Season 2, Episode 8 “Lullaby”
Directed by Steven A. Adelson
Written by Sean Tretta
Worst. Groundhog. Day. Ever. Not worst as in the worst time a show has ever used a Groundhog Day plot, but worst as in reliving a truly bad day.
When I predicted in my last recap that Jones (Barbara Sukowa) was going to send someone back to kill herself, a suicide by proxy, it occurred to me later that I was being overly dramatic. Surely she would have sent someone to persuade herself to give up time travel. She would be someone who would believe in time travel easily. Most people think of themselves as being far more reasonable than they really are. Katarina Jones knew exactly who she was. I am really surprised to have been right.
Jones is singing Brahm’s lullaby, in German, to her daughter. It’s a particularly appropriate lullaby for this episode. She is interrupted by Cassie (Amanda Schull), who points a gun at her head, apologizes, and shoots her.
We switch to 2044. Everyone is suffering from what happened in the last episode. Jones reads Hamlet’s soliloquy as we see Cole (Aaron Stanford) wounded, Cassie suffering, Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) in the time-addled outside with a red plastic soldier in his hand. She skips over a bit and the end — “all my sins remembered” — she changes to “all my sins erased”.
Deacon (Todd Stashwick) wakes Cole up to let him know they’ve sent Cassie back in time and lost her, because her tether keeps coming undone, and then coming back. Jones confesses that she has sent Cassie back in time to kill her younger self and stop time travel from happening, because it is what has enabled the Witness and the messengers to unravel time. Cole and Deacon are not on board with this idea and Cole goes back to stop Cassie.
Cassie arrives in 2020, shortly after her predicted death. Jones is in an area that still has non-immune survivors, and military trying to control the situation. Her daughter is on the verge of death. They let Cassie in, believing her to be her current self and a survivor of the incident that kills her. She walks in, apologizes, and shoots Jones.
Cassie finds herself in the field where she first arrived. Cole is there as well. A flock of birds takes off from a tree, just as it did the first time. Cole insists that she couldn’t have killed Jones because time hasn’t changed and Cassie insists that she has and tries to prove it. She expects them to recognize her at the facility but they don’t. Because she has barreled in this time, and because Cole’s identification is suspect, they become suspicious of her. We see that Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) is one of the scavs they have locked up, and they talk to her. She explains that they are in a loop. When the military becomes too suspicious, Cassie decides to fight it out and gets shot in the back. Cole runs to shoot Jones and they start all over again, with Cassie not injured. It is obvious that this loop is taking its toll on Cassie and Cole. They are getting sick in the way that Cole did when time traveling in the first season.
Third time around. Cassie gets to the infirmary more quickly by giving Colonel Foster (Xander Berkeley) the slip, and discovers that Hannah (Harper Gunn), Katarina’s daughter, is actually dying of something else and can be saved. Cole has a longer talk with Jennifer. She looks terrible, by the way. She says that time doesn’t want them to stop time travel from being invented. It needs them to help fix things. Cassie shoots the colonel and they go back to the beginning.
Fourth time around Cassie saves Hannah, and they go back to the beginning. That’s not the answer either. Time doesn’t want Jones to change.
The fifth time around doing nothing doesn’t work. They still reset. The sixth time Cole talks to Jennifer again, and she says if tomorrow comes she gets a bullet in her head and people are waiting for her. She says Cole has to act but not act. She says things are wrong because hope is lost. (No kidding.) This time Cole walks in to Foster’s office and admits that they are all traitors, including Dr. Jones, and gets them shot by a firing squad. He does this so he can talk to her for a moment. He asks her if she would rather have a moment of happiness than a lifetime of anything else. She says yes.
In 2044, Dr. Adler discovers a glitch causing the loop. They fix it while Jones is wondering why time hasn’t changed. Cole and Cassie come back, full of secrets. They look healthier the minute they get back, which is a relief. They tell Jones that they have something to show her, not tell her, and take her to the daughters. I’m pretty sure what the surprise is. Sure enough, it’s Hannah, now grown and having been raised by the daughters. Cole figured out how to act and not act. They let Hannah die and Cassie revived her and then cured the meningitis. They disappeared her out of the infirmary and took her to the daughters in the woods, with Jennifer, of course. It took them a few more tries to get the timing right. Jones is overwhelmed with love for her daughter.
Cole and Cassie have a quiet moment together afterward. Earlier, he had admitted that the only reason he kept going on this hopeless quest was for her, to give her her world back. We knew that; obviously she didn’t. Everyone else was stricken with despair after the loss of Eckland and Ramse’s son, except poor Deacon, who seemed absolutely scandalized that Jones would want to destroy everything. He is a true believer. Cole has held steady no matter what the obstacles were, with little self-interest in fixing the past and saving the future. So now he makes the most careful, gentle indication that he would like to take things further that it’s possible to make. She turns him down. Sigh. At least we got a little hand holding.
Cassie returns to her room to find a grieving and probably drunk Ramse with a gun with two bullets, one for him and one for her. He blames her for his son’s disappearance because she wanted to be possessed. That’s the worst kind of victim blaming, in my opinion. This is the dark Ramse again, the one that would do anything to save his son. Cassie talks him into the idea of killing the Witness, rather than themselves.
As dark as this episode was, it was brilliant. With a little trickery, they managed to solve the causality paradox. Jones invented time travel to save her daughter. The reason she invented it had to remain, but she could never save her daughter or the reason she invented it in the first place would never happen. It seems to me that if you have time travelers they could just tell you that you still have to invent it, much like Bill and Ted remembered to go back in time and put everything in place that they needed for the story to come out right in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. But if time itself is sentient, it gave them a way to preserve Katarina’s need to invent time travel while also giving her a reason to live and go on with the mission from here. It is being responsive to its partner in time’s needs. Time as an entity was proactive in provoking a solution to her despondency without changing her purpose.
Alternately, there was a glitch in the machinery that they exploited to their own benefit. Or this is what always happens when you create a causality paradox. I don’t think that’s the case, though, as Hannah’s life is not essential to saving the world.
Or is it?
I have to complain about Cassie again. I know Cole loves her but she’s not giving much back. She makes a terrible girlfriend. We’ve established that she doesn’t want Cole to die and that’s about it. I know she’s an independent person and she’s riddled with guilt but she goes off to kill Jones while Cole is asleep and recovering. She doesn’t communicate at all. She doesn’t listen. She, not Cole, is the one who leaps without looking. Now she’s made some murderous pact with Ramse. What do you want to bet she doesn’t tell Cole? She knows where the Witness is because of the word Titan in her vision. We also don’t know if she will be taken over by the Witness again. Jones was sure that she wouldn’t only because she was already planning to make sure that time travel never happened.
A special shout out to Xander Berkeley for Colonel Foster’s performance. Kind, welcoming, suspicious, empathetic, but not completely on the right side, depending on which loop it was.
And congratulations to the writers for using Shakespeare’s “undiscovered country” properly. Shakespeare was quite clearly talking about death, from which no traveler returned, because there weren’t as many near death experiences back then. He was not talking about the future, in the way that they used the quote in Star Trek, although the future also works for this series.
This is an excellent episode. A little devoid of humor, but I can see where they might want to avoid any indications of a Groundhog Day parody. I did love when Cassie and Cole left Jennifer’s cell and she turned around to the room at large and said, “They’re like, my best friends.” I loved Cassie and Cole holding hands in front of the firing squad, and Jennifer grinning broadly before she was shot. The part where they unveiled Dr.Jones’ Schroedinger’s daughter, the daughter who was there all along but not until now, was very moving. It put chills down my spine. What was once lost was found, what was once destroyed was regained. A reversal of grief.
Next week it looks like Jennifer is leading a pack of hyenas after all.
12 Monkeys airs on the Syfy channel at 9pm/8c on Monday nights.