The First Four Episodes of 12 MONKEYS are Amazing Time Travel Drama
This review is entirely full of spoilers for the first four episodes of season three of 12 Monkeys. Don’t read any of it unless you have watched the first four episodes.
The first night is a play in four acts. Quite amazingly, the first four hour night of the ten episode third season of 12 Monkeys forms a complete story, starting with Cole and Cassie being separated and ending with the reunion and Cole finding out the truth about their baby. He didn’t find out from her, of course, but he confirmed the truth in her eyes.
Season 3, Episode 1 “Mother”
Written by Terry Matalas
Directed by Terry Matalas
The first act has Cole (Aaron Stanford) searching for Cassie (Amanda Schull). We see what the tuning forks are for! They are Titan detectors. The search has been long and futile and everyone is worried about him. They should be, because he is desperate and miserable and stretched too thin. It’s also obvious that they aren’t getting anywhere with their purpose of saving the world. Jones (Barbara Sukowa) sends Hannah (Brooke Williams), her daughter, to save Cole from himself. She can hardly be spared since with old Jennifer dead she is the leader of the daughters and with Deacon (Todd Stashwick) gone/possibly dead she’s also head of security. Why not Whitley (Demore Barnes) as head of security? Must be because of the earlier mutiny.
None of this makes Cole listen to Hannah when he thinks he’s found Titan. They fight, and Cole gives her the injection meant for him. Remarkable how like siblings they are.
Meanwhile Cassie is a bird in a gilded cage. She bonds with a young acolyte and tries to escape.
Cole encounters a masked figure with three lights on his chest in the forest outside of Titan. They fight and the other guy keeps winking out of existence when Cole has the upper hand. He gets to Titan just as it’s leaving, and just as Cassie is caught in her attempted escape. They see each other briefly. Cole runs towards her, towards certain death, and someone wearing a suit with three lights on his chest — or maybe it’s two — grabs him and they both disappear. The figure takes his mask off and it’s him! James Cole. So Cole himself saves himself from himself.
This is a paradox in more than one way. It brings a future and a past self together in close proximity, which tends to make things go boom. Future Cole says the suit helps with that. It’s also a paradox in that future Cole could not go back in time to save himself unless he survived to go back in time to save himself. But he remembers saving himself and tells Cassie a few minutes later, “well, I had to get here somehow.” He tells Cole that Jennifer is the key and Cole has to rescue her from 1921 France. Future self is wearing Cassie’s watch and he tells Cole that as long as he wears the watch he will always find his way back to Cassie.
This is a wonderful scene, maybe because it’s Aaron Stanford playing against himself. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic Emerson Hotel, beautiful in its decay. Somehow I still expect people to be renting rooms by the hour. Future Cole is far kinder to his past self than I would expect. He must have come to terms with some of the guilt and responsibility he always feels. Future Cole is there to save Cole and he gives him the hope he needs, however tenuous, as well as a change in direction.
Jennifer is in the middle of the first world war. She saves herself with “99 Red Balloons”. I’m so glad you’ve seen it so I don’t have to explain that. She also sees a vision of four people in suits with lights, carrying a box. She calls them the horsemen of the apocalypse.
Cassie attempts suicide after the failed attempt, saying to herself, ”You can’t have him.” She’s going to land right in front of the army, where the Pallid Man (Tom Noonan) is preaching. The dominatrix, Magdalena (Hannah Waddingham), who was plaguing Cassie goes back in time and keeps her from doing it and kills the young friend, Arianna (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) proactively. Past Magdalena then pushes a button on the suit and immolates herself.
Cassie gives birth in a bathtub and Magdalena pushes the midwife aside so she can grab the baby as soon as it’s born.
I was lucky enough to meet Aaron Stanford at KC Comicon last year. I told him that while I reviewed 12 Monkeys I didn’t always write about how much I loved it. He told me to feel free to gush. Well, I’m gushing! It’s so exciting that the show is back, and as good as ever. Almost every shot is a work of art. The red balloons sequence, while horrifying, was also beautiful and loaded with symbolism. The characters are exactly who they were. I’m still thrilled at the abundance of female characters with their own stories. I know Cassie is a damsel in distress, locked in a tower, but it’s only temporary. This episode is mostly setup but it was still amazing.
We also have a new gadget in the mix, an entirely new way of time traveling. The time-coats should change things. This is at least the third type, after the machine and the red leaf tea.
Season 3, Episode 2 “Guardians”
Written by Sean Tretta
Directed by David Grossman
We see the four men in bowler hats and time-coats carrying a box. They remind me of A Clockwork Orange.
Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) is stuck in 1921 in France. She is desperate to go home and trying to get a message to the future. She hits on theater as the way to do it. What follows is hysterical. She steals from the best of pop culture: Charlie Chaplin, E.T., Jaws, and Alien. Finally she tells the story of the 12 Monkeys to a stunned audience. The theater owner tells her that no one understands time travel. She says that the smart ones do. He says to do something with space, or magic. He tears the poster off the wall. It must be what the creators of 12 Monkeys feel like.
I think Emily Hampshire speaks French, tap dances, sings and performs better than Jennifer Goines. It is said that a Leonardo Da Vinci can’t draw like he can’t draw. Emily Hampshire can’t act like she can’t act.
Finally she gets some attention — from one of the guys in the bowler hats. Cole and Jones show up in time to save her. Jennifer is pissed that it took so long. She sent out lots of clues, including an album. Of course Jennifer used a pseudonym, which didn’t make it easy. Since future Cole handed Cole a newspaper article about her being blamed for murdering the theater owner, it means they never did figure it out!
She tells them about the paradox in a box. Jones is fascinated with the time-coat. Cole pushes Jennifer to give them some primary info and she pushes back. I’m glad she pushes back because he’s being a jerk.
The high priest, Mallick (Faran Tahir) of the 12 Monkeys tells Cassie she needs to escape but she is suffering the loss of her child. She asks for just one look at him and gets offered a tour of the museum about him. She steals the gold pocket watch hanging there.
Olivia (Alisen Down) and Ramse are together. She has taken months to travel to Sam. I think she’s leading Ramse down the garden path. Finally they get to the camp where his now grown son is. Unfortunately, he’s been mortally wounded in a recent attack. With his dying words he tells Ramse to stop the Witness and that Olivia knows how to do it. Ramse has to deliver the coup de grace. Smothering someone is not a merciful way to kill someone. He has a gun and surely his son is worth wasting a bullet on.
Jennifer runs into the people in the bowler hats that she saw in her vision. Cole and Jones come to the place she saw them at and get shot. Cole keeps going and finds the room with the box and gets shot twice more. He meets Magdalena and she pushes the button and resets time. Cole hears a baby crying and reaches for the box as time changes around him. Oh, so close to the son that he doesn’t know he has.
Simultaneously, Cassie sees her child put in the box and the four guardians sent through time with him, which fulfills her wish of seeing him one time. I really hope that there are airholes in that thing.
Since Cole and Jones were reset back to before they rescued Jennifer, Cole shows up to her time show and applauds. He tells her that they need her and came back for her, and she says, “That’s much better.”
Team Splinter knows it’s a child the guardians are carrying through time to hide. They can guess it’s the Witness. They have a time coat, or vest, and know a little more now about how it’s being used. Katarina leaves it up to Cole to decide whether Jennifer should stay or go back to 2017. He gives her the choice because he knows he screwed up with Cassie when he undid their time together without telling her. Jennifer is thrilled that she’s invited to join.
The episode ends with Ramse outside with Olivia as his captive.
So the band’s getting back together. Cassie still needs to be rescued and we need to find Deacon. This was a very sad episode because Sam died and Cassie and Cole’s baby was taken away from them. The humor and life that Jennifer brought balanced out some of the grief.
Season 3, Episode 3 “Enemy”
Written by Christopher Monfette
Directed by David Grossman
Olivia and Ramse come in through some kind of airlock. The room is full of birds. Is it an early detection system for the plague? Have we seen this before and I didn’t notice? Cole talks to Olivia and Jones talks to Ramse because Cole is too close to Ramse to make a rational decision about his state of mind. Ramse tells Dr. Jones that Sam is gone. Olivia tells Cole that she was the girl in the lab that they left behind and that she was raised in a box. She also hints about his fathering the Witness, saying that they could have killed him many times but didn’t.
They do some tests on Olivia and find out that she is very strong and indestructible. After all, she survived Jennifer’s attempt to kill her by dropping her into an empty pool.
Next we find out what happened to Deacon. Yay! He was sewn together by Imhotep — I mean the high priest whose name is actually Mallick. Deacon hallucinates his abusive father while he heals. It’s not a philosophy I adhere to, the idea that abuse makes you stronger. We find out a bit more about his past. After he gets through his ordeal, he repudiates the father hallucination and says he just needed something to hate to get him through it. Mallick teaches him a series of directions to follow.
Jones tortures Olivia by putting her in the chair and decreasing the relay speed so that she splinters over and over. It’s a terrible torture and I can’t stand to watch it. Hannah can’t stand to watch it, either. She puts a knife to a scientist’s throat to make Katarina stop. While they are arguing, Cole takes Olivia to three months before and drops her into the deepest, darkest dungeon he can find. She breaks and tells them when and where they can kill the witness.
While she is telling them that, Deacon is on his mission. It makes us think he is off to kill the Witness, but he rescues Cassandra instead!
Jennifer has a bad feeling about the mission. She tries to persuade Cole not to go. Then we flashback to after Sam died, and we see that Olivia told Ramse that the Witness was Cassie and Cole’s child. They devised a plan to kill Cassandra before she and Cole ever met, so that the Witness would never be born.
This episode is a showcase for Todd Stashwick’s talents. He gets to play Deacon under extreme duress, and also plays the abusive father. He does a great job exploring the psyche of both characters. The father is, of course, how Deacon sees him. I hope going forward that the character is less ashamed of his childhood. It wasn’t his fault.
Hannah and Katarina get to hash out some stuff. Hannah makes some comparisons between Jones as she is and the monstrous tales she grew up with. Jones gets confronted with her complete and utter ruthlessness. To be fair, Olivia did push her buttons.
And Cole: always thinking and observing. He figured out how to break Olivia. I do love a smart man. But she had given him the key earlier. There was a real “don’t throw me in the briar patch” quality to her telling him that she was raised in a box.
Season 3, Episode 4 “Brothers”
Written by Travis Fickett
Directed by Joe Menendez
Cole and Ramse go back to the Emerson in 2007. They come up with a plan to get some guns; after all, they’re supposed to face a hundred of the Witness’s followers when they attempt the assassination. They get some guns from a gunrunner how owns a bakery. A little action, some puns. Ramse sneaks away from Cole and goes to the hospital to kill Cassie. He shoots some blonde in a ponytail. I know it’s not her because the hair isn’t light enough.
Jennifer is having visions of a dying man/woman. She tries to get answers from Olivia. It’s the only confrontation where I feel Olivia thinks she is with an equal. She is jealous of Jennifer’s talents.
Cole confronts Ramse about being gone. He accuses him of going to see his mother. Ramse says he should go see Cassie. Cole doesn’t think he should do it, but he does tell Ramse what clinic she’s at.
Deacon and Cassie fight their way out of Titan with some help from the priest. I still can’t see him as a good guy because he looks like he’s going to become a mummy some day. They are two years in the future and the facility is destroyed. Cassie immediately starts looking around for clues or a message. Deacon is devastated. She finds a butterfly, and under it, buried syringes. Their way home.
Ramse shows up at the clinic, which is locked and empty. Cole gave him a test and he failed it. They confront each other, and Cole finds out that the Witness is his son and that Ramse was going to kill Cassandra. Cole chases Ramse down and shoots him.
You know what? I don’t care. I really don’t. It’s the last betrayal for me. I have often defended Ramse in the past but this is too much. I hate that he betrayed Cole again. I hate that Cole found out that his child was going to be the Witness in this way. I hate that Ramse trusted Olivia over Cole. I think he was suicidal and I hate that he made Cole shoot him.
But then he begs Cole not to undo it and I know he’s suicidal but maybe he’s realized that he’s poison for Cole and he needs to let go. It’s still terrible because it’s going to mess Cole up, bad.
Cole does what he knows he shouldn’t do. He goes to where Cassie actually is, and he tells her he can’t do this alone and he needs her to come home.
When he gets back to the facility he runs to where Olivia is kept and puts a gun to her head. At least he knows the right person to blame. She says he needs her to find his son and he doesn’t shoot.
The alarm sounds that indicates someone is coming in on the time machine. First it’s Deacon, then Cassie. Cole looks like a miracle has occurred. Cole and Cassie embrace. Deacon is eating his heart out, but Jones is grinning. Then Cole looks a question at Cassie that he cannot ask and she nods, and I cry.
Wow. This was a sad episode and totally 12 Monkeys in that we can’t get the good without the bad. Kirk Acevedo and Aaron Stanford acted their hearts out and one of the things that made this a good episode, despite the fact that they actually made Cole kill his brother, is that there was so much Cole in this episode.
One thing that confused me is why the chase was so urgent. Of course, if Ramse had gotten away, Cole couldn’t let him stay in 2007. But Cole told Ramse that the outbreak he had told Ramse about was actually states away, and I thought that that meant Cassie was states away. She wasn’t. She was close by.
These first four episodes have themes of captivity as well as torture. The poor baby in a box reminds me of Schroedinger’s cat. He’s a paradox in a box. Will he be the Witness or will they save him first? But he’s not the only one locked up. Jennifer was stuck in France for five years, captured by time. Cassie does her lying-in while being held captive by their enemies. Deacon heals while a prisoner, and is not allowed out until he sets fire to, basically, the door of his prison. Of course he doesn’t know that Mallick is waiting for Cassandra to give birth before Deacon can save her. Olivia was raised in a box, like Cole and Cassie’s baby so far, and then thrown into an oubliette. I have no idea if there’s a higher meaning to all of that.
Jennifer still has her love affair with time. How you could love it when the gift of prophecy makes you crazy? She likes to put her hands in the light from the time machine. It was funny when Dr. Adler (Andrew Gillies) caught her sleeping in the chair. I think Jennifer is right, we need to remember that she is not just a primary to get information from, she’s an integral part of the story.
Everyone is home and has completed their own stories. In Ramse’s case, permanently (maybe). Time to move on to the next quest, trying to save the baby before he becomes the Witness. That’s what I would be doing.