12 Monkeys, Night 1 (Mother, Guardians, Enemy, Brothers)
When I first heard about the three night binge-a-thon that Syfy had planned for 12 Monkeys, my favorite show on television (as some of our readers may know), I was concerned. While cancellation wasn’t my worry (as the show has already been renewed for a fourth and final season), I have always felt this show lends itself to a weekly format, as there is so much to unpack within each episode. To watch four episodes in one night, three the next, and then three on the final night simply seemed like too much.
I am so glad that I have been proven wrong. This season is so tightly woven, with each episode feeding into the next without so much as a breath between them, that there isn’t a need for a break. It plays like an extended movie–one that I’ll be picking apart for days to come.
I will say that if you have never seen 12 Monkeys, you’re going to be lost. I would suggest you go back and watch the first two seasons before trying to start this season–because really, in a show with so many twists and turns, with time travel that actually makes logical sense (for once!), there is no time to explain what happened two seasons ago.
I’m going to do a quick summary review of the first four episodes that were shown tonight, and do the same for the next two nights. Single stand-alone episode reviews will come later in the week for those who want a more in depth analysis of what happened.
At its core, these four episodes are the story of how Cole and Cassie return to one another. Mother focuses on Cassie’s pregnancy and the birth of the Witness. Her imprisonment within Titan gives us a chance to learn more about the dynamics of the 12 Monkeys, and that not everything is so ‘blind cultish’ as we have been lead to believe. There are people with sympathy for Cassie, willing to help her try to escape, and die in the attempt. The escape failed, but we learned important pieces about the 12 Monkeys mythos in it: there are people from the even farther-flung future messing with time, now. Which, well…makes things even more complicated. By the end of the episode Cassie has given birth to the Witness, putting this small apocalypse-creating baby into play.
A Monkey named Magdalena has a personal splintering device that allows her to jump anywhere in time–as does a strange man who attacks Cole, just before he gets to Cassie. And that strange man is “future asshole” James Cole himself. He only appears once in the four episode arc, but he definitely leaves an impression, leaving cryptic crumbs for Cole to follow regarding Cassie. It’s clear he’s lying about most things he’s saying, but the most important thing he does say, that is true is that Cole needs to get to Jennifer, who is in 1922, five years after she landed in France during WWI.
Again, Emily Hampshire’s Jennifer is a pure delight to watch on screen, invoking pure manic energy. Stuck in the trenches behind enemy lines in France,, she starts to sing “99 Luftballons” to deal with death surrounding her. The scene melds into red balloons exploding with glitter instead of the actual scene: people getting shot in the head. It’s that desperate escapism that saves her from the Germans, and will lead her to 1922, eventually.
For her part, Dr. Jones is desperately trying to keep everything together, with varying success. There is an anger within her, now, just bubbling under the surface. She is worried about Cole’s sanity; his desperate need to find Cassie is jeopardizing the mission, and it’s only after Cole meets his future self does he realize that Jones is right. Finding Jennifer is more important.
Which leads us to Guardians, the second episode of the night, that revolves around the Four Horsemen that Jennifer had visions about (who carry a very strange box–what could be in it?). The episode also shows how fractured these people are, and how desperately they need to come back together if they want to be able to stop the Monkeys. At the heart of this episode is Jennifer, and her struggles to get word to anyone that she’s trapped in France. Everything about this was pitch perfect, from Jennifer realizing if she became a stage actress she might gain some fame, to her performing modern movies (including Aliens and Jaws) to 1920s Parisian audiences. As I said above, Hampshire shines in this role, really breathing life into a character that might have been otherwise abrasive.
Her genuine heartbreak when Cole finally arrives and doesn’t seem to care that she’s okay is evident, and I’m so glad she called out ‘otter eyes’ on his heartlessness. While Cole has suffered and has become a great deal colder because of it, he can’t lose his humanity–Jennifer won’t allow it. Still, she knows that time waits for no one, and they need to sort out what is going on with the paradox-box (or the parabox, as she calls it), so she, Cole, and Jones, set out to solve the quandary: what’s in the box?
In some great action scenes, the three do manage to take out three of the Horsemen, but not before becoming injured themselves. As Cole manages to get into the room with the parabox, he sees that it’s open, but before he can see what is within it, he’s shot by the fourth Horseman.
Cassie is on her own journey, where she finds an ally in Mallick, one of the Monkeys who will help her escape. She won’t be able to leave with her baby, but she can escape–he reminds her, “we honor time with Patience.” Which should be the motto of this season, I believe. It should be noted she steals a pocket watch at one point–it will become important again, I’m sure. But where is her baby?
Well, her baby is in the parabox. Those weren’t Four Horsemen, but Protectors–Guardians. They are there to raise the boy through time, and to keep him safe. So the woman who shot Cole was Magdalena herself, and ensures that the timeline is reset with her splicing device so that this causality never happens.
It leaves Cole and Jones to find Jennifer again, and this time Cole says the right things to her. It’s a heartwarming scene; their friendship has always been so wonderful, and I’m glad it’s going to continue. Jennifer chooses to join the fight in the future, and to help the others bring down the Monkeys, so they head back.
Back in 2046, we visit Ramse and Olivia (who again is played perfectly by Alisen Down), who are trying to deal with roving bands of Monkeys as they try to get back to the Facility. Olivia reveals she has been raising Ramse’s son all these years to keep him safe…but safe is never guaranteed in this world, for when they reach their camp, they find it’s been attacked, and an adult Sam is now dying. Ramse is only allowed a few moments with his son before Sam requests that his father assist in him dying. It’s heartbreaking; Ramse, for all his faults, has always loved his son–there is little he has left, at this point.
So what does he do? He brings Olivia to the Facility at gunpoint. Which leads us directly into our third episode, Enemy. The main question here is: who really is the enemy? Jones certainly doesn’t want to trust Ramse, and who can blame her after all that has happened? And despite the assertions that Olivia is no longer working for the Monkeys, she is treated like she is a rabid beast–put into an electrified jail cell made just for her.
This episode gives Down a great chance to show her range as Olivia, highlighting the sheer strategy she is playing at, along with the vulnerability that exists within her; being left by Cole as a child to be treated as a tool clearly did damage to her. But as she says, “Nothing stays in a box forever.” Not even her.
Olivia seems to be one step ahead of everyone, and she finally pushes Jones’ buttons enough that she snaps, causing her to inflict some supreme torture on the former Monkey. It’s brutal and so unlike the Jones we have seen before–but threatening her daughter can do that…which makes it poetic when her daughter is the one to make her stop the torture. Still, they need to break her–and Cole knows how: put her in a box. He takes her back in time two months so that once we get back to ‘normal’ time, she’s broken and sobbing, ready to talk. It’s a cruel thing to do, but it did the job, I suppose.
Hannah finally makes her mother realize that by doing what she did to Olivia, she lost a bit of her humanity; to atone, Jones goes and cleans Olivia up, gently. It’s then that Olivia reveals that they have one chance to kill the Witness–back in 2007. But is this the whole story?
Not exactly. See, Olivia knows who the Witness really is and told Ramse. So the real mission is for Ramse: kill Cassie, so that the Witness is never born. Which is one way to end things, but somehow I don’t believe it will work.
Back in 2047, we see that our beloved Scav King, Deacon, is still alive–Mallick patched him up and is keeping him alive for some purpose. Being left alone for long periods of time leaves Deacon desperate for interaction, and he hallucinates his deadbeat father into being. Todd Stashwick continues to show us more of Deacon’s complexities that were only beginning to be explored last season. For someone who started as an antagonist, he has become someone we truly root for now. He is finally provided his mission by Mallick: to break Cassie out. I couldn’t help but grin over that–while their relationship may be over, make no mistake, Deacon would kill anyone to make sure Cassie is safe. And kill he does. Glad to see him back on his feet.
The last episode of the night is Brothers, and really, do I need to tell you who the ‘brothers’ are in this scenario? Ramse calls Cole brother so much in this episode the theme became a bit repetitive and clunky for me, to be honest. This episode, out of all four, felt the weakest.
Jen realizes that back in 2007 something terrible is going to happen, resulting in the death of either Cassie or Cole. Olivia refuses to give any information up. While they talk, Jen realizes that the Witness’s map, which has played a huge part in past seasons, hasn’t been mentioned by her–it’s her second bargaining chip if things go south in the past.
The core of this episode happens in 2007, with Ramse and Cole slowly circling each other towards an inevitable conclusion. It seems that Cole suspected Ramse had been lying about where Cassie was going to be and this plan all along, and laid a trap. Ramse is frustrated over Cole’s unwillingness to sacrifice for the good of the world, and tells him the truth about the Witness, the truth about his son. It leads to a final showdown, and unlike other fights between them, this one isn’t going to end with both of them alive. Ramse is fatally shot, and while I commend the acting between both men…it just didn’t resonate with me as much as I felt it should. Perhaps it was the writing, or simply being tired of the ‘trust Ramse/don’t trust Ramse’ storyline that has existed for the past three seasons, but if Ramse is truly dead, I’ll be happy for it. He was a good character, but I think it was his time to go.
Within Titan, Deacon and Cassie escape with help from Mallick, who again insists that she find her son. What I find interesting is that the Pallid Man says that the escape wasn’t foretold–which means that the Witness kept his mother’s escape from the Monkeys, or something else is going on, entirely. The decision is also made to keep her escape a secret from the Monkeys, which should help keep the cult calm.
Once Deacon and Cassie arrive at the Facility, they find it totally destroyed, which means that the group in 2046 have one year to sort out what happens. Still, the two manage to find a way home (via a hint from some version of Cole), and reunions occur. While Deacon seems sad and resigned he may have Cassie’s love…the love between her and Cole could light the whole world, I think. But still…they’re both aware the other knows about their son.
So that is where we end our night. A strong four episodes; while I feel the last was the weakest, it ends on a high note. Tomorrow…? We head to the 80s!