The last three episodes are the best. I don’t know if it’s because we go farther back in the past with lush costumes and a beautiful Prague masquerading as London, or because there are many time twists and time turns, or because Cole and Cassie’s kid is the Most Interesting Man in the World. The reasons are undoubtedly all of the above, because they pull out all the stops for the finale.
Read this only if you have watched episodes 8, 9, and 10 of the third season.
Season 3, Episode 8 “Masks”
Written by Tony Elliott
Directed by David Grossman
We open with Athan (Jack Hamilton) as a young man and Sebastian (Rupert Graves), his guardian, as a middle aged man in London in 1879. Athan is as whiny as Luke Skywalker on a moisture farm. I can’t blame him, because abuse at work has resulted in his hand impaled on a nail.
We find out a lot from this little scene. We know that Cassie (Amanda Schull) and Cole (Aaron Stanford) have not found Athan before he’s grown up, which is sad. The Monkey Army hasn’t found him either, which is good. We know that Sebastian pictures Athan returning as a benevolent Witness, leading the Army to good things. He thinks that he can only wield his considerable power wisely if he knows what it’s like to have nothing. I agree with him on that issue, but not on the returning as a benevolent ruler.
I have one little quibble with this scene. Sebastian says that Athan won’t lose his hand because he had a tetanus shot in 1987. A tetanus shot would protect him from the tetanus bacteria that could cause him to lose his hand and have all his muscles seize up and kill him, but it won’t protect him from a staph infection or gangrene if blood flow is lost. I hope Sebastian brought antibiotics as well. However, it also shows that Sebastian is taking good care of him and thinks ahead.
Athan has a vision and Sebastian encourages him to map it. This is the beginning of the Word of the Witness. The vision he has is of Sebastian’s death. He writes it as “Red Death, Two Pence for a Pauper, 1899” on the map.
Hannah (Brooke Williams) and Deacon (Todd Stashwick) travel to a train on V-day 1945, chasing a clue that Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) drew for them. Hannah looks really good with her hair down and no shadow makeup over her eyes. They do find Cassie and Cole on the train. Cole has figured out how to use the time vest as an advantage in fighting, splintering at just the right moment and reappearing from behind. I wonder if he has remainders and if they kill themselves?
Jones (Barbara Sukowa) and her gang are frustrated at their inability to catch Cassie and Cole. They suspect Jennifer is being less helpful than she could be, which she is. Jennifer draws footprints in the snow leading to a statue. The footprints stop abruptly. They have traced Cole and Cassie to every moment in time on the Witness map, using the signature trace left by one of the suits. Jones makes a fateful decision. She decides to get help from Olivia (Alisen Down) and lets her out of her cage.
Jennifer is beside herself. Strange when Jennifer is the only voice of reason. She tries to reason with Deacon, but he has been hardened by Cassie shooting him, and Cole choosing his son over them. He is over his guilt for killing the Jennifer of the future.
Olivia gives them the answer. Cassie and Cole are retracing their footsteps, so the scientists don’t know where they are by tracing the signature. Olivia is told that three of the guardians are dead.
Jennifer has a vision of Big Ben and knows where Cassie and Cole are. She puts a strawberry down between young Terry the tortoise and old Terry the tortoise and apologizes. The resulting paradox explosion brings everyone running and she convinces Lasky (Murray Furrow) to send her somewhere in the time machine. She threatens him real good.
Cole and Cassie are at their last stop. They have no more moments that were recorded on the Word of the Witness. Cassie thinks that the Red Death is a reference to Poe, and there’s a party with that theme that they decide must be the place. They lack money to pretend to be wealthy so Cole has to teach Cassie how to pick pockets. Cassie teaches Cole to dance. These bits are pure joy. It’s so much fun to watch both of them learn and teach. They kiss, and Cole says, “Nothing bad could come of this.”
Sigh. Thanks so much, show runners and writers, for those moments.
Cassie and Cole go to the ball and they are gorgeous. They make an entrance and it’s a real Cinderella moment. And Prince Charming, of course. The everyday Victorian outfits they are wearing are wonderful, but the costumes for the masquerade ball are exquisite.
Cassie does a double take when she sees the real life Constance, from the painting. They don’t see Athan, but they do see an older Sebastian, who still has a limp from when Cole shot him. He was hoping to see Athan, too. They had a falling out twenty years ago because Sebastian tried to return them to Titan because he felt Athan was ready, and Athan wanted no part of it.
This is when Katarina, Hannah and Deacon show up. They have Cole and Cassie captured and separated in a short amount of time because they don’t have their splinter vests on. Katarina is regal in her costume. She has her hair up, which makes her look taller, and is wearing fur, which makes her seem larger. She is an imposing figure. Deacon looks like a highwayman or a pirate. Of course, he always looks like a highwayman or pirate. Hannah looks cute.
The depth of Katarina’s fury is a testament to the depth of her love and trust in Cole. She compares his betrayal to the death of her child and calls him her child. He is not defensive and not apologetic, just resigned. She throws his killing Ramse in his face. They have guns on each other when another figure in a red plague mask makes an entrance.
It’s Jennifer, with bottle rockets on her hips! “This is the part where you run.” Cole, Cassie and Sebastian get away. They get to talk about Athan a bit. Sebastian tells them where Athan lived, at one point anyway. He has no idea why Athan put this point on the map until Deacon and Jones show up, and he realizes what the two pence for a pauper means. He grabs a weapon and Deacon and Katarina shoot him while Cole and Cassie get away.
Jennifer is imprisoned at the facility. Cassie and Cole break into their kid’s house. A man in a red skull mask comes to where Sebastian’s body is lying in the snow and puts a penny on each eye. He says that they will meet again when the forest is red.
This is the first time we see the Witness as an adult. He is older than Cassie and Cole now, and played by James Callis!
Deacon and Jones don’t come off well in this episode. They are really out of control, and although neither one would admit it, they’re acting on emotion, not reason. They are both feeling the sting of betrayal. Deacon tells Cassie that from now on, apologies will be issued in blood. Katarina SLAPS Jennifer, and Deacon throws Jennifer in a cell even though he had told her before that no one wanted to lock her up. They both shoot a nice man. This shows that they are willing to do anything to kill the Witness and save the world, even though saving the world would also be accomplished by keeping the Witness from returning to Titan or getting him on their side.
Olivia appears to be sympathetic towards Jennifer when she hands her the charcoal, but I’m sure she just wants to see what visions she has.
I’m sorry about the loss of the turtle. I’d like to think that they were instantly transported to the Galapagos Islands in a time before mankind rather than that they died in the explosion.
Another little quibble: Cassie describes the Red Death as wearing a red skull mask, and when Athan shows up, he is wearing a red skull mask. Death in the story wore a corpse mask with signs of the red death, the plague that Poe invented, on its face. Presumably this would be something that would look like a pox or a hemorrhagic fever, like Ebola. The red skull mask is a pretty good interpretation. Skull=death, red skull= red death.
The entire splinter team reminds me of Greek Gods, or superheroes. They wield incredible powers and have impossible quests, but they are held back by very human foibles. Jones, in particular, lacks insight. Cole is correct that he didn’t do anything she wouldn’t do, but also, what did she expect? Did she expect Cole to choose the mission over his child? Did she expect Jennifer to let them kill her friends? Everyone is shocked that Cassie and Cole kept secrets. Perhaps they expected too much out of them. Deacon and Jones are both authoritarian, and they clamp down harder when things go wrong.
Season 3, Episode 9 “Thief”
Written by Sean Tretta
Directed by David Grossman
In this episode we get to know Athan. So do Cassie and Cole. We see his life through their reading of his extremely detailed diaries, which line the shelves of one room. He’s been popping around history randomly, feeling that freedom helps him deal with the visions that being primary bring. This explanation is interspersed with shots of poor Jennifer, who has lost her freedom and is furiously drawing visions.
James Callis has a dry, understated humor. The splinter vest breaks and Athan says mildly, “That’s unfortunate.” He takes a small metal part to a metalsmith, but while he is talking to him someone in a plague doctor mask comes in and steals it along with some gold. He chases the thief until he catches up with her in a hospital. She’s been stealing to buy medication for her patients. They threaten each other a bit, or maybe it’s flirting, and she gives the part back.
He makes women swoon because the next time they see each other she faints at his feet. Actually, she has a staph infection and he takes her home and gives her antibiotics from the future.
Eliza (Claire Cooper) is still a hard sell and he has to be persistent to woo her. He has time because the clock maker (Booda) keeps making an inferior part for the splinter vest. Although they don’t discuss it, Athan is obviously fabulously wealthy. There are many ways of making money if you have the ability to see the future and time travel. Everything from betting on winning races to finding lost treasure could make you wealthy.
Of particular interest is the scene where he takes her out to dinner. She is not dressed well enough for the place he takes her to. In that time period how you dress and what transportation you use would instantly identify you as having means — usually property that engendered income — or not. We still have this in our day, with clothing brands and what kind of car you drive. Even though Eliza protests, she is embarrassed. The maitre de makes a disparaging comment that Athan cuts short. Eliza accuses Athan of trying to impress her with his wealth and she wants none of it. When she gets up to leave, he offers to pay for the starters of anyone who takes their jacket off — the entree of anyone who removes their vests — and the bar tab for anyone who removes their shoes and socks. A lot of people do it. Men, of course, because they are the ones paying the tab, and because there’s less social censure for their removing their clothes.
This is a character note. It shows that Athan is a creative problem solver. It shows that he has learned from having nothing, as Sebastian planned. But it’s also, like the episode before it, a comment on income inequality. Clothes make the class, like it did for Cassie and Cole at the ball. Naked, we are all equal. Or at least half-naked we are more equal.
And yes, the guy in the background with the incredibly overdone mustache is one of the show creators, Terry Matalas!
So Athan wins the heart of the fair lady, but then she dies. Eliza is killed by the man who stole the baubles that she stole again. Athan uses the suit to go back and save her, of course, after coercing the watchmaker into telling him he’d already made the part. That’s what happens when you pay by the hour instead of on completion.
This is also interesting in terms of character, because he is efficient and ruthless in saving her. He uses modern weapons to shoot the gang and slits the throat of the ringleader who slit Eliza’s throat the first time around. It’s brutal but also very satisfying.
Eliza is appalled, as she is by time travel, and tells him not to do it again. She hands him a broken pocket watch to make the point that all we have is now. It’s the same watch that Cassie stole from the Witness museum. Athan stands over the splinter suit with a hammer. Luckily he wants her to see him doing it because she doesn’t come when called and she is dead. Again. This time it’s a blood clot.
He tries 607 times to save her and every time she dies on that day. It’s like the bit in Groundhog Day where Bill Murray can’t save the homeless guy no matter what he does. For Bill Murray that lesson is about accepting what you can’t change. Athan doesn’t take that lesson so well.
He visits each of his parents, they find out from reading the diaries. Cole when he was just a scav. Athan visited Cassie after he has given up on saving Eliza and Cassie has just lost her first patient. She rails against time, which makes her think that she has pushed him into returning to Titan and waging the war against time that we know the Witness will do/has already done.
In the meantime, Jennifer has a conversation with her selves, future Jennifer and past Jennifer. They help her focus her quest and when she has to be there, and tell her to use her head. She does. On the floor. I hate this scene. I hate seeing people hurt themselves, and she looks like she has a skull fracture and a blown pupil. Deacon breaks and intervenes and tells her she can go wherever she wants. They put her in the chair and she winks at him while she splinters.
Jones is still foolishly going to Olivia for advice.
Knowing what happened to Eliza gives Cassie and Cole the clue to where their son is. They find him standing over her coffin in a church.
Now we have finally gotten to know the Witness, Cassie and Cole’s son. I can see a lot of them in him. I don’t think it’s an accident that he fell in love with a doctor like his mother. He is extremely persistent and he is fierce when he has to be. It’s very easy to empathize with him and his sorrows. It doesn’t hurt that he is doe-eyed. I disagree with Cole. I don’t think he has his mother’s eyes. I think they look like his dad’s.
I hate to admit it, but it took several viewings before I realized that the ghost in Jennifer’s vision from a previous episode was Eliza. It’s her plague mask, and at one point she shows up with a slit throat. It makes me think that maybe she’s a real live dead guy and not just something Jennifer conjured up to show her the way.
There is no reason given for why Athan can’t see her death, but I suppose if he did, he wouldn’t have gotten involved.
I love the music in this episode. It tickles me that Athan has music with him in a way that people in 1899 can’t. I like Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger”. I love “Lilac Wine”, although I prefer the Jeff Buckley version. The soundtrack is always good. I think I just noticed it more because there was a new character to suit the music to.
Season 3, Episode 10 “Witness”
Written by Terry Matalas
Directed by Grant Harvey
Athan is ready to go back to Titan and be the sad little demon at the end of the world that he was always told he would be. The decision is fueled by grief, the most painful of emotions, which is the same thing that the Army of the 12 Monkeys taps into when they recruit people. Cassie and Cole aren’t about to let him go, though, so they chase him through time.
Meanwhile, Jennifer bought the mausoleum in her visions and is entertaining some brave young people when the lights start to flicker.
Athan hits the self-destruct button on Cassandra’s suit, which is a really rotten thing to do. He tells Cole he has a choice between saving her or chasing him. Cole cuts the splinter vest off Cassie and because they are still synchronized, they follow Athan. This is interesting because it shows that Athan doesn’t know Cole or understand him. He thinks he let Cassie die and accuses him of it in a shocked tone of voice. He’s horrified, yes, but believes it and if he knew Cole, he would know that Cole would never do that.
Cassie grabs Athan from behind and Cole disables the suit. They grab him and jump through time.
Olivia tells Jones where they can be found. I hate that she does that, but I like they way she says it. “The lions are taking their cub back to their den.” And yes, they have taken him to the house of cedar and pine. If you are counting, that makes one suit out of three that is still working.
Athan stands in front of the mirror and asks when are they? Cole says it’s December 26th, the day after he ended their lives there. So final. He makes it sound like he murdered the both of them.
We then find out that Jones has let Olivia have the red tea, and she is standing on the other side of the mirror, asking when they are. Deacon, at least thinks this is a bad idea. Olivia sees the Witness on her side of the mirror after she finds out the information they need. It scares her badly.
Cassie and Cole finally get to talk to Athan. Cole has his first dad moment. “Sit down, you little s—.” Athan does sit down, with the surliness of a teenager. But then he threatens Cole and tries to get Cole to shoot him. He threatens Cassie if Cole doesn’t do it. (He’s learning.) Cole doesn’t. Then Athan says that they are coming for him and Cassie and Cole are in danger. He sounds genuinely concerned for them.
The first people to come are Hannah and Jones. They’ve gathered the best fighters of the daughters. They sent Olivia back to her prison before they left. They shoot up the place and there’s some back and forth conversation with Cole, who says they can’t have Athan. You can tell this is painful for both parties.
Then Titan shows up. (Yeah, Athan, maybe you shouldn’t have told Olivia when you were.) Fighters pour out of the time traveling fortress and Hannah and the daughters engage in gunfire, with casualties on both sides. Jones and Hannah run into the house of cedar and pine, where Cassie and Cole have put the last remaining working suit on Athan and told him to go somewhere safe.
Katarina Jones and Hannah have guns on Athan, and Cassie and Cole are pointing guns back. Cassie points her gun at Hannah, to make a point. Jones says “sorry” to Hannah and shoots Athan. His suit starts malfunctioning and he disappears. Cassie of course, does not shoot back. That’s one of the problems with mutually assured destruction. If someone pushes the button first, there’s no reason to add to the carnage by evening up the score. The deterrent is what is important.
Hannah and Jones are astonished that they are still there and time hasn’t changed. No nosebleeds. It’s a pretty good indication that they were wrong. Jones gives Hannah an injection and sends her back to the facility while the three of them are captured by the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
Deacon doesn’t make it to the house of cedar and pine. He hesitates on his way to the splinter chair, sensing something is wrong. An alarm sounds from Olivia’s cell. He figures out on the way that they have been the victim of a long con, but it’s too late. Olivia beats the crap out of him and makes her way to the time machine. It looks like the scientists escape. She sends herself back.
The dying man shows up, finally, in the mausoleum. Jennifer rolls him over and it’s Athan. The statue that Jennifer saw in her vision is over Eliza’s crypt. This is where Athan sent himself when told to go to a safe place. Jennifer sends the kids for help.
Olivia shows up dressed as the Witness and kills the Pallid Man (Tom Noonan) on the podium. She announces that the Witness will never return. She tells our people that they were doing her bidding all along. Setting up Ramse for Cole to kill was just a test to see how far Cole would go. She needed him to take out the guardians, which they did. She needed Cassie to find the Witness.
Olivia compliments Katarina, then stabs her. She likes to stab people. I suppose it’s more personal than shooting them. Cole yells out when Jones is stabbed. When it seems that all is lost for Cole, Cassie and Jones, the Witness appears on the dais. He throws back his cloak to reveal two automatic weapons and a splinter vest. Cole and Cassie’s shining faces have identical expressions: hope and pride. During the firefight the splinter vest gets shot, just when Athan had it working again.
They proceed down the hallway, Cole dragging an injured Jones. It soon becomes obvious that Athan does not expect to come back from this fight. He says goodbye to his parents and hands Cole the broken splinter vest. They reluctantly leave without him. Don’t you just hate it when they grow up and go to college or move to Argentina or sacrifice themselves for the greater good and you just have to accept it?
Cassie uses the two pocket watches to cause a paradox as they leave. The resulting explosion kills Mallick (Faran Tahir). Glad to see him go.
Deacon and Hannah show up with an injection. Deacon looks humbled, at least. They all wink out, splintering one after the other while watching the burning house of cedar and pine.
Athan is dragged off to Olivia. He tells her that she is the Witness and always was. She’s not happy about that. She worshipped him, Athan, before she decided to overthrow him. She slits his throat and the blood lands on Elizah’s mask.
We see many images of the Witness and one is Olivia, face on fire from beneath her skin. The sound of a baby crying is in the background. We backtrack a little to Athan and Jennifer. She’s not happy to see him go, but she is not complaining because he’s off to save Cassie and Cole. It’s too bad those two couldn’t stay together. They obviously understand each other, and together might have figured it all out.
Olivia reassures the survivors that they will get their red forest, and that they will attack their enemies in their home. She knows where that is, of course.
The last scene is of Cole and his father (Patrick Garrow) reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. A card falls out that has a picture of a snake eating its tail with the story of the snake that only goes one way until it meets a demon. The card is from his mother.
So this season is a masterpiece of deception. The writers of 12 Monkeys aren’t writers, they are magicians and masters of misdirection. I wasn’t looking Olivia’s way at all, even though I knew better than to trust her. It was all there. She hated the Witness. We knew that. She sent Ramse after Cassie. We knew that. She got herself put exactly where she needed to be and gained Jones’ confidence. Because we knew that she was not on the side of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, it did not occur to me that there was another side. The enemy of my enemy is NOT necessarily my friend.
She got them to do all the work for her and got Ramse killed and set Katarina and Deacon against Cassie and Cole. She made her move to escape when all the major players should have been gone. (Deacon was a bit late). Cole and Cassie had been on their own for a while, and Jennifer went back to her present, so the people most likely to trip her up were gone.
Mallick was on the inside helping Olivia. He saved Deacon so Deacon could rescue Cassandra so she could find her son for them. Olivia somehow communicated what time and place they were at for Mallick so that Titan could show up at the climactic moment.
Her reward for this is that she is now the Witness. I wonder if Athan became NOT the Witness when he decided not to become the Witness, or when Olivia decided to kill him and take his place, or if he really was never the Witness that returned to Titan and tried to kill time at all. At any rate, the Witness that let Olivia down and disillusioned her, that she decided to kill, was herself. She’s not primary. She may be strong and smart but she doesn’t see the future or the past. I wonder if when Jones tortured her in the machine, she gained new abilities. If not, she will have to get bitten by a radioactive spider or something.
I’m okay with Athan dying. He had an amazing life despite a horrible childhood and lived to be older than his parents are now. He had a great love. He went out in a blaze of glory. What more could a character ask for? Still, I would like to think that his saying, “See ya soon,” to his mom, and “Another life,” to his dad, means something. Maybe that he will be reborn to them once the timeline is improved. Maybe that he will see them again in their future. There was an awful lot of middle that was left out of his and Jennifer’s story. I would certainly try to get done everything I wanted to do before I faced certain death. With a time machine, you have all the time in the world to get it done.
We are also left with a whole lot of unanswered questions. Who is Cole’s mother? I think it would be hysterical if it turned out it was Jennifer, and Deacon was his dad. But since Jennifer is primary, wouldn’t she have figured it out by now? She would make a wonderful grandmother for Athan. They have a lot in common. Don’t they say that talent skips a generation?
Terry Matalas intimated on Facebook that Cole was another enhanced child, like the messengers or Olivia. Of course, that could mean that he was a messenger’s child or Olivia’s child. Or the child of some poor unknown primary that was then experimented on.
What is Katarina’s plan to save the facility? Evidently the time machine can’t be moved and we know that the facility is destroyed in the future.
I’m hoping that Cole dragging Katarina out of Titan will do a lot to heal the rift between the two. Maybe she can’t trust him to tell her that his son is the Witness, but she can trust him with her life. What I would like to see in the next season is the entire crew working together against Olivia, or a Witness beyond Olivia if it turns out that she is not really the one. It would be fine with me if the struggle is external, and there isn’t any infighting and there aren’t any secrets.
We still haven’t found the end of the knot, and the Gordian knot solutions aren’t working either. This season’s problem was resolved in the same way that Hannah’s death was solved, by trickery. Athan just looked like he was the Witness. I’m wondering if Jones might be the frayed end after all. Maybe they should have told her that Hannah was not killed by the virus, but by something else. If she hadn’t invented and implemented the time machine, maybe none of this would have happened.
It’s interesting that when we see the Witness or a Witness-like figure this season, it turns out to be a woman. Elizah as a thief in her plague mask. (If you’re going to promise death, you should look the part.) Jennifer at the Masque, whose appearance made all parties wonder if she was Athan before she unmasks. Olivia seeing herself as the Witness. There have been other times in the series where the Witness seemed feminine.
I wonder why Olivia is glowing from within and why there’s a baby crying. Is it symbolic? Is she going after Cole as a baby? Or is she on a Godzilla-like rampage of the facility and there is actually a baby there?
James Callis as Athan so overshadows everything that it’s possible to overlook other great performances. Cassie with her mom. Olivia and Katarina. Aaron Stanford does a great job as Cole in a different place than he was at the beginning of the season, or after Ramse’s death and finding out his son was the bad guy. After making the decision to try to save Athan, he’s back to himself again. He’s calm, centered and committed. He is our hero again.
It was a great season, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for us in the fourth and final season. Have I forgotten anything? What was your favorite part of this season?
12 Monkeys, which is currently being filmed, returns for its fourth and final season in 2018.