else have a massive craving for a cheeseburger after that opening scene in “The General”? I literally just went out and got one because the craving was real. Emma may be a crappy human being but at least she’s got great taste in food?
  • Is anyone else’s heart still in shambles after Wyatt’s confession to Lucy? Matt Lanter made us feel the weight of Wyatt’s love so profoundly, as mentioned above, you could mute the entire scene, but you’d still feel that whatever he was saying was something that consumed him to his core. Their love is a poetic gorgeous little masterpiece and we need more.
  • If there’s one thing I can deeply appreciate and potentially write another 1k words on, it is color. It’s cinematography, and good lord, was this episode dark. The colors were acutely representative of what’s to come along with the glimmers of light that’d serve as hope.
  • Can we talk about Jiya and Rufus’ kiss? You all know which one we’re talking because it was a heart pounding, soul slaying, perfectly cinematic kiss that showcased their adoration for one another in a bold. stunning manner.
  • Flynn really is like everyone’s uncle isn’t he? And not even creepy, but rather you know, the one no one ever understands or pays attention to? Yeah, that’s him.
  • Did anyone else cry their eyes out when Lucy gave away her necklace that held  Amy’s picture in order to find Jiya? This friendship. This is all we could have ever wanted, but darn it, Timeless, not like this. Jiya is like Lucy’s second sister basically, but still. Still. It hurts.
  • Agent Christopher knitting to stop herself from feeling anxious is such a gorgeous little detail and I’m glad the series gives us moments like this to get to know our characters even further.
  • So many emotions. Too many.

You can scream Timeless on Hulu!

What are your thoughts on Timeless’ “The General” and “Chinatown?”

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