'Timeless' Boss Breaks Down 'Magical' Series Finale and What a Potential Revival Could Explore (Exclusive)
Warning: Do not proceed if you have not watched the two-hour Timeless series finale. If you have, here's what star Abigail Spencer had to say about the final scene, as well as Lucy and Wyatt's ending.
The clock has run out on the Time Team.
Timeless wrapped up its bumpy 28-episode adventure with a two-hour series finale on Thursday, fittingly tying a neat-ish bow on the biggest questions concerning the foursome of Lucy (Abigail Spencer), Wyatt (Matt Lanter), Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) and Jiya (Claudia Doumit). They all got their happy endings, but not without heartbreaking sacrifices: R.I.P. Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic)!
Picking up moments after the sophomore finale, Future Lucy and Wyatt blasted five years into their past to implore the team to go back and save Rufus, but they couldn't stay long due to violent side effects suffered as a consequence of traveling back to a time they once existed in. But Flynn took things into his own hands, traveling back to the fateful day in 2012 when Wyatt's wife, Jessica, disappeared and was later presumed dead -- taking out the future Rittenhouse agent and altering the timeline so Rufus didn't die after all. Instead of safely returning to the present day, Flynn decided not to, sacrificing himself for the team and so he could see his family one last time. And eventually, the Time Team decimated Rittenhouse for good.
So where did Lucy, Wyatt, Rufus and Jiya end up? Flash forward five years to 2023, and Lucy and Wyatt are happily married with twin daughters named Flynn and Amy, sweet callbacks to the dearly departed. Lucy goes back to teaching history at a Palo Alto, California, university and has received tenure, while Wyatt has been continuing his work in Special Projects under Agent Christopher. Rufus and Jiya, meanwhile, founded their own company, Riya Enterprises, and meet a teenage girl at a science fair, who's impressively created technology Rufus seemed quite familiar with. In the midst of all this, the original trio of Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus go back to the day in 2014 when Lucy hands Flynn her journal, kick-starting the events that would transpire, only this time she tells him he's a hero.
The final scene of the series features that same girl furiously sketching time machines and formulas for new, possibly better time-travel tech, leaving the door open for the Time Team (or someone else) to be needed to save the world once more. Timeless co-creator Shawn Ryan jumped on the phone with ET to break down the meaning behind that final scene (which doesn't feature the main stars); Lucy and Wyatt's happy ending; the decision to kill Flynn; what would've been in a hypothetical season three; and if he really truly believes this is the end of Timeless.
ET: It really felt like you were tying a bow on Timeless with this finale. What was your approach for these final two episodes?
Shawn Ryan: Our approach was to give total satisfaction to these amazing fans who demanded more Timeless and got NBC to give them more Timeless. It's quite a responsibility to have the fans fight not just once, but twice, to save the show. It's a really great story but it's suddenly less great a story if the movie you make sucks. So we really took the fans' intensity and passion for the show and really told ourselves, "This has to be as good as our talents will allow it to be." Not saying that other people could've made a better ending, but this really is the best job that we collectively could have done.
Was this the original ending you always envisioned for the story that you had to accelerate because of how things have gone with the show's bubble status?
In season one or season two, we never had a definitive way we knew we wanted to end the show because we didn't know if this was a four-season show, if this was a seven-season show or as it turns it, if it was a two-season show. We never really committed to it ourselves. There were certain ideas that we thought we would want to do in season three that we utilized here. We had to compress them and we had to switch gears. We had to change from making a serialized, ongoing, multi-episode television series into making a movie. How do we make this as enjoyable a viewing hour and 25 minutes as possible? Which is different than making eight or 10 episodes of television, where you're designed to leave the audience at the end of one episode going, "Ohh, I gotta come back to that next episode." It's a different task, so we just wanted to make something that was worthy of our fans.
Have you played all your cards yet, creatively speaking? Are you saving an idea or two just in case?
(Laughs.) Listen, I would say that we have played all our cards that involve the story threads that we have explored in seasons one and two. I feel like this is a really appropriate ending to those 28 episodes of television. I think the universe is bigger than just those story threads and if somebody came to us and said, "Hey, this movie actually did pretty well and we're interested in doing a movie every year or a movie every couple of years," or "We want to do six episodes of a Timeless miniseries," we'd have to do the work that we usually do but I think there's room for new story threads in that universe. To speak honestly, we really tried to play it both ways. We tried to play it as a definitive ending to these stories you've been following, a real resolution of these characters, and yet the door cracked open should there be an appetite to do more down the road in this universe.
That leads perfectly to my next question. The final scene features Paulina, the teenage girl Rufus and Jiya met at the science fair, sketching new time-travel machines and formulas for time-travel tech. That maybe the Time Team or someone else will be needed again to save the world. Was that your intention with ending the series with her and not the main trio?
Oh absolutely. The idea, as Connor Mason lays out, is this technology exists so, therefore, the threat is never fully extinguished. I like that idea. It doesn't contradict any of the endings that preceded it in the movie but it does leave open the idea that the Time Team might be needed again. Maybe they won't be? But maybe they will be.
Lucy and Wyatt finally get their happy ending. Were they always going to be endgame?
I don't know that that was 100 percent certain the entire run of the show. Certainly, they're the kind of romance that's set up in the pilot. But when we injected Jessica into the storyline, which really threw a wrench into that relationship and we saw Lucy and Flynn get closer, I'll admit that we saw the two of them together as terrific. We could see how those two characters have a lot in common in some ways and yet they are different; sometimes opposites attract. I don't know that at the end of season two, we had definitively laid out and decided for sure exactly how that love triangle would play out. But when we had to make the movie, we had to kind of declare one way or the other. The Lucy and Flynn thing was not something we designed as just as a fake thing or a distraction. I think that became a real friendship and relationship and bond that we certainly noticed in the writers' room.
At one point, Flynn says to Lucy their relationship never worked out because she loved someone else, meaning Wyatt. That alludes to the fact that you had considered digging into that coupling on a deeper level. How serious of a consideration was that for you to explore them more fully?
Yeah, I think if this had been a seven-season show, maybe season five would have been the Lucy-Flynn relationship, where she needs a whole season to realize that it's actually Wyatt, not Flynn. There were definitely some accelerations that we had to take. I think ultimately it worked well for us.
We find out Lucy and Wyatt are happily married with twin girls, but we never got to see a proposal or a wedding. Were there conversations about including those moments?
Well, maybe that's all in the next iteration of the show. If you want to see the proposal, we're going to need to make more of Timeless.
So this is your pitch to the fans?
Did you write those scenes? If not, why did you decide not to?
No. We liked the time jump to five years later. The time has come for Lucy to go back [to 2014] and fulfill this prophecy and hand the journal over so that history can proceed the way they need it to proceed. It's hard because by that point, there's 10 minutes left in the show and you don't want your endings to linger too long. We never wrote the proposal scene or wedding scene. I think you've just pitched the first -- or at least part of the first episode -- of the next iteration of Timeless.
Flynn makes the ultimate sacrifice in the finale, wiping Jessica away from the timeline after 2012 and deciding to see his family one last time instead of returning to his present day. How difficult of a decision was it to have Flynn die?
Easier when you're writing a finale than when you're writing episode four, I would say. I don't kill off characters lightly on my shows. There has to be a reason and you want to get something out of it and what we got out of it here is redemption for Flynn -- that he goes from a person with rage and revenge and is willing to cause harm anywhere he sees it in order to try and get his family back to doing something selfless because he realizes it will stop Rittenhouse and allow Lucy to live her best life. Is there anything more of a declaration of love than that?
By 2023, Rufus and Jiya have created their company, Riya Enterprises. What do they actually do?
That's another part of the next iteration. Obviously, they're involved in technology. Obviously, Jiya has attained a certain notoriety, celebrity in that kind of world. What they've invented, we haven't necessarily decided but that's just more fodder for the next iteration of Timeless.
I imagine the original cut was quite a bit longer. What ended up on the cutting room floor?
There was a nice Lucy-Agent Christopher scene after Flynn's death that we really cut for time. It was beautifully performed, it was nice, it was well-written but it didn't end up being completely necessary to the story and we just had to get down to time. I think that was the only scene that we had to cut in its entirety. There were lines here and there, picking up the pace in scenes. We started off close to 18 minutes over for the movie.
We barely got to spend time with Future Lucy and Wyatt. Abigail previously said that she imagined that version of those characters would've been explored more fully had there been a third season. Was there more you wanted to do with them?
If we had a season three, I think we would've spent an episode's worth of time with Future Wyatt and Lucy, although our restriction that it can sort of make you a little crazy and harmful sort of works against it. I'm not sure what we would've done. I think when we introduced them [in the season two finale], I did think that in season three we explore them a little more fully and that was a compromise that we had to make, making the movie, to not have as much of them. It's difficult to film too.
Considering the show's history with cancellations and resurrections, it might be difficult for some to consider this Timeless' final act. From where you stand, is this it? If so, how satisfied are you with how everything wrapped up?
The second part first. If this is it, I'm very satisfied with how it ended. I always say, think about the movie franchises you love. Think about the impact Star Wars has had. There's more hours of Timeless that you can watch than there is of Star Wars. You'd like it to be an ongoing part of your life, but to have these 28 episodes is something magical. If this is the end, I feel very happy with the way it ended. I think it's a great watch from episode one to the very end. Now to your first question, is this the end? Um, I don't know. I've thought it was the end twice before and it wasn't. I don't want to toy with the fans and I don't want to give the fans false hope. They deserve better than that. I don't know, but I've seen examples like Firefly and Veronica Mars sort of resurrect themselves in some form or another. I don't know what the form might be, I don't know what it might be. I'd like to think there's more Timeless to be had in some form at some time. We'll just have to see what form that is, what it is and if it is.
Do you feel like there's an urgency to revisit Lucy, Wyatt, Rufus and Jiya's stories again? At least from the way the final episodes ended, there doesn't seem to be a clear path that presents itself.
Every year that you work on a TV show that goes on, at the end of the year you think there's no more story left to tell. And then you take a month or two off and you come back to the writers' room and you realize there's more story to tell. That's the nature of being a professional TV writer. I don't know what the story will be either. You think the story is all played out. If you allowed me to hire a writing staff two months from now, we'd come back and give you a kicka** season three of Timeless.
With Lucy and Wyatt's wedding and proposal!
And you'd get to see a proposal and a wedding.
Timeless is streaming now on Hulu.
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