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We gave it an A-
Rittenhouse is getting personal.
Really, ever since the time-traveling terrorist organization first stole the Mothership, our ragtag band of heroes has been playing catch-up. As a general rule, wherever the Mothership goes, the Lifeboat follows — usually trying to clean up whatever major historical mess Rittenhouse has created. Rittenhouse generally sets its sights on major, history-altering goals: control of the early auto industry, the dissolution of the free press, the right to vote. But during “The Day Reagan Was Shot,” the target isn’t the 40th president of the United States but someone much smaller — but still majorly consequential.
That’s right: This week, the historical figure Rittenhouse is trying to erase is none other than Agent Denise Christopher. Honestly, it makes sense: Not only is Christopher Rittenhouse’s biggest law enforcement enemy, but she’s also the one who assembled the team as we know it. Without her, Lucy, Rufus, and Wyatt would never have met — and Rittenhouse would certainly have control of the Lifeboat by now. But it’s also a sign that Rittenhouse may be getting a little desperate. Killing her in the past would leave way too many variables in the future, but apparently, that’s a chance that Rittenhouse is willing to take.
So, they decide to target the young Christopher in 1981, when she was not a leading Homeland Security official but just a rookie cop in Washington, D.C. Apparently, Christopher was witness to a major historical event: John Hinckley Jr.’s attempted assassination of then-president Ronald Reagan, in a ploy to impress Jodie Foster. Time machine rules say that you can’t go back to a part of history where you were already alive, so the team’s four youngest members — Lucy, Rufus, Wyatt, and Jiya — load up into the Lifeboat, don some shoulder pads, and take off for 1981.
The assassination attempt happens as history dictates, with two deviations: Christopher is almost shot by a Rittenhouse sleeper agent, and both Hinckley and the sleeper agent get away in the chaos. Christopher is alive, thankfully, but it soon becomes clear that her brush with death could have far-reaching implications. Her panicked mother comes to visit and, surprisingly, convinces her to leave the force and agree to an arranged marriage. Obviously, that is a major deviation from the Christopher we know, who is happily married to a woman, Michelle, and has two children, Mark and Olivia.
Once Upon a Time’s Karen David plays the young Christopher, and it’s pitch-perfect casting. Not only does David successfully capture Sakina Jaffrey’s mannerisms, but she imbues Christopher with her trademark selflessness and steely courage — all while struggling to come to terms with her identity as a queer woman of color. While Wyatt and Rufus split off to look for the sleeper agent, Jiya and Lucy try to convince Christopher to stay true to herself and pursue her dream of working in law enforcement — not just because Christopher’s career is key to stopping Rittenhouse, but also because they feel they have a responsibility to their friend to help her be true to herself.
At first, Jiya and Lucy pose as two lesbian investigators named Cagney and Lacey, who’ve been hired by Jodie Foster (which is 100 percent a television show that I would watch). They successfully find and capture Hinckley, but Christopher isn’t budging. She explains that when she was a child, she saw her father die after being shot by a mugger. The man was arrested by a female police officer, and Christopher spent her entire life dreaming of working in the police force. But she’s also hesitant to risk her life, as she can’t bear the thought of her mother losing any more members of her family.
Meanwhile, Wyatt and Rufus set about tracking down the sleeper agent. They find him in the local hospital, resulting in an elevator brawl that might be my favorite action scene of the entire season. It’s a tightly shot, enclosed fight that’s exhilarating to watch (and not all that dissimilar to the elevator fight in Captain America: The Winter Soldier). They overpower the sleeper agent, who reveals that he was not recruited by Rittenhouse but blackmailed into joining them. Unlike Emma or Carol, he has no loyalty to the cause; he was just plucked out of 2018, planted in the past, and told to shoot a specific person at a specific time. He gives them information to go stop another Rittenhouse agent (his brother, who actually believes in the cause) from a second attempt on Christopher life’s, but by the time they return, he’s hanged himself. Most of Timeless has cast Rittenhouse’s various agents as mindless bad guys who need to be stopped, but the sleeper agent’s suicide is a sobering wake-up call for the team that things are clearly far more complex than they seem.
As for Christopher, Jiya and Lucy pull out one last desperate attempt to convince her not to go through with her arranged marriage: the truth. They explain that they’re time travelers, and she’s their boss, and they need her to stay true to who she is. (Christopher is surprisingly calm about this whole thing, which is probably why she’s so calm about all the Rittenhouse shenanigans in the present, too.) They show her the flash drive that Christopher gave Lucy all those months ago in a desperate attempt to preserve her family, in case they were inadvertently erased. As the young Christopher looks on in wonder at pictures of her future family, it’s a touching, emotional moment — and it works. When the foursome returns to the future, Christopher is there waiting for them. (And what’s even better? In this timeline, she’s come out to her mother, and the two have a positive relationship again.)
Back in the bunker, Lucy finally asks Flynn about something that’s been nagging at her ever since they met: how he got her journal, which she hasn’t even written in yet. He explains that two weeks after his family was killed, he was hiding out in a bar in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when Lucy walked in. He says she was about five years older than she is now, and she gave him the journal and set him on his path. Present Lucy is baffled, as neither the Mothership nor the Lifeboat have any capability to meddle with present timelines. But, as he reminds her, things can change — and the prospect of being able to go back to the recent past is both a tantalizing and terrifying possibility for where the show might go in future episodes.
This has already been one of the most emotional, relationship-y episodes yet, but there’s one more bombshell to be dropped: Jessica and Wyatt are chatting when she casually mentions her adult brother Kevin. Wyatt is confused, seeing as her brother Kevin died of leukemia before his third birthday, but she insists he’s alive and well, now a healthy adult. And she’s got one more revelation: She’s pregnant. There’s about to be a baby in the bunker — right on time for next week’s dramatic two-part season finale.