Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Timeless 1x04 Review: "Party at Castle Varlar" (Let's Be Spies)

"Party at Castle Varlar"
Original Airdate: October 24, 2016

I think that out of all of the time-travel shows on television right now, Timeless is the most impressive. It is consistently funny, dramatic, while also providing just enough clues to the overarching mystery that the audience isn't driven mad with waiting or wanting. The biggest surprise, however, is how emotional the series is. And I think that, honestly, is what is driving the show for me. I'm all for time-travel shenanigans. I watch Doctor Who and Legends of Tomorrow, after all. But if I don't care about the characters, all the period clothes and historical references are for naught. Timeless isn't just asking us to care about the characters, though — they're asking us to peek into the nooks and crannies of their souls and stare, however uncomfortable, at their vulnerabilities. I'm so impressed that we are four episodes into the series and we're already learning about who these characters are and what motivates them. This week, "Party at Castle Varlar" allowed us the chance to have some spy-centric fun (Sean Maguire gets to play the beloved hero Robin Hood in Once Upon A Time and the iconic Ian Fleming, author of James Bond novels in Timeless), while we also get real and powerful glimpses into Lucy and Wyatt's personalities, and Rufus makes a decision about spying for Connor Mason that almost costs him everything.


One of my concerns going into Timeless was that Wyatt would become an archetype  the broody soldier who suffers loss and doesn't do well with authority. And while there are certainly shades of that character in the first few episodes, "Party at Castle Varlar" is where Wyatt really gets the chance to shine. He and Lucy have had an interesting dynamic over the past few episodes, as his mission varies fundamentally from hers — she is concerned with saving history; he is concerned with taking out his target. It's a civilian's mentality versus a soldier's mentality, and while it's understandable to an extent, Wyatt's obsession with taking down Flynn no matter the cost has led him to become more dangerous and reckless than Lucy or Rufus can handle.

So while this episode begins with a similar mentality (Wyatt taking out Nazi soldiers and his insistence that by not changing history, Werner von Braun doesn't ever get punished for his crimes), it's refreshing that Wyatt changes his perspective just a bit and actually allows Lucy to see the humanity behind his rigid mission-myopic recklessness. See, Wyatt isn't just a soldier. But he is one, no less, and Lucy isn't. Lucy never wanted this job. It's easy for Wyatt to deal with the pressures of it, but for Lucy, it's overwhelming. She's thrust into a world in which there are no certainties and guarantees and while that is commonplace for Wyatt, it's foreign terrain for Lucy.

So it's understandable that she begins to have a breakdown in the episode.

And I'm really glad that Timeless chose to handle the moment of her breakdown in the way they did. When Lucy's hands start to shake as she prepares to infiltrate a Nazi party with Ian Fleming, she tries to hide and calm herself down. She doesn't want anyone to see how scared she actually is — how unnerving this entire experience has been to her. So when Wyatt approaches her and gives her space to talk, it's incredible to watch her slowly let down her guard and let him into an extremely vulnerable moment. Lucy confesses that she almost died once, and it was so terrifying that it left her with the desire to only put herself in situations she could control. She doesn't want this uncertainty — she doesn't WANT to be a soldier. All she ever wanted to do was relive history through teaching. Nothing more.


Wyatt, patient and understanding, listens to her and then allows Lucy into his own past, where he confesses the reason he became a soldier in the first place and how his family is his inspiration to keep going. It's a really powerful, emotional scene that is completely and utterly sold by Abigail Spencer and Matt Lanter. I don't doubt for a moment the honesty and vulnerability of Wyatt and Lucy in this scene. They've already been through life and death situations together, and will undoubtedly face so many more. It is important, when going into battle, to know the person beside you. And I think that this forges a deeper connection between the two. They understand one another now, and can better appreciate each other's motivations. So when Wyatt has the choice later on in the episode to let Ian Fleming kill Werner von Braun, he decides to trust Lucy. That's such an important moment. Because that means Wyatt is surrendering his leadership to her. Respect doesn't mean always agreeing with the other person — it means trusting them, even when their idea is different from yours.

I think that Timeless might be tentatively setting up a Wyatt/Lucy romance, and while I was on the fence before this episode, "Party at Castle Varlar" sealed it for me. These two characters have magnetic chemistry (evident even in little moments where Wyatt does something like buckle Lucy's seatbelt for her), and a solid foundation for trust. Both have scars and both are trying to navigate a world that is terrifying and unknown; but both have each other's backs. Wyatt is always there, protecting and watching out for Lucy (and getting a little jealous too, not gonna lie), and Lucy is the first one to affirm Wyatt when he's right. To top it all off, Abigail Spencer and Matt Lanter acted their faces off in this week's episode, and have proven that we need to care about each of their characters -- and we need to care about Wyatt and Lucy's relationship, whatever that may end up being.


This week's episode, thankfully, was another solid story for Rufus. As much as I love him being the comedic relief (and he got a few good lines in there throughout the episode), I think that I'm enjoying learning about his more emotional side, too. What was really cool about this episode was that Rufus got the opportunity to connect with the historical figure, Ian Fleming. As we know that Rufus is spying on Lucy and Wyatt for Connor, it was really poignant to have him discuss what it means to be a spy with Fleming. Rufus is beginning to feel guilty for lying, even though his comrades have no idea that he's betraying them. But Fleming provides Rufus with an interesting perspective — Fleming doesn't see his life as a spy as lying, so much as playing a part. That, coupled with the very good conversation that Werner von Braun and Rufus have at the end of the episode (which essentially boils down to "the ends justify the means") lead him to a decision: he cannot spy on Lucy and Wyatt anymore. 

... Except, it's never that simple, is it? Connor — it turns out — was trying to protect Rufus from Rittenhouse (made evident because at the end of the episode, Rufus is literally stopped on his drive home by an intimidating old guy who vaguely threatens Rufus' family unless he continues spying for Connor). And now it looks like Rufus has no choice but to continue to spy, or else his family is in danger.

Ugh, the poor guy can't catch a break, can he?


I also appreciated the fact that "Party at Castle Varlar" chose to not put the primary focus on catching Flynn, mostly because that kind of show (ahem, season one of Legends of Tomorrow), gets really old really fast. There are only so many ways that a bad guy can evade the heroes. Thankfully, this week was a bit of a twist -- the good guys got to evade the bad guys for a change. In addition to that little twist, it was also nice for the emphasis of the episode to fall more heavily toward emotion and character development rather than plot. The one weakness I can see in Timeless thus far is the constant circling back of "Flynn has a plan, but it's just vague enough that we don't know what it is, but we all should care" sub-plot. Flynn, to be honest, is the weakest part of the show and I hope that I become more invested in him as the series goes on.

But finally, the one question everyone wants answered: WHAT IS RITTENHOUSE?!

Timey-wimey notes:
  • Yup, you read this all correctly: I write Timeless reviews now! I can't promise they will all be as quick of a turnaround as this one, but I'll do my best.
  • I loved that Timeless showed us exactly how the characters get their period clothes.
  • "I'm not German, you idiot."
  • Of course Lucy would get hit on by a historical figure. First Robert Todd Lincoln, and now Ian Fleming! I did very much adore how that irked Wyatt just enough to be hilarious and also telling.
  • Speaking of Wyatt, who else loved how much he fanboyed over James Bond? I sure did.
  • "Dude. James Bond just hit on Lucy."
  • "I hate to put a damper on all the fangirling..."
What did you all think of this episode? Are you aboard the Wyatt/Lucy ship yet? What lengths will Rufus have to go to in order to protect his loved ones? Sound off in the comments below!


  1. I had a fellow historian say on Facebook, "After watching Timeless, is this how doctors feel watching medical shows?" And I completely understood his point. They go to great pains to get a lot of things right, but they just as often make some boneheaded choices. What I do like about it is that often those mistakes have consequences.

    I don't want to label it a mistake, but I am not worried about the Wyatt/Lucy situation. These characters represent traditional tropes, and it makes sense that she is uncomfortable in these missions, and that he can help. I just don't want this to go to fast. It is never a good sign.

    What I am really excited about is Rufus. Malcolm Barrett has always been funny, but Malcolm Barrett has rarely had the dramatic material to show his range until this show. One of the lily white problems that most time travel shows miss is that time travel isn't always peachy for anyone that isn't white. They attacked the issue in the first episode, and they have allowed it to remain without letting it over take the story telling, and a lot of the credit for how well that has worked is in Barrett's ability to have you wince and laugh in the same line. If you are looking for a glimpse of Barrett in a funnier setting, find Better Off Ted's episode "Racial Sensitivity" on Netflix. While it isn't as meaty as Timeless, Barrett still does a lot while giving the audience plenty of room to laugh hysterically.

    One point I thought was rich that seems misunderstood by most is von Braun's response to Rufus. Rufus is trying to make von Braun feel responsible for the deaths from his rockets, and they use the historically accurate reference to von Braun's thinking, but they also throw in von Braun point that as inventors, they are too excited by what they are doing to realize the consequences of what they are making. It is a great point. Choices have consequences. Even when those choices are to go to the moon.

    Great review!

  2. I loved this show from the start and I really look forward to each episode. Great review!

  3. Great take away from this episode! "Respect doesn't mean always agreeing with the other person — it means trusting them, even when their idea is different from yours." This was easily my favorite episode until tonight. Love the fangirling, too. Best thing. "It's not new!" "Well it's new to me"