This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS of the Season 1 finale, "The Red Scare." Proceed at your own risk.
Last night in the Season 1 finale of NBC's Timeless, we learned the fate of our heroes as Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus followed Flynn back to Washington 1954 during the Joseph McCarthy witch hunt for communists. Flynn was determined to blow up Rittenhouse during a big meeting with important members of the evil organization, including Lucy's grandfather.
Revelations abounded. Lucy discovered her grandfather was gay and hiding it to keep Rittenhouse from killing him. Wyatt has a run-in with McCarthy, who turns out to be every bit as much of the toad as he seemed to be in history. Lucy continues her mad skill when it comes to talking people into stuff. She convinces her grandfather to remain closeted and spy on Rittenhouse until she comes to him in the future and convinces Flynn not to blow up the meeting.
In the end, Rittenhouse is taken down (in theory), Flynn ends up in jail over Lucy's protests, Wyatt accepts his wife's death, Lucy is given the opportunity to go back and try to save her sister and Jiya and Rufus admit their love (although Jiya seems to be having time-traveling visions). On the bad side, Rittenhouse ends up in control of the mothership time machine and Lucy discovers her mom is Rittenhouse.
I talked with the show's executive producers and creators Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke in an exclusive post-mortem interview about the finale, the show's developments and what we might have to look forward to with Season 2.
When you guys were developing this season, did you know right from the start that it would be a win for the heroes but that Lucy would discover that her mother was Rittenhouse?
Eric Kripke: Yeah. We knew a lot of it. Shawn and I knew as early as shooting the pilot that Mom was going to turn out to be a senior Rittenhouse member, even outranking Lucy's father. That was the biggest thing we were heading towards and so it was important to be able to finally play it out and then in terms of some of the smaller specific details, some of that you figure out along the way. The big news we knew very, very early on.
Lucy's mother was the one person she had to hang onto with her sister gone. How does her mother being Rittenhouse affect her?
Shawn Ryan: It is an interesting progression that you have with your parents; as a kid you worship them and look up to them and as a young adult you begin to see them for the true human beings that they are, and fortunately I had very non-Rittenhouse parents (laughs). But for somebody like Lucy ... it is a very earth-shattering kind of thing and obviously we are playing [with big stakes]. For Lucy it is something that's going to attack the core of who she is. One of the big themes that we tried to hit this year was the theme of identity and who Lucy really was. Who was she in this iteration of reality versus the iteration of reality she began with. She was a sister and a caregiver for a sick mom, and in this iteration she's a fiancee to someone she doesn't know and she's an only child and she has a healthy mom that she’s keeping a secret from. And so to learn that Mom has been keeping this monstrous secret from her in both timelines is something that she's going to have to deal with as she continues her search for identity.
Tell me about the finale and why you wanted to go where you went with the characters as they follow Lucy's lead with a different kind of attack to stop Rittenhouse.
Eric Kripke: What makes Flynn and Wyatt and really Lucy interesting is even though they are very different characters and find themselves on different sides of this battle [they still have a lot in common]. They are all emotionally dealing with regret and they are all tortured by the ghosts of their pasts. We talked about this very, very early. I think even before we went to pilot script we talked about the themes of we have with these main characters. You have your heroes and you have your antagonists and all of them ultimately have the same emotional problem, which is they can't let go of the past, both literally in time travel or emotionally with their tragic backstories. So it is inhibiting them and is causing them great pain and is causing them to make destructive decisions in that all of them need to learn that that's what they have in common. That they have more in common than they think and that what they have to do ultimately, like all of us, is let go of their regrets and their pain and their resentments and live in the present, which is a [challenge] for anybody.
I think in a lot of ways the finale is about that. It is about Lucy realizing that they are just both literally and figuratively just doomed to repeat history over and over again because they just keep making the same mistakes and they can't let go of their pain. And it's Lucy who finally proposes for the first time that maybe they just they do something different and sure enough, that turns out to be the plan that works.
Did you have any inspirations for big bad Rittenhouse?
Shawn Ryan: I won’t say that we had any specific inspirations but we tried to describe certain motivations for them. We used the episode as our fall finale to show the origin of them ... We tried to be as original as we could with the construct of who they were. Eric has taught me over the past year that you can let people fill in the gaps themselves so Rittenhouse can be stand-in for any number of people and organizations that our viewers want to think.
What was your biggest challenge as you developed this season?
Shawn Ryan: Probably the physical challenge of creating a world in a different time period each week was incredibly challenging and I think it is the hardest thing that I either Eric or I have ever done from a production standpoint. To go from the Alamo to 1969 Houston Mission Control to Al Capone in Chicago to all these different places is an incredible logistical challenge and requires the showrunners and our team to really know what the worlds are that we are going to use so we can give production team a heads-up and they can get an early start. With the stories it's not a problem but actually pulling them off, I am still kind of amazed that we did.
There were times during the course of the season where I thought we were going to fail or do a bad job, but we had an incredible production team and I would like to give a special shout-out to our production designer John Marcynuk, who was doing that job unbelievably for the first time. He had been an art director on Supernatural and Eric really fought for him and said that he was capable of doing the job, so to not have been a full-time production designer on a TV show before and to take on what maybe the toughest production design job in all of TV and do it as well as he did it was truly, truly incredible.
But yeah, that was the toughest part. It is one thing to say we are going to deliver you to different time periods and a different locale each week; it is another thing to do it and I am really proud that we pulled it off.
As you were writing the episodes, what were your thoughts that you wanted to cover specific areas of history or did you just kind of fall into some of them?
Eric Kripke: We had a historian in the room, a guy named David Hoffman. It was a really fun show in the room. I mean it was a hard show to make but it was a fun show to break because we would sit with David and we would just chat about time periods that were interesting to us or periods or specific moments in history that we wanted to explore and just digging into the research. I love research particularly. It is probably a big reason I am a writer. So to be able to just deep dive into all of that research was really great.
As the season went on I think we found that we were focusing less and less on particular time periods and focusing more and more on characters from history that we wanted to meet to the show's credit. And then the show got better ... In the beginning, it's the Lincoln assassination. We wanted to go there. I think by the end of the season we wanted to meet Josephine Baker, we wanted to meet Elliot Ness and Al Capone and Al Capone's brother. Who knew he had a brother who was a cop? And the more we were focusing more and more on interesting characters, I think the show improved.
The finale was very satisfying and yet left room for the story to continue. It was almost a Joss Whedon-style finale where you wrapped a lot of the season's developments and then cracked the door open with new developments for a future season. Why did you want to go that way?
Shawn Ryan: That's funny that you mentioned Joss Whedon because I know that Eric always references Buffy in terms of a show that we've taken inspiration from in the genre space and the way that they would meld the character story together. I, in fact, worked with Joss for a year on Angel and learned many of those same thoughts. I think it's safe to say that I haven't heard it described that way before but I take great pleasure and pride that you would describe our finale as Joss Whedon-esque thing because he is really a master of this.
Where do we go from here with Season 2?
Shawn Ryan: Well, we are in the process of figuring that out. We have a lot of ideas. We are going to be pitching NBC in April our take on Season 2 so it is not entirely fair to share it with your audience before we share it with NBC. And the possibility is that we will come up with additional ideas in the next couple months that will change things, but I think it's safe to say that Rittenhouse is in control of the mothership and they can do some bad things and I guess we will have to stop them and that's the procedure side of Season 2.
And then on a personal character side, we will dig deeper into our characters and I think what people love about them and their interactions with each other and we will dive deeper into the Lucy and Wyatt of it all and where that relationship is progressing and the Rufus and Jiya of it all and whether Tyler Mason can truly be trusted, and what happens now to Garcia Flynn now that he is in custody. We will dive into all that stuff.
And Lucy's journal? How could she ever justify giving it to him?
Eric Kripke: Yeah, she gives him the journal but it wouldn't be for theoretically many, many years and there is a lot of time and adventures that can happen between now and then. I think that is a series-long question.
What do you guys want the fans to know as we go forth from this season to the next? What is the one thing you want to tell us?
Eric Kripke: Just that we certainly really appreciate everyone's passion and hope they keep spreading the word and hope that people keep finding the show because we think we are just getting started. This season was always designed to be a preamble to the real battles and struggles of the show and I think for as exciting as the season was, we were just sort of taxing down the runway and getting ready to take off and we hopefully get that opportunity to tell more stories.
But we will get that opportunity if the fans continue to rally and continue to spread the word to other friends. Just because we are not airing it on TV doesn't mean that they can't find the show on Hulu or NBC.com and the network pays attention to all that stuff. So, the more they can just keep spreading the word, the better chance we have to continue this adventure.