12 Monkeys Season 4 (and Series) Finale Review

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I can’t believe we’re here at the end, folks. These are the last two episodes of the show, and they play out like an epic film, and truly provide one of the best (and most satisfying) finales in recent memory. 12 Monkeys is a show that has expanded what scifi can be, and has proven to be possibly the best time-travel story ever put to the visual medium. I’m forever thankful that it was allowed to have a natural closure, even if it seems too soon–just because I don’t want to say goodbye to any of the characters, just yet.

This is a show that has always been about choosing hope above despair, about looking for an extra minute, that extra moment…about borrowing something from time to save what is best in us. About never giving up even when the odds are insurmountable and trapped in a loop. About ultimate sacrifices, about realizing that selfishness is sometimes the most selfless act of all…and above all else, this show has a been about heart, and love.

Athan says in Season Three that, “Love knows nothing of time.” In this show, love transcends all…and I think that is possibly the most powerful message we could take away. Familial, friendship, romantic…it doesn’t matter what sort of love it is…but love is more powerful than time itself, and time recognizes that. And time knows when people are owed.

So yeah, I loved the series finale. Let’s get into it, shall we?

411-412 (The Beginning)

As the title of this episode implies, we start at the beginning, with Cole in a cage, and Jones speaking to him about all the failures that have occured prior to using Cole in the machine. We also get a small recap of the show, and the announcement that the only way to save the world is to erase Cole entirely.

These episodes bring back the few people we didn’t see earlier in this season including Athan, who tells Jones that at the end, after all the lives have been lost…she needs to find the one life that can’t be sacrificed, and save that one. It’s a plea to save Cole’s life, and the seed that will help us step towards the end. It’s lovely to see Athan again, and I’m glad that the showrunners decided to leave his story ended as it was. It’s bittersweet, but as with many things in the next few hours, it has to happen. I can only hope that somewhere, in some timestream, Athan is happy with Eliza. They both deserve it.

Back in 2043 we find out exactly why time travel never worked until Cole…the splicing serum uses some of Jones’ DNA, and as Jones’ grandson, it’s compatible with Cole. So hey, like so many things on this show, things fit together well. It’s a nice little tidbit, but doesn’t take away from the major issue troubling our heroes right now: to save the universe, they have to destroy Cole.

While Cole is resigned to the idea (he’s always given himself up to the timestream with a selflessness that borders on suicidal), Jennifer is distraught and Cassie is in absolute denial. Cassie is completely correct in thinking that time owes them one–after all they have done, they should be allowed to have some chance to beat this and remain with their memories and lives intact. But sometimes, things don’t work out that way. With the Forest nearly here, I genuinely didn’t believe the ending was going to be anything but bittersweet.

Still, cycles have to be finished, and we finally see the acts of ‘future asshole’ Cole…which of course is our Cole. It’s amazing how time travel can become confusing. The future becomes the now, and the past becomes the then–basically like that one scene in Spaceballs with the VHS tape, but a lot sadder.

While readers have known that I have been frustrated with Cassie for some time, I have to admire her sheer refusal to accept that Cole’s erasure is the only way for things to turn out. It seems her theory is buoyed when Jones announces that the program to erase Cole will take ‘years’ but they only have hours to stop Titan. So they have to find another way–and after finally being inspired by Cassie, Cole has a plan: to take Titan.  

It’s crazy, and involves bringing back old favorites…so I’m definitely not going to complain. He had promised Ramsey that his cycle was over after shooting him, but they need him. Their reunion, the explanation…it’s heartbreaking, but to his credit, Ramsey takes it in stride. Again, Ramsey proves that he’s Cole’s brother to the end, and is willing to go on this last adventure before going back to be shot. Which is pretty damn selfless.

As all things come full circle, we also have to go back for Cole’s father’s car, which has the engagement ring still in the glove compartment. That of course leads to a really touching scene between Cole and Cassie. This show has always been more about familial love and friendship above all else, but at the core has been these two, and their love.

 

While the rest of the team is preparing, Jennifer drinks the red tea so she can goad Olivia into bringing Titan to their location. It’s so damn smart of her, and she royally pisses off Olivia in the process. It’s scenes like these I’ll miss. The world is ending, but Jennifer still has enough time to take the symbol of the 12 monkeys and turn it into a “Penis Man.”

Now here was my favorite part of the episode: Ramsey demands that if they are going to die, they have to go out to a good song…cue “Time of my Life” from Dirty Dancing. Best use of a time-pun song ever. Watching those two boys blasting Olivia’s followers while that song plays was a joyful experience and had me laughing despite the certain doom. They even slipped a Thelma and Louise nod in there, too.

Jones uses the machine to short out Titan’s towers, stranding it–meaning that everything comes down to taking down the main tower: they have 15 minutes to do it, or it’s all over. The Daughters do their very best to protect the machine to give them all more time, but they are easily overrun.

It seems like it’s going to be all over…but then old!Jennifer arrives with Max (remember her?), and quotes Gandalf and demands her younger self to play one important song. And what song could that be?

 

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”

 

We all know what that means–Deacon is back, this time with the West VII. It’s the Deacon from this time, but I don’t care. I get to see Deacon again, and as always, he proves that underneath everything he’s got that powerful good heart.

With Deacon joining the crew, it gives Cassie and young!Jennifer enough time to reach the top of the tower, and deal with Olivia. Cassie lays into Olivia, stabbing and punching the ever living daylights out of her, and eventually pushing her into one of the timestreams. …well, part of her. It’s pretty damn gross (and hey, we find out where the original virus corpse comes from now!), but satisfying.

This is where the moment of truth comes, however. I knew it was coming, and it doesn’t make me any less frustrated over it–when given the chance to shut down the machine, Cassie can’t bring herself to do it, wanting to have the Red Forest instead of sacrificing Cole. I understand her confliction, I do, but I wish she had been able to make the decision to shut down the machine without Cole’s intervention. Still, his conversation about how endings matter, and without them everything else is meaningless–it was touching and such excellent writing.

The day is won, the evil defeated. …which means everyone needs to return to their timelines, to forget and disappear into the timestream. Each goodbye is so perfect for the characters involved. Deacon and Old!Jennifer wandering off arm and arm for their own adventures, Jennifer refusing to say goodbye as she plays the actress and disappears into the world…and Cassie going back to save the world through medicine.

Seriously, the waterworks started, and I just kept crying. This show has meant a great deal to me over the years, so these goodbyes mean as much to me as they do to the characters involved. Finally it’s just Cole and Jones…and as Cole explains he had two mothers, that Jones had always mattered to him, she finally dies from her radiation poisoning. So it’s over. Cole starts the splinter sequence himself, and time releases him, each of his streams disappearing into the ether.

 

We end in 2013 with a voiceover from Cassie explaining how she remembers things now; Cole never shows up in her car, and sees each of our friends in their lives, happy. Jennifer is not in a mental institution, but instead making unicorns, Ramsey spends time with his kid, Deacon and his brother(!!) run a pub together while old!Jennifer spends time with them, and the Jones family is happy together.

But really, did you think this wasn’t going to end happily? Cole was erased from time, yes–but not from life. Jennifer greets Cole on the beach in the Keys, telling him that time owed him one. Jones took Athan’s message to heart and made sure that the one last life wasn’t sacrificed….so he gets to live.

We end with Cassie and Cole together, happy for now. Perhaps the future will end up being a disaster still, but as the show has shown us, the now matters more than anything.

 

And so this is the end. Or the beginning–but the end for the show. I’m so thankful for the time we were given in this world. Four seasons not nearly enough for me, but the story was told perfectly. I think this show will find another life on streaming, where people will learn what they missed.

So thank you, to the cast, the creators–to everyone involved in this show.

 

See you soon.

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