12 Monkeys, Season 3, Night 2 (Causality, Nature, Nurture)
We’re on to our second night in the 12 Monkeys Season 3 binge-a-thon, and tonight’s episodes all center around the idea of family, and how to weigh the choices of self against the greater good. By the end of these three hours, I’m not sure which side you’ll agree with, but again, it makes for compelling television.
We start the night with Causality, which focuses on retrieving the Witness’s map–the one that’s always played a large hand in knowing what will happen in the future (and past). Cole and Cassie are frantic to try and keep the true identity of the Witness secret, and are already laying the seeds of the group’s fracture by focusing so much on hiding the truth instead of the mission at hand.
The plan is to go back to 1989 when the map was sold to Olivia at an auction. Grab it, photocopy it, and then return it immediately so Olivia can buy it, none the wiser–meaning no causality happens. It’s a brilliant plan, one conducted all by Jennifer. The scene where this is all laid out is acted in a brilliant manic fashion, especially when we see Olivia speaking like Jennifer would, as it’s being told through her narrative. Again, Down does an amazing job doing Jennifer-as-Olivia.
Jennifer, Deacon (whose friendship is genuinely becoming one of my favorite things), Cassie and Cole all head back to the 80’s to the tune of Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time,” and damn if that isn’t the best song choice.
Cassie’s meddling and utter desperation to get to the map first causes some problems, but Jennifer manages to hold the situation together enough for them to alter plans when they find out the map won’t be in the auction house until the morning. Cole, for his part, is struggling with the guilt of having killed Ramse, truly believing himself to be a horrible person now; he was before he met Cassie, and he still is now. He also believes the Witness is a bad man because of his father, not his mother. While this is an interesting idea, it’s clear Cole is just wallowing in his own self-pity at this stage. Both Cassie and Cole are dealing with so much guilt and internal crisis they can’t see the larger picture.
Meanwhile, Hannah wants to let people leave the Facility if they want, given that it might be destroyed in a year, but her mother refuses to listen to any talk of this. I understand; after all, the machine has been her life for so long, but at some point, something else has to matter. Whitley tells Hannah that she can’t win this argument with her mother, but to trust that Jones has a plan. Because she does of course–but we won’t find out that plan until tomorrow night, I suspect.
During the auction things go south quickly, as both Olivia and Jennifer’s father show up unexpectedly. However, Jennifer and Deacon actually manage to hold the situation together, improvising well. Cole and Cassie make an entire mess of things, but luckily it makes little difference in the end. Jennifer manages to get the map, and make a copy; she sees the truth of the Witness and in a gift to her friends, covers the truth with her hand as it passes through the copier, making sure no one can read that part. There is also a very sweet scene where Deacon and Jennifer interact with young!Jennifer, telling her that she’s a special, good girl, and that her dad is an asshole. All true, important things, that Jennifer often forgot when she was younger.
We also finally see that when they return, Cassie is the one who paints the butterfly on the wall (with Cole burying the splicers); this is when Cassie gives Cole her watch–the one that future!Cole is wearing. So we’re getting closer to that timeline, now.
I’m genuinely frustrated with Cassie at this point; while all of this is completely in character for her, being this short-sighted, this driven (regardless what Mallick said to her), is going to cause problems for everyone. As we will see later on.
This leads us into Nature, which is of course questioning if the Witness had simply been born evil. We start in 1953, where my favorite FBI agent is back, Robert Gale (so good to see Jay Karnes back in the role!); things haven’t been going well for him…but talking about Monkeys and time travel is liable to mess with your career. When Cole and Cassie show up, asking for his help, he has the best one liner of the season, “Santa brought me Cole for Christmas, after all.”
Back in 2046, we find out that Jones’s plan is called ‘Project Karen’ but we still don’t understand its implications, yet. Jennifer, for her part, is struggling; she went back in time to get tiny Terry (so thereby bringing a turtle paradox into the facility…perhaps the reason it explodes in the future?). She is also seeing a strange ghost that looks like the Witness in his mask, but isn’t quite. Deacon encourages her to speak with the ghost-thing, to try and help her sort out her mind. For his part, Deacon is worried he doesn’t have a purpose, because he, out of all of them, isn’t on the map, and never is within Jennifer’s visions. So our little Scav King is having a crisis of his own. Still, Olivia tells him to find out: “What were you made to be.” Perhaps the theme of this three-episode arc, hm?
Jennifer finally does speak with the strange ghost, and the cinematography in this scene is amazing. It’s creepy, and reminiscent of a horror film, with flashes of blood, strange colors, and weird bodies. Still, by the end of it, Jennifer is left having drawn strange symbols all over the floor of her room–she has no idea what they all mean…but at least she is on a path now, towards something.
In 1953, Gale, Cole, and Cassie head to Hope Valley, where they suspect that the Monkeys are recruiting people for their army. Cassie wants to tell Gale about his fate in 1966, but Cole knows that it’s just the guilt over her son talking. Still, Gale is told the truth, but will it really matter? Can a fate such as that really change? It’s difficult to know.
We are introduced here to a new Monkey, played by Christopher Lloyd. As far as I know, he has no name, as of yet. But we see him using natural disasters to recruit people for the cult. He has a young Pallid Man in hand, and talks to Cassie, who taps into her own rage and sadness over her relationship with Cole and the loss of her child to gain an invitation to the ‘Wake’ as they call it.
The plan was only for Cassie to go inside, but Gale steals another man’s invitation to make sure Cole can go, as well. I genuinely love Gale so much; he’s one of the pure, good men on this show, and it warms my heart to see him, if only for this episode.
Remember that pocket watch from last night that had the inscription, “To my beloved ‘E’”, that Cassie stole from the Witness’s room? The ‘E’ stands for Ethan–that’s what Cassie was going to name her child. Finally, on the stage, like a strange 1920’s tent revival, we see Lloyd, the Pallid Man, and his creepy-as-hell mother, Mantis (who also has never had an ‘official’ name. The writers refer to her as Mantis, so I will, as well).
Eventually Ethan arrives, and chooses one person to become a Monkey. To do this he has to draw out his visions, which makes it clear that he’s a Primary–and thereby connected to Jennifer. Perhaps he is the strange ghost, reaching out for help? Still, the person is chosen, and everyone else is killed by poison gas–gas that is released by Ethan himself, with little emotion or remorse. Cole and Cassie only manage to escape by grabbing one of the Protectors and using her splintering-device to escape.
Ethan’s actions make Cole fully believe he is evil by nature, and if Cassie can’t put him down, he will. However, this leads us into Nurture, which will show us the other side of things.
The episode starts with an excellent speech by Jones, about the consequences of time, and the lack of forgiveness that will be given to them for the child’s life they are about to take. Still, it is the Witness, and for all that he will do in the future, it must be done. They will use an EMP device to short-circuit all of the personal splicing devices, which will give them time to do the deed. Cassie refuses to go, as she doesn’t want to see the moment when she loses Cole, and everything they have built. It’s a selfish decision–but one that won’t matter, as you’ll see.
Deacon knows that someone is lying, and urges Jones to find out the truth; it is the last thing he says before he leaves with Jennifer, Cole, Cassie, Hannah, and Whitley–it’s all hands on deck for this mission.
Cassie asks Jones for a favor, which is to send her back to 1990. This allows her to meet with her psychologist mother, who analyzes Ethan’s map. It’s an excellent scene, and her mother tells her that by this map, it’s clear to her that Ethan hates what he is becoming, but hopes that he can become something better. It’s an excellent message for us, but it means that Cassie is going to be blinded by that very hope.
She arrives back in 2046 to find that Jones has spliced back to the moment that Cole killed Ramse–so she knows everything, now. She attempts to keep Cassie detained, but it doesn’t work, and Cassie makes her way to 1953 now, to find her son.
Meanwhile, Jennifer has to convince Cole that he isn’t a bad man; that the eyes can’t lie, and that’s why she’s always called him ‘otter eyes’–he’s got a good soul deep down. We also see that within the four Protectors there is at least one that cares about Ethan, a man named Sebastian. While hired only to teach, he believes the boy should get to choose his destiny instead of being forced into it; Magdalena almost kills him for this out of the box thinking. Still, he has a kindness to him that I’m completely drawn to.
The assault begins, and Hannah is severely injured early on while taking out one of the Protectors. Jennifer runs into Ethan; time stops for a moment, and they share a moment between Primaries. It seems he doesn’t know what the symbols mean either, but he knows one thing–she is going to be the best of them all. After this interaction, Jennifer helps Ethan and Sebastian escape the room.
It’s around this time that Cassie arrives on the scene and manages to kill Magdalena with her own splicing machine, activating the kill switch. Cole, for his part, shoots Sebastian as the Protector tries to reason with him, wanting to explain to give Ethan a chance–that is what Cole does, though. He looks into his son’s eyes, and whatever he sees there…it changes his mind. He can’t kill him (which is frustrating, but hey, we wouldn’t have a continuing plot!).
Deacon is about to take them both out when Cassie shoots him. Unluckily for them, Cole didn’t kill Sebastian, and he manages to grab Ethan and get him out of there by splicing. This means that Cassie and Cole are completely on their own, now, for the quest to find their son, and both the Monkeys and the Facility members will be hunting them.
This isn’t good for anyone. While I found this arc frustrating, simply because of how Cassie and Cole chose to act, I can’t fault them–it was a logical progression for their characters, and it was completely what they would do, within that situation. It doesn’t mean I don’t think they are being stupid right now, though. Just saying!