'Timeless' Needs To Be Renewed Because It Isn't Afraid To Highlight The Forgotten People Of History
After an exciting and shocking finale that resulted in NBC’s Timeless trending on Twitter for hours on Sunday night, fans of the show are still waiting to hear if Timeless will be renewed for Season 3. We’ve been here before, Clockblockers, and we know this feeling of trepidation: After the peacock network canceled the show after its inaugural season, fans rallied to get the series another go 'round. And though the Season 2 finale brought in increased viewership, NBC has yet to announce a third season, leading to outcry on Twitter. Even celebrities like Kelly Clarkson and Leslie Jones are calling for the renewal, with the latter slamming her own network and threatening to march down to NBC's offices nude.
This is the second time the time-travel drama is in danger, so is there really a chance the show can be saved twice? We’re still waiting to find out, but Timeless' quiet embrace of diversity is something that should be celebrated and won't be lost without uproar. The show’s fierce fervor in exploring the stories of marginalized characters, forgotten women, and people of color who have helped shape history is exactly why it needs to be renewed.
We wouldn’t be the first to point out that Timeless features a diverse cast, which is all but a requirement for television these days. With a female protagonist, two men of color, two women of color, an immigrant, and a lesbian couple, Timeless’ subtle inclusion without making anyone a token character goes a long way. And the show’s diversity isn’t just a feature of its main characters. It’s also an intentional factor in the points of history they visit and in the stories the show tells.
Timeless’ devotion to highlighting the women and people of color who made history is exactly the kind of unearthing of influential figures that we need right now. Take, for example, the episode “Hollywoodland,” which celebrates famous Golden Age actress Hedy Lamarr not for her industry connections, but for her expertise in science. The episode opted to point out the fact that Lamarr basically invented WiFi, and created a more accessible version of those social media videos that teach you those things you never knew you never knew.
Timeless Season 2 also opted to highlight historical figures like blues guitarist Robert Johnson, whose record would inspire the invention of rock 'n' roll; Abby Franklin, the little-known mother of Benjamin Franklin; and Grace Humiston, the most famous female detective in America. Even when utilizing its most famous figure of Season 2, a teenage JFK, Timeless elected to explore the ramifications of his potential “backing out” of historical destiny, rather than what made him and his policies so great.
What the Timeless writers are doing here isn’t just taking us on a fun romp through history, with all the glorious costumes included. They’re asking us to reconsider what we might think of as significant historical events, and who really were the key players in making some of the biggest changes in the world. When the first hour of the Season 2 finale went back to the Civil War, instead of focusing on a white, male general who made a call that turned the tide of the war, Timeless uses Harriet Tubman’s secret identity as “The General,” a spy and revolutionary, to focus the story on those whose fate the outcome of the Civil War would actually affect. And last week’s “The Day Reagan Was Shot” turned a woman of color's coming out story into an emotional wallop that reflected just how far the show is willing to go to help normalize acceptance.
While the casual Timeless viewer might just accept that they’re getting an exciting new story they’ve never heard before or one they have but focused on a lesser-known figure, the Timeless writers are intentionally and expertly pointing our attention toward under-appreciated historical figures. As co-creator Shawn Ryan told Smithsonian, “So much of history as it’s taught revolves around powerful white men, and one of the things that was of great interest to us this year was to see if there was a way to explore history beyond that.” Opening our eyes to the names and faces of people who had more of an impact than we previously thought is just one of the ways in which Timeless is continuing the emergence of a new TV era where the hero isn’t just another white guy.
That devotion to telling historical tales from alternate perspectives is reflected in the series' villainous conglomerate group Rittenhouse, too. The show uses the real-life David Rittenhouse, America’s first director of the United States Mint, as the basis for the Revolutionary-era man who started the group whose goal was to secretly gain control over world powers, albeit from the shadows. Rittenhouse’s time-traveling sleeper agent plans were conceived by the fictional Nicholas Keynes, whose distaste for anything other than white, male domination is evident in how he reacts to the 21st-century era into which he’s been thrust.
If there’s one thing that’s obvious about Rittenhouse, it’s that its members are predominantly white men. Listing off suspected card carriers of the group, we’ve heard familiar names like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan, Charles Lindbergh, Benedict Arnold, and Joseph McCarthy. Arnold and McCarthy aside, the list asks us to reconsider if these men were really the innovative, imaginative voices that made America great. Timeless has never really come out and said that Rittenhouse is made up of a bunch of racists and sexists, but it doesn’t have to. Their missions include attempting to change the outcome of the Civil War and prevent the 19th amendment, undoing women's right to vote. That the series’ villain is a secretive group of predominantly white men who are attempting to rewrite history to make our current world less diverse and less equal reflects today’s political landscape in such a way that I don’t even need to address.
That bravery in scope alone makes Timeless... well, timely. In its own subtle way, Timeless is challenging the suggestion that our history was dominated by only the familiar names and faces we know from history books. By digging up women and people of color who have had more of an impact than we realize, and making their stories the focus, Timeless is asking us to reconsider what we think we know, learn more, and move forward, rather than back. And if NBC realizes the power they have on their hands, they'll renew Timeless so it's not another mistake we have to go back in time to correct.