Time travel stories are extremely tricky to pull off, especially when they’re set in the real world in real time. The minute something happens to change the course of an historical timeline, the show immediately becomes a part of an alternate universe (such a Timeless did after the safe landing of the Hindenburg in New Jersey … only to have it explode upon take off later). Time After Time, now with its third episode, has ventured off of the foundation laid by the original story adapted from the movie and is now going off on its own wild tangent … and leaving viewers with many, many questions.
As the latest episode “Out of Time” opens, we see John, aka Jack the Ripper, in a lavish apartment (with another gratuitous post-shower scene) with a row of different expensive looking outfits laid out on the bad, and a freezer stocked — oddly — with frozen burritos among other not so upscale things. Then he navigates his way to figuring out which device is the microwave, with a little too much ease, and we wonder how on earth he can afford this place and how he got it in the first place since you generally have to go through some kind of credit check first.
But, they got us here because it’s not his apartment, it’s the home of his latest victims. The question is, how long can he stay here before anyone gets suspicious? Well, we get the answer to that by the end of the episode. All John is concerned with at this point is getting that key to the time machine so he can flee 2017 New York and galavant around and through time indulging in his one passion … murder. And without HG Wells constantly on his tail.
But George has other plans, attempting to reconfigure the machine to that it will return to the spot from which it departed only a second later without the key. This way he can give John what he wants and not lose his machine. And as the episode gets rolling, he has twelve hours to get that key to John before he kills someone else.
As the romance develops between George and Jane, Vanessa has confirmed her relation to HG, brings in an assistant to help him reconfigure the machine (adding one more person to the list who knows his true identity), and is forced to deal with a very suspicious fiancé when an explosion rocks their home during an interview session. Something like that is very hard to brush off in the presence of a reporter.
But with all of these moving pieces, the issue of messing with the timeline is constantly at the forefront. HG mentions that John is already screwing things up by killing people who are not supposed to die yet. But every time he meets someone new, they always bring up how much they like his books … which he hasn’t written yet. A scene where George is marveled by a laptop and the internet brings up the fact that he basically invented that with his “World Brain” idea. Living in 2017 seems to be where Wells got most of his ideas for his books. His time machine uses a gemstone that focuses a beam of light as its core, which the assistant calls a laser — something Wells basically invented in “The War of the Worlds.” So with all of these influences that found their way into Wells’ books that he wrote in the past but exist in the present, the connection is made that he did return to his own time at some point (i.e. whenever the series ends).
But we’ve already had one instance of Wells traveling through time that begins to make things a bit head scratching. Vanessa has that note from Wells from her past. So at some point after returning home, he traveled again to an earlier time to find Vanessa and give her that cryptic note. He has no idea what it means at this time, so it had to be written after the events of what we’ve seen so far. That’s confusing enough and still begs the question everyone asked in the previous episode — why didn’t he write a more detailed note?
Things get even more complicated when we circle back to John, who has met a woman, his next intended target, who is also a physician. John seems taken with this woman who can match his intelligence (and he quite easily accepts a woman can hold such a high position in this society), but he’s still got that twelve hour deadline to keep with HG. When the woman goes to leave him after their cocktails, he convinces her that they can still enjoy some time together and he’ll meet his deadline.
They do go for a roll in the hay (and George is wondering why he hasn’t heard a word from John) and the woman suggests John could stay the night, something out of character for both of them. John, of course, has other plans and when he goes to the kitchen to help himself to a drink … and one of her kitchen knives … he records a message for HG on his cell phone (and apparently he’s all up on using burner phones so he can’t be traced … who told him how to do that?) announcing his latest kill. The woman comes to the kitchen, embraces John and just as he is about to stab her, he finds himself with a needle full of a sedative in his neck!
John awakens in what appears to be a medical facility of some sort with the woman, Brooke Monroe, knowing full well who he and HG are. How does she know them if this is the first time either of them have used the machine? And if she does know them, then we have to presume that not only does HG get back to his own time but so does John. Or there are going to be a lot of time travel shenanigans over the course of the season with very different rules from those set forth in Timeless, the main one being you can’t visit a time in which you’ve already existed. But Brooke isn’t the only one outside of Vanessa’s little circle who knows the pair. After finally revealing the truth to her fiancé Griffin, it appears he’s in collusion with Brooke, and seeing HG and the machine firsthand confirms the truth.
And there are more people aware of the two. We’ve seen a guy following both HG and John, and not very subtly. Really, he’s got to be the worst stalker in history. Hiding in plain sight is one thing but allowing your targets to see you following them, and then deny it when confronted, is just sloppy. But after literally bumping into HG and being misdirected by John, the stalker is seen visiting his elderly mother who seems to have some form of dementia when she doesn’t know who he is. But the minute he tells her he’s found the two men, she snaps right into lucidity (was the dementia an act?), and tells her son that he has to stop both HG and The Ripper. Which leaves us again asking how on earth do all of these people know HG Wells and John Stevenson? Hopefully we’ll find out by the end of the season, or before ABC pulls the show off the air after the premiere’s dismal ratings.
Are you watching Time After Time? Think you know what’s going on? Share your theories in the comments section below!