Character Deep Dive: Lucy Preston

Episode still of Abigail Spencer Lucy Preston in NBC Timeless.
Source: NBC

Timeless was an exemplary show from the very first episode, and though full of incredible characters left and right, I would not have stuck around if Lucy Preston hadn’t stolen my heart from the very first episode. I knew in that moment she’d be the type of character who’d stay with me, and now years later, I’m thrilled to know those instincts were true.

Lucy Preston is one of the most nuanced, brilliantly realistic characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching in a science-fiction, fantasy show. The way Timeless often blurred the line of reality just a smidge made the characters that much more fascinating as they were so often the ones who grounded the story. And because writers often chose to allow them to govern the story, as opposed to the plot taking the driver’s seat, it gave us plenty of insight on human complexities beautifully.

In a world where the preservation of history mattered as much as doing the right thing, Lucy Preston’s battles often showed what a brilliantly compassionate soul she always was. In short, the best kind of heroine in my book is one who’s layered, kind, and consistently learning how to improve.

Lucy Preston, The Historian

Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston in NBC Timeless
Source: NBC

Rufus Carlin was the Pilot, and in more ways than one, he was heart of The Time Team. Wyatt Logan was the Soldier, thus, he often served as their protector. And Lucy Preston was the Historian, but more than that—she was the voice of reason. It’s never easy when our area of expertise is questioned, but it’s especially not easy to navigate through changes when the effects could have detrimental effects on the entire world.

Thus, the battles Lucy Preston had to fight through to protect history while simultaneously playing a part in saving the world is something I’d never be envious of. When we first met her, protecting history is what mattered, nothing could change. But after the Hindenburg disaster was altered, her life changed exponentially. Her mother was saved, but her sister Amy disappeared. While history literally only changed small details for some, for Lucy Preston it became personal. It became personal because of Amy, but it also became personal because from that moment on, she was one of the few who’d know various versions of the “truth.”

The effects of the Hindenburg disaster changed Lucy’s life and forced her to double down on preservation. And then she met Abraham Lincoln—she was given the chance to stop the assassination, but still, history remained. This carried on throughout both seasons for Lucy as she began to slowly unravel between what she knew, what she’d know, and how to keep going.

Preserving history became less about the facts and more about the best outcome. It’s tough to break from facts and figures when the effects could be colossal, but through everything, Lucy navigated through the trajectory of these surprises and missteps with her heart as an anchor. And later when she chose to go back into teaching, she used her expertise to breakdown the real history—the one textbooks often glorified to solely represent the white men who’ve taken the spotlight from someone in a marginalized community.

In the end, Lucy Preston became the kind of historian the world could benefit from because the truth she tirelessly tried to keep intact became the truth that she helped spread to the masses.

The Layers and The Heart

Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston in NBC Timeless
Source: NBC

In everything she did, Lucy Preston put her heart front and center. She listened to it and she acted on it. She was the best kind of historian to have on their team because beyond her expertise, it was her heart that led them to the best outcome. It was her heart that led a man like Garcia Flynn to trust her. It was her heart that made Wyatt Logan find love and light again. It was her heart that grounded her steadfast in the face of a mother who’d betrayed her time and time again.

She was selfless through everything, but where need be, Lucy was also human, and perhaps, while I wouldn’t call it selfish and some might, the mission to save Amy was the most human detail about her. Amy’s disappearance from the timeline wasn’t the fault of Rittenhouse, it was the fault of the Hindenburg disaster. Perhaps to a degree, it was Lucy’s fault if we take into consideration that it’s her journal which led them here, but the innate need to try was Lucy Preston exhibiting the colossal love in her heart. If any of us lost a sister the way she did, we’d probably move mountains high and low to get her back.

And for the longest time, Lucy blamed herself, but she fought like hell to ensure Amy’s safe return without further ramifications. So, when it didn’t work out in the end, when they realized that this was something that had to have happened, but they needed to bring Rufus back, it made sense in every way because Lucy’s heart showcased the detail that through everything, she’d keep Amy alive. (And that’s exactly what happens when she and Wyatt name their kids Amy and Flynn.) As much as I wish these arcs were different and that they were all alive, the detail that we continuously got to see so much of Lucy’s heart is still what’s most important to me as a fan of the character.

Lucy questioned what she didn’t understand, and she did so by using her heart to evaluate every side of the coin. She was broken, and betrayed in ways no person should be, but never once did she stop believing that there was good left in the world worth saving. She believed that in spite of everything, somewhere deep down, humans were worth trying for. She was strong not because she hardened her heart in the face of adversary, but because she continued to leave it open in spite of the pain she lived through.

She understood the detail that every person is given a choice, and when the time came for her to choose her loyalty to her family, history, or the greater good of humanity, Lucy Preston chose humanity. She chose humanity because she understood that people deserve chances to be the very best versions of themselves, and at the same time, she protected her loved ones. She made sure that they were each given the chances to improve.

She was easy to adore for a number of reasons, but I’ll always value the detail that even when it got dark and hard, she put atonement front and center before jumping to conclusions. And the most admirable part is that it wasn’t all blind optimism on her end. In fact, Lucy Preston clearly understood the detail that some people are incapable of changing, some people deserve a fight, and some people needed to be reprimanded for their actions.

A choice to look deep within never meant that she didn’t see the foils of darkness that lingered in a person’s heart. She chose to see the bigger picture in spite of the ugly, and when she was proven right, when the person showed no signs of change, she vouched for true justice. She fought for the women whose voices were shunned by men and she fought against the women who’d chosen the dark side.

She stood up for what she believed in and she fought with those who were in the right even if it meant that her life could be in danger. Much like Rufus Carlin, Lucy Preston never gave up on protecting the marginalized people history was especially unkind too.

Strength in Darkness

Where her heart stood out first and the beautiful exhibition of vulnerability followed next, I was so often floored by the transparency Lucy Preston brought to the surface. At the time when Timeless was airing, we were finally getting to a place where women were exhibiting vulnerability more and it was a detail that was welcomed. No one shunned Lucy for crying or feeling or hurting. She wasn’t told to pull it together. She was allowed to be scared. She was allowed to be uncertain. She was allowed to break and scream and cry.

She was a claustrophobic woman (following an accident that had traumatized her), and she vocalized when she was uncomfortable. We watched her physically grapple with fear when she was boxed in during “The World’s Columbian Exposition,” we understood how uncomfortable the lifeboat was, and when she was afraid, Abigail Spencer was given ample opportunities to showcase it brilliantly, which easily made Lucy Preston that much more relatable as a character.

Heroines in such genres are often deemed brave beyond anything else, but on Timeless, we were given plenty of opportunities to understand just how grounded Lucy was by exhibiting the type of feelings so many of us were able to resonate with. And because of the decision to show us these parts of Lucy, to reveal her heartaches and her sadness, it made the character that much more nuanced while the audience was able to understand that strength does come from sole bravery, strength comes from endurance.

Lucy Preston was strong even while she was afraid. She was strong when she faced her fears, she was strong when she vocalized them, and she was strong because she allowed herself to feel whatever it was that was necessary because that’s the very essence of bravery. It takes more strength to be vulnerable than it does to close off one’s heart because vulnerability forces a person to feel every ounce of the pain that’s lingering in them.

She was strong because even while she cried and she broke into pieces, even while she put up a front in front of her mother in “The War to End All Wars,” Lucy Preston never tucked away the love that was inside of her. She still chose to be a better version of herself even while she was stripped layer by layer because of the pain she endured. She seldom wore an armor, instead, she allowed herself to consistently feel and by virtue of, inspired everyone around her to let their walls down as well.

The Friend, The Sister, The Lover, The Mother, The Daughter

Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston in NBC Timeless promo still
Source: NBC

A friend, a sister, a partner, a mother, a daughter—Lucy Preston was many things to many people and because of her, everyone’s lives were much improved. And ultimately, as mentioned above, it’s all because of her heart—the inability to back down, the resilience, and the choices to keep going.

Whether it was Rufus, Jiya, Agent Christopher, Garcia Flynn, or Conner Mason, Lucy Preston proved to be the person who’d show up for them at some point. She was the friend who heard them when they spoke. She was the friend who asked the kind of questions they needed to hear. And she was the kind of friend whose door was always open. They all knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if need be, Lucy would always be in their corner. They could come to her without judgement while simultaneously knowing that she would be transparent with them if they were wrong about something. She’d meet them halfway with immense love, and she’d be there to guide them in whatever area they needed even if she didn’t understand fully.

And then there’s Wyatt Logan, the one person who’s benefited most from knowing Lucy Preston because he’s grown tremendously since falling in love with her. As a result of the kindness she showed, Wyatt was given the safe space to know that his walls could come down without judgment. He’d be around someone who’d try to help him as opposed to judging him and he’d be around someone who’d love him through everything while ensuring that he was believed in. In return, he’d adore her through everything, listen to her, and cherish her for the rest of their lives.

We only got a short glimpse of Lucy as a mother in “The Miracle of Christmas,” but because we knew what a nurturing heart she always had, it was clear to know that she’d be the type of mother who’d adore her kids through everything—the kind who’d never lie, and the kind who’d raise them to be the type of little girls who believed in themselves and fought alongside all the right causes. She’d love them for who they chose to be and the careers they’d desire without ever pressuring them to meet an unrealistic standard of sorts. Their agency, from day one, would be of great importance of to Lucy Preston.

As a sister and a daughter, Lucy Preston’s life was complicated. We knew how deeply she loved Amy and in the short moment we knew her, we knew Amy loved Lucy back just as hard. But even that love for Lucy was short lived in spite of the fact that she’d never stop being Amy Preston’s sister. She’d never stop reminding those who’d listen about the impact she had on her, the belief she had in her, or the colossal love she adored her with.

And while Carol Preston wasn’t deserving of Lucy’s love, she had it anyway. She had it because as a daughter, Lucy was the kind of person who’d do anything to please her (before Rittenhouse, of course), and the kind of daughter who was exponentially better than what she deserved if we’re being frank. Whatever good was in Carol Preston, whatever was left, if any even lingered, it was because of the kind of daughter Lucy was. The caretaker, the kind, incredibly compassionate soul who’d love her still in spite of how much pain she caused.

Lucy Preston stood up for what she believed in, she made difficult choices when need be, and she loved so deeply, everyone that crossed her path was better because of it. She was meant to preserve history, but in more ways than one, she preserved love instead. She kept it front and center, allowing it to govern her every move even while it pained her. And above all things, Lucy Preston was unapologetically herself. She loved what she loved and she fought for what she believed in. She was wide-eyed when meeting heroes and she showed it. She stood her ground when she rightfully believed in a cause, but simultaneously, she was never too proud to heed someone else’s advice.

And none of this would have been possible without an actress as compassionate as Abigail Spencer who brought her best to our screens week after week. Spencer made you feel every ounce of whatever Lucy was feeling, and as a result of it, it was so easy to be consistently moved by her as a character. She was vulnerable, sincere, and so gorgeously transparent, Spencer layered her with a myriad of emotions through every episode. Because even while Lucy was silent, Spencer was always showing the audience that there’s a plethora happening within her. Lucy Preston would have been merely words on a page if Abigail Spencer hadn’t brought such prodigious heart and a wide range of emotions to embody her with.

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