We gave it an A-
After an untimely cancellation and an unexpected resurrection in its freshman season, Timeless is taking no chances this time around. The time travel drama is closing out its stellar second season with a gutsy, guns-blazing finale that completely rewrites the rules — and showcases how much this show has grown. Not only has Timeless ironed out some of its kinks and tightened up its mythology, but it’s also finally leaning into its strengths — particularly its strong cast and time-period-of-the-week structure.
What started as just another time travel show has grown into a compelling, character-driven drama, and the finale episode’s cliffhanger ending proves that the writers still have a lot of ideas they’d like to explore. As of right now, NBC has yet to announce whether it’ll be bringing Timeless back for season three, but after this week’s two-part finale, to cancel it now would just be cruel.
NOTE: This recap contains spoilers for both parts of the season finale: “The General” and “Chinatown.” If you’ve only watched the first half, come back later after you’ve watched both episodes.
There’s a lot here to unpack, especially in the second hour, but let’s start by diving into part one. On its own, “The General” stands as a particularly strong episode, sticking to what the show does well: Rittenhouse has placed a sleeper agent somewhere in the past, and it’s up to the team to find them and stop them before they completely rewrite history. But there are tensions and distractions on both sides. Emma is starting to chafe against Rittenhouse’s emphasis on pureblood families and legacy, while Carol is worried that Nicholas is getting a little too close to Emma and might be getting distracted from the larger mission. “You’re my grandfather and I have the greatest respect for you, but quit thinking with your crotch,” Carol tells Nicholas.
Back in the bunker, Agent Christopher and Mason finally confront the team about the dozens of pictures of Jessica that they found on Rittenhouse’s hard drives. The photos date all the way back to Jessica’s childhood, and they confirm that Rittenhouse clearly has some sort of sinister interest in her. Wyatt is shocked and immediately defensive, but before they can decide what to do, Rittenhouse takes off on a mission. Marital strife will have to wait: The fate of the Civil War is hanging in the balance.
The location: Beaufort County, South Carolina, June 1863. Rittenhouse has planted a sleeper agent, who’s risen through the ranks to become a Confederate general. Thanks to a particularly thorough book of Civil War military history, he has a near-perfect knowledge of where the Union troops will be and when, and he soon starts decimating a Union regiment. Unfortunately, that particular regiment was supposed to assist Harriet Tubman in her famous raid on the Combahee River, which freed hundreds of slaves and helped bolster Union forces. Tubman may be best known for orchestrating the Underground Railroad, but she was also a key spy for the Union Army, and she played a major role in helping turn the tide of the war. (For more on the Combahee raid and Tubman’s exploits as a Union spy, I highly recommend the Drunk History episode starring Octavia Spencer as Tubman.)
Tubman survives the sleeper agent’s massacre, and despite her decimated forces, she decides to go through with the raid. Lucy and Flynn set off to try to convince the Union Army to support Tubman, while Wyatt and Rufus stay behind to assist Tubman however they can. Rufus poses as a slave, while Wyatt infiltrates the house as a farmer named Rhett Butler. After Harriet starts trying to free the slaves, all hell breaks loose, and the sleeper runs — only to come face to face with Harriet, who shoots him.
All seems well, and the team returns home. Wyatt and Jessica even have a heart-to-heart about their unborn baby and their future together — which makes Jessica’s midnight revelation that she’s a secret Rittenhouse agent all the more devastating. (Next: Forget it, Jiya. It’s “Chinatown.”)