“Make your own future,” -Amy (Lucy Preston’s sister)
What if you could go back in time? Would just interacting with people change the present? Or would it take something big like saving those who should have died – or killing ones who should have lived – to affect what you know to be reality?
There’s an actual, working time machine that operates, according to its creator, Connor Mason, by curving time back onto itself and riding that wave to a specific place and date. Unfortunately, somehow bad guy Garcia Flynn has uncovered a book that leads him to it, and he takes the time machine, along with one of his henchman and a Mason employee, to May 6, 1937. Mason contacts Homeland Security, and Homeland Security contacts Professor Lucy Preston as well as Master Sargent Wyatt Logan to go after Flynn using an initial prototype machine lovingly referred to as the lifeboat. Their pilot is the unlucky Rufus Carlin who laments that as an African-American, “there’s literally no place in American history that’s gonna be awesome for me.”
Helpful hints and important information: Don’t change anything. Don’t be noticed. You can’t go back to any time where you’ve already existed (ah, that’s why we can’t just go back to five minutes before Flynn stole the mothership). We learn most of the players’ tragic backstories; Lucy’s mother is dying of cancer and both she and her sister Amy are caring for her. Wyatt is a widower. Rufus has a crush. Hopefully Rufus’ tragic backstory gets a little more tragic, or I will have to wonder if this character is getting the love and attention he deserves.
The trio dress in period-ish garb and successfully travel to hours before the Hindenburg goes down. We meet Kate Drummond, a reporter who will die when the airship falls. The team uses references to both humorous present-day people and historically accurate events to enlist others to help find Flynn before he does the unthinkable. And then he doesn’t, because the Hindenburg crashing is the unthinkable, isn’t it? So Flynn makes sure it doesn’t crash. To save someone on board? No. To ensure that even more important people go down with the ship when it takes off again? Yes.
There are some shenanigans, of course, including a bomb on board the Hindenburg that has to be stopped and a delightful rambling in which we realize that the coolest contemporary African-American men seem to share the same first name. Ultimately, the famous dirigible does go down but only takes two lives with her, one of which being Kate Drummond. This leaves the audience to ponder whether some points in time are fixed and unchangeable (apologies, there is no blue police box in this show).
It’s the standoff between Lucy and Flynn, however, that is the catalyst for the rest of the season. Flynn holds a journal written by Lucy herself, in which she lets the cat out of the bag about the time machine and her group’s travels. How did Flynn get his hands on it? Why would Lucy do such a dangerous thing as write it in the first place? Flynn insinuates that Lucy was picked to participate in the mission for a reason, one she needs to discover. Then there’s the mysterious “Rittenhouse,” a word as nebulous as “Rosebud,” and equally fateful.
Flynn escapes and Rufus, Lucy and Wyatt end up back home, but it’s not the home they left. The new events of May 6th and 7th, 1937 have created ripples that have personally affected Lucy greatly. Her mother is happy and healthy, Lucy is apparently engaged although her ring is missing, but the big shocker is that her sister Amy was never born.
As part of their de-brief, the group and Homeland Security determine that Wyatt can do much more harm to America’s present and future by changing events in our country’s past, effectively “killing America in the crib.” Plus, every successful sabotage puts a bookmark in time that can’t be touched; there are no do-overs.
Time to Talk
I enjoyed this pilot episode. First off, I’m in just because Eric Kripke’s on board. I also have a soft spot in my heart for time travelers (Exhibit A: Doctor Who blog from last season. It’s an addiction. I am seeking professional help). I like the period-specific challenges and the flawed characters, although I’m also sticking around to be sure that Rufus is treated kindly and not as a cliché. I’m curious about the circular logic of Lucy’s journal. I just hope there’s no “Somewhere in Time” moment where Wyatt pulls a 2016 penny from his pocket and sends everyone spiraling back to the present.
Lastly, I just really love the idea that every decision each of us makes creates the rich tapestry of our current reality. Humanity is irrevocably intertwined and each of us is so very important because it’s the small choices we make (and that were made tens, hundreds or even thousands of years ago) that contribute to our future. But on the other hand, there’s this terrifying thought that some things were meant to happen. It’s Free Will versus Destiny. Nature versus Nurture.
I’m looking forward to finding out more. Plus next week, we’re going to the theater!
About the author: Liz Bowen is a long-time Doctor Who fan and first-time blogger living in Colorado Springs. She enjoys seeing her childhood recreated in cinematic excellence and will waste entire evenings waxing poetic about the technical beauty that is Transformers. She indulges in writing Supernatural fanfic and is working on her first original book.