SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details about the series finale of Timeless.
NBC’s Timeless has had quite a journey. The time-traveling series has always been on the bubble and after one season, it was canceled. The news was met with an outcry from the show’s diehard fans — who are affectionately referred to as “Clockblockers”. To their joy, it was renewed for a second season but just when the Clockblockers were finished celebrating it was canceled again. But the fans refused to say goodbye to Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus. Their loyalty paid off as NBC decided to do a two-hour series finale to put a cap on the sci-fi series that would never give up. Deadline talked to Timeless co-creator and executive producer Shawn Ryan about the grand finale, but before we get into it with him, let’s see how it all ended.
The two-part finale appropriately titled “The Miracle of Christmas” is essentially a Timeless movie and picks up from the end of the season 2 finale. Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) has been shot and assumed dead and the traveling get along gang is in mourning until alternate timeline Lucy (Abigail Spencer) and Wyatt (Matt Lanter) enter the picture looking way edgier in their military surplus garb and ready for battle. They offer present-day Lucy, Wyatt, Flynn (Goran Visnjic), Rufus’s bae Jiya (Claudia Doumit) help so that they can save their colleague and friend. Thus begins the first part of the series finale which is couched in the mantra: “Save Rufus to stop Rittenhouse”. This later spills over into the second part where they are just trying to stop Rittenhouse.
Obviously, the finale is filled with plenty of time-hopping and some twists and turns, but ultimately it’s about stopping Rittenhouse so that everyone could live their best lives without Emma (Annie Wersching) ruining history for them and the entire world.
The gang first travels to 1848 California where they think Rittenhouse has traveled to snag some gold. The California Gold Rush is in full swing and they run into the legendary Joaquin Murrieta, who is known as the Robin Hood of the West and is the inspiration for Zorro. They experience some minor speed bumps while navigating the Gold Rush era, but while there they figure out that they have to take Jessica (Tonya Glanz) out of the timeline in order to save Rufus. Wyatt isn’t happy about this, but he said he should be the one to do it. However, Flynn has other plans. While everyone is sleeping, he goes back to 2012 and takes out Jessica in one of the best — but sad — fights of the series.
As a result, Rufus comes back and saves the gang from being held hostage in 1848. At the same time, Flynn has made the ultimate sacrifice and is essentially the hero of the finale. He sent the lifeboat back to the gang in 1848 while he stays behind, stuck in 2012 and Agent Denise Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey) reveals that he has died.
But all of these events are housed in Lucy’s journal, which serves as some sort of magical map of their history and things get wildly personal with an interesting Lucy-Wyatt-Flynn love triangle. Needless to say, all this time-traveling makes everyone a little emotional.
After Emma figures that the gang has removed Jessica from the timeline, she heads to 1950 North Korea during the Korean War — and the gang follows, of course. They arrive during a critical and miraculous time in history during the war. Even so, things get a little messy. While the war is going on, Wyatt delivers a baby in an active war zone, it’s cold — things aren’t looking up for anyone. Especially when Denise and Connor (Paterson Joseph) find images of all of them shot dead in the snow while at present-day headquarters — but Denise has a trick up her sleeve. She wrangles Benjamin Cahill (John Getz) and pays a visit to Emma (who is now in present day) so that he can set her straight.
Denise travels to 1950 with Emma in cuffs to retrieve the gang only to have Emma free herself and have a tense moment with Lucy. Emma says “I can bring Amy back” and Lucy is all, “I’m good” and says if Emma even tries to get on the Lifeboat shoot her. Turns out, someone else does as they get caught in an attack but manage to escape, leaving Emma’s body behind…though it’s not clear if she is really dead.
The gang is back in 2018 just in time for Christmas. Rittenhouse is done and all is well in the world. Fast forward to 2023 and Lucy is a history professor and is married to Wyatt with twins named Flynn and Amy (Awwww!). Rufus and Jiya are still together and doing amazing things as a famous science power couple — well, one of them is famous. They reunite one last time to travel to Brazil on Christmas Eve 2014 where Lucy offers her journal to a drunken Flynn at a San Paulo bar. Flynn has no idea who Lucy is, but as soon as she explains to him what is going to happen he is on board. He takes his journal and begins his quest to save history which leads into a montage that is a nostalgic scrapbook of the entire series that will bring a tear to all Clockblockers’ eyes.
But before it cuts to the final credits, we see a young girl in her bedroom working on what we think is her homework. When she steps away from her desk, we see pages of complex formulas and what seems like plans for a time machine, leading us to believe that this may not be the end of Timeless — and Ryan shares the same sentiment.
Deadline talked to the Timeless co-creator about the show’s rabid fandom, it cancel-not-canceled journey, the brutal fight between Flynn and Jessica, and if the show has a future beyond television…because this may not be the last time we see Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus.
DEADLINE: From being canceled twice and then resurrected for a big movie finale, Timeless has been on quite a journey. Were the emotions high while shooting the finale?
SHAWN RYAN: I’m the kind of producer that’s not upset about it when we film. Our two writers, in this case, Arika Mittman, who is a co-showrunner with me, and Eric Kripke last season really carry the burden for this two-hour event. (laughs) She and Lauren Greer, the other writer, were the ones that were on set and I was getting reports back from them that it was very emotional. I stopped by a couple of times, but not at the end. But yeah, I was talking to Abigail (Spencer) this past weekend, and she was talking about the various goodbyes and how hard it was, especially since there are no immediate plans to do the show. And we’ve opened the possibility that maybe the show will be resurrected in one form or another somewhere down the line, but you never know for sure so this could be the end. It was always a very difficult show to make, and this two-hour event was similar, but there was a lot of joy that went into making it. This was the most pleasant shooting experience that the cast and crew had at any point along the journey. So it was a really good experience for everyone, and so, as a result, it was kind of hard to end and to leave.
DEADLINE: That’s good to hear. You mention how this may not be the ending, but we’ll get to that later. The fate of the show was always up in the air and it was canceled after season 2 and then it was announced that you guys were doing this two-hour movie. Would you say that this movie finale is a compact version of what you wanted to happen in season 3?
RYAN: I would say that’s partly true. We had some ideas for things we wanted to pursue in season three and we definitely put them into this movie — some had to be in a compressed way. There are certain aspects, I think, that if we had had a 10,13 or 16-episode season three, we would have taken some more time with. We did have to adapt a little bit more of a movie mentality than an ongoing TV-show mentality because we knew that we had to get a lot of story in the hour and 25 minutes or so, and so you look for inspiration. Back to the Future told an amazing, full story in two hours, and other movies have as well. So we just had to change things, but yes, there were definitely ideas and aspects of the show that we had in mind for season three, and even beyond, that we sort of put into this ending.
DEADLINE: In the finale, the gang travels back to the California gold rush era in 1848 and then North Korea in the ’50s during the Korean War. What was it about those two eras that spoke to you for the movie?
RYAN: One of the mandates that we got from NBC when they picked up the movie was they said, “We think this is going to air right around Christmas time, and we love it to be Christmas-themed if you can make that work.” So we started looking for historical events and time periods that had something to do around Christmas time. We looked at George Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve — but we’d already done a George Washington episode, so I was reluctant to do another George Washington thing. And Arika and Lauren, and Logan, our writer’s assistant, came upon this miracle-of-Christmas story from the Korean War that none of us had ever heard of. And the more we dug into it, the more we realized it was sort of perfect. So that was actually the first time period that we agreed to do, but we soon realized that they’re probably wasn’t enough story to fill all two hours, and we thought that we’d need something different for the first hour, especially as it related to saving Rufus. When we get into the second time period, if Rittenhouse was low on funds, they might want to gold rush, but really it was more the character of Joaquin Murrieta that interests us the most and made us want to go back to that time period, because there were such parallels to his journey and to Flynn’s journey about men who had violence committed against their families, and their search for vengeance, and what it does to a person. That’s the way we always approach finding the time period…there’s a character that allows us to really learn something about one of our main characters. It took us a while to come up with those two time periods. That was not the easiest thing to come up with.
DEADLINE: There is one particular scene which is game changer for the whole finale — it’s the scene where Flynn goes back to 2012 and has a no-holds-barred fight with Jessica. What was the conversation that led to Flynn sacrificing himself and then him being the one to take out Jessica?
RYAN: Well, I think it was a result of our conversation of where do we want the arc of Garcia Flynn to go? He was somebody who was seemingly a straight-up villain early in season one. Then he became a little bit more of a complicated villain in the middle of season one. Then he became a misunderstood, slightly sympathetic villain at the end of season one. And then he became a reluctant, cautious ally at the beginning of season two, and then someone who loosely began to see the good sides of him to the point that there was almost a little romantic triangle between her and Wyatt and Flynn.
Having said that, we never forgot that he really did some bad stuff in season one — and how do you “redeem” someone like that? Their actions of penance have to be almost as large in scale as their misdeeds, and so the conversation that he has with Joaquin Murrieta, just prior to the campfire discussion, where he tells him that a quest for vengeance ultimately leads nowhere, and Joaquin asks him why he does it…he looks over at Lucy and you get the sense that he really is kind of in love with Lucy and yet knows from the journal that it’s not something that’s going to end well. He decides to make a choice to essentially pay penance for all his actions — that he sees a way where he can do something that will make the lives of these other people better and will help stop Rittenhouse, the group that killed his family. It will allow him to actually witness and look at his family one last time. It just seems very poetic to us to do that. It’s a very difficult, selfless choice on his part, and it’s a choice that really brings his character full circle to the point that Lucy, at the end of the movie, in Brazil, says, “You may be the greatest hero of us all.” There’s just something beautiful in that.
RYAN: First of all, yes. I feel like the show has ended prematurely. I felt, especially in the second season, we really got into our groove creatively, and to NBC’s credit, they never had any issues with the creative. Listen, if I could choose my own path, it’d be great to be able to revisit the show every two or three years with a movie or a little four to six-episode arc. I would definitely be all in for that. We know the realities when you don’t have the actors under contract. All the actors love doing this, and if we were able to figure out the scheduling for this and maybe we’d be able to do it.
But maybe there’s not that interest down the road and tonight’s finale will really be the series finale. We don’t know and under normal circumstances, everyone would be calling it the series finale except we’re the series that has been killed twice and been resurrected. So when you’ve cheated extinction twice, there’s always something in the back or your mind, thinking that maybe you can cheat it again. So that’s why I refuse to talk about this as definitively finite, this-is-the-end terms, because our fanbase is so rabid…and I think it’s growing as people discover the show on Hulu and on nbc.com, as word of mouth spreads. I do think that there’s something in the air.
My brother, his stepdaughter is going to a college, and he wrote me that, “Oh, they’re teaching a history class based around Timeless,” at a college. And I was like, “That’s amazing.” When things like that happen, you feel like, “Oh, there’s something in the air, and maybe this show will live in some form or another.” Maybe it’s a comic book, a podcast, radio show — who knows? I have no idea what it might be, but it feels like the universe of Timeless doesn’t necessarily have to end tonight.