Timeless S1xE12 Recap: “The Murder of Jesse James”



“Who the hell ever said ‘easy’ and ‘right’ were the same thing?”

– Bass Reeves

spoilers ahead…

There’s something to be said for the beauty of making the tough choice and doing the right thing. These opportunities are rare, but they are gifts. The soul brightens when given the chance to be tested and proven worthy, to not give in to the easy way out when faced with a difficult decision. The reward for doing what is right and just is not money or acclaim; it’s the knowledge that you have improved intrinsically as a person and that your character has sharpened into something just that more beautiful.


Flynn has recruited the help of Jesse James, saving him from his assassins and enlisting the notorious outlaw to get him safely to his new target, a mysterious person hiding in Indian Territory. Our trio is hot on Flynn’s heels, and after deciding that they need a local guide, Lucy takes them to one of the most successful U.S. Marshals of the time, Bass Reeves. Reeves has 3,000 arrests to his name; is the man the legend of The Lone Ranger is based upon; and, by the way, is black.

Reeves turns them down at first, but finally agrees once he is promised that their goal is to arrest James and bring him to justice. Wyatt has other ideas, not content to let the murderer live any longer than necessary. Grant Johnson (the man who would be Tonto) arrives to help, correcting Rufus’ TV-provided stereotypes and preconceived notions.

James does his job, killing several Indians in the process. Flynn’s target this time isn’t an adversary; it’s an ally. Emma, one of the first time machine pilots, had been threatened by Rittenhouse to the point that she faked her death and spent 10 years hiding in the past. She lives alone, surrounded by useless present-day technology. Flynn shares his story with her and convinces her to help him. She knows what Rittenhouse has planned.

TIMELESS -- "The Assassination of Jesse James" Episode 111 -- Pictured: (l-r) Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
TIMELESS — “The Assassination of Jesse James” Episode 111 — Pictured: (l-r) Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

Flynn pays off James and tells him that the posse tracking them is led by Reeves, whose death at James’ hands would be quite the accomplishment. James demands the automatic assault rifle Flynn brought with him. Flynn and Emma take off, but later that night James opens fire at the cabin once our heroes walk in and Rufus recognizes Emma’s uniform. Johnson is killed in the firefight and Wyatt gets the drop on James until Reeves gets the drop on him. James surrenders, dropping his gun and claiming he is unarmed. Reeves presses for Wyatt to back off, but both men are shocked when Lucy kills James instead. In the aftermath, Lucy looks haunted, urging Reeves to give the reward money to Johnson’s family, but he refuses.


We quickly learn that Rittenhouse has taken Rufus’ ultimatum and turned it against him, instructing Mason to train Jiya to be a lifeboat pilot. That gives Rufus about six months before he is completely expendable. Jiya begins her training and asks to see video logs of previous flights, only to be told that they were lost. She uses a backdoor program to access the videos and learns about Emma. Mason confronts her, telling Jiya that he has eyes everywhere and knows what she’s done.

Lucy can’t forgive herself for forgetting her missing (actually, no longer existent) sister’s birthday. Wyatt can’t forgive his wife’s killer, whom he visited in prison. The man killed two other women and Wyatt wants him dead, admitting as much to Rufus and Lucy while they trailed Flynn in 1882. At the same time, Lucy confesses to her friends that she doesn’t want to do this job anymore; she just wants her sister back. Once the team is safely in the present, Wyatt meets with Rufus and asks him to help steal the time machine and save his wife.

…and Future.

Score one for Flynn this round. He has another person and a font of first-hand information about Rittenhouse’s schemes now that Emma is in his corner. What will he get up to, and how has Rittenhouse changed without its founding father?

Time to Talk

One of the themes in this episode is how killing has become acceptable to the group. Rufus accuses Wyatt of being too casual about contemplating murder, pushing the point when he says that maybe killing should be harder for the good guys. In the end, there’s no applause for Lucy, even though she brought down Jesse James. Reeves is disappointed in her and how the mission ended, because as a Marshal, he believes that the outlaw should have been remanded to the law.

All of our players, Flynn included, are losing their moral compass. In most cases, they know the horrible things their victims have done, so the act of killing seems validated. But while it might be okay to be judge, jury and executioner when we’re talking about Jesse James or the first serial killer, what they are now dealing with is the toll that the act of killing another human being has on their own psyches. Justified or not, taking a life steals a little bit of your soul. Just read Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart to confirm that fact.

Next stop – Wibbly wobbly or not, Wyatt and Rufus chance breaking the laws of time travel to save Wyatt’s wife. Lucy’s got to stop them before the men permanently change all of their realities.

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.