Series / Timeless

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Timeless is a 2016 NBC series, created by Eric Kripke (Supernatural, Revolution) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield), about an unlikely trio of time-travellers. When criminals steal a time-machine, our heroes — Dr. Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), a history professor, Sergeant 1st Class Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a US Army Green Beret, and Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), a genius engineer who helped design the time machine — must travel back in time to protect history as we know it.

Compare with The Time Tunnel, a 1960s series with a similar premise; Rewind, a Made-for-TV Movie Pilot Movie with a similar premise and cast; El Ministerio del Tiempo, a Spanish series; and Legends of Tomorrow, which has a near-identical premise but with superheroes.

It was canceled on May 10, 2017, then Un-Canceled due to major fan backlash three days later. Season 2 is expected to air in 2018.


Tropes present in this series:

  • 555: In "The Watergate Tapes," Rufus is given a number that he's supposed to call. It starts with JK-5.
  • Alternate Self: Lucy basically becomes one. In the original timeline, her parents were married and she herself was single and had a younger sister; in the altered timeline, she grew up an only child to a single mother and has a fiancé. Naturally, Lucy has no memory of this different life and finds herself having trouble handling these new relationships and how different a person she is in this timeline.
  • Alternate Timeline: Every trip changes some details of the past, but for the most part, the timeline is the same except for some minor details changed.
    • When they get back from their trip in the pilot episode, they find that history is recorded the way they witnessed it, instead of how it originally happened in the unaltered timeline. "Anarchists" (a.k.a them) bombed the Hindenburg, Lucy's comatose mom is perfectly fine, she's engaged to someone, and her sister never existed.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has a different ending theme, titled "Let It Shine" by the Gospellers.
  • Altum Videtur: According to Lucy, the gold key pendant worn by Bonnie Parker in "Last Ride of Bonnie and Clyde" is engraved with a Latin phrase about being the key to the beginning and end of time. The actual phrase, however, is not mentioned.
  • Always Save the Girl: When Wyatt sees Kate under the Hindenburg, he rushes over to pull her out of harm's way, despite her death having been a matter of history, and him having been warned about the effects of saving someone who died in the past. In the end, she's killed by Flynn anyway, and winds up recorded as one of the new Hindenburg victims.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Rittenhouse has apparently been controlling America since it was founded during the Revolutionary War.
  • Anti-Villain:
    • Garcia Flynn is ruthless, but his objective is to prevent the murder of his wife and daughter by any means necessary.
    • Connor Mason is connected to Rittenhouse somehow, but he's also terrified of them. Nevertheless, he still tries to protect Rufus and later Agent Christopher from them.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Before killing William Travis, Flynn lets him know that it's Nothing Personal, and he actually respects him deeply.
  • Artistic License History:
    • The team goes back to Nazi Germany in December 1944, less than a week before Germany's last major offensive in which very cold weather played a key role. Nonetheless, there is no sign of winter anywhere (probably due to California Doubling) nor are any of the characters dressed as though there could be a blizzard in a few days.
    • Clyde Barrow never used a Thompson submachine gun in his crime spree. His preferred streetsweeper was the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle, of which he stole at least a half-dozen from a National Guard armory. In the show, he empties a drum magazine from a Tommy Gun at Ranger Frank Hamer's posse before switching to the BAR.
    • The electrical grounding is presented as a solidly known fact for the cause of the Hindenburg crash, when it's actually just one of numerous theories. The actual cause is unknown.
    • The idea that Lincoln's death is all that prevented the post-Civil War South from turning into a racial paradise is, to put it charitably, quite naive. However, in context, Lincoln's death did cause reprisals against the South which affected race relations. Also his death did slow down the advance of civil rights for African-Americans.
    • According to Lucy, the Department of Energy conducted atomic tests near Las Vegas in the early 1960s. That agency was created in 1977. Its existence in 1962 rather than its predecessor the Atomic Energy Commission may be due to a historical change brought about by a previous mission.
    • While Judith Campbell was intimate with both President Kennedy and mob boss Giancana, her autobiography states that their relationships were entirely personal and that Giancana did not ask anything about Kennedy. Judith did say in later interviews that she transferred information and money between them, as we see in the show, but both liberals and conservatives have pointed out that this doesn't match with what is known about Kennedy and his staff, and that she is likely an unreliable witness, especially in light of her history of mental health issues and cancer diagnosis.
    • Zigzagged with Ian Fleming's appearance: the official record says he only went on a single field mission which was at a different time, but the real truth of wartime espionage naturally remains mysterious - so who's to say there weren't more? He also says he's with MI-6, when in reality he was with the Royal Navy's Naval Intelligence Division. His brother Michael Fleming did die in 1940, but he wasn't killed by a V-2 attack; while serving as a captain in the BEF, he was severely wounded and captured during the fighting retreat to Dunkirk, and later died in a POW hospital.
    • Katherine Johnson helps the team get back in contact with Apollo 11, when she wasn't actually at mission control that day but at a meeting in the Poconos, watching it on the news like everyone else. Of course, it's possible that the slight changes to history made by Flynn and the Lifeboat team have resulted in her being at mission control instead of at the meeting.
    • The series has portrayed the outcome of the Cold War as having been on a razor's edge, with characters speculating that the failure of the moon landing or Von Braun being captured by the Soviet Union could have led to the United States losing the Cold War. In reality, the forty-year standoff of the Cold War was decided on much more than who was currently leading in ballistics technology.note 
    • Bonnie and Clyde are shown to be the dashingly handsome and daring bank robbers who are folk heroes. The real pair were unattractive sociopaths who weren't that famous in their own time. Also, rather than go out of their way not to hurt people, the pair had no problem killing innocent people in their robberies. Clyde Barrow did try to cultivate a "Robin Hood" image, but he tended to get homicidally violent if anyone stood up to him or didn't comply with his demands fast enough for his liking.
    • Subverted with H.H. Holmes as the real man and his "Murder Home" were even worse than what the show has. And unlike in the series, Holmes lived longer to commit more murders and then gain infamy by being America's first well-known serial killer.
    • In order to capture Jesse James, who escaped assassination in St. Joseph, Missouri, the team enlists the help of Bass Reeves, a federal marshal for western Arkansas and the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The distance involved precludes the team contacting Reeves in a timely fashion. Additionally, the theory that Reeves was the inspiration for the Lone Ranger (on which The Other Wiki casts doubts — see here), despite never actually being a Texas Ranger, is treated as fact.
    • In "Karma Chameleon" Rufus is trying to strike up a conversation with a lady in the bar. He notices Manimal playing on the bar's TV and mentions he's a fan, whereupon she mentions she likes the show too. Leaving aside the probability of Rufus even being aware of a show that was cancelled the month he was born after only 8 episodesnote  the episode takes place in March 1983. The show didn't even premiere until September 30. They're watching a show that doesn't even exist yet.note  The lady is also a fan of Flashdance and Staying Alive, with both came out in 1983... on April 15 and July 15 respectively. (Not to mention the latter was (and is) nowhere near as popular than the movie it was a sequel.) Not to mention that March 3, 1983 was a Saturday and The A-Team aired first-run on Tuesdays... (and Rufus states the episode they see on TV is "The Beast from the Belly of a Boeing"... which first aired in May. Given that both The A-Team and Timeless were co-produced by Universal, you'd think someone would have noticed).
    • Additionally from "Karma Chameleon", the characters are trapped in a hotel bar during a storm severe enough that the police have advised everyone to stay off the roads. Weather records for the area in March 1983 show no unusual weather patterns.
    • In "Public Enemy #1" after Eliot Ness is killed the team enlists the help of Richard Hart (a/k/a Jimmy Capone), another Treasury agent. Hart was based in Omaha, Nebraska, which is a seven-hour drive from Chicago in a modern car on a modern interstate highway. In a 1930's vehicle at nightnote  on less-than-optimal roadsnote  the trip should take much longer, and yet the team manages to make the round trip in the space of one evening. This doesn't address the team's ability to get gas for the car without period currency.
    • A minor case is Ernest Hemingway being said to have invented the term "the lost generation" to describe the people who fought in World War I. He popularized the term in his novel The Sun Also Rises, but he actually borrowed it from his friend Gertrude Stein.
      • Which is lampshaded in the episode when Josaphine Baker confesses to Lucy she believes Hemingway 'stole it' from Stein.
    • The real David Rittenhouse had no son, though he did have two daughters and two stillborn children of unknown gender.
  • Artistic License Military: Undoubtedly the weakest security ever seen in a facility holding experimental nuclear weapons.
    • In "The Red Scare" Wyatt, a Delta Force member, discusses having to report back to Camp Pendleton once the project is over. Delta Force is an Army unit garrisoned at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Camp Pendleton is a Marine Corps facility in California. Except possibly as a staging area there's no reason for Wyatt to report to Pendleton in peacetime (especially since there are several Army bases in California as well).
  • Artistic License Nuclear Physics: There's no way to accidentally "set off" a nuclear core with a sudden shock such as a car crash. Making the fusion chain reaction not only start, but fission enough to release a bomb's worth of energy before the detonation blows the core apart too far for the chain reaction to continue, requires incredibly sensitive explosives and triggering mechanisms that had to be invented by the Manhattan Project for that specific purpose. If the characters knew as much about atom bombs as they seem to, they would know this.
    • For that matter, the bad guys should definitely know that you need a lot more than just a core to set off a nuclear explosion. Except their actual plan was just to use the core as a sustainable battery for their time machine.
    • The casual way in which plutonium was handled should have killed every single person involved in that operation.
    • A Christy pit cannot possibly be repurposed for use as a nuclear reactor, much less the implausibly tiny nuclear battery. Nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors are designed incompatibly different due to the way use their nuclear fuel, how said fuel is fed into the system, and even the ideal isotope types and alloys used as fuel. Leave aside the impossibility of deriving 300 years worth of useful energy from such a small pit.
  • Ascended Fanboy:
    • Wyatt is a big James Bond fan and is thrilled when he ends up meeting Ian Fleming in 1944 on a mission that resembles the plot of a Bond novel. He is even more gleeful when he finds out that in the new timeline Fleming wrote a Bond novel based on their experience and Wyatt, Rufus, and Lucy are major characters in it.
    • Lucy is so excited to meet Ernest Hemingway that she blurts out she's read all his books, even though at the time he's only written one.
  • Batman Gambit: Mason plays along with Rittenhouse, until they're desperate enough to regain control of the time machines that they give him access to their Sinister Surveillance technology. He promptly uses it to gather information on them, to help take them down.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: As Flynn and the protagonists mess with history, their actions are noted in history books of the changed timeline.
    • Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus were the Black Cross anarchists blamed for the Hindenburg disaster.
    • Flynn is the unknown assassin who killed Abraham Lincoln. Lucy as Juliet Shakesman is credited with saving General Grant, and even has a high school named after her. On the other hand, Rufus's heroic actions were overlooked, and the credit for stopping another assassin was given to a white soldier who was present in the area.
    • The team's encounter with Ian Fleming served as the basis for one of his most popular Bond novels.
    • Flynn kills William Travis before he can write his "Victory or Death" letter, so Lucy has to write a new one, signed anonymously, that serves the same historical purpose.
    • The missing 18 minutes from the Watergate scandal were about Rittenhouse, who Nixon was terrified of.
    • The trip to the French and Indian War is comparatively innocuous as Flynn only wanted to strand the team there, but they still end up being America's new first UFO sighting.
    • The moon landing experiences a near catastrophe due to Flynn's interference, but its successful completion is credited to Katherine Johnson, who is claimed to have single-handedly fixed a computer error due to a "Communist attack" on NASA. She later becomes the first female flight director because of this.
    • Henry Ford was apparently part of Rittenhouse, given that Bonnie and Clyde stole a key from him that unlocks a secret safe belonging to the organization.
    • Flynn becomes part of the posse that takes down Bonnie and Clyde, posing as a bounty hunter hired to retrieve Henry Ford's key.
    • Benedict Arnold was a founding member of Rittenhouse and was killed by its leader for bringing Flynn and the team to kill him.
    • Flynn kills and takes on the identity of famed spy Austin Roe, under which he kills Charles Cornwallis.
    • David Rittenhouse, a contemporary and friend of several Founding Fathers, founded a conspiracy to secretly control America from the shadows. His murder by Flynn in 1780 implies that diffraction grating was either never invented or was invented by someone else.
    • "The World's Columbian Exposition" confirms that Ford was a member of Rittenhouse, as were Thomas Edison and J. P. Morgan.
    • Wyatt decides to execute infamous serial killer H. H. Holmes, saving the lives of several of his future victims and denying Holmes from profiting off his fame as a murderer.
    • Flynn saves Jesse James from being shot in the back by his own men by killing them first. Later, Lucy is the one who ends up shooting James in the back during a standoff.
    • Charles Lindbergh was a member of Rittenhouse, and all his famous anti-semitism and rabble rousing was just a distraction from the organization's plans.
    • William Hale Thompson was also a Rittenhouse member who Flynn interrogates and kills.
    • Flynn steals the government's evidence against Al Capone, allowing him to beat the tax evasion charges. Flynn also gives Capone the location of Elliot Ness' safe house, leading to his death, and murders the mayor of Chicago—a Rittenhouse associate—after beating the date and location of the next Rittenhouse meeting out of him. To counter this, Lucy convinces Capone's brother Jimmy Capone/Richard Hart to confront his brother and arrest him leading to a shootout that kills Al.
    • Joe McCarthy was also Rittenhouse.
  • Black and Nerdy: Rufus. Easily the smartest member of the team (as far as science is concerned), he's also one of only two people who know how to pilot a time machine. And he's extremely shy around his Love Interest Jiya, sitting six feet from her and preferring to text her rather than open his mouth. In the pilot, Anthony pretty much has to force him to take Jiya on a taco run, just so they might strike up a conversation. Interestingly, Jiya is a nerd too, but she's much more sociable. During their first meeting, Rufus saw her Tribble toy and joked that they could never be friends due to her being a Trekkie and him being a Star Wars fan (although he at least knew enough about Trek to know what a Tribble is).
  • Black and White Morality: Bass Reeves in "The Murder of Jesse James".
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Lucy pretends they are anarchists hijacking the Hindenburg to get it down before the bomb goes off (specifically the Anarchist Black Cross, an actual anarchist organization, though they're not terrorists, but only support imprisoned anarchists and other radicals). When the Hindenburg explodes anyway then, it's recorded as if that's what happened, and they're the suspects.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: To chase after the stolen Time Machine, the protagonists use the prototype.
  • Bring News Back: Wyatt was part of a squad that obtained vital intelligence but was surrounded by insurgents. The squad decided that one of them had to try to get the intelligence back to their superiors and the rest would cover his escape in a Last Stand. Wyatt and the only other unwounded soldier flipped a coin, and Wyatt left while all his friends died. He is put in the same situation again when the team travels to the Alamo, and it becomes vital that they get a letter out that would inspire Remember the Alamo. He has to convince a teenage boy to abandon the battle and his comrades because the boy is the courier that history recorded as bringing the letter back (not to mention the first mayor of San Antonio).
  • Broken Pedestal: In 1962, Rufus is stunned to discover that Anthony, a key scientist of the project who he had looked up to, hasn't been kidnapped at all but rather is working with Flynn willingly. This gets even worse in Space Race when Rufus sees just how far Anthony is willing to go in order to assist Flynn.
    • Inverted in "The Assassination of Jesse James". Wyatt, who's become jaded by his wartime experiences, has come to regard the movie Western heroes he idolized as a child as frauds. Then he meets Bass Reeves, who is very much the real deal.
    • Jiya feels this way about Mason, after he starts to actively help Rittenhouse and their agents, having looked up to him for years.
    • Lucy's mother becomes this to her in the season finale when she's revealed to be a member of Rittenhouse who doesn't care about bringing Amy back into existence.
  • Butterfly Effect: As Flynn manages to alter history in some way, the ramifications mean the trio see their world altered a bit with each return home.
    • The pilot has a major example as Flynn causes the Hindenburg to crash a day later and only two people dying. One person who should have died ended up having a granddaughter who would marry Lucy's father, Henry, who never met Lucy's mother, Carol. Because she never met Henry, Carol never took up smoking and thus avoided getting the cancer that would put her in a coma. It also means that Lucy's sister, Amy, was never born and Lucy realizes this means Henry was never her father in the original timeline. Lucy also finds herself engaged to a man she has absolutely no memory of ever meeting.
    • This is much more downplayed after the pilot. History still changes after each mission but the effects are not as widespread as one would presume. History seems to "auto-correct" and instead of a cascade of changes, we instead get minor historical footnotes that do not significantly change major events.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: In "Space Race," Rufus is horrified to find this is his reaction to killing one of Flynn's men.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Rufus has trouble communicating his feelings to Jiya. Their one date was awkward and horrible. They sit six feet away from one another, but he always prefers to text her instead of just speaking out loud. She finally takes the matter into her own hands and kisses him when he comes back from a time jump where he was nearly stranded in the past.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Rufus invokes this one in "The World's Columbian Expedition", using the voice recorder to remind Rittenhouse that there's no one else but him capable of piloting the Lifeboat. Reality Ensues in the following episode, when Mason tells Rufus that Jiya is now training to operate the Lifeboat and will eventually replace him.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In the pilot, Lucy complains about her anachronistic clothing, including an underwire bra, being a dead giveaway in the past because those weren't invented until the 1940's and they were going to 1937. The underwire in her bra helps Wyatt pick the lock to the jail cell, allowing them to escape.
    • Wyatt brings a bag of grenades along to the Alamo, just in case. Rufus uses them to create an escape tunnel for the team, and the Alamo's women and children.
    • The recorder Rittenhouse forces Rufus to carry proves useful in convincing Bonnie and Clyde that the team didn't rat them out to the cops.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • The first midseason finale, "The Capture of Benedict Arnold", ends with Flynn kidnapping Lucy and fleeing in the Mothership.
    • "Public Enemy #1" ends with Rufus shot and passed out, and the ship preparing to jump. Also, all three are wanted criminals.
  • Close Enough Timeline: Much to Lucy's dismay, this seems to be everyone else's attitude about the minor alterations to history they inevitably keep making. Mostly justified by the fact that she seems to be the only main character who has had her life altered by the changes to the timeline.
  • Couch Gag: The title sequence briefly shows the destination date (usually the one identified onscreen in The Teaser, or close thereabouts) in numerals before the cards flip to read "Timeless".
  • Critical Hesitation Blunder: Flynn arranges for Grant to be in Ford's Theater with Lincoln (as was the actual plan in real life, but Grant backed out at the last second) with plans to shoot them both; but when he gets there, he's surprised to see Lucy there as well. This gives her enough time to save Grant, though Lincoln still dies.
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Lucy's hands were tied with rope, but once Flynn cuts her restraints, her hands immediately go to her wrists.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Flynn's interference turns the Battle of the Alamo into an even bigger defeat for the Texans than it was historically. The Mexicans arrive early and stage an assault right away, rather than besieging the fort for thirteen days first. The Texans are less prepared and lack the extra men who joined the defenders during the original siege.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Lewis Powell winds up dying earlier than in history when Wyatt shoots him when Powell tries to assassinate William Seward.
    • Elliot Ness, William Hale Thompson, and Al Capone all die decades before they're supposed to.
  • Deceptive Legacy: Lucy learns the reason her sister Amy no longer exists is because their parents never met. Lucy realizes this means the only way she exists is because her mother has been lying all her life about who her birth father is.
  • Declaration of Protection: Wyatt gives one almost word-for-word to Lucy and Rufus in "The Lost Generation."
    Wyatt: I'm meant to protect the both of you. I see that now. And I will.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: When the team is stranded in 1754 Pennsylvania and needs to sneak into the French Colonial garrison at Fort Duquesne, the French Army surgeon who wants to address Wyatt's supposed wound comes across to modern viewers as a sexist asshole, and his medical skills seem downright horrifying. Except that he's following contemporary medical science of the 1750s (including his casual dismissal of Lucy) to the letter. As far as he knows, he really is doing his job and taking the best possible care of a man with a potentially life-threatening injury. Remember, he's a trained surgeon, and Lucy is just some random woman claiming to be a nurse and talking about "infection" (a word he's probably never even heard before) in French that's grammatically correct, but in an accent he probably can't quite place. All things considered, why would he listen to her? This doesn't change the fact that certain aspects of medical science in the 1750s were genuinely horrifying, of course.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Rufus thinks he's gotten the upper hand refusing to do Rittenhouse's dirty work as they need him to pilot the Lifeboat. He's honestly stunned when informed Jiya is being trained as his replacement and Mason mocks him on his "plan."
    Mason: What did you think was going to happen? You were going to stand up on your hind legs for your little speech and they'd just slink off into the darkness?
    • Jesse James openly states Flynn's major problem is that he's refusing to think about what happens if he loses his "cause."
  • Diagonal Billing: Abigail Spencer and Matt Lanter.
  • Dude Magnet: Lucy seems to be heading this way; so far, she's garnered the attention of Abraham Lincoln's son, Ian Fleming, and of course, the fiancé she suddenly has in these new timelines. As of the ninth episode, there also seems to be something brewing between her and Wyatt.
  • Enemy Mine: In "The Capture of Benedict Arnold", the team and Flynn work together to use Benedict Arnold to get close to David Rittenhouse and assassinate him. It falls apart when they won't also let him kill David's young son John, and Flynn kidnaps Lucy.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: During the Watergate episode, it is revealed that a former Rittenhouse operative — in the 1970s — is an African-American woman who had been born into the conspiracy. Strangely enough, David Rittenhouse, the founder of the organization, was a staunch white supremacist and chauvinist. Presumably, his followers chose to take a different approach.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Flynn is willing to murder innocent people to achieve his mission against Rittenhouse, but he dearly loved his wife and child. He even tries to help his mother by traveling to 1969 and saving his half-brother from dying.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Flynn makes it clear to Lucy that he despises having to work with the Nazis, but considers it necessary to achieve his ultimate goal.
    • He's also horrified when he realizes that Santa Anna is going to slaughter everyone in the Alamo, women and children included, rather than let them evacuate. He attempts to persuade Santa Anna not to do this, but fails. Presumably, the deaths of his wife and daughter are the reason he doesn't want them to die.
    • In the middle of his mission to kill the Apollo 11 astronauts, Flynn goes on a side quest to prevent his half-brother from dying of an allergic reaction.
    • Richard Nixon considers Rittenhouse a twisted and dark organization who are threatening his family.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Has happened twice so far between Lucy and Wyatt - once in "Atomic City," when he attempts to send a telegram to his wife in the future, and again in "The Alamo," when he details his tragic origin story/military past to James Bowie. Both times, he turns around to find Lucy right behind him.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    • Usually, how the gang figure out Flynn's plan. For example, in the pilot, they're baffled as to why he would save the Hindenburg from exploding on its arrival in New Jersey. They then go over the manifest for its next trip and realize Flynn wants to blow it up when its passengers include Nelson Rockefeller and Omar Bradley.
    • When he discovers Anthony in 1962, Rufus tries to get him away, figuring he's rescuing him from Flynn... but Anthony refuses.
    Anthony: If that man comes back and sees you, he'll kill you. He won't listen to me.
    Rufus: Why would he listen to you? You're Flynn's prisoner... who's completely unsupervised. Anthony... you are his prisoner, aren't you?
    • In 1944 Germany, Lucy figures Flynn is going to kill Wernher von Braun as without him, the U.S.'s space program will be hindered. She confronts Flynn, openly wondering why he didn't kill Von Braun when he had the chance before. Seeing Flynn smiling, Lucy realizes Flynn is really going to deliver Von Braun to the Soviets, who will use him to reach the moon first.
    • The team had figured Flynn was going to use the nuclear core he got from 1962 to give to the Nazis. When they return to report he didn't, they openly wonder what else Flynn could use a powerful source of plutonium for. At which point Mason and Rufus stare at each other in shock as they both remember Anthony talking about using such a core to become a battery for the time machine to make it more powerful.
    • Jiya tells Lucy that the reason her sister Amy no longer exists is because in this new timeline, Lucy's father, Henry, married another woman and never met Lucy's mom, Carol.
    Lucy: But... they're still my parents.
    Jiya: Keep going...
    Lucy: Wait a minute, how was I born?
    Jiya: You're almost there. (sees Lucy's face fall) Yeah, you got it.
    Lucy: Carol is my mother but Henry isn't my father... and never was. Which means my mother has been lying to me my whole life.
    • This is how Jiya figures out what Rufus's ruined message (with only "death" and "millennium" remaining) means. She and Mason start reminiscing on when they first met Rufus. She recalls him telling her that, because she's a Trekkie and he's a Star Wars fan, they'll never be friends. Then she realizes that the message is a reference to the Death Star and the Millennium Falcon about her "guiding the Lifeboat in".
  • Fake Shemp:
    • The portrayal of Frank Sinatra. Rather than find a match looks or voice-wise, he's only seen from behind or at a distance while real Sinatra performances are dubbed in.
    • Richard Nixon in 1972 is only ever seen as a blurry figure amid bright light, in the few scenes that depict him inside the Oval Office.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Subverted when the team meets Davy Crockett. Crockett freely admits that the story about him wrestling a bear was made up to impress his men. Crockett killed the bear, but under much more prosaic circumstances, and he was scared out of his mind. However, Crockett is shown as an extremely heroic figure who simply likes to hear embellished stories about himself.
  • Faking the Dead: Emma Whitmore was the original pilot for the time machine but realized the dark plans Rittenhouse had as they threatened her family. She and Anthony thus faked her death in an accident as she hid out in the 1880s until Flynn finds her.
    • Lucy arranges for Charles Lindbergh to fake his own death in order to escape from his father's expectations and the role Rittenhouse has in mind for him (which he genuinely finds distasteful). The lure of fame and fortune for being the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic is too much to resist, however, and Lindbergh reemerges a few weeks later.
  • Foreshadowing: In "The Murder of Jesse James", Flynn says, "If I could go back in time and put a bullet in the head of my wife's killer, I would." The next episode involves Wyatt trying exactly this with his wife's killer.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Kate uses one on one of Flynn's goons on the Hindenburg.
  • Genre Savvy: Wyatt convinces Crockett and Bowie to leave the Alamo's weakest wall undefended, in order to sucker the Mexicans into a choke point. It's an obvious trap, but Santa Anna was exactly the kind of Miles Gloriosus who would fall for it. While the Alamo is still lost, the Mexican Army takes significantly more casualties in the fighting than they otherwise should have, helping to ensure Houston's eventual victory despite Flynn's interference.
  • Grandfather Paradox:
    • Subverted when Lucy's actions in the past cause her parents never to meet. Her sister is Ret Gone but Lucy's life has taken pretty much the same path as in the original timeline. This causes her to realize that her father was not actually her biological parent.
    • Averted when Flynn saves his half-brother's life, which could have caused his parents never to meet. In the new timeline, Flynn's personal history seems not to have changed significantly.
    • Invoked by Flynn when he suggests to Wyatt that on a trip to the past he kill the parents of the man who killed Wyatt's wife, causing the man to be never born and thus stopping the murder. the next episode has Wyatt and Rufus taking the Lifeboat to perform this mission. Wyatt at first tries to keep the couple from hooking up in a one-night stand, but events escalate until Wyatt accidentally kills the presumptive father. Jessica still dies although the killer's other two victims were spared.
    • In the penultimate episode of Season 1, Rittenhouse attempts to do this to Flynn before the main trio and Christopher steal the machine.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: When Wyatt asks why the group doesn't just use the prototype to go back in time and stop Flynn from stealing the machine, he's informed that they tried... and the pilot came back in pieces.
  • He Knows Too Much: Cahill eventually threatens this when Agent Christopher starts looking into Rittenhouse. It's hinted that this is standard procedure for Rittenhouse.
  • Hell Hotel: H. H. Holmes and his "Murder Castle" appear in "The World's Columbian Expedition". Flynn cruelly leads an unwitting Wyatt and Rufus to check in there during the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, where they're put in danger. Lucy has to enlist the help of Harry Houdini in their rescue.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • What Rufus feels is happening to him as a result of his involvement with the chase after Flynn.
    • Arguably Flynn, who seems more and more the lesser of two evils (as Rittenhouse seems as if it's going to be the greater threat, and Flynn's manipulations seem more and more like attempts to save the future from them).
    • In "The Murder of Jesse James", Jesse James claims that this happened to him, and warns that this is happening to Flynn.
    • It is implied that this is happening to Wyatt in "The Murder of Jesse James".
  • Historical-Domain Character: Played very differently than most time-traveling fiction. While famous figures in history such as Abraham Lincoln and JFK are mentioned, the series tends to focus on lesser-known historical figures. For instance, during Lincoln's assassination attempt, they were largely focused on Robert Todd Lincoln, rather than the president or even John Wilkes Booth.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In this series, Charles Lindbergh wasn't really an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer, he was just a weak-willed guy who agreed to outrage the public as a distraction from what Rittenhouse was up to.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The real David Rittenhouse was a scientist, a patriot, and a friend to Ben Franklin, John Adams, and other Founding Fathers. He even decried slavery in a speech to the American Philosophical Society that included the importance of self-determination and the rights of a man. Here, he's a slave-owning monster who founded a secret evil organization to control America, who orders Wyatt and Flynn executed and who intends to rape Lucy.
  • Hollywood Law: Lucy convinces James Capone to come with them to Chicago and arrest Al Capone. The problem with the plan is that they have nothing to back up that arrest. Al just had the tax evasion charges against him dismissed and they do not have any evidence tying him to other crimes. If James arrests Al, Al will be out of jail within an hour or two. Al Capone was not an outlaw that had to tracked down and apprehended. The police could have arrested him at any time but did not have the evidence to make the arrest stick.
  • A House Divided: The team's trust in each other is shattered in "The Watergate Tapes", with the twin revelations about Lucy's journal from the future which is in Flynn's hands, and that Rufus has been spying on them for Rittenhouse.
  • I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference: Used so often that it's pretty much a Running Gag.
    • Lucy uses the alias "Nurse Jackie" during the Hindenberg mission.
    • Rufus introduces himself to some USCTs as Denzel Washington.
    • Done a few more times until it finally hits the team they can just use their real names.
    • Which doesn't stop Rufus from introducing himself to some black militants in 1972 as "Kanye". The militants think it's an obviously fake name.
    • Lucy introduces herself as a medicine woman named Dr. Quinn in the French and Indian War, managing to make a reference a century too early for the show's setting despite it being a western.
    • In "Space Race," when a local cop sees his gun, Wyatt pulls out his badge showing that he's Agent Mulder, FBI.
    • Rufus actually carries a fake driver's license which identifies him as Wesley Snipes. It helps when he's arrested in "Last Ride of Bonnie and Clyde."
    • When they meet Elliot Ness, Wyatt introduces the trio as Connery, Costner and Robert De Niro.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Bass Reeves insists on taking all his targets alive to stand trial, sticking to it even after Jessie James kills his long time partner. He also eschews any kind of personal glory for his countless acts of heroism. Wyatt notes afterwards that he figured the idealized heroes of western movies were completely made up, but then he meets this guy. Downplayed as he took this stance due to how haunted he is by the people he killed early in his career (the real Reeves apparently killed around fifteen criminals in self-defense).
  • Indy Ploy: After it becomes clear that history has already been altered, the team has to wing it. In one episode, after the disaster happens anyway but in a different manner, Lucy says maybe they can't just make it up as they go along.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: John Wilkes Booth is portrayed as one, described by the show as his time's equivalent of Donnie Wahlberg; he's more concerned with his plan being suitably dramatic than the greater effectiveness Flynn offers him. Eventually Flynn just knocks him out and kills Lincoln himself, muttering, "Actors!"
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: After making Wyatt and Lucy, Ian Fleming pulls them away from the tavern full of German Officers and begins berating them for sloppy infiltration. "I swear, you Americans! You couldn't stand out more if you tried!" Cue Rufus coming in with a gun, pointing it at Fleming, who, upon seeing a black man in Nazi Germany, just mutters, "I stand corrected."
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Von Braun is dismissive over the damage of his creations when Rufus confronts him on it. Rufus is astounded.
    Rufus: I helped invent something greater than you ever will... and all I can think about is the destruction it's doing... the people it's hurting.
    Von Braun: But you weren't thinking of that when you were creating it. Because if you did...you'd have never gone through with it.
    • Jesse James points out to Flynn how he's becoming just as vicious as the people he's supposedly tracking down. See He Who Fights Monsters above.
  • Just Following Orders: Von Braun says this when Fleming almost shoots him for sending the V-2 rockets down on London.
  • Kill 'em All: How did Frank Hamer and his lawmen stop Clyde Barrow in both the original and altered timelines? By shooting him (and Bonnie Parker) multiple times with no attempt at making an arrest. Given the pair's documented history of violent and sociopathic behavior (murders committed For the Evulz, spraying bullets at police officers without warning and with no concern for bystanders), it's pretty well justified.
  • Language Drift:
    • In the sixth episode, everyone — the protagonists, Flynn, and Rittenhouse — are all after "the doc." The protagonists take it for granted that they are looking for a document. It turns out that the "doc" is a doctor, as in a Ph.D. This becomes obvious after a little Fridge Brilliance, when one recalls that "doc" for "document" did not come into usage until the 1990s, with the advent of Microsoft Word and its .doc files; consequently, in the 1970s, a doc could only be a doctor. On the other hand, they seem to always be using the modern version of whatever language they're speaking, be it English, French, or German, and hardly anyone bats an eye, excepting an occasional blank look at a modern idiom.
    • In 1893, the main characters' references to a "serial killer" are met with confusion as that term has not entered the English vocabulary yet.
  • Large Ham: Harry Houdini, as befits a stage magician. In fact, his showmanship is widely agreed within the trade to be the key reason that he was so much more successful than his equally talented brother Hardeen.
  • Last Stand: When the team travels to the Battle of the Alamo, Flynn's interference accelerates events and the heroes end up trapped in the middle of the most famous last stand in US history. And even once they manage to create an escape tunnel, Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett choose to stay behind and cover their escape, going down fighting. Crockett half-jokingly asks Rufus to tell others that he killed dozens of Mexicans with one hand.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: In "The Watergate Tapes," Rufus and Lucy trick Rittenhouse and Flynn into showing up at the same place, leading to them shooting at each other. Flynn laughs at the audacity of the situation.
  • Like a Son to Me: Mason feels this way about Rufus. He hates forcing Rufus to spy on the others for Rittenhouse, but he himself has no choice.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: In episode 2, Lucy uses a nearby Romeo & Juliet poster to choose her alias, Juliet Shakesman.
  • The Load: John Wilkes Booth's flair for dramatics (such as insisting on using a Derringer instead of Flynn's men's semi-automatic handguns) winds up being a liability to Flynn's plans... so Flynn knocks him out, then assassinates Lincoln himself.
    Flynn: Actors.
  • The Lost Lenore: Wyatt's wife, who died in something he believes to be his fault. Kate resembles her, to the point that he pulls the Always Save the Girl move above.
  • Lured into a Trap:
    • The team heads to 1754, thinking Flynn is somehow going to mess with the French and Indian War or kill a young George Washington. It turns out Flynn has actually finally figured out how they're tracking him and intends to have his guys destroy the Lifeboat and strand the trio in the past.
    • Wyatt and Rufus are lured into H.H. Holmes' notorious "murder castle" in "The World's Columbian Exposition" to keep them from tracking down Lucy.
  • Magical Native American: Averted and Played for Laughs in "The Assassination of Jesse James". Bass Reeves's Native American partner scoffs at the idea that he's using mysticism and a 'connection to the land' to track down outlaws, instead telling the team that he conducts interviews and follows the evidence.
    • He also gets mildly offended when they called him "Tonto," because he knows it means "Stupid" in Spanish.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Flynn's entire Evil Plan is to use time travel to completely change American history. Though he sees it as Set Right What Once Went Wrong; he's trying to destroy Rittenhouse, in the hopes that his dead family will be restored as a consequence.
    • According to Anthony, Rittenhouse themselves are planning on using time travel to alter history in such a way to create a perfect Police State that they can control.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Rufus tries to stay near the future father of a serial killer to keep him apart from the future mother. When a stewardess hits on Rufus, he says, "I'd rather stay here for you." After a long, awkward pause, he adds, "Because you're so cool." Rufus did not help his case by ordering a banana daiquiri from the bartender he was supposed to be shadowing.
  • The Mistress: Judith Campbell, mistress to both JFK and Sam Giancana, the top mob boss in Vegas. Judith would actually serve as the go-between for them. She's also with the general in charge of the atomic testing and apparently many more men of power and influence.
  • The Mole:
    • Rufus is forced to spy on the team by Rittenhouse. When he comes clean, Wyatt tells him to act as a Double Agent and spy on Rittenhouse for them.
    • In the first season finale, Ethan becomes one for Lucy inside Rittenhouse, accumulating evidence from 1954 to 2017, when Lucy picks it up from him.
    • Also, Emma is revealed to have been a Rittenhouse mole while working for Flynn.
  • Mooks: Anyone working with Flynn or Anthony is likely going to die, as they are disposable bad guys. It's unclear where Flynn gets them, as there always appear to be more.
    • Partially addressed in the season finale "The Red Scare", where except for Emma, Flynn is now completely out of henchmen — the ones still alive by this point have grown disillusioned and jumped ship.
  • Motive Misidentification: Flynn insists that Lucy is doing this; she thinks he's an anarchist out to bring down America before it's formed, but he insists he's a patriot trying to "save" the country from Rittenhouse.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When she returns to the present, Lucy is delighted to find her sick mother is now quite well. She's then horrified to discover that, because of her actions in the past, her sister Amy was never born.
  • New Meat: When Wyatt is taken off the team, he is replaced by Sergeant Dan Baumgartner. Dan is a veteran special forces soldier but this is his first trip through time and he makes a rookie mistake. Wyatt ignores the rule about not taking anachronistic weapons into the past but Dan obeys the rule and takes a period appropriate revolver rather than his standard service pistol. He is not familiar with the gun and during a gunfight it misfires. Dan is killed as a result.
  • Nice Guy: Harry Houdini in "The World's Columbian Exposition". Even after being tricked by Lucy into helping Flynn break into the Rittenhouse meeting Houdini is still willing to help her escape from Flynn and rescue Wyatt and Rufus from H. H. Holmes. He's one of the most helpful people the team has dealt with in the past.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Obviously, the corporation behind the time machine in the first place, as thanks to them the Hindenburg crashed a day later and only killed two people, thus affecting history.
    • The end of the pilot has Lucy at first thinking things are better as her sick mom is okay. However, she then finds out that not only is she engaged to someone she's never met, but her sister Amy was never born.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Flynn convinces General Santa Anna to be more decisive and attack the Alamo immediately rather than besieging it first. This would have made the Battle of the Alamo into a Curbstomp Battle and robbed it of its symbolism. However, Santa Anna then refuses to allow the women and children safe passage from the fort which means that the defenders are now fighting to protect the innocent, giving their deaths an even bigger symbolism.
  • No Equal-Opportunity Time Travel: Played straight; see Politically Correct History below. Rufus's adventure in 1937 starts with him having to sit in the back of a city bus, and only goes downhill from there.
    • Rufus helps a little girl use the "Colored" drinking fountain in 1934 Arkansas before the cops pick him up on suspicion of being an accomplice to Bonnie and Clyde. While there is clearly racism involved, the Arkansas officers are noticeably less antagonistic to him than the cops in New Jersey, though Rufus also makes a point of not being belligerent with them this time.
      Rufus: Okay, I don't know how it works across the pond, but I am black! There is literally no point in history where that's gonna be awesome for me!
    • Since most of their adventures take them to North America (and the only ones so far that didn't were in Nazi Germany and 1920s Paris), Rufus's fear is justified. Mason is a British black man, so his cultural experiences are different from being an American black man. Interestingly, Rufus being black ends up saving the team during the French and Indian War, when the Shawnee chief releases him, assuming that, as a slave, he had no choice to come into her lands. His insistence that Lucy and Wyatt are his friends astounds her.
    • A little downplayed in 1930s Chicago, when Al Capone expresses mild disbelief that his brother would associate with someone like Rufus. Then he shoots him, but only because Flynn asked him to.
  • Not So Different: Flynn says this to William Travis right before killing him, stating that they're both patriots who are viewed as fanatics due to their actions.
    • Jesse James sees how Flynn is as committed to his cause as Jesse was to the Confederacy but realized that in the end, it didn't matter as he ended up on the losing side. He states Flynn may claim to kill just to make a "better world" but that's not the real reason.
    Jesse: I kept right on killing and realized why. Because deep down, I was always a killer, I just needed an excuse. And you know what another word for excuse is? Cause.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus's reactions when they realize the Hindenburg is not exploding and history has been altered.
    • Lucy's expression when she meets her fiancé.
    • The team's reaction when they see the Mexican Army arriving early and they realize that they are trapped at the Battle of the Alamo.
  • Omniglot: Flynn speaks a variety of languages, including Croatian (his native language), English, Spanish, and German. Possibly justified given his intelligence background. Partly averted with the protagonists, although Wyatt mentions being fluent in four languages, including German. Given that Delta Force tends to be deployed all over the world, this makes sense. However, he doesn't speak French; luckily, Lucy speaks it fluently.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: When Flynn tries to put pressure on Frank Hamernote  to get to Rufus, Hamer stares him down and quietly explains how he once faced an angry mob 2000-strong in Nacogdoches when they tried to lynch a black man ("guilty as sin, by the way") without trial. Hamer didn't back down then, and he doesn't back down now. Flynn recognizes that he's Bullying a Dragon and lets it drop. The best part? The story is true, and was in fact just one of fifteen lynch mobs he faced in his career, losing only one prisoner when the mob burned down the courthouse to get him. Hamer really was that badass.
  • Only One Me Allowed Right Now:
    • The team are told that they can't go back to their own timeline and cannot return to a time period where they have already been.
    • Wyatt asks why the group just doesn't use the Lifeboat to stop Flynn from stealing the machine in the first place. He's told that was the first thing they tried, but the pilot came back in pieces. The team learns in "The Assassination of Jesse James" that they had been lied to when they meet the original pilot hiding in the past.
  • Phony Veteran: Al Capone liked to claim that his facial scars were wounds he received while serving in World War I. His brother James calls him out on it and Al admits that he was actually scarred in a fight because he insulted the sister of a friend. James Capone was the only Capone brother to serve in World War I.
  • Police Are Useless
    • The 1930s cops in New Jersey aren't very helpful, and prove to be a hindrance more than once.
    • Averted in "Last Ride of Bonnie and Clyde"; the Arkansas cops of the same time period seem less prejudiced towards Rufus than their New Jersey counterparts. They don't go out of their way to make his life miserable even though he is a black man and a person of interest in the bank robbery that just took place. Frank Hamer is shown to be a highly competent and fair police officer who looks for evidence against Rufus rather than just take Flynn's word for it. Even without Flynn's help, Hamer's posse was gonna find and kill Bonnie and Clyde soon.
    • Also averted in "The Assassination of Jesse James"; U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves is portrayed accurately as every bit the badass he was historically, even refusing to give an interview to a newspaper to promote his image.
    • Zigzagged in "Karma Chameleon". The state trooper in the bar is very clearly doing his job and doing it well. Unfortunately that puts him afoul of Wyatt and Rufus's plans.
  • Politically Correct History: Subverted, as Rufus is quick to point out that as a black guy, "There is literally no place in American history that would be awesome for me."
    • In a 1937 New Jersey bar, several of the patrons appear ready to jump and lynch him right there, and at the police station he nearly gets beaten with batons for protesting being called a "boy."
    • When Flynn tries to intervene in the assassination of President Lincoln, Rufus advocates preventing the assassination altogether, particularly after meeting some black Union soldiers who were very optimistic about their future, as Lincoln's death brought his plans for greater racial equality to a screeching halt. Rufus is put out (but not surprised) to learn that rather than a mysterious black soldier, the history books say Johnson was saved by a white soldier who was in the area.
    • He uses it to his advantage when they go to Las Vegas in the 1960s, getting away with all kinds of stuff because black people in Las Vegas at the time are pretty much invisible. "It's my superpower!"
    • Wyatt openly points out how much Rufus is going to stand out in 1944 Germany. When Ian Fleming points out the same, Rufus covers by saying he's a Tuskeegee Airman.
    • Nicely inverted when Rufus gets the assistance of the Black Liberation Army in 1972, taking a bit of pleasure in telling Lucy that she had better wait outside and not make eye contact with anyone.
    • Also averted during the French and Indian War, when the three are captured by a Shawnee tribe. Lucy and Wyatt are marked for death by the chieftess, but Rufus is set free, as she claims that, as a slave, he had no choice but to come into her lands. Rufus's insistence that Lucy and Wyatt are his friends astounds her and convinces her that, maybe, not all white people are bad.
    • In 1969, Lucy has to deal with sexist men who ignore the fact that she's obviously busy; in particular one scientist at NASA insistently requests coffee from her to the point where she gets fed up and gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. At the same time, Katherine Johnson (a black woman) is openly applauded for (supposedly) single-handedly saving the Apollo 11 mission. This earns her public recognition and boosts her career in NASA.
    • Completely averted in "Karma Chameleon," the only episode in which Rufus's race doesn't play even a minor part in the plot. Of course, it's set in 1983, the closest the series has come to the present day so far (and probably about the closest it can come based on their stated premise).
    • Played horribly straight in "Public Enemy #1" when Rufus is shot by Al Capone. Lucy notes that hospitals in 1930's Chicago are segregated (not that 1930's treatment would be anything to brag about). The team is forced to take a barely-conscious Rufus back to the present for treatment despite the risk of being arrested, and Rufus passes out at the controls of the Lifeboat just as the episode fades to black.
  • Properly Paranoid: Richard Nixon with regard to Rittenhouse. It's all but stated that the missing 18 1/2 minutes on the Watergate tapes concerns his apprehension about them and implied that Rittenhouse is the source of Nixon's legendary paranoia in general.
  • Reality Ensues: Rufus sadly accepts it when the history books credit his saving of Johnson to a white soldier, knowing there was little chance a black man of the time would be recognized as a hero.
    • In "The World's Columbian Expedition", Rufus tells Mason that he refuses to work with Rittenhouse anymore, stating that, because he's the pilot, he's indispensable. In "The Murder of Jesse James", Mason responds by having Jiya trained as a "co-pilot", in reality, Rufus's replacement if he doesn't reconsider.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In 1934, Captain Frank Hamer of the Texas Highway Patrol (who received a special federal deputization to pursue Bonnie and Clyde across state lines) treats Rufus with respect even though Rufus is accused by Flynn of being an accomplice of Bonnie and Clyde. He refuses to hand over Rufus to Flynn and dares Flynn to do something about it. When he gets proof of Rufus's innocence, he promptly releases him and helps him evade Flynn.
    • "Karma Chameleon" features an Ohio state trooper who is stranded with the characters in a bar due to a severe storm. The trooper advises everyone to stay off the roads; intervenes when Wyatt finds himself having to punch out a drunk; and takes Wyatt into custody after discovering Wyatt has a concealed handgun. All of these are the right actions to take, but don't help the team out one bit in accomplishing their goals.
  • Red Herring:
    • When Flynn goes back to 1960s Las Vegas, it's assumed he's after John F. Kennedy, or any of the other high-profile individuals gathering there at the time. He's actually after Kennedy's mistress, who can get him to his real objective, the core of a nuclear bomb.
    • The team follows Flynn to Germany in 1944, on the eve of the launch of the first V2 rocket at England, believing that he intends to arm it as a nuke. In fact, he's there to abduct Wernher von Braun and hand him over to the Soviets, guaranteeing them winning the Space Race.
    • The entire trip to the French and Indian war was merely meant to be a trap to keep the Lifeboat crew from following them.
  • Remember the Alamo: Flynn's goal at the Battle of the Alamo is to prevent the Trope Namer from being created. He accelerates events so the battle is a complete Curb-Stomp Battle for the defenders and makes sure that Colonel Travis's letter is never written. Thus The Alamo will become a minor historical footnote rather than a massive symbol of defiance and sacrifice.
  • Ret Gone: One of the consequences of the dangers of changing the past. Lucy discovers this happened to her sister, Amy as in the new timeline, their parents never met.
    • Openly addressed when Christopher invites Lucy to dinner with her wife and children and admits she wants to make sure Lucy remembers them just in case something happens that erases them from existence.
  • The Reveal: "The Watergate Tape" has two big ones:
    • As it turns out Rittenhouse is real and has been behind Mason's time travel exploits as well as working behind the scenes of American history for decades (if not longer). When Flynn stumbled onto a mention of them at the NSA, his family was killed and he was put on the run for revenge.
    • Lucy comes face to face with her birth father... Benjamin Cahill, the Rittenhouse chief who's been pulling the strings on Rufus and Mason. She doesn't know that, however.
    • Flynn's purpose for coming to 1888? To find Emma Whitmore, the original test pilot for the time machine, supposedly killed in its first voyage but really hiding out in the past all this time. When he rescues her, she gratefully joins him as she has her own beef with Rittenhouse.
    • In the final scene of season 1, Lucy tells her mother about Amy and how she's going to find a way to bring her back. Carol's reply: "Rittenhouse will never let that happen." It turns out that Carol's family has been "good Rittenhouse stock," she has known all along what Lucy is up to and she and Emma are now working together to complete the company's plans to change history.
  • Ripple Effect Indicator: The first sign of things changing for Lucy is when her sister Amy no longer exists in any family photos and her comatose mother is perfectly healthy.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: The trio are completely unfamiliar with the changes to the timeline upon their return to the present day, which are common knowledge to everyone else.
    • Lucy shows Mason a locket she has containing a photo of Amy. As she was wearing it when she made the very first trip, it still survives and Mason is astounded to realize Lucy is retaining an artifact from a timeline that no longer exists. She, of course, is less interested in the scientific implications and more on how to fix this.
    • This doesn't go the same for the crew who stayed behind. When Lucy protests that she lost her sister, one of the technicians tells her that their records [now] show that she never had a sister.
  • Running Gag: It's not that funny except in terms of Black Humour, but Rufus keeps encountering racism because of his skin colour - or, in the case of Las Vegas, using it as an advantage to slip beneath notice.
  • San Dimas Time: The show appears to operate on this principle. The Lifeboat appears to spend exactly as much time in the past as shown on the clock in mission control. It's never stated why the Lifeboat can't return a split second after leaving. For that matter, changes to the present don't take place until they happen in the past, even though, from the viewpoint of those in the present, that happened long ago.
  • Secret Legacy: It's stated by "the Doc" that Rittenhouse members are born into the organization. This might explain Lucy being chosen out of all the historians, since it's revealed that her biological father is a Rittenhouse member. Even when the Lifeboat is stranded in the 18th century, Cahill only seems to be concerned about Lucy.
  • Serial Killer: In "The World's Columbian Exposition", the team encounters H. H. Holmes, the first recorded American serial killer, and the man responsible for the coining of the term itself.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong:
    • The mission of the main trio is to try and prevent Flynn from altering history. Flynn, in turn, claims to be trying to save the United States, not destroy it as the protagonists believe.
    • On a smaller, more personal scale, Wyatt also wants to find a way to save his wife from being murdered. In "Space Race," Flynn takes time off from his mission to save his older half-brother from dying as a child, to spare his mother the trauma of the loss.
  • Shipper on Deck: Lucy and Wyatt have both been rooting for Jiya and Rufus to get together.
  • Shown Their Work: "Space Race" shines a light on the role of Katherine Johnson in the space program (see Shout-Out entry above). The speech Richard Nixon is seen giving on TV when it's feared the Apollo astronauts are lost is the very speech which was written for him to give in just such a contingency.
  • The Siege: Subverted due to Flynn's interference. The Battle of the Alamo was a thirteen day long siege that ended when the Mexican Army launched a full-on assault and overwhelmed the defenders. Flynn convinces Santa Anna to skip the siege and assault the fort right away.
  • The Slow Path: After stealing a plutonium core in the past, Flynn buries it in a remote location so he then can dig it up in the present.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • John Wilkes Booth winds up dying later than in history, when he is executed for the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln, Johnson, Seward, and Grant.
    • Flynn's interference causes the Battle of the Alamo to be resolved earlier. In the original timeline, a number of the defenders only joined the battle at its later stages. In the new timeline, these men never had the time to arrive and thus did not die in the Last Stand.
  • Spotting the Thread: Some USCTs quickly spot that Rufus isn't an actual Union soldier because he can't name his unit or what battles he fought in, and his uniform, acquired from Civil War reenactors, isn't up to snuff. They get very upset over the impersonation, which threatens to blow his cover.
  • Stable Time Loop: At the end of "The Lost Generation", Lucy's mother gives her a gift: the journal that Flynn was using to know the future.
  • Stepford Smiler: Ernest Hemingway's hedonistic lifestyle is his way of coping with the horrors he saw in World War I, seeing it as having all the enjoyments the dead no longer can.
  • Suicide by Cop: After Clyde is gunned down by the police, Bonnie grabs his gun and aims it at them, knowing they'll kill her and reunite her with him.
  • Take That!: "Space Race" features the team getting an assist from Katherine Johnson, giving Rufus the opportunity for a dig at Apollo 13 erasing her role in the event.
  • Tempting Fate: Wyatt openly asks, "How can Flynn make the Alamo worse?" The answer: By killing Colonel Travis before he writes the inspirational letter, than convincing Santa Anna to launch a full attack rather than a siege. Thus, instead of the epic stand that inspired Texas, the Alamo is a forgotten battle of history to keep the state in Mexican control.
  • Terminator Twosome: More like Terminator Two-groups.
  • There Is No Kill Like Over Kill: "Last Ride of Bonnie & Clyde" opens with the Outlaw Couple killed by a police posse who empty over a hundred rounds into the criminals' car. (This is Truth in Television, by the way.) This is subverted when Flynn alters the timeline and they die after Clyde is shot twice and Bonnie once.
  • Translation Convention: Surprisingly, averted. Whenever non-English characters are speaking their language, the actors actually are speaking that language (if not, perhaps, the appropriate version of it). Most of it tends to be subtitled for the viewer's benefit, although much of the Shawnee speech is left untranslated.
  • Threat Backfire: Rufus makes a stand by telling Rittenhouse that he's refusing to work with them and they have to go along as he's the only one who can fly the Lifeboat. He's thrown when Mason tells him that Rittenhouse wants to train Jiya as the pilot, rendering Rufus's threat meaningless.
  • Took a Level in Badass: All of the team, but particularly Rufus, who's leveling up under Wyatt's tutelage and after each interaction he has with historical badasses like Ian Fleming, Bass Reeves, and Ernest Hemingway. He's now more of a Badass Bookworm than The Load.
  • Truth in Television:
    • A few months before Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth's brother, saved the life of Lincoln's son Robert. Robert accidentally fell in the space between a train and the train platform and would have been maimed or killed if Edwin Booth had not pulled him to safety.
    • The US Atomic Energy Commission regularly tested atomic bombs at the Nevada Test Site in Nye County — 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas — during the 50s and early 60s. The US Department of Energy (which did not exist in 1962) assumed the responsibility for underground nuclear testing in the 1970s. The explosions from the atmospheric tests were visible from downtown and became a tourist attraction. They're now best known for much of the cast and crew of The Conqueror getting cancer after it was unwisely filmed near the old site.
    • Harry Houdini is accurately shown doing his escapes behind a curtain early on his career. It wasn't until a while later that he hit on the idea that it would be more entertaining for the audience to actually see him escape, making him a household name.
    • Emma confirms that Napoleon Bonaparte was actually of quite average height for his time, and is only remembered as short because he surrounded himself with tall men.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: The protagonists.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: In "The Lost Generation", the NSA swoops in and takes control of the time travel project, kicking out Agent Christopher. Wyatt realizes that a move like this must have been planned well in advance, and that it's actually Rittenhouse seizing the time machine for themselves.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Wyatt is still dealing with the death of his wife, but he gets really irritated when Ian Fleming flirts with Lucy.
  • Visionary Villain: Rittenhouse's founder and namesake, David Rittenhouse, believed that the common people have no ability to rule themselves efficiently, and that democracy is therefore too chaotic, but also that monarchy is too selfish in nature to serve as a proper alternative. Therefore, in the view of himself and his followers, the only way to truly rule is to use democracy as a facade to placate the masses, while a select few wield power from the shadows.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Sergeant Dan Baumgartner, Wyatt's replacement in "The Lost Generation". He's been namechecked in an earlier episode, has good chemistry with the team, and knows what he's doing. Unfortunately he's shot and killed in the first twenty minutes of the episode, forcing Lucy and Rufus to rely on Ernest Hemingway for security.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: How Flynn sees himself. He truly believes the only way to wipe out Rittenhouse is to completely undo American history and thinks it's worth all the cost.
  • Wham Line:
    • Lucy's mom when she asks about her sister: "Who's Amy?"
    • Lucy recognizing her handwriting in the notebook Flynn carries and says she never wrote this. Flynn replies, "You will."
    • Lucy's mom again in the Season 1 finale. After Lucy tells her about the time machine, the mother says that "Rittenhouse would never allow me to become sick", and says that Lucy is practically Rittenhouse royalty.
  • Wham Shot:
    • At her return home, Lucy finds that a photo of her, her sister and her mother is now just her and her mother and realizes Amy was never born.
    • In 1888, Flynn comes to a cabin and tells the woman there that "I have a ship." She lets him inside where Flynn sees massive high-tech equipment strewn about. In the present, Jiya sees video of the woman, Emma Whitmore as she was the original test pilot for the ship who faked her death to hide in the past.
    • In the Season 1 finale Jiya, who's been suffering seizures after her own trip in the machine, appears to briefly flash into the past, with the Golden Gate Bridge appearing to still be under construction.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Granted, the missing plutonium core was a far bigger concern, but the theft of the core should have resulted in a number of things, including the sacking of the general in charge of those keys for falling for an obvious honey trap, that would have had major downstream effects the characters have not yet explored.
    • The shooter Rittenhouse sends with Lucy and Rufus in "Public Enemy #1" was last seen after he was tranquilized by Rufus in the Lifeboat. He could not have been disposed of in 1961 (as he might complete the mission) or 1931 (as he might alter the timeline and live long enough to complete the mission). Nor could he have been disposed of in the present, as he would compromise the Lifeboat's hiding place. So what did happen to him?
  • White Sheep: James Capone was the only Capone brother who did not become involved with organized crime. He served with distinction in World War I and after changing his name became a respected law enforcement official.
  • Who Shot JFK?: In "Karma Chameleon", Anthony implies that Rittenhouse was involved in both the JFK and MLK assassinations.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Played with in "Space Race" when Flynn seems to be targeting a widow and her young son. It looks like he is there to kill the boy but his conscience is holding him back till the very end. However, it turns out that the boy is Flynn's half-brother and Flynn is there to save his life.
    • Played with again in "The Capture of Benedict Arnold." After killing David Rittenhouse, Flynn is stalking 12-year old John Rittenhouse, but when he finds him, he can't work up the nerve to shoot a child, giving Lucy a chance to intervene.
  • Write Back to the Future:
    • When he sees a Western Union kiosk, Wyatt tries sending a message to his wife telling her not to do whatever led to her death that day. When he gets back, she's still dead. He admits it was a long shot. Unfortunately, Western Union's famous telegram service was discontinued in 2006. Since the delivery date was for 2012, six years after the cessation of service, it's highly probable that she never received his warning.
    • Used for real when, stuck in 1754, Rufus buries a bottle with a message in a spot the group already decided on using and Jiya digs it up in 2016. Sadly, over the two centuries and thanks to the capsule cracking, most of the message faded away.
    • Flynn's team places the stolen plutonium pit in a sealed container and buries it in the desert in 1962 for later retrieval in the present.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Played with. The heroes are quite savvy when it comes to time travel tropes but they cannot be sure which particular trope Flynn is using on a particular mission. Guessing wrong leads to them failing to stop Flynn's plan in 1962 (they think he's going to kill JFK when he's really stealing a nuclear core), and almost gets them killed in 1944 (they believe Flynn is giving a nuke to the Nazis when he's really going to send a key scientist to the Soviet Union so they win the space race).
  • You Can't Fight Fate:
    • Despite their actions, the Hindenburg is destroyed (by a stray bullet), and Kate still dies, from being shot in the heart. Lucy says that maybe it was just... Wyatt practically dares her to say "fate".
    • At the end of "Stranded," Lucy is in despair because Flynn's possession of her journal means she'll one day be working for him. Wyatt reminds her that she has free will and doesn't have to do what Flynn says she did in some alternate timeline.
    • "Karma Chameleon" is practically built on this one. Every time Wyatt and Rufus attempt to keep the parents of Jessica's killer from getting together, something interferes with the plan. Wyatt ultimately contributes to the accidental death of the would-be father, averting the killer's birth, only to find out on his return that Jessica was still killed anyway.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/Timeless