25 Inimitable Men 22/25
Rufus Carlin (Timeless)
Are you watching Timeless because if not, here’s your one-millionth plug to do so. Quite frankly, you know a show is outstanding when two of their characters climb up your seemingly endless list of favorites and you need to tell the world about how great they are even though you’ve only known them for a year. Rufus Carlin is Timeless’ brave pilot, but really he is more so their genius extraordinaire with the most perfect speeches to give reminding viewers of just how dark and horrible our world is in the present, and in our history. But beyond that, Rufus’ kindness is unparalleled, his bravery and integrity along with his loyalty to his friends has stood out gorgeously in every episode allowing him to be the kind of light every TV show needs.
We don’t know too much about Rufus, but from what we do know, he seems to be the one taking care of his family revealing that somewhere in his past, something must’ve gone wrong leaving him to want to consistently better himself in order to be a helping hand. And the choice to work for them while doing everything in his power to protect them off-screen has been a great way for us to get to know him. However, while that’s something we can safely assume goes on behind the scenes, it’s his kindness towards the Time Team and Jiya that’s left me floored. From the moment they all met, Rufus has effortlessly illuminated just how gentle and kindhearted he could be. It was revealed early on in his slightly awkward introduction then in later episodes through the subtle, everyday choices he makes to improve the lives of other.
On a series like Timeless, a character like Rufus Carlin plays an incredibly crucial role in reminding us how cruel history was to anyone and everyone who wasn’t a white American. And his kindness is most acutely evident in “The Last Ride of Bonnie and Clyde” when he helps a little black girl drink water from the colored fountain. This is one of the most heartbreaking moments Timeless has given us so far, but it’s such a gorgeous display of the fact that someone like Rufus will always be there to serve as a sense of inspiration. A figure to the remind the kids that even though it isn’t easy living in this time where they’re discriminated because of their skin color, they’ll never be alone. They’ll never be alone because men like Rufus Carlin will fight their absolute hardest to make sure that people see them as they are without judging by the color of their skin. And that very kindness continues to be the essence of Rufus’ spirit — his heart is the one thing he continues to lighten every area of their lives.
On another note, while Rufus isn’t exactly a soldier like Wyatt, it doesn’t change the fact that his bravery is unmatched. Rufus isn’t brave in the traditional sense of knowing how to fight, but Rufus is brave because in spite of the moments where he experiences genuine fear, he never once gives up trying to find the means of success. In the Pilot, when they’re all imprisoned, in order for Wyatt to open the lock, he needs to distract the guard, and his choice of dialogue reveals his bravery because it showcases the fact that he’s quick on his feet. He knows what to say, and he knows how to stand up to those who mistreat people because of their skin color. And though he could’ve potentially gotten severely hurt, it didn’t change the fact that he courageously stood his ground in order to help himself and his team. In cases like this, the consequences don’t necessarily matter — the only thing that matters is that Rufus will find the courage within himself to do what’s right.
Additionally, as a black man traveling back through time, there are places that just aren’t safe for him, as their pilot, he should stay behind in order to make it out alive, but that doesn’t stop Rufus from stepping up and trying to be just as much of a team player as Wyatt and Lucy are. And it’s in those scenes where we’re able to see his bravery most because we’re able to understand that it’s men like him who’ve fought tirelessly to reach a place where we no longer have segregated bathrooms or water fountains. His bravery is also acutely present during an episode where they’re separated from Lucy and he utters the words “of course I’m scared, I’d be crazy not to be, but I’m not going anywhere until we find Lucy.” That very display of raw human emotions is the gorgeous authentication of what bravery is — the choice to pull forward even when fear attempts to convince us otherwise. There’s no human being in the world who doesn’t know the pangs of fear, but the bravest amongst us are those who fight in spite of those fears. And Rufus Carlin is one of those people.
On another note, let’s talk Rufus’ brain — who else could fix a 21st century time machine using only what’s provided to him in the 18th century? Not that many. It’s plain and simple that without Rufus, the Time Team cannot go forwards; his skills as a pilot aside, it’s his passion for data that allows him to serve as their greatest strength. He knows his craft, and when given the time or opportunity, he’ll figure out exactly what’s needed to save the situation. And sometimes it means sending a Star Wars reference to his girlfriend back home with the belief that she’ll know exactly what to do with the information provided.
Loyalty is a trait many characters carry, but for Rufus to have such a steadfast devotion to his team after knowing them a short while is something not many possess. When he first began recording their missions in order to protect his family, it was understandable why he’d do so, but when he began to feel uncomfortable shortly after beginning, it was clear to not only see how fervently he cares for them, but how much he values honesty. Rufus didn’t want to lie to his teammates — when they all essentially promised to be a team, they chose to reiterate the fact that wherever these missions take them, they’ll always be on the right side. And the right side doesn’t mean recording each other. For this reason, it’s so easy to appreciate his choice to fight back against Mason, but when that didn’t work, he chose to be honest with his team when they found out what was going on. At the end of the day, above all things Rufus values honesty, and even when he’s too shy or afraid to speak up, the desire alone is enough to showcase where his heart lies.
There are three characters on this list who are from their freshman years of television, and imagine how great they must be for me to add them onto this list. And in the same way, their respective actors have brought them to life masterfully. What Malcolm Barrett has done layering the character has stunned me episode after episode — just when I think we’ve seen the best in him, by the following week, he’s outdone himself. The amount of heart Barrett brings to the character is sublime, but most importantly, he bares it all for viewers — the full range of emotions that he brings never fails to remind us of just how much the character’s willing to give. Rufus Carlin has a heart the size of the moon, a sincere aspiration to do good, and the mind of a warrior — he is the bravest, most inimitable Pilot to grace our TV screens. Rufus may be one of the kindest men in the world, but he is just as capable of a fight as any human being — he’s capable of rage and frustration, and he’s capable of losing battles, too. But at the end of the day, his story is just beginning and whatever happens, we can be certain of the fact that his character will only ever grow into a better, stronger version of himself inspiring everyone in his path to do the same.
I’m going to stop talking now because really when it comes to Rufus Carlin, I could go on and on and on and on. For more on Timeless check out my weekly reviews here. Plus, we love Timeless so much, that some of my best girls and I have a blog dedicated to it — come join us for Everything Timeless recaps, roundtables, rewatches, art, fic, history lessons, etc. You name it, we got it.
- “I hope you live a long, long life. Long enough to see Michael Jordan dunk, Michael Jackson dance, Mike Tyson punch – really, just any black guy named Michael. OJ? Yeah, he gets off! He did it, but we don’t care! And Obama, he’s the President! 2008! That’s gonna suck for you. I hope you see it all!”
- “So we’re a thousand percent sure we can’t just shoot this asshat, save Lincoln here and now?”