So Monday night I ended up being sick and unable to watch the Timeless as it aired or live tweet with the usual suspects. I woke up in the middle of the night though and I decided to check out my feed. I ended up with this: Katherine Johnson is the queen of NASA, it was Rufus’ week to be #geekboy, and Flynn saved a boy’s life so Wyatt didn’t shoot him this time.
When I got around to watching “Space Race”, it was nice to see that my twitter perception of the episode was pretty much on par with what happened.
“Space Race” was a dual plot episode. Wyatt was focused on finding Flynn, while Lucy and Rufus worked to stop Anthony from destroying the Apollo 11 space mission. We also get to see the line between who is the good guy and who is the bad guy blur.
Let’s start with the main storyline. Flynn delegated to Anthony to go mess up the NASA computer and download a modern virus into the system. He doesn’t know that the Time Trio was able to escape 1754 and is probably going to stop delegating out tasks to his flunkies soon because they really only screw things up. Anthony is able to upload the virus that destroys the communications between Houston and Apollo 11. This is major because Houston is needed to be able to help the astronauts land the lunar module, take off again, and get home.
But Anthony wasn’t counting on Rufus and NASA’s kickass female mathematician Katherine Johnson being able to come up with the coding to delete it from the system. Now let’s take a look at history for a moment. Katherine Johnson is a 2015 recipient of the National Medal of Freedom, who was hired by NASA’s predecessor NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) in 1953 as a “computer” – a person who computes mathematical equations. NACA expanded the effort to fill these jobs to African-American women in 1953 due to the growing demand for early space research. Her hand is heavily felt in the success of the Apollo Moon Landing, the start of the Space Shuttle program, and many astronauts including John Glenn would request her to personally recalculate the calculations that the early computers made. Coincidently, Fox is releasing a movie, Hidden Figures, in which Traji P. Henson will be playing Katherine. Hidden Figures will hit theatres on January 6, 2017, and the book by Margot Lee Shetterly that the movie is based on is available now at Amazon.
Back to the show – you can guess that Rufus and Katherine save the day in the end. This is a good thing because, as Lucy points out, the Apollo 11 mission is what made the Russians all but abandon their missile program and sign the anti-ballistic missile treaty. For those keeping track, this is your major tie-in to “The Party at Castle Varlar” and how we came to this time point from Flynn’s failure on that mission. If they aren’t able to stop the virus and save the mission, it’s possible that the USA could lose the Cold War.
Since the main plot was pretty predictable, you have to see that it’s the pieces in the middle that have significance here in this episode of Timeless. First, we learn a lot about how close Rufus and Anthony are, and why this mission in particular is painful for Rufus to see Anthony trying to sabotage. Anthony was the first person to pilot the Lifeboat and almost died from Rufus’ retelling. Rufus sat in the hospital during Anthony’s seven-month recovery and they became very close. To now see Anthony trying to sabotage the Apollo 11 mission to leave the astronauts stranded in space to die hits Rufus hard. Not only are the astronauts his heroes, but he knows Anthony knows the suffering they will be going through and can’t believe his friend would do that. Even if Anthony’s motivation to keep the time travel technology out of Rittenhouse’s hands is a logical one – it doesn’t excuse this action.
In the end, Anthony is able to escape, but Rufus ends up killing one of the flunkies. This shakes him, and once they are home he talks with Lucy about his fears. Rufus is upset that he killed a man and feels fine about it, and that he would be okay doing it again. He and Lucy talk about what their “normal lives” are now as compared to back before all of this, and how he’s worried about the person he is becoming.
Meanwhile, in the subplot of the episode, we have Flynn and Wyatt. It’s another game of cat and mouse, but Flynn’s objectives are different than we have seen them before in the show. He spends the afternoon pretty much stalking Maria Thompkins who works at an aeronautics company in Houston. He is shown getting to know her, and buying ice cream for her son, Gabriel. They confide in each other about having lost their spouse, but Flynn departs quickly after he sees Wyatt having an exchange with a local cop.
Later that afternoon while Wyatt is questioning Maria, Flynn appears out of nowhere and it appears that he attacks Gabriel, but in reality he is administering a shop of epinephrine to save the boy from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. He revels to Maria that he remembered how sad she always was about losing her son. Wyatt, unsure how to process this, ends up letting Flynn escape. When they are back in the present, the trio are given the un-redacted file on Flynn, and realize that Maria was his mother, and Gabriel is Flynn’s half-brother. Gabriel is now alive in their world, living in Paris.
All in all, it’s a good episode, but not one of the best of the series when it comes to action. However, as a character episode, the Timeless writers hit it on the mark. We got to see a lot of depth in the relationships of the trio to the other side, and seeing more of the motivations and relationships with Flynn and his men.
We also got to see a very strong moment in Lucy as she spends most of the episode in the background as she is dealing with bring a woman in 1969. I personally enjoyed it when she finally got pissed off at that guy who kept asking her for coffee, tells him off that he should learn the women’s names and that he’s a rocket scientist so he can learn to make a cup of coffee for himself. The look of the other women smiling at her as she walked away was just perfect.
“Space Race” reminds me that the writers are really able to get deep and personal into these characters’ backgrounds and relationships. I’ve been lacking that a lot in the last few episodes where I feel the majority of the character building is forced. There still needs to be a better balance between the plot, action, character development, and the history component.
Hopefully they will get this balance figured out in the back end of the season otherwise I fear for their chances of being renewed. Right now they have slipped out of first place in their timeslot with having had only 4.86M viewers, while Scorpion has 5.43M viewers and Conviction is inching up on Timeless with 4.66M viewers – and this is not counting those watching the end of Monday Night Football. Looking at the ratings chart maintained by TvSeriesFinale.com, the numbers in the 18-49 demographic have slipped by 0.73 since its premiere on October 3rd. Viewership has also dropped dramatically from 7.60M to 4.86M.
Next week’s episode, “Last Ride of Bonnie & Clyde”, will be the halfway point of this 16 episode first season. We can only hope that ratings can start to gain after the midseason break that’s due to come up, and that Timeless doesn’t end up on the shelf of one season genre shows with the likes of Earth 2, Firefly, and Terra Nova.
Hit me up on Twitter at @aliskyrichards or @ThreeIfBySpace about what you liked or disliked in “Space Race”, and join me next Monday to live tweet during “Last Ride of Bonnie & Clyde”. I will try not to be sick this time! Also, if you have people looking for gifts for you this holiday season, make sure you share with them my handy Holiday Gift Guide for the Timeless Fan so they can get a few good ideas. And as always, hit subscribe to stay up to date on all the Timeless news as I hear it!